Firstly while Mr. Buchanan is a real Conservative, I'm afraid I don't have much time for him as he's a Paleo-Conservative, or to put it another way he's an Isolationist. I am however a Traditional Conservative and on social and economic matters the two see pretty much eye to eye, but not on Foreign policy. There the Paleo-Conservative believes that we should not interfere or be involved in foreign countries, How realistic is that?
Mr. Buchanan's book, as the title suggests, believes that WWII was unnecessary, if only France and Britain, and by implication the United States had left Germany alone then there would not have been any war. Germany was simply trying to readdress the problems caused by losing WWI and the Treaty of Versailles. It wasn't a Western problem, it was an East European problem and the Nazis really only wanted to fight the Soviet Union, if they had stayed out then there wouldn't have been a second World War.
It is exactly this kind of thinking that gave us WWII, it is exactly this kind of thinking that lead to the policy of Appeasement. Lets have a look at the timeline that lead to the war in Europe.
1918 Germany and her allies are defeated. The German Empire and Monarchy is overthrown.
1919 The Treaty of Versailles takes German territory and gives it to Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, France and Belgium. The Treaties of Saint Germain-en-Laye and Trianon with Austria and Hungary respectively, breaking up the Austro-Hungarian Empire. All become Republics.
1923 Germany experiences hyper-inflation and the French occupy the Saar.
1925-29 Germany has an economic boom.
1929 The boom ends when the US banks who loaned Germany the money that created the boom want their money back as quickly as possible because of the growing economic depression.
1929-33 Germany is one of the countries hardest hit by the great depression. Unemployment stands at 1 in 3. No party can gain a majority in the Reichstag, political chaos reigns.
1933 President Hindenburg is persuaded to make Hitler Chancellor. The Nazi's take office and then illegally destroy all opposition, creating a one party state.
1934 President Hindenburg dies and Hitler makes himself Head of State, all German soldiers and sailors must swear an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. Germany and Poland sign a Non-Aggression Pact valid for 10 years.
1935 Germany announces that it is rearming and reintroducing conscription. Britain and Germany sign the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. The Treaty of Versailles is effectively dead.
1936 Germany sends three battalions into the Rhineland, the Rhineland had been demilitarized since 1924. The French do nothing, Charles De Gaulle calls it "A defeat without a battle". Germany sends money, supplies, equipment and troops to support the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. The Olympics are held in Berlin.
1938 Austria is put under intense pressure to join Germany, the Anschluss. The Austrian President calls for a referendum on the issue, within 3 days of the announcement German troops enter Austria, the Austrian Government offers no resistance. While the Nazi's were always anti-Semitic it didn't seem that extreme from a distance, in Vienna the treatment of the Jews was public and unfiltered for the first time. Attitudes towards Nazi Germany began to change. Germany makes similar demands on the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, as it contains primarily ethnic Germans. The Sudetenland had never been a part of Germany, in the Middle Ages it was part of the Kingdom of Bohemia and then the Austrian Empire. Germany prepared Case Green, the military invasion of Czechoslovakia. An International Conference is convened to find a peaceful end to the crisis. Italy, France, Britain and Germany are invited, Czechoslovakia is not. The Conference agrees to give Germany the Sudetenland, with the agreement that the rest of Czechoslovakia will be left alone. Prime Minister Chamberlain of Britain gives his famous "peace for our time" quote. Within 6 weeks the Nazis attack Jews and their property in the Night of Broken Glass across Germany.
1939 6 months after signing the Munich Agreement, Germany takes over the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Britain and France retaliate by giving a guarantee to Poland. Hitler believes after Munich that neither country will honour the guarantee to Poland. Germany invades Poland, 3 days later Britain and France declare war. WWII begins.
I don't believe I have made any controversial statement in this timeline. How is it possible to avoid war? Be more cowardly! More dishonourable! More craven! Is that even possible!
The policy of Appeasement said always give the bully what he wants, anything is better than war. Germany breaks the Treaty of Versailles, only 16 years after it was signed and how does Britain responded? By formalizing it with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. And France just blindly follows. When Germany decides to remilitarize the Rhineland, what does France do? Nothing because Britain doesn't think its a problem. When Austria seeks International support to stop a Nazi takeover, no one helps. When Czechoslovakia, who has a military treaty with France expects to be supported by its Ally, it is instead betrayed. Poland which signed a Non-Aggression pact with Germany, Nazi Germany, is attacked with 50% of the time period still to go.
Put this together with the Appeasement of Italy and Japan and its no wonder that Germany believed that no amount of outrageous behavior would lead to war. How bad was the policy of Appeasement is shown by Mr. Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Britain and one of its greatest supporters. When he arrived back from Munich in September 1938 he said these words
" We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again."
By March 1939, 6 months later he was convinced that nothing would stop war as Nazi Germany could not be trusted to keep its word. War came because Hitler wanted war, not only in the east, because Hitler wanted Germany to dominate all of Europe and by dominate he meant by force. Plan Z was the plan to rebuild the German navy for war with Britain. The U-Boats didn't exist to fight Poland or the Soviet Union, or France, they existed to fight Britain. The idea that Britain or France could have been safe if only they had only given even more to Nazi Germany is delusional.
Speaking of delusional, here we come to the hatred of Winston Churchill, supposed warmonger and war criminal, if only he had kept his nose out of poor Germany's business there would have been no war. Well let me put it another way, if Winston Churchill had never been born there still would have been two world wars, the nature of them would have been different but not the reality of them. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, 8 months after the start of the war, he had not held a Cabinet level position since 1929. How exactly does a man who isn't Prime Minister or in the Cabinet start a war?
On the 3rd of September 1939 Mr. Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of Britain and he declared war upon Germany, later that day France, New Zealand and Australia, in that order declared war.
That a Conservative can argue that we should not have fought WWII is just sick and twisted,
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- Winston Churchill, on 3 October 1938: