Monday, June 16, 2008

Hanson exposes Buchanan & his distortions

What follow is the start of Victor Davis Hanson’s June 13 column at Pajama Media. I comment below the star line.

Hanson begins - - -

Patrick J. Buchanan got upset that I wrote a column about the World War II revisionists, especially his book, and that of Nicholson Baker’s on the allied “crimes” of bombing German cities. I produce his column by paragraph and then comment in brackets.

In attacking my book “Churchill, Hitler and ‘The Unnecessary War’: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World,” Victor Davis Hanson, the court historian of the neoconservatives, charges me with “rewriting … facts” and showing “ingratitude” to American and British soldiers who fought World Wars I and II.

[In dealing with Mr. Buchanan, one must accept at the beginning two caveats. First, as is his style, he will always resort to ad hominem attacks in lieu of an argument. Thus note at the very beginning his sneering “court historian of the neoconservatives.”

Second, Buchanan unfortunately is neither a reliable journalist nor an historian, and thus simply cannot be trusted to report accurately what is written. He says I charge him with “rewriting… facts” (note those convenient three dots).

I did not charge him with rewriting facts, but simply advancing a thesis contrary to them: “Questioning the past is a good thing, but rewriting it contrary to facts is quite another.” (emphasis added)

And I didn’t just criticize Buchanan’s book, but in a brief 750 word newspaper column lumped it together with the novelist Nicholson Baker’s (Human Smoke) equally critical attack on the allies in World War II—both as signs of the sorry state of historical revisionism that has sprung up in the climate of the Iraq war.

Writing a book whose theme is that the allies, and especially the British, unwisely and unduly pressured Hitler, and therefore were culpable for much of the carnage of World War II, again, does not “rewrite… facts”, but simply ignores them.

And, yes, it does indeed serve to lessen the enormous sacrifices that American and British soldiers endured to stop a monstrosity like National Socialism, whose doctrine of racial hatred and territorial expansion logically led to a German government attacking by 1940 most of its neighbors, to the east, west, north and south, and eventually, in industrial fashion, murdering 6 million Jews.

Much of Hitler’s madness was outlined well in advance in Mein Kampf. By the late 1930s his harsh treatment of the Jews was a harbinger of things to come, once his own power was consolidated and Germany free from outside objection.]

Both charges are false, and transparently so.

Hanson cites not a single fact I got wrong and ignores the fact that the book is dedicated to my mother’s four brothers who fought in World War II. Moreover, the book begins by celebrating the greatness of the British nation and heroism of its soldier-sons.

[Within a 350-word critique devoted to the theme of his book, I cited his misreading of the Versailles Treaty (see below), and his special pleading that serves to exculpate Hitler’s Nazi government.

Again, the thesis of Buchanan’s’ book is not based on facts, but can only be advanced by contradicting them. And it has a disturbing habit of mechanically at times praising those who are his natural targets—or supposedly naive victims—of the book, as if that allows him to further denigrate their wisdom and sacrifice.]

Did Hanson even read it?

[Unfortunately I did read it, and was appalled by his absence of logic—hence the column.] ...

The rest of Hanson's column is here.


I haven't read Buchanan's book, but all its critics I've read agree Buchanan holds that the allies, and especially the British, provoked Hitler and thereby brought on WWII.

That's nonsense as Hanson demonstrates in his Pajama Media response to Buchanan, and as he demonstrated in his original June 5 NRO column which provoked Buchanan's attack on Hanson which just further exposed Buchanan as illogical and a distorter.

This from Hanson's June 5 NRO column:

Questioning the past is a good thing, but rewriting it contrary to facts is quite another. In the latest round of revisionism about the Second World War, the awful British and naive Americans, not the poor Germans, have ended up as the real culprits.

Take the new book by conservative pundit Patrick Buchanan, Churchill, Hitler and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. Buchanan argues that, had the imperialist Winston Churchill not pushed poor Hitler into a corner, he would have never invaded Poland in 1939, which triggered an unnecessary Allied response.

