I am afraid that Pat Buchanan, who earned his battle stars as a courageous spokesman for Richard Nixon, especially when he demolished the rabidly partisan Senate Watergate Committee in 1973, has become a babbling idiot.
He returned to the Reagan White House and performed less needed prodigies for a much less beleaguered administration. His disenchantment with what he took to be the apostasy of the administration of George Bush Sr. is understandable, but the plan of action he devised for responding to it, to run for president himself, was a prodromal symptom that Pat was becoming water-logged from drinking his own bathwater.
His championship of protectionism and isolationism, hostility to immigration, and advocacy of retention of Russian influence over its former satellites, which could not be admitted to NATO, indicated that he was degenerating into a know-nothing, an opinionated redneck of a kind that pops up in clumps, like a weed, in American history from time to time. The original Know Nothings were the anti-immigration, anti-Catholic American Party that tried to ignore slavery and ran as a third party in the 1856 presidential election, the first in which there was a Republican candidate.
More recently, Pat has sailed right off the charts and held himself out as a revisionist historian. His opening gambit, a few years ago, was that Winston Churchill and not Adolf Hitler, was the real aggressor in Europe in World War II. All Mr. Churchill had ever advocated in the thirties was a deterrent and containment policy, to prevent war. When Czechoslovakia was abandoned, in violation of security treaties, at Munich in 1938, Churchill told Prime Minister Chamberlain in Parliament: "You had to choose between war and shame. You chose shame and you will get war." So he had, and did.
When war came, Churchill was recalled to government in a senior position (the Navy), and he tried to protect the Norwegians from Hitler, the Finns from Stalin, and France, Belgium, and the Netherlands from Nazi subjugation, as he later tried to protect Greece from the Italians and Germans. And, as all the world knows, he successfully led British resistance to the attempt to pulverize his country from the air in the Battle of Britain, and to strangle it in the Battle of the Atlantic. It is difficult to discern in this any aggression by Winston Churchill.
To be fair, Pat did not express a moral preference for Hitler over Churchill, though he implied an equivalence, and he did not whitewash Hitler's atrocities and aggressions. But he did reproach Churchill for not accepting Hitler's offers of a stand-still peace between the major powers after the Nazi-Soviet crushing of Poland in 1939 and the great German victories in the West in 1940. Churchill's view, which was almost certainly correct, was that no such peace with Hitler could be trusted, any more than could his promise at Munich that he had "no more territorial demands in Europe."
But Pat's great grievance against Winston Churchill was his ambition to draw the United States into the war against Hitler. Of course, that was his wish, but not just for self-serving British reasons. Britain could get peace with Germany at any time, on effectively the terms offered by Hitler in 1940, and had demonstrated that the Royal Air Force could defend its own air space and that the Royal Navy could certainly protect the home islands.
But the Pat Buchanan school of Western history holds that Churchill somehow brainwashed Franklin D. Roosevelt into believing that Hitler had to be disposed of. And in his latest affront to historical facts, Pat has taken up the demented sour grapes of Herbert Hoover, nearly 50 years posthumously, that Roosevelt provoked Japan to war under Churchill's Mephistophelean influence. Hoover, a distinguished man before he got to the White House, had failed to cope with the Great Depression, harbored a soul-destroying envy of Roosevelt, was a pre-war isolationist almost of the Lindbergh school, and declined Roosevelt's offer to take charge of relief work, which he had so ably conducted in the First World War.
In fact, Roosevelt, like Churchill, recognized early on that Hitler's control of Germany was incompatible with the security or even perhaps the survival of Western civilization. The Greater Reich, as it stood in 1940, had 130 million people, as many as the United States, and almost an equal industrial capacity. Only 60 per cent of them spoke German, but if German occupation of France, Czechoslovakia, most of Poland, the Netherlands, and other neighbors was allowed to continue for two generations, its position would have been solidified and would have become almost irreversible.
Western, Christian, democratic civilization, of which Pat Buchanan at his best has been an upholder of some verve, would have been, and in 1940 and 1941 was, in mortal danger. Pat's latest outrage, parroting Hoover, that Roosevelt was morally responsible for the Pacific War, is absurd. Japan had invaded an unoffending China, and had massacred millions of Chinese civilians, and had occupied Indochina. It imported almost 85 per cent of its oil and most of the scrap metal on which its steel industry was based, from the United States. Roosevelt considered Japan's atrocities in China to be completely unacceptable, and refused to have the United States complicit in them. He imposed a substantial embargo pending cessation of the aggression in China and Indochina.
Intelligence indicated that Japan would have to seize the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) as a replacement source of oil for its military, as they would not be humiliated and withdraw. He considered a partial relaxation of the embargo but feared that if Stalin, whose country was torn to its vitals by the German invasion of June, 1941, could not see a Western Front opening in Europe, he would make his peace with Germany, as Lenin and Trotsky had done in 1917.
In that event, it would have required perhaps 500 divisions and tens of thousands of aircraft to dislodge Hitler from control of Western and Central Europe and subdue him, and it would all have to come from the Anglo-Americans. Stalin's Soviet Union, as between the big three, would take about 95 per cent of the casualties incurred in defeating Hitler. Hoover and Buchanan cite Roosevelt's able ambassador in Tokyo (and secondary school classmate) Joseph Grew, about the dangers of war with Japan, but Grew had no remit to evaluate the entire international strategic implications of the terribly complicated and dangerous correlation of forces in 1941. He ably executed his mandate to report on Japanese affairs. What ensued was Western strategic policy of surpassing genius.
Roosevelt knew that failure to defeat Nazism would enable Germany to challenge the United States as the world's most powerful and important country, especially if it digested a large chunk of the USSR. The only way of ensuring against this was to keep Stalin in the war, and to ensure that, the United States would have to enter the war to maintain the credible likelihood of a timely Western Front in Europe against Hitler.
He had declared two thirds of the North Atlantic a "Neutrality Zone," which meant that the United States would attack any German ship on detection, and had "loaned" unlimited materiel and sinews of war to Britain, Canada, and eventually the Soviet Union, (having already loaned Britain 50 overage destroyers during the 1940 election campaign). And in forcing Japan to abandon its aggression in China or attack to the south, he was able to tell Stalin in October, 1941, that the Japanese forces along the Soviet far Eastern-Manchurian border had been withdrawn southwards, enabling Stalin to move the 20 divisions of his Far Eastern army from Siberia to the final defense of Leningrad and Moscow.
Roosevelt had sent so many warnings to American naval and military posts throughout the Pacific, he had every right to expect that at Pearl Harbor, there would be steam up at all times, torpedo nets around the heavy ships, and air patrols in strength out 250 miles in all directions at all daylight hours. If his orders had been carried out, damage to the Pacific Fleet when the Japanese attacked would have been minimal.
Winston Churchill prevented an early Nazi victory in 1940 and 1941. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the chief engineer of British and Soviet continuation in the war until the United States was precipitated into combat, and he was the strategic architect of the ascent of America to absolute world preeminence, while the Russians took 50 times as many casualties as the U.S. and 75 per cent of its populated areas were razed to the ground. Churchill and Roosevelt together deserve the immense credit due for the return or addition to the ranks of the West, as prosperous democratic allies, of France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Pat Buchanan, like all Americans, should be grateful to Churchill and Roosevelt, instead of carping in ambush at them. In the transition from presidential speechwriter to presidential candidate to revisionist historian, Pat Buchanan has become a cranky, silly, inept myth-maker, a "nattering nabob of negativism" in fact. He should go back to writing for someone else, someone who has a good editor.