Saturday, January 8, 2011
Buchanan and an Unnecessary War? (Part III)
Although Hitler began to initiate certain "crimes against humanity" long before WWII began I noted that for many this would probably not constitute a sufficient enough reason for waging war against Hitler because at that point it was still a domestic matter and even a good portion of non-isolationists would most likely be hesitate to advocate intervention then. So the sine qua non for maintaining the traditional argument of the necessity of WWII (or at least, minimally, of stopping Hitler) lies with Poland or more specifically with Hitler's geopolitical objectives concerning Poland. Recall that a major component of Buchanan's argument depends on the notion that Polish stubbornness in refusing to part with Danzig was a chief cause of the war. Thus to reiterate: according to Buchanan if Poland had simply acquiesced to Hitler's "just" demand to hand over Danzig he would have refrained from invading the country. (Remember the sequence here: no invasion of Poland, no British war declaration and therefore no war crimes).
But just as Buchanan failed to adequately take into account Hitler's obsession with the "Jewish Question" so too has his analysis of Hitler's foreign policy goals in regards to Poland been myopic. In addition to a preoccupation with the "Jewish Question" Hitler also consistently obsessed over Lebensraum or "living room (space)". This being the notion that Germany was in need of "breathing room" and that Eastern Europe, Poland in particular, would address this "need". (Incidentally this was not a theme exclusive to Hitler but formed a major part of German/Prussian thinking stretching as far back as the middle ages. Here then Hitler was, on this matter, in lockstep with traditional German foreign policy aims at the time.) But more importantly in relation to Poland, and I can't emphasize this enough, contrary to Buchanan Danzig was not really the issue, rather, it was the existence of Poland itself.
Historically, for the Germans/Prussians (and Russians) the existence of Poland was an abberation on the European continent (this is in fact what formed the backdrop to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression pact signed in Aug of 1939 that divided Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union). The territory that now forms Poland was at varying times either a part of the Prussian empire or Tsarist empire (or both) from 1795, the last time Poland was properly a country, until after WWI when the treaty of Versailles made Polish independence a reality once more. So it wasn't just that the Treaty of Versailles took away Danzig from Germany but that it dissolved a major portion of Germany's eastern territory in order to (re)create Poland. And so German foreign policy even during the Weimar era before Hitler stressed a desire to eradicate this part of Versailles. Now what Hitler did was to appropriate this strong German desire, combine it with the historic concern for Lebensraum, and intensify it to eventually include extension beyond Poland and ultimately to the Soviet Union. Therefore, it is extremely improbable that had Danzig been given over to Hitler that this would have satiated his eastern territorial ambitions. No, as consistently expressed by Hitler since at least Mein Kampf only the elimination of Poland as a political entity would have sufficed.
And so having been emboldened by a series of appeasements culminating in the Munich Agreement, Hitler, I submit, most surely would have invaded Poland irrespective of the solution over Danzig. Furthermore, regardless of whether or not Britain declared war on Germany, Hitler would've at least had a limited war with Poland in which to further extend his "crimes against humanity". More importantly, invading Poland would have saddled Hitler with millions of more Jews (and undesirable Poles for that matter) which would have served to intensify his "Jewish problem". Eventually then Hitler would have been driven to the same "solution" that he was in WWII, namely, the extermination of the Jews (and others that Hitler deemed undesirable). (In fact it is conceivable that the Holocaust would have happened much sooner without a wider war because Hitler would not have had the luxury of briefly contemplating deportation as a possible solution to the "Jewish Problem".) In other words either a limited war with Poland or a wider, world war would have resulted in the Holocaust. And thus the world surely would have had a strong moral mandate to initiate war against Hitler to put a stop to his "crimes against humanity". It is in this sense then that WWII was a necessary war because either way Hitler's foreign policy objectives would have resulted in the Holocaust.
Alright, in the concluding post to this series I'll try to sum up Buchanan's position and my arguments against it.