Friday, May 6, 2011
Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War" by Patrick J. Buchanan - Excerpt
What Happened to Us?
And it came
to pass, when they were in the field, thatCain rose up against his brother Abel and slew him.
ll about us
we can see clearly now that the West is pass-ing away.In a single century, all the great houses of continental Europe fell.All the empires that ruled the world have vanished. Not one Euro-pean nation, save Muslim Albania, has a birthrate that will enable itto survive through the century. As a share of world population, peo-ples of European ancestry have been shrinking for three generations.The character of every Western nation is being irremediably alteredas each undergoes an unresisted invasion from the Third World. Weare slowly disappearing from the Earth.Having lost the will to rule, Western man seems to be losing thewill to live as a unique civilization as he feverishly indulges inLa Dolce Vita, with a yawning indifference as to who might inheritthe Earth he once ruled.What happened to us? What happened to our world?When the twentieth century opened, the West was everywheresupreme. For four hundred years, explorers, missionaries, conquerors,
and colonizers departed Europe for the four corners of the Earth toerect empires that were to bring the blessings and benefits of Westerncivilization to all mankind. In Rudyard Kipling’s lines, it was the spe-cial duty of Anglo-Saxon peoples to fight “The savage wars of peace /Fill full the mouth of Famine / And bid the sickness cease.” Theseempires were the creations of a self-confident race of men.Whatever became of those men?Somewhere in the last century, Western man suffered a cata-strophic loss of faith—in himself, in his civilization, and in the faiththat gave it birth.That Christianity is dying in the West, being displaced by a mili-tant secularism, seems undeniable, though the reasons remain in dis-pute. But there is no dispute about the physical wounds that may yetprove mortal. These were World Wars I and II, two phases of aThirty Years’ War future historians will call the Great Civil War of the West. Not only did these two wars carry off scores of millions of the best and bravest of the West, they gave birth to the fanatic ideolo-gies of Leninism, Stalinism, Nazism, and Fascism, whose massacresof the people they misruled accounted for more victims than all of the battlefield deaths in ten years of fighting.A quarter century ago, Charles L. Mee, Jr., began his
End of Order: Versailles 1919
by describing the magnitude of what was firstcalled the Great War: “World War I had been a tragedy on a dread-ful scale. Sixty-five million men were mobilized—more by many mil-lions than had ever been brought to war before—to fight a war, they had been told, of justice and honor, of national pride and of greatideals, to wage a war that would end all war, to establish an entirely new order of peace and equity in the world.”
Mee then detailed the butcher’s bill.By November 11, 1918, when the armistice that marked theend of the war was signed, eight million soldiers lay dead,twenty million more were wounded, diseased, mutilated, or
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
spitting blood from gas attacks. Twenty-two million civilianshad been killed or wounded, and the survivors were living invillages blasted to splinters and rubble, on farms churned inmud, their cattle dead.In Belgrade, Berlin and Petrograd, the survivors foughtamong themselves—fourteen wars, great or small, civil orrevolutionary, flickered or raged about the world.
The casualty rate in the Great War was ten times what it had been inAmerica’s Civil War, the bloodiest war of Western man in the nine-teenth century. And at the end of the Great War an influenza epi-demic, spread by returning soldiers, carried off fourteen millionmore Europeans and Americans.
In one month of 1914—“the mostterrible August in the history of the world,” said Sir Arthur ConanDoyle—“French casualties . . . are believed to have totaled two hun-dred sixty thousand of whom seventy-five thousand were killed(twenty-seven thousand on August 22 alone).”
France would fighton and in the fifty-one months the war would last would lose 1.3 mil-lion sons, with twice that number wounded, maimed, crippled. Thequadrant of the country northeast of Paris resembled a moonscape.Equivalent losses in America today would be eight million dead,sixteen million wounded, and all the land east of the Ohio and northof the Potomac unrecognizable. Yet the death and destruction of theGreat War would be dwarfed by the genocides of Lenin, Stalin,Hitler, and what the war of 1939–1945 would do to Italy, Germany,Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic and Balkan nations, Russia, and all of Eu-rope from the Pyrenees to the Urals.The questions this book addresses are huge but simple: Werethese two world wars, the mortal wounds we inflicted upon ourselves,necessary wars? Or were they wars of choice? And if they were warsof choice, who plunged us into these hideous and suicidal world warsthat advanced the death of our civilization? Who are the statesmenresponsible for the death of the West?
What Happened to Us? xi
The Great Civil War of the West
[W]ar is the
creation of individuals not of nations.
—Sir Patrick Hastings, 1948
British barrister and writer
f all the empires
of modernity, the British was thegreatest—indeed, the greatest since Rome—encompassing a fourthof the Earth’s surface and people. Out of her womb came America,Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland, five of the finest, freestlands on Earth. Out of her came Hong Kong and Singapore, wherethe Chinese first came to know freedom. Were it not for Britain,India would not be the world’s largest democracy, or South Africathat continent’s most advanced nation. When the British arrived inAfrica, they found primitive tribal societies. When they departed,they left behind roads, railways, telephone and telegraph systems,farms, factories, fisheries, mines, trained police, and a civil service.No European people fondly remembers the Soviet Empire. FewAsians recall the Empire of Japan except with hatred. But all over theworld, as their traditions, customs, and uniforms testify, men manifesttheirpridethattheyoncebelongedtotheempireuponwhoseflagthesun never set. America owes a special debt to Britain, for our laws,language and literature, and the idea of representative government.
“[T]he transplanted culture of Britain in America,” wrote Dr. RussellKirk, “has been one of humankind’s more successful experiments.”
As with most empires, the sins of the British are scarlet—theopium wars in China, the cold indifference to Irish suffering in thePotato Famine. But Britain’s sins must be weighed in the balance. Itwas the British who were first to take up arms against slavery, who, atTrafalgar and Waterloo, were decisive in defeating the Napoleonicdictatorship and empire, who, in their finest hour, held on untilHitler was brought down.Like all empires, the British Empire was one day fated to fall. OnceJefferson’s idea, “All men are created equal,” was wedded to PresidentWilson’s idea, that all peoples are entitled to “self-determination,” thefate of the Western empires was sealed. Wilson’s secretary of state,Robert Lansing, saw it coming: “The phrase [self-determination] issimply loaded with dynamite. It will raise hopes which can never be re-alized. . . .Whatacalamitythatthephrasewaseveruttered!Whatmis-ery it will cause!”
