Hitler, Churchill, and Reagan

What an orgy of Churchill and Britain bashing we have had of late! One would almost begin to think that the Brits bear most of the blame for World War II and all its attendant horrors. (Actually there is nothing new here. The interpretations that have recently appeared were all debated vigorously in the immediate postwar period.) It is even hinted that the defunct British Empire and its last great statesman are somehow responsible for the present ownership of the United States by neocon imperialists.

That the neocons have claimed Churchill as a hero tells us a lot about them and very little about Churchill. It is the stock-in-trade of the Straussian/neocon cult to appropriate every great thinker and every great statesman in history who has a favourable reputation and to repackage them as forebears of the great Leo. To administer a well-deserved thrashing to V.D. Hanson, then, does not constitute a decisive victory over the real Winston.

The current World War II revisionist theorising badly needs an application of Occam’s razor. The esteemed and fearless Mr. Buchanan, it strikes me, makes too much of diplomatic might-have-beens: if only perfidious Albion had not done such-and-such, then the Germans would not have been forced to do their bad this-and-that. But the conflict of governments is not always a chess game in which every move can be carefully calculated for effect. Sometimes it is a fast, sweaty, and unpredictable tennis match. We should not lose sight of the fundamentals: which side represented, however imperfectly, Western civilisation and which side was a barbaric, bullying threat to that civilisation. (Please do not bring in here the issues involved in American participation in the war, which is a different matter.)

Can Britain really be blamed for the Russian alliance? Once the power-maddened Germans had stupidly invaded Russia, it was impossible not to use the Russian alliance to counter the more pressing threat to the West. No one could predict the Russian position at the end of the war. At least Churchill never believed that “Uncle Joe” was a good old fellow, unlike the Communist-riddled American government of FDR. The Russians won the most by the Roosevelt/Stalin conspiracy against Churchill at Yalta. FDR was much more interested in eliminating the British Empire than he was in saving Western Europe from Communism.

It is even more far-fetched to blame our present American swaggering imperialist imposture upon the world on those who acted in a bygone and different time. I suspect here an all too common American tendency to plead a special righteousness in which anything bad that happens is the fault of foreign machinations. There is more than enough good American precedent in Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and others to explain what we do now.

In the context of a then still Christian society, Lincoln’s brutal war on civilians was more egregious and revolutionary than the British and American bombings of World War II. Just before the Spanish-American War, the U.S. press went berserk over the atrocities committed by the Spanish general “Butcher Weyler” in Cuba. Nobody bothered to notice that Don Weyler had been a military attaché in Washington during the American civil war and was a fervent admirer and imitator of Sherman. The final responsibility for American involvement and actions in the two world wars must rest on American leadership and the American people, not on Churchill and the Brits.

In simple truth, if blame for the neocon conquest of America is to be placed anywhere, then it must rest on the shoulders of Ronald Reagan, who was elected as a conservative and ruled as a neoconservative. If Reagan had not foisted the first Bush upon the country there would now be no second President Bush. All of the neocon suspects first came to power under Reagan’s wing—Bennett, Kemp, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, Abrams, etc. It was the Reagan administration that sold Congress on the National Endowment for Democracy. Because, as the Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz said at the time, “If we are to achieve the kind of world we all hope to see—with peace, freedom, and economic progress—democracy has to continue to expand. Democracy is a vital, even revolutionary force.”

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