The Magazine

World War II Revised

Apparently, the Good War was a Bad Idea.

Aug 11, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 45 • By WINSTON GROOM
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By excoriating Britain and France for having drawn the line for Hitler at the Polish border, Buchanan contradicts his own premise. If these two Western democracies had simply done nothing, he argues, the Nazis would have quickly taken Poland (which he dismisses as insignificant) and then overrun Stalin's Russia, which he claims--with some justification--was a greater evil.

But Buchanan's explanation of what would have come next defies rational interpretation. Does he really believe Hitler would have left France, England, and the rest of Europe alone at his back? Especially when, with the wealth of Russia already in his grasp, all of Western Europe and its riches could have been subdued at his will? The truth lies in what the Germans actually did, which was to steal everything they could lay their hands on and deliver it to Germany.

If the Nazis had conquered the Soviet Union, this would have de facto guaranteed that the United States would never enter the war, because there would have been no war to enter. The Axis, without Soviet Russia to contend with, would have quickly gobbled up the rest of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East--as, indeed, they attempted to do--and the war would have been over.

Fortunately, Winston Churchill saw it clearly. But according to Buchanan, the guilty man responsible for drawing the line at Poland and causing World War II was, in fact, Churchill, to whom (in my view) the world owes an eternal debt of gratitude. Because even after the Germans swept again through Belgium, and then Holland and the Low Countries, and overran France, Churchill held Great Britain steady in the road, and fought the Germans alone, until Hitler did attack the Soviets--and the United States finally sloughed off the America Firsters and got into the fight, bringing an end to the Nazi regime.

Another of this book's cockeyed themes is that, because of Britain's stupidity in entering the war, and the high price it cost her, the British Empire was doomed. But all overseas empires--British, French, Dutch, Belgian--were doomed: The winds of nationalism were sweeping the world, and maintaining colonies was ceasing to be profitable. Even before the war Britain had agreed to let India, her "crown jewel," go and remained there only until the war was over lest the Japanese move in. The war might have shortened the process, but the era of empire-building was over.

The most outrageous, if not despicable, Buchanan assertion is that if Britain, and later America, had not entered the war, most of the Jews of Europe would have been saved. His tortured reasoning is that Hitler used war with the Allies as a pretext to murder Jews wholesale, and suggests that if Hitler had only been let alone after conquering Poland and (presumably) the Soviet Union, the Jews would either have been accorded a place in German society, or exiled. Again, one wonders, has Buchanan read Mein Kampf? And as if this nonsense and hypocrisy isn't enough, he attempts to smear Churchill by painting him as a racist who wanted an England for whites only.

"Had Churchill endured in office," Buchanan writes, "London would look entirely different today." When, in 1955, Churchill retired as prime minister, he "was no longer able to lead a campaign to 'Keep England White'--an astonishing slogan in a day when Dr. Martin Luther King, a disciple of Gandhi whom Churchill detested, was starting out in Montgomery." Only after Churchill left office, Buchanan declares, was Britain "on its way to becoming the multiracial, multicultural nation of today."

What smarmy cheek from the man who has written The Death of the West, bemoaning the doom of Western Civilization because of the population explosion among so-called "dark peoples," and State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, in which he forecasts the end of life as we know it, owing to the flood of immigrants across the Mexican border and from Asia! Winston Churchill had many faults, all of them meticulously scrutinized by serious historians; but his reputation doesn't warrant being besmirched by a goat-roper like -Patrick Buchanan.

But wait--there's more!

Nicholson Baker's last novel, Checkpoint, the plot of which revolves around whether it would be okay to assassinate George W. Bush, was described in a review by no less than the New York Times Book Review as "a scummy little book." Yet Baker remains a darling of the left, in part because, by all accounts, he is a nice, avuncular, balding guy with twinkling eyes and a beard, and a decidedly not-in-your-face demeanor--unlike Pat Buchanan. But he is also either unbelievably cunning or the ultimate na -f.

Human Smoke, Baker's entry into the corpus of World War II literature, floats light as a feather compared with Buchanan's ham-fisted tirade; but it is just as malevolent, reckless, and inane. To prove that Britain and America were wrong in fighting the Nazis and Fascists, Baker juxtaposes anecdotes by and about pacifists and political players during the 20-year run-up to World War II, manipulating his quotations to show that the pacifists had it right all along.

He brings to mind George Orwell's observation that "Pacifism is fine, so long as you're willing to stand the consequences." Some of those consequences are illuminated in Human Smoke when Gandhi provides this stupefying advice in an Open Letter to the People of England:

If these gentlemen [Hitler and Mussolini] choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.

Even Patrick Buchanan probably wouldn't have signed on for that. But unlike Buchanan--who, at least, argues his case--Baker, by arranging his "snapshots" with no context whatever, simply propagandizes the reader in a fashion that is at once dishonest and treacherous to any acceptable standard of historical inquiry.

There would be no problem with either one of these books if they didn't get so much attention, but they do: Buchanan's because he's . â â . â â . well, Pat Buchanan; and Baker's because the media generally regard him as "one of us." Get a load of one gullible critic in the Los Angeles Times gushing that Human Smoke proves that "World War II was one of the biggest, most carefully plotted lies in modern history." Both books plunge the reader into a disagreeable limbo of d j vu / Pr sque vu. The devices may be different, but the message is the same: Churchill was a bloodthirsty warmonger; the Nazis, Fascists, and the Japanese were misunderstood; Britain and America were greedy, racist, stupid, wicked, conniving--well, you get the picture.

Save your money; read the funny papers.

Winston Groom is the author, most recently, of Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte at the Battle of New Orleans.