Twenty-five years after Versailles, Walter Lippmann would de-nounce Wilson’s doctrine of self-determination as “barbarous and re-actionary.”Self-determination, which has nothing to do with self- government but has become confused with it, is barbarousand reactionary: by sanctioning secession, it invites majori-ties and minorities to be intransigent and irreconcilable. It isstipulated in the principle of self-determination that they need not be compatriots because they will soon be aliens.Thereisnoendtothisatomizationofhumansociety.Withinthe minorities who have seceded there will tend to appearother minorities who in their turn will wish to secede.
wilson’s doctrine of self-determination
destroyed theWestern empires.
The Great Civil War of the West xv
But while the fall of the British Empire was inevitable, the sud-denness and sweep of the collapse were not. There is a world of dif-ference between watching a great lady grandly descend a staircaseand seeing a slattern being kicked down a flight of stairs.Consider: When Winston Churchill entered the inner cabinet asFirst Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, every nation recognizedBritain’s primacy. None could match her in the strategic weapons of the new century: the great battle fleets and dreadnoughts of theRoyal Navy. Mark Twain jested that the English were the only mod-ern race mentioned in the Bible, when the Lord said, “Blessed are themeek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Yet by Churchill’s death in 1965, little remained. “Of that colossalwreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch faraway.”
At century’s end, Labour Party elder statesman Sir Roy Den-man looked back at the decline and fall of the nation and empire intowhich he had been born:At the beginning [of the twentieth century], Britain, as thecentre of the biggest empire in the world, was at the zenithof her power and glory; Britain approaches the end as aminor power, bereft of her empire. . . . [O]n the world stage,Britain will end the century little more important thanSwitzerland. It will have been the biggest secular decline inpower and influence since seventeenth-century Spain.
what happened to great britain?
What happened to theEmpire? What happened to the West and our world—is what thisbook is about.For it was the war begun in 1914 and the Paris peace conferenceof 1919 that destroyed the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russianempires and ushered onto the world stage Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini,and Hitler. And it was the war begun in September 1939 that led tothe slaughter of the Jews and tens of millions of Christians, the dev-
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
astation of Europe, Stalinization of half the continent, the fall of China to Maoist madness, and half a century of Cold War.Every European war is a civil war, said Napoleon. Historians willlook back on 1914–1918 and 1939–1945 as two phases of the GreatCivil War of the West, where the once-Christian nations of Europefell upon one another with such savage abandon they brought downall their empires, brought an end to centuries of Western rule, andadvanced the death of their civilization.In deciphering what happened to the West, George F. Kennan,the geostrategist of the Cold War, wrote, “All lines of inquiry leadback to World War I.”
Kennan’s belief that World War I was “theoriginal catastrophe” was seconded by historian Jacques Barzun, whocalled the war begun in August 1914 “the blow that hurled the mod-ern world on its course of self-destruction.”
These two world wars were fratricidal, self-inflicted wounds of acivilization seemingly hell-bent on suicide. Eight million soldiersperished in World War I, “twenty million more were wounded, dis-eased, mutilated, or spitting blood from gas attacks. Twenty-two mil-lion civilians had been killed or wounded. . . .”
That war would givebirth to the fanatic and murderous ideologies of Leninism, Stalinism,Nazism, and Fascism, and usher in the Second World War thatwould bring death to tens of millions more.And it was Britain that turned both European wars into worldwars. Had Britain not declared war on Germany in 1914, Canada,Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and India would not have fol-lowed the Mother Country in. Nor would Britain’s ally Japan. Norwould Italy, which London lured in with secret bribes of territory from the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. Nor would America havegone to war had Britain stayed out. Germany would have been victo-rious, perhaps in months. There would have been no Lenin, noStalin, no Versailles, no Hitler, no Holocaust.Had Britain not given a war guarantee to Poland in March 1939,then declared war on September 3, bringing in South Africa, Canada,
The Great Civil War of the West xvii
Australia, India, New Zealand, and the United States, a German- Polish war might never have become a six-year world war in whichfifty million would perish.Why did Britain declare war on Germany, twice? As we shall see,neither the Kaiser nor Hitler sought to destroy Britain or her empire.Both admired what Britain had built. Both sought an alliance withEngland. The Kaiser was the eldest grandson of Queen Victoria.Thus the crucial question: Were these two devastating wars Britaindeclared on Germany wars of necessity, or wars of choice?Critics will instantly respond that Britain fought the First WorldWar to bring down a Prussian militarism that threatened to dominateEurope and the world, that Britain declared war in 1939 to stop a fa-natic Nazi dictator who would otherwise have conquered Europe andthe world, enslaved mankind, massacred minorities on a mammothscale, and brought on a new Dark Age. And thank God Britain diddeclare war. Were it not for Britain, we would all be speaking Ger-man now.Yet, in his memoir, David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory in World War I, wrote, “We all blundered into the war.”
In his mem-oirs, Churchill, who led Britain to victory in World War II, wrote:One day President Roosevelt told me that he was askingpublicly for suggestions about what the war should be called.I said at once, “The Unnecessary War.” There never was awar more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked whatwas left of the world from the previous struggle.
Was Lloyd George right?
Was World War I the result of blunders by British statesmen? Was Churchill right? Was the SecondWorld War that “wrecked what was left of the world” an “unneces-sary war”? If so, who blundered? For these were the costliest andbloodiest wars in the history of mankind and they may have broughton the end of Western civilization.