Maybe then the subsequent world war, and its 50 million dead, could have been avoided. Taking that faulty argument to its logical end, I suppose today a united West might live in peace with a reformed (and victorious) Nazi Third Reich....
Many of you know Churchill was out of office when Germany invaded Poland; just as he was the year before when Hitler grabbed first one part of Czechoslovakia via the Munich Treaty, and later the rest of it through naked military aggression.

And on it goes.

Hanson's NRO column is here.

Hat tip: Instapundit


Anonymous said...

John -

Buchanan sounds like he is becoming deranged. He blames Churchill for pushing Hitler into a corner when Churchill was out of power. Sounds like John Kerry's claim Nixon had him go into Cambodia in December 1968, before Nixon was inaugurated! Regretfully, Buchanan continues to be identified as a conservative, thereby tarring and feathering those of us who are.

Jack in Silver Spring

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that people like Buchanan misread history and arrive at conclusions that don't match reality. Fact is, Germany was dealt a raw deal at the Versailles gathering, and that gave Hitler a legitimate compaint on which to build his arguments for rearming Germany. The reparations that Germany was required to pay were a new concept in European affairs. Prior to WWI, whenever a European power lost a war, they lost the territory occupied by the winner, then the loser slinked back and licked its wounds until the next war. Making Germany pay outrageously high reparations, and then charging the French--Germany's "traditional enemy--to occupy the Ruhr, made it impossible for Germany to meet its "obligations." Along came Hitler and began his Third Reich, ending up with WWII (or, as one of my history profs once called it, World War One-and-a-half.) We could have avoided Hitler AND the war if we had used more common sense in dealing with the defeated Germany. This doesn't make Buchanan's argument, it simply says that what happened may not have been necessary.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

To TH via JnC

Tarheel - I do not think that the real cause of Hitler's rise was the Versailles Treaty, although I do agree with you about its draconian nature. (I like to point out to people that WWI ended with an armistice, not a surrender.) The real cause of Hitler's rise was the Great Depression. Through it, Hitler was able persuade Germans to tilt left to Socialism, and in particular, his brand of (National) Socialism. (Hitler wasn't the only one who did that - think FDR.)

My other thought on WWI is that had we not entered it, I suspect the scenario you envision would have played out. It was only with the US's power backing Britain and France that the latter could impose the treaty they did. I would also note, I do not think we should have entered that war. Whatever discomfort the Germans were imposing on us (e.g., Zimmerman letter, and the threat of torpedoing our ships in British waters) could have been handled through diplomacy. Recall, Wilson campaigned in 1916 on having kept us out of war. What drastic change occurred between November 1916 and April 1917 that compelled us to enter into that war?

Jack in Silver Spring

Anonymous said...

Jack in Silver Spring: The depression simply aggravated the situation in Germany, giving Hitler a legitimate complaint against the allied powers that not only forced Germany to pay huge reparations, but, as I said, gave French troops the duty of occupying the Ruhr. All of this, except the depression, resulted from the Versailles Treaty. As for U.S. involvement, I agree it was not necessary, but 1917 saw the end of the Romanovs, and the beginning of the Lenin/Stalin era in Russia. Did that play a role?
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

To TH via JnC -

Obviously, when multiple factors affect a single outcome, it is difficult to determine which factor was most important to that outcome. I view the Great Depression as most important, while you view the aftereffects of the Versailles Treaty as most important. My reason for viewing the Great Depression as most important is that Germany remained relatively democratic and peaceful until the Depression, and only afterwards did it become undemocratic and belligerent. Versailles, though, was a talking point for Hitler. Absent that draconian treaty, would Hitler have come to power during the Depression? I don't know the answer to that.

I am also uncertain whether Wilson's decision to go to war was affected by the turmoil in Russia (which actually began early in 1917). Nothing I have read suggests it, but my knowledge of that period is not extensive.

Jack in Silver Spring