Criticizing Churchill

In Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War” Pat Buchanan argues that both World Wars could have been avoided.  He places a huge amount of culpability on Winston Churchill for both wars.  If you follow the link, under product description are six bullet points that list major Churchillian blunders.

I don’t have patience with all the “might have”s posited, as in if Churchill had ignored this, Hitler might have… Anyone can argue from the might haves, but Buchanan really works at backing up his conjectures with facts.   Buchanan firmly believes the both the Kaiser and Hitler had no interest in England, that they would have stopped at France in their appetite for land. 

The criticism of Churchill that sticks to him – in my mind – is his alliance with Joseph Stalin.  Buchanan compares this with Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement with Hitler.  Many people are not aware that Stalin was responsible for more considerably more deaths than Hitler was.  (Joseph Stalin, Pure Evil – not for squeamish shows videos of labor camps coupled with a gorgeous choral rendition of the Lord’s Prayer).  How both the USA and Great Britain could ally themselves to Stalin baffles me.  (My husband suggests that Hitler was a greater threat and that we needed Stalin to fight against Hitler.  Nothing is clean and tidy in war.)

Having been raised to adore Churchill, it was jarring to hear him so blatantly criticized.   To be sure, Churchill made mistakes (who would argue that he didn’t?) but I don’t believe you can pin both wars on him.  This book is hands down the best written book and most documented one I’ve read this year.  Whatever he is, Buchanan is a wordsmith, par excellence.  I listened to an audio version of this book and could follow the complex but cogent arguments without any problem.  Hearing the book, my husband inevitable stopped and listened instead of walking away. I only recommend it for those with a working knowledge of both wars.            

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9 thoughts on “Criticizing Churchill

  1. I haven’t read Buchanan’s book, but I, too, am a great admirer of Churchill. I just don’t believe Buchanan’s thesis. One can argue that the Civil War was the fault of Lincoln’s provocative actions, (and many Southerners still do so argue) but the underlying evil of slavery is much more to blame. Sure, we might have avoided WW 2 if we were willing to give up the rest of Europe, other than Britain, to Nazism. Is that price one that we should have been willing to pay? I think not.

  2. Sometimes I think Buchanan is so spot on but then he will go and write stuff that knocks him down a couple of pegs. I don’t like this Monday morning quarterbacking or whatever it is they call it. I agree with your husband and from what I have read of Churchill, he was not happy about aligning with Stalin but was working closely with FDR and so it was a joint decision based on what was best for the moment. I do not agree that Hitler would have been satisfied at France…if given the chance he would have kept going. He was occupying countries left and right (including the homeland of my grandparents who had to live through such awful times). And how does Buchanan propose dealing with “the final solution”? Stalin was responsible for more deaths but then that should have been dealt with after Hitler. Churchill was flawed and made many, many mistakes but what he was dealing with was so enormous and complicated and horrible, I would like to personally meet the one person who could have brought it off perfectly. As for me I am grateful to Churchill and Britain for their sacrifice and courage. Sorry for the rant and I probably should read the book first but there are some things that just get me going.

  3. My only contribution to the discussion is that the Prime Minister of Britain, Gordon Brown, on his recent State visit, presented to the Obamas Sir Martin Gilbert’s biography of Mr Churchill.  The media are having a field day discussing what the Obamas tendered.And that you may enjoy a book review by my former history professor, John Willson, in which he details Russell Kirk’s baroque? novel, A Creature of the Twilight.  It seems like a more enjoyable way to digest America’s schizophrenic foreign policy 🙂http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/article/a-foreign-policy/

  4. @SemicolonSherry – Sherry, I’m not sorry I listened to it.  If I’m honest, I would say that it has tempered or moderated my opinion of Churchill.  But my next listen is Churchill’s speeches!@Book Psmith – Never apologize for ranting.  Although I didn’t come away from the book “converted” to Buchanan’s way to thinking it was very interesting, partly because it is so far outside the box.  @hiddenart – Thank you for the link.  I’m headed over to check it out.  I’m having a time forming a mental picture of Obama reading a biography of Churchill.

  5. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t criticize Buchanan’s arguments directly, but based on the review, I find myself heavily in agreement with Sherry and Book Psmith on this one. It’s way too glib to say that the war could have been avoided and that Hitler wanted to stop at France — the moral cost alone of letting him do so would have been massive. And the alliance with Stalin was a necessary way to box Hitler in. The best possible idea? Absolutely not. But at the time it was all that was available to Churchill and FDR. And I agree with Book Psmith that I’m enormously grateful for their willingness to make these tough decisions.

  6. Speaking of what ifs, I read a book where Charles Lindburgh beat FDR for the presidency his first term.  Lindburgh was a Hitler sympathizer I guess.  It was downright scary.  I couldn’t remember the name of the book so I ended up Amazoning…(and coining a word) “Charles Lindbergh fiction Jew” before the darn thing came up.  The Plot Against America by Philip Roth.  *shivers*

  7. I’m not one for what ifs and might haves, but this book sounds interesting.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.  We posted an excerpt from your review here on War Through the Generations.

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