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
About the justice of the causes for which Britain fought, fewquarrel. And those years from 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945 pro-duced days of glory that will forever inspire men and reflect greatly upon the British people. Generations may pass away, but men will yettalk of Passchendaele and the Somme, of Dunkirk and El Alamein.Two-thirds of a century later, men’s eyes yet mist over at the words“Fighter Command,” the men and boys in their Hurricanes and Spit-fires who rose day after day as the knights of old in the Battle of Britain to defend their “island home.” And in their “finest hour” theBritish had as the king’s first minister a statesman who personifiedthe bulldog defiance of his people and who was privileged by history to give the British lion its roar. In the victory over Nazi Germany, theplace of moral honor goes to Britain and Churchill. He “mobilizedthe English language and sent it into battle,” said President Kennedy,when Churchill, like Lafayette, was made an honorary citizen of theUnited States.Thus the question this book addresses is not whether the Britishwere heroic. That is settled for all time. But were their statesmenwise? For if they were wise, how did Britain pass in one generationfrom being mistress of the most awesome of empires into a nationwhose only hope for avoiding defeat and ruin was an America thatbore no love for the empire? By 1942, Britain relied on the UnitedStates for all the necessities of national survival: the munitions tokeep fighting, the ships to bring her supplies, the troops to rescue acontinent from which Britain had been expelled in three weeks by thePanzers of Rommel and Guderian. Who blundered? Who failedBritain? Who lost the empire? Was it only the appeasers, the Guilty Men?There is another reason I have written this book.There has arisen among America’s elite a Churchill cult. Itsacolytes hold that Churchill was not only a peerless war leader but astatesman of unparalleled vision whose life and legend should be themodel for every statesman. To this cult, defiance anywhere of U.S.
The Great Civil War of the West xix
hegemony, resistance anywhere to U.S. power becomes another1938. Every adversary is “a new Hitler,” every proposal to avert war“another Munich.” Slobodan Milosevic, a party apparatchik who hadpresided over the disintegration of Yugoslavia—losing Slovenia,Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia—becomes “the Hitler of theBalkans” for holding Serbia’s cradle province of Kosovo. SaddamHussein, whose army was routed in one hundred hours in 1991 andwho had not shot down a U.S. plane in forty thousand sorties, be-comes “an Arab Hitler” about to roll up the Persian Gulf andthreaten mankind with weapons of mass destruction.This mind-set led us to launch a seventy-eight-day bombing cam- paign on Serbia, a nation that never attacked us, never threatened us,neverwantedwarwithus,whosepeoplehadalwaysbefriendedus.After9/11,theChurchillculthelpedtopersuadeanuntutoredpresidentthatthe liberation of Iraq from Saddam would be like the liberation of Eu-rope from Hitler. We would be greeted in Baghdad as our fathers andgrandfathershadbeeninParis.Inthetriumphantaftermathofa“cake-walk” war, democracy would put down roots in the Middle East as ithad in Europe after the fall of Hitler, and George W. Bush would enterhistoryastheChurchillofhisgeneration,whilethetimidsoulswhoop-posed his war of liberation would be exposed as craven appeasers.This Churchill cult gave us our present calamity. If not exposed,it will produce more wars and more disasters, and, one day, a war of the magnitude of Churchill’s wars that brought Britain and hisbeloved empire to ruin. For it was Winston S. Churchill who was themost bellicose champion of British entry into the European war of 1914 and the German-Polish war of 1939. There are two great mythsabout these wars. The first is that World War I was fought “to makethe world safe for democracy.” The second is that World War II wasthe “Good War,” a glorious crusade to rid the world of Fascism thatturned out wonderfully well.Not for everyone. When President Bush flew to Moscow to cele-brate the sixtieth anniversary of V-E Day, he stopped in one of the
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
nations that was not celebrating, Latvia, and dispelled one of thesemyths. He told the world that while “V-E Day marked the end of Fascism . . . it did not end oppression,” that what FDR and Churchilldid to Eastern and Central Europe in collusion with Stalin “will beremembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.”
Bush calledYalta a sellout of free nations as shameful as Munich.This book will argue that President Bush understated his case.For their crimes, Hitler and his collaborators, today’s metaphorsfor absolute evil, received the ruthless justice they deserved. But wecannot ignore the costs of Churchill’s wars, or the question: Was ittruly necessary that fifty million die to bring Hitler down? For WorldWar II was the worst evil ever to befall Christians and Jews and may prove the mortal blow that brings down our common civilization.Was it “The Unnecessary War”?
The Great Civil War of the West xxi
The End of “Splendid Isolation”
[T]he Queen cannot
help feeling that our isolationis dangerous.
January 14, 1896
Isolation is much less dangerous than the danger of being dragged into wars which do not concern us.
—Lord Salisbury, 1896
or as long as
he had served the queen, Lord Salisbury hadsought to keep Britain free of power blocs. “His policy was not one of isolation from Europe . . . but isolation from the Europe of al-liances.”
Britannia would rule the waves but stay out of Europe’squarrels. Said Salisbury, “We are fish.”
When the queen called him to form a new government for thethird time in 1895, Lord Salisbury pursued his old policy of “splendidisolation.” But in the years since he and Disraeli had traveled to theCongress of Berlin in 1878, to create with Bismarck a new balance of power in Europe, their world had vanished.In the Sino-Japanese war of 1894–95, Japan defeated China,seized Taiwan, and occupied the Liaotung Peninsula. Britain’s pre-eminent position in China was now history.In the summer of 1895, London received a virtual ultimatum
from secretary of state Richard Olney, demanding that Great Britainaccept U.S. arbitration in a border dispute between British Guianaand Venezuela. Lord Salisbury shredded Olney’s note like an impa-tient tenured professor cutting up a freshman term paper. But Presi-dent Cleveland demanded that Britain accept arbitration—or facethe prospect of war with the United States.The British were stunned by American enthusiasm for a war overa patch of South American jungle, and incredulous. America de-ployed two battleships to Britain’s forty-four.
Yet Salisbury took thethreat seriously: “A war with America . . . in the not distant future hasbecome something more than a possibility.”
London was jolted anew in January 1896 when the Kaiser sent atelegram of congratulations to Boer leader Paul Kruger on his cap-ture of the Jameson raiders, who had invaded the Transvaal in a landgrab concocted by Cecil Rhodes, with the connivance of ColonialSecretary Joseph Chamberlain.These two challenges, from a jingoistic America that was now thefirst economic power on earth, and from his bellicose nephew inBerlin, Wilhelm II, revealed to the future Edward VII that “his coun-try was without a friend in the world” and “steps to end British isola-tion were required. . . .”
On December 18, 1897, a Russian fleet steamed into the Chineseharbor of Port Arthur, “obliging British warships to vacate the area.”
British jingoes “became apoplectic.”
Lord Salisbury stood down: “Idon’t think we carry enough guns to fight them and the French to-gether.”
