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Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World Paperback – July 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Taking his swing at the origins of World War II, conservative pundit Buchanan incorporates the subject into his warnings, expressed in several populist jeremiads (State of Emergency, 2006), of the decline of the West. Certainly World War I, with which Buchanan begins, was a catastrophe for Western civilization whose ramifications continue to be felt. Buchanan’s interpretation generally holds that British and American participation in both WWI and WWII was avoidable if British leaders had recognized that Germany was no threat to the vital interests of the British Empire. Banking his thesis on such supposed benevolence from Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler, Buchanan criticizes various British policies of the 1920s and 1930s (who doesn’t?), and argues collaterally with Hitler’s statements disclaiming fundamental conflicts with Britain. The weakness in Buchanan’s line of thinking, of course, is that by 1939, Hitler’s international word was worthless; yet Buchanan hinges his case on what might have happened had Britain let Hitler go after Poland in 1939 as it had Czechoslovakia. Speculating a better future had the West permitted Nazi Germany a free hand in Eastern Europe, Buchanan cites the historical costs of Britain and France having at last drawn the line against aggression. Convinced? Controversial as is his wont, Buchanan reminds his large readership that the immediate ignition of WWII can still be disputed. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

PATRICK J. BUCHANAN was a senior adviser to three American presidents; ran twice for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1992 and 1996; and was the Reform Party candidate in 2000. He is the author of nine other books, including the bestsellers Right from the Beginning; A Republic, Not an Empire; The Death of the West; State of Emergency; and Day of Reckoning. He is now a senior political analyst for MSNBC.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; 1st edition (July 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405166
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (298 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

457 of 528 people found the following review helpful By Eric Mayforth on May 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Patrick Buchanan has never been shy about taking positions that defy conventional wisdom. He does so again in this extremely well-written and well-documented book (there are over 1300 endnotes). Buchanan argues that both world wars, which constituted a "Civil War of the West", were not necessary and would not have taken place had unwise diplomatic decisions not been made by the major European powers.

In the opening decade of the twentieth century, Germany had a chance to form an alliance with Britain, but let the opportunity pass, as the Kaiser did not believe that England would ever reconcile with France. However, Britain did reconcile with its longtime adversaries, France and Russia, and in 1906 the British secretly agreed to back France should Germany attack. Had the Kaiser known that war with France meant war with Britain, he would have been more conciliatory, as he never wanted war with Britain. On the other hand, had Britain not been pledged to help the French when World War I did come, and had they stayed out of the war, Germany would have defeated France as they had in 1870, but there would have been no Nazi Germany and no Soviet Union as a result the war.

In the interwar years, Britain alienated longtime allies Japan and Italy, who eventually formed an alliance with Nazi Germany.

The Second World War came about, Buchanan believes, as a result of Britain's disastrous guarantee to protect Poland (which it was incapable of doing anyway). Hitler did not want war with Britain, as evidenced by the fact that he never attempted to build a strong navy.
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152 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
From all of the other reviews I have read on this book it is certainly obvious that the author has hit a hot button issue and stirred the pot.

This is the first book I have ever read by Pat Buchanan, and it has a very impressive premise. It is filled with over 1200 notes, and has a vast bibliography. Does the author have a point of view? Obviously, but then what author/historian does not wish to interpret history in their own way.

While many reviewers give much time to WW II, the real issue is WW I and the resultant Treaty of Versailles. Such a pathetic war, such a pathetic treaty, one that was so bad even the US Senate refused to ratify it, and other diplomats knew all the Treaty did was ensure another war in 20 years. The dismantling of the old Empire/Monarchy system led to many of todays bastardized countries. Countries that contain people with no common language, culture or background.

And, if you wish to criticize the premise, just look what recently happened with the Georgian invasion by Russia, and now we have US giving its own "Polish Guarantee" for missle defense. The book definitely shows that there were other views with regard to Churchill and the two World Wars, and Buchanan comes down on the side of those who feel that the wars were unnecessary. It has been over 60 years since the WW II has ended, we have seen the files, seen the paperwork and correspondence from that era, and people are now properly wondering if that war was fought for the wrong reasons. Buchanan certainly points out all the atrocities that Hitler and his Generals ordered to happen, but to me the basic premise was that Hitler could have been avoided had their been a better and more civilized peace to end WW I.
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102 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on December 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Buchanan stakes out some pretty controversial positions here. But, agree or not, he raises questions seldom dealt with in public, and ones that go to the heart of the West's presumed moral authority in its two wars with Germany. Crucially, his is not an apologia for Hitler or the Third Reich. Their wretched horrors during WWII are acknowledged without reserve. Rather, it's an effort to put the diplomatic moves preceding WWII into a more balanced and accurate perspective than the American public is accustomed to. The results amount to a much more ambiguous mix than the history books usually allow, and should come as an eye-opener, particularly regarding Churchill's punitive role.

Churchill is often treated as a god, and not a minor one at that. A reckoning with the British politician's career is long overdue. I doubt that any non-American head of state has been more lionized in our press than the former prime minister. Of course, the focal point of hagiography is Churchill's undeniable role as a wartime leader. It's a role the author Buchanan doesn't dispute. What the author does dispute is the wider context, particularly Churchill's vaunted reputation as a statesman. It's here within an unfolding sixty-year period that Buchanan lays bear the actual record--and contrary to legend, a dismal one it is. From the British politician's earliest service through 1955, the author records again and again gross errors of judgment that helped propagate WWI, instigate WWII, facilitate Soviet expansion, and finally terminate the British Empire. It's a sobering account, to say the least, darn near the equivalent of saying Jesus erred on the Mount of Olives. Nonetheless, it's an account that can't be ignored.
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