Thursday, May 12, 2005

Buchanan Crosses the Line

So, Pat Buchanan wondered " Was World War II worth it?" and is now being properly blasted for his half-historical perception. (The aforementioned blast is tame, check this one or this one out). Buchanan, who long ago lost his conservative credibility, attempted to play off of President Bush's recent statement that Yalta was a historical mistake that hurt many Eastern European countries as it helped facilitate the end of their post WWII self-determination by way tacitly legitimizing the Soviet Union as the "steward" of these small, relatively powerless nations. (As we all know, that's an entire debate on its own). From here, Buchanan has extrapolated that the U.S. shouldn't have gotten into the war at all. It would seem that Buchanan's own ultra-nationalistic xenophobia has finally affected his historical perspective.
When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.

If it was to keep Hitler out of Western Europe, why declare war on him and draw him into Western Europe? If it was to keep Hitler out of Central and Eastern Europe, then, inevitably, Stalin would inherit Central and Eastern Europe.

Was that worth fighting a world war – with 50 million dead?

The war Britain and France declared to defend Polish freedom ended up making Poland and all of Eastern and Central Europe safe for Stalinism.
Buchanan's view of the "real" historical motivation is questionable at best. Nonetheless, even if his interpretation was correct, we cannot judge history strictly on whether the initial goals were achieved, or even addressed, can we? We need to also take into account the results of the action, regardless of original motivation. Thus, when Buchanan asked, "Was that worth fighting a world war – with 50 million dead?", he fails to even acknowledge the inherently evil Nazi regime and the multitude of atrocities it committed. Without the intervention of Britain, France and the U.S. et al, for whatever reason, how many Jews, Gypsys, and other non-Aryan "undesirables" would have been murdered? It is appropriate to show how historical actions, undertaken for one reason or another, often miss their initial goals. Buchanan does this, but the so-called rule of unintended consequences can result in good just as well as ill. In his piece, Buchanan ignores these positives in attempt to buttress his contemporary isolationist nationalism with a historical half-truth.

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