In 1898, a crisis erupted in northeast Africa. Captain Jean-Baptiste Marchand, who had set off from Gabon in 1897 on a sa-fari across the Sahara with six officers and 120 Senegalese,appeared at Fashoda in the southern Sudan, where he laid claim tothe headwaters of the Nile. Sir Herbert Kitchener cruised upriverto instruct Marchand he was on imperial land. Faced with superiorfirepower, Marchand withdrew. Fashoda brought Britain and
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
France to the brink of war. Paris backed down, but bitterness randeep. Caught up in the Anglophobia was eight-year-old Charles deGaulle.
In 1900, the Russian challenge reappeared. After American,British, French, German, and Japanese troops had marched to therescue of the diplomatic legation in Peking, besieged for fifty-fivedays by Chinese rebels called “Boxers,” Russia exploited the chaos tosend a 200,000-man army into Manchuria and the Czar shifted asquadron of his Baltic fleet to Port Arthur. The British position inChina was now threatened by Russia and Japan.But what awakened Lord Salisbury to the depth of British isola-tion was the Boer War. When it broke out in 1899, Europeans andAmericans cheered British defeats. While Joe Chamberlain might“speak of the British enjoying a ‘splendid isolation, surrounded andsupported by our kinsfolk,’ the Boer War brought home the reality that, fully extended in their imperial role, the British needed to avoidconflict with the other great powers.”
Only among America’s Anglophile elite could Victoria’s nationor Salisbury’s government find support. When Bourke Cockran,a Tammany Hall Democrat, wrote President McKinley, urginghim to mediate and keep America’s distance from Great Britain’s“wanton acts of aggression,” the letter went to Secretary of StateJohn Hay.
Hay bridled at this Celtic insolence. “Mr. Cockran’s logic is espe-cially Irish,” he wrote to a friend. “As long as I stay here no actionshall be taken contrary to my conviction that the one indispensablefeature of our foreign policy should be a friendly understanding withEngland.” Hay refused even to answer “Bourke Cockran’s fool letterto the president.”
Hay spoke of an alliance with Britain as an “unattainable dream”and hoped for a smashing imperial victory in South Africa. “I hope if it comes to blows that England will make quick work of Uncle Paul[Kruger].”
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 3
So it was that
as the nineteenth century came to an end Britainset out to court old rivals. The British first reached out to the Amer-icans. Alone among Europe’s great powers, Britain sided with theUnited States in its 1898 war with Spain. London then settled theAlaska boundary dispute in America’s favor, renegotiated the fifty-year-old Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and ceded to America the exclusiverights to build, operate, and fortify a canal across Panama. ThenBritain withdrew her fleet from the Caribbean.Writes British historian Correlli Barnett: “The passage of theBritish battlefleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific would now be by courtesy of the United States,” and, with America’s defeat of Spain,“The Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico, now American colonies,were gradually closed to British merchants by protective tariffs, forthe benefit of their American rivals.”
Other historians, however, hail the British initiative to terminatea century of U.S.-British enmity as “The Great Rapprochement,”and Berlin-born Yale historian Hajo Holborn regards the establish-ment of close Anglo-American relations as probably “by far thegreatest achievement of British diplomacy in terms of world his-tory.”
With America appeased, Britain turned to Asia.With a Russian army in Manchuria menacing Korea and theCzar’s warships at Port Arthur and Vladivostok, Japan needed an ally to balance off Russia’s ally, France. Germany would not do, as KaiserWilhelm disliked Orientals and was endlessly warning about the“Yellow Peril.” As for the Americans, their Open Door policy hadproven to be bluster and bluff when Russia moved into Manchuria.That left the British, whom the Japanese admired as an island peopleand warrior race that had created the world’s greatest empire.On January 30, 1902, an Anglo-Japanese treaty was signed. Eachnation agreed to remain neutral should the other become embroiled
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
in an Asian war with a single power. However, should either becomeinvolved in war with two powers, each would come to the aid of theother. Confident its treaty with Britain would checkmate Russia’s ally France, Japan in 1904 launched a surprise attack on the Russian navalsquadron at Port Arthur. An enraged Czar sent his Baltic fleet toexact retribution. After a voyage of six months from the Baltic to theNorth Sea, down the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope tothe Indian Ocean, the great Russian fleet was ambushed and annihi-lated by Admiral Heihachiro Togo in Tshushima Strait betweenKorea and Japan. Only one small Russian cruiser and two destroyersmade it to Vladivostok. Japan lost two torpedo boats. It was a victory for Japan to rival the sinking of the Spanish Armada and the worstdefeat ever inflicted on a Western power by an Asian people.Britain had chosen well. In 1905, the Anglo-Japanese treaty waselevated into a full alliance. Britain now turned to patching up quar-rels with her European rivals. Her natural allies were Germany andthe Habsburg Empire, neither of whom had designs on the BritishEmpire. Imperial Russia, Britain’s great nineteenth-century rival, waspressing down on China, India, Afghanistan, the Turkish Straits, andthe Middle East. France was Britain’s ancient enemy and imperialrival in Africa and Egypt. The nightmare of the British was a secondTilsit, where Napoleon and Czar Alexander I, meeting on a barge inthe Neiman in 1807, had divided a prostrate Europe and Middle Eastbetween them. Germany was the sole European bulwark againsta French-Russian dominance of Europe and drive for hegemony in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia—at the expense of the BritishEmpire.With Lord Salisbury’s blessing, Joe Chamberlain began to courtBerlin. “England, Germany and America should collaborate: by sodoing they could check Russian expansionism, calm turbulentFrance and guarantee world peace,” Chamberlain told future Ger-man chancellor Bernhard von Bulow.
The Kaiser put him off. Nei-ther he nor his advisers believed Britain could reconcile with her old
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 5
nemesis France, or Russia, and must eventually come to Berlin hat-in-hand. Joe warned the Germans: Spurn Britain, and we go else-where.The Kaiser let the opportunity slip and, in April 1904, learned tohis astonishment that Britain and France had negotiated an ententecordiale, a cordial understanding. France yielded all claims in Egypt,and Britain agreed to support France’s preeminence in Morocco.Centuries of hostility came to an end. The quarrel over Suez wasover. Fashoda was history.The entente quickly proved its worth. After the Kaiser was per-suaded to make a provocative visit to Tangier in 1905, Britain backedFrance at the Algeciras conference called to resolve the crisis. Ger-many won economic concessions in Morocco, but Berlin had solidi-fied the Anglo-French entente. More ominous, the Tangier crisis hadpropelled secret talks already under way between French and Britishstaff officers over how a British army might be ferried across theChannel to France in the event of a war with Germany.Unknown to the Cabinet and Parliament, a tiny cabal had made adecision fateful for Britain, the empire, and the world. Under theguidance of Edward Grey, the foreign secretary from 1905 to 1916,British and French officers plotted Britain’s entry into a Franco-German war from the first shot. And these secret war plans werebeing formulated by Liberals voted into power in public revulsionagainst the Boer War on a platform of “Peace, Retrenchment, andReform.” Writes historian Robert Massie,[O]n January 16 , without the approval of either thePrime Minister or Cabinet, secret talks between Britishand French staff officers began. They focussed on plans tosend 100,000 British soldiers to the Continent within twoweeks of an outbreak of hostilities. On January 26, whenCampbell-Bannerman returned to London and was in-formed, he approved.
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
As Churchill wrote
decades later, only Lord Rosebery readthe real meaning of the Anglo-French entente. “Only one voice—Rosebery’s—was raised in discord: in public ‘Far more likely to leadto War than Peace’; in private ‘Straight to War.’ ”
While praisingRosebery’s foresight, Churchill never repudiated his own support of the entente or secret understandings: “It must not be thought that Iregret the decisions which were in fact taken.”
In August 1907, Britain entered into an Anglo-Russian conven-tion, ending their eighty-year conflict. Czar Nicholas II acceptedBritain’s dominance in southern Persia. Britain accepted Russia’sdominance in the north. Both agreed to stay out of central Persia,Afghanistan, and Tibet. The Great Game was over and the lineupscompleted for the great European war. In the Triple Alliance wereGermany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. Opposite was the Franco-Russian alliance backed by Great Britain, which was allied to Japan.Only America among the great powers remained free of entanglingalliances.
“YOU HAVE A NEW WORLD”
Britain had appeased America,
allied with Japan, and enteredan entente with France and Russia, yet its German problem re-mained. It had arisen in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war.After the French defeat at Sedan and the abdication of Napoleon III,a united Germany stretching from France to Russia and from theBaltic to the Alps had emerged as the first power in Europe. Disraelirecognized the earthshaking importance of the unification of theGerman states under a Prussian king.The war represents the German revolution, a greater politi-cal event than the French revolution of the last century. . . .There is not a diplomatic tradition, which has not been
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 7
swept away. You have a new world. . . . The balance of powerhas been entirely destroyed.
Bismarck had engineered
the wars on Denmark, Austria, andFrance, but he now believed his nation had nothing to gain from war.She had “hay enough for her fork.”
Germany should not behave“like a nouveau riche who has just come into money and then of-fended everyone by pointing to the coins in his pocket.”
He crafteda series of treaties to maintain a European balance of power favorableto Germany—by keeping the Austro-Hungarian Empire allied, Rus-sia friendly, Britain neutral, and France isolated. Bismarck opposedthe building of a fleet that might alarm the British. As for an overseasempire, let Britain, France, and Russia quarrel over colonies. When acolonial adventurer pressed upon him Germany’s need to enter thescramble for Africa, Bismarck replied, “Your map of Africa is very nice. But there is France, and here is Russia, and we are in themiddle, and that is my map of Africa.”
As the clamor for colonies grew, however, the Iron Chancellorwould succumb and Germany would join the scramble. By 1914,Berlin boasted the world’s third largest overseas empire, encompass-ing German East Africa (Tanganyika), South-West Africa (Namibia),Kamerun (Cameroon), and Togoland. On the China coast, the Kaiserheld Shantung Peninsula. In the western Pacific, the House of Hoh-enzollern held German New Guinea, German Samoa, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Marshall, Mariana, and Caroline islands, and theNorthern Solomons, of which Bougainville was the largest. How-ever, writes Holborn,Not for a moment were Bismarck’s colonial projects in-tended to constitute a revision of the fundamentals of hiscontinental policy. Least of all were they designs to under-mine British naval or colonial supremacy overseas. Bismarck was frank when he told British statesmen that Germany, by
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
the acquisition of colonies, was giving Britain new hostages,since she could not hope to defend them in an emergency.
By 1890, Bismarck had been dismissed by the new young Kaiser,who began to make a series of blunders, the first of which was to letBismarck’s treaty with Russia lapse. This left Russia nowhere to turnbut France. By 1894, St. Petersburg had become the ally of a Parisstill seething over the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. France had brokenfree of the isolation imposed upon her by Bismarck. The Kaiser’sfolly in letting the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia lapse can hardly be overstated.While Germany was a “satiated power, so far as Europe itself wasconcerned, and stood to gain little from a major war on the Europeancontinent,” France and Russia were expansionist.
Paris hungeredfor the return of Alsace. Russia sought hegemony over Bulgaria,domination of the Turkish Straits to keep foreign warships out of theBlack Sea, and to pry away the Austrian share of a partitioned Poland.More ominous, the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894 stipulatedthat a partial mobilization by any member of the Triple Alliance—Austria, Italy, or Germany—would trigger hostilities against allthree.
As George Kennan writes in
The Fateful Alliance,
A partial Austrian mobilization against Serbia, for example(and one has only to recall the events of 1914 to understandthe potential significance of this circumstance) could alonebecome the occasion for the launching of a general Euro-pean war.
PUTTING THE KAISER DOWN
Though boastful and belligerent,
the Kaiser had neverplotted to bring down the British Empire. The eldest grandson of
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 9
Queen Victoria, proud of his British blood, he had rushed to her bed-side as she sank toward death and “softly passed away in my arms.”
He had marched in the queen’s funeral procession. The new king,Edward VII, was deeply moved. As he wrote his sister, Empress Fred-erick, the Kaiser’s mother who had been too ill to travel to the fu-neral, “William’s touching and simple demeanour, up to the last, willnever be forgotten by me or anyone. It was indeed a sincere pleasurefor me to confer upon him the rank of Field Marshal in my Army.”
At the luncheon for Edward, the Kaiser rose to declare:I believe that the two Teutonic nations will, bit by bit, learnto know each other better, and that they will stand togetherto help in keeping the peace of the world. We ought to forman Anglo-Germanic alliance, you to keep the seas, while wewould be responsible for the land; with such an alliance nota mouse could stir in Europe without our permission.
“[B]y dint of his mother’s teaching and admiration for her family,[the Kaiser] wanted only good relations with Britain,” writes GilesMacDonogh, biographer of Wilhelm II.
It was a “British alliancefor which [the Kaiser] strove all his professional life. . . .”
Why did the Kaiser fail? Certainly, his ministers who goaded himinto collisions with England with the Kruger telegram and in theMoroccan crises of 1905 and 1911 bear much of the blame. But Mac-Donogh lays most of it on British statesmen and their haughty con-tempt of the Kaiser and Germany:Faced by his Uncle Bertie [Edward VII], or high-handedministers such as Lord Salisbury or Sir Edward Grey, he feltthe British put him down; they treated him as a grandson ornephew and not as the German emperor. Germany wasnever admitted to full membership of that board of greatpowers. He and his country were patronised, and he took itvery personally.
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
When the Kaiser once inquired of Lord Salisbury where hemight have a colony that would not be in the way of the British Em-pire, the great peer replied, “We don’t want you anywhere.”
When Edward VII paid a visit to Kiel during the Russo-Japanesewar, and the Kaiser suggested “that Russia’s cause was that of Europe,and that a Japanese victory over Russia would bring the world face toface with ‘the Yellow Peril,’ ” Edward had laughed in his face, “andfor eighteen months thereafter the personal relations between uncleand nephew sank to the lowest point which they ever reached.”
Yet on the death in 1910 of Edward VII, who detested thenephew he called “Willy,” the Kaiser again sought reconciliationwith a grand gesture. He sailed to England and marched in Edward’sfuneral—in the uniform of a British field marshal. As he strode be-hind Edward’s casket, the Kaiser’s feelings, Barbara Tuchman writes,were mixed. There was nostalgia for the great royal family to whichhe, too, belonged, but alsoa fierce relish in the disappearance of his uncle from the Eu-ropean scene. He had come to bury Edward his bane; Ed-ward the arch plotter, as William conceived it, of Germany’sencirclement. Edward, his mother’s brother whom he couldneither bully nor impress, whose fat figure cast a shadow be-tween Germany and the sun. “He is Satan. You cannot imag-ine what a Satan he is.”
As his clumsy courtship failed, the Kaiser tried to force Britain topay heed to him and to Germany with bellicose intrusions in Africanaffairs. But where the British chose to appease the Americans, withthe Kaiser they took a different course. And beyond the enmity be-tween Wilhelm II and Edward VII, the Kaiser had, even while QueenVictoria was alive, committed one of the great blunders in Germanhistory. He decided to challenge Britannia’s rule of the waves with aHigh Seas Fleet. “The building of the German Fleet,” writes Massie,“ended the century of Splendid Isolation.”
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 11
THE HIGH SEAS FLEET
Several factors led
to the fateful decision. Soon after he as-cended the throne, the Kaiser was mesmerized by an 1890 book by U.S. naval captain A. T. Mahan, “a tall beanpole of a man, with agreat bald dome rising above calm hooded eyes.”
Mahan was morescholar than sea dog. His thesis in
The Influence of Sea Power UponHistory
was that it had been the Royal Navy, controlling the oceaniccrossroads of the world, that had ensured the defeat of Napoleon andmade Great Britain the world’s preeminent power. Navalists every-where swore by Captain Mahan. It was at Mahan’s recommendationthat Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt had put Ad-miral George Dewey in command of the Pacific Squadron of six bat-tleships and three cruisers that steamed into Manila harbor in 1898to sink the Spanish fleet before breakfast.The Japanese had made
The Influence of Sea Power
a textbook intheir naval and war colleges. But nowhere was Mahan more a“prophet with honor” than in Imperial Germany.
“ ‘I am just nownot reading but devouring Captain Mahan’s book and am trying tolearn it by heart,’ the Kaiser wrote in 1894. ‘It is on board all my ships and constantly quoted by all my captains and officers.’ ”
When France was forced to back down at Fashoda, the Kaiser com-miserated, “The poor French. They have not read their Mahan!”
It was in 1896 that the Kaiser came to appreciate what it meant tobe without a navy. After he had sent his provocative telegram to theBoer leader Kruger, congratulating him on his capture of the Jame-son raiders, which had enraged the British, the Kaiser discovered hewas impotent to intervene to help the Boers. Any German convoy or-dered to East Africa must traverse the North Sea, the East Atlantic,and the Cape of Good Hope, or the Mediterranean and the SuezCanal. Its sinking would be child’s play for the Royal Navy. Rudely awakened to German vulnerability at sea, the Kaiser wrote bitterly toChancellor Hohenlohe,
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
Once again it becomes obvious how foolish it was to beginour colonial policy a decade ago without having a fleet. Ourtrade is locked in a life-and-death struggle with the English,and our press boasts loudly of this every day, but the greatmerchant marine which plies the oceans of the world underour flag must renounce itself to complete impotence beforetheir 130 cruisers, which we can proudly counter with four.
Thus, on the strong recommendation of his new naval minister,the Anglophobic Prussian admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the Kaiser de-cided to build a world-class navy. Purpose: Defend the North Sea andBaltic coasts, break any blockade, protect the trade on which Ger-many depended for a fourth of her food. The Kaiser saw his navy both as an instrument of his world policy and a force to counter theRussian and French fleets. But Admiral Tirpitz left no doubt as to itsprincipal purpose. “This intention was conveyed,” writes British his-torian Lawrence James, “in the belligerent preamble to the 1900Navy Law which insisted that ‘Germany must have a Fleet of suchstrength that a war, even against the mightiest naval Power, would in-volve such risks as to threaten the supremacy of that Power.’ ”
This was the “risk theory” of Tirpitz. While the German fleetmight be defeated in war, it would be strong enough to inflict suchdamage on the Royal Navy, shield of the empire, that Britain wouldseek to avoid any war with Germany rather than imperil the empire.Thus, as the German fleet became stronger, Britain would appeaseGermany and not interfere as she grew as a world power. A great fleetwould also enable the Kaiser to play the role of world statesman com-mensurate with his nation’s stature. Tirpitz believed the more power-ful the fleet, the greater the certainty Britain would stay neutral in aFranco-German war. Of Britain’s haughty attitude toward him andhis country, the Kaiser said, “Nothing will change until we are sostrong on the seas that we become valuable allies.”
Tirpitz and theKaiser were mistaken.
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 13
Oddly, it was a British blunder that convinced many Germans thatthe Kaiser and Tirpitz were right: Germany needed a High Seas Fleet.In December 1899, in the first weeks of the Boer War, the Cabi-net authorized the Royal Navy to intercept and inspect foreign shipsto prevent war matériel from reaching the Boers in the Transvaal andFree State. Three German passenger ships, the
were stopped and forced into port, where they “suffered the humiliation of being searched.”
As Thomas Paken-ham, the historian of the Boer War, writes,The search was negative in all three cases, and this only fedthe flames of anglophobia in Germany. How dare the BritishNavy stop our mail steamers, cried the German Press. Andhow convenient it all was for the German government,whose great Navy Bill steamed majestically through theReichstag. . . . Who could have guessed that these earthtremors of 1900 were to lead to the earthquake of 1914?
Understandably, Britain only seemed to see the High Seas Fleetfrom her own point of view, never from the vantage point of Berlin.To the Germans, it was not Britain that threatened them, but giantRussia and revanchist France. In the last decade of the nineteenthcentury, both powers had spent far more on warships than Germany.By 1901, the combined naval armaments expenditures of Paris andSt. Petersburg were three times that of Berlin.
And if Britain couldclaim the right to a Royal Navy greater than the combined fleets of the next two naval powers—“The Two-Power Standard” written intoBritish law by Lord Salisbury in 1889—was not Germany entitled tonaval supremacy in her home waters, the Baltic Sea? As Tirpitz toldthe Reichstag, “We should be in a position to blockade the Russianfleet in the Baltic ports, and to prevent at the same time the entranceto that sea of a French fleet. We must also protect our ports in theNorth Sea from blockade.”
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
Was this so unreasonable? By the twentieth century, Germany’strade and merchant marine rivaled Britain’s, and Germany was undera far greater potential naval threat.Still, writes Roy Denman, “The balance of power in Europe wasunder threat. The High Seas Fleet based on the Channel ports wouldhave been for Britain an unacceptable danger.”
But had not Britainsurvived secure for centuries with its greatest rival, France, havingwarships in the Channel ports? One British critic of his nation’s anti-German policy argues that the Kaiser’s Germany could make a farmore compelling case for a world-class navy than the Britain of Vic-toria and Edward.And why should Germany not have a fleet to protect hercommerce? Surely, she had more reason to build one thanGreat Britain. The island power had no Russia at the mouthof the Humber, nor had she a France impinging on thebeach of Cardigan Bay. All the avenues to the Atlantic wereopen for England. It was very different for German mar-itime service.No one knew this better than the chiefs of the Britishadmiralty.
Nor were German
fears of the Royal Navy misplaced. British warplans called for a blockade of Germany. Some at the Admiralty wereavidly seeking an opportunity to stalk and sink the German fleet be-fore it could grow to a size and strength to challenge the Royal Navy.In 1905, a European crisis was precipitated by a provocative stuntby the Kaiser. Goaded by his foreign office, he interrupted aMediterranean cruise to appear suddenly in Tangier, riding a whitecharger, to support the independence of Morocco, an open-door pol-icy in that North African nation, and Germany’s right to equal treat-ment in commercial affairs. This was a direct challenge to Frenchhegemony in Morocco, agreed to in the British-French entente. It
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 15
was during this crisis that the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir JohnFisher, wrote to Lord Lansdowne, the foreign secretary, urging himto exploit the situation to foment war with Germany:This seems a golden opportunity for fighting the Germansin alliance with the French, so I earnestly hope you may beable to bring this about. . . . All I hope is that you will send atelegram to Paris that the English and French Fleets areone. We could have the German Fleet, the Kiel Canal, andSchleswig-Holstein within a fortnight.
Fisher, a confidant of the king, confessed “that in1908 he had a secret conversation with his Majesty [EdwardVII] . . . ‘in which I urged that we should Copenhagen the Germanfleet at Kiel a la Nelson, and I lamented that we possessed neither aPitt nor a Bismarck to give the order.’ ”
“Copenhagen” was a refer-ence to Nelson’s charge into the Danish harbor in 1801, where, in asurprise attack, the intrepid British admiral sank every Danish ship insight.“My God, Fisher, you must be mad!” said the King.
German admirals feared “Jackie” Fisher was neither mad nor jok-ing. The idea of a British fleet steaming into Wilhelmshaven andKiel and sending the High Seas Fleet to Davy Jones’s locker—in asurprise attack without a declaration of war, as Japan had done at PortArthur—had been raised by other Admiralty officials and a Ger-manophobic British press.Indeed, in November 1906, an “invasion scare . . . convulsedGermany” and “was followed, in January, 1907, by a fantastic rumourthat Fisher was coming, which caused panic in Kiel for two days.”
The Kaiser, “beside himself over the English threat,” ordered hisnaval expansion accelerated.
What the Kaiser and Tirpitz failed to appreciate, however, wasthat the High Seas Fleet threatened the indispensable pillar of the
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
British Empire. That empire’s dependence on seaborne commerce, aresult of Britain’s half-century commitment to free trade, made thesupremacy of the Royal Navy on the high seas a matter of nationaland imperial survival. For generations Britain had lived by an ironrule: The Royal Navy must be 10 percent stronger in capital shipsthan the combined fleets of the next two strongest sea powers.Moreover, the Kaiser failed to see the strategic crisis he had cre-ated. To reach the Atlantic, German warships would have to traversethe North Sea and pass through the Channel within sight of Dover,or sail around the Scottish coast near the naval base of the GrandFleet at Scapa Flow.It was an irrevocable fact of geography that the British Islescut athwart all German overseas routes. . . . Mahan in 1902described the situation very clearly. “The dilemma of GreatBritain is that she cannot help commanding the approachesto Germany by the very means essential to her own exis-tence as a state of the first order.” Obviously Britain was notgoing to surrender the keys to her islands and empire.
The Kaiser’s decision to build a great navy represented a threatto Britain in her home waters. Should Germany achieve naval supe-riority in the North Sea, it was not only the empire that was imper-iled but also England and Scotland. British statesmen found thisintolerable.“Germany’s naval policy was suicidal,” writes Holborn.
By forcing Britain to take sides in the alignment of the Eu-ropean powers, German naval policy completed the divisionof Europe into two political camps armed to the teeth andready to take up open hostilities; for any misunderstandingcould seriously affect the precarious balance of power onwhich the European nations had staked their security.
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 17
As Germany began building dreadnoughts every year, the youngnew First Lord of the Admiralty spoke in Scotland in 1912, inpointed words of warning to the Kaiser and Admiral Tirpitz. SaidWinston Churchill:There is . . . this difference between the British naval powerand the naval power of the great and friendly empire—and Itrust it may long remain the great and friendly empire—of Germany. The British Navy is to us a necessity and, fromsome points of view, the German Navy is to them more inthe nature of a luxury. Our naval power involves British exis-tence. . . . It is the British Navy which makes Great Britain agreat power. But Germany was a great power, respected andhonored, all over the world before she had a single ship.
the deliberate mistranslation of Churchill’s word“luxury” as “ ‘Luxusflotte,’ suggesting that Tirpitz’s fleet was a sensualindulgence, stoked the fires of public outrage.”
The German Naval Laws of 1898 and 1900 that laid the founda-tion of the High Seas Fleet had historic consequences. By construct-ing a great navy, four hundred nautical miles from the English coast,the Kaiser forced the Royal Navy to bring its most powerful warshipshome from distant waters to build up the Home and Channel Fleets.“[I]n 1896 there had been 74 ships stationed in home waters and 140overseas,” writes James, “fourteen years later these totals were 480and 83 respectively.”
With the British Empire stripped of its shield,Britain was forced to resolve conflicts with imperial rivals Russia andFrance—the two powers that most threatened Germany.Rather than enhance German security, the High Seas Fleet sank all hope of detente with Britain and pushed her into de facto allianceswith France and Russia. The Kaiser’s decision to challenge the RoyalNavy would prove a principal factor in Germany’s defeat and his owndethronement. For it was the arrival of a British Expeditionary Force
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
in France in August 1914 that blunted the German drive into France,leading to four years of stalemate war that ended with Wilhelm’s ab-dication and flight to Holland.“German foreign policy ought to have been mainly concernedwith keeping England preoccupied by her overseas interests in Africaand the Near and Far East,” writes German historian Andreas Hill-gruber.
By building a great fleet to challenge the Royal Navy, Ger-many “tied England to Europe.”
But the fault lies not with the Germans alone. The British werenever willing to pay the Kaiser’s price for calling off Tirpitz’s chal-lenge. During the 1912 Haldane mission to Germany, Britain couldhave gotten limits on the High Seas Fleet in return for a Britishpledge of neutrality in a Franco-German war. “The Germans werewilling to make a naval deal in return for a neutrality statement,”writes British historian Niall Ferguson, “[I]t was on the neutrality issue that the talks really foundered. And arguably it was the Britishposition which was the more intransigent.”
Britain’s refusal to give
a neutrality pledge in return for lim-its on the High Seas Fleet demonstrates that beneath the Anglo-German friction lay clashing concepts of security. To Britain, security rested on a balance of power—a divided Europe with British powerbacking the weaker coalition.To Germany, bordered east and west by nations fearful of herpower, security lay in unifying Europe under her leadership, as Bis-marck had done. British and German concepts of security were irrec-oncilable. Under Britain’s balance-of-power doctrine, the Kaisercould become an ally only if Germany were displaced as first powerin Europe. Historian John Laughland describes the Kaiser’s rage andfrustration:
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 19
When the British Lord Chancellor, Lord Haldane, tried tomake it clear to the German ambassador in London on3 December 1912 that Britain would not tolerate “a unifiedContinental Group under the leadership of one singlepower,” the Kaiser, on reading the report of the conversa-tion, covered it with the most violent marginal comments.In a characteristic attack of anger, he declared the Englishprinciple of the “balance of power” to be an “idiocy,” whichwould turn England “eternally into our enemy.”
The Kaiser was correct.
As long as Germany remained thegreatest power in Europe, Britain would line up against her. Britain’sbalance-of-power policy commanded it. Britain thus left a powerfulGermany that had sought an alliance or entente, or even British neu-trality, forever frustrated.The Kaiser roared that Haldane had revealed British policy “ ‘inall its naked shamelessness’ as the ‘playing off of the Great Powersagainst each other to England’s advantage.’ ”
British doctrinemeant England “could not tolerate our becoming the strongestpower on the continent and that the latter should be united underour leadership!!!”
To the Kaiser, the British policy amounted to amoral declaration of war on Germany, not because of what she haddone, but because of who she was: the first power in Europe.
To British statesmen, maintaining a balance of power was dogma.In 1938, Lord Londonderry, back from a meeting with Hitler, wroteChurchill, “I should like to get out of your mind what appears to be astrong anti-German obsession.”
Churchill replied that London-derry was “mistaken in supposing that I have an anti-German obses-sion,” and went on to explain:British policy for four hundred years has been to opposethe strongest power in Europe by weaving together a com-bination of other countries strong enough to face the bully.
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
Sometimes it is Spain, sometimes the French monarchy,sometimes the French Empire, sometimes Germany. Ihave no doubt about who it is now. But if France set up toclaim the over-lordship of Europe, I should equally en-deavour to oppose them. It is thus through the centurieswe have kept our liberties and maintained our life andpower.
Twice this policy
would bring Britain into war with Germany until, by 1945, Britain was too weak to play the role any longer. Shewould lose her empire because of what Lord Salisbury had said in1877 was “the commonest error in politics . . . sticking to the carcassof dead policies.”
THE SECRETS OF SIR EDWARD GREY
The statesman most responsible
for the abandonment of splendid isolation for a secret alliance with France was Edward Grey.When the Liberals took power in 1905, he became foreign secretary,would serve a decade, and would become the leading statesman be-hind Britain’s decision to plunge into the Great War. But this was notwhat the Liberal Party had promised, and this was not what theBritish people had wanted. “Grey’s Germanophobia and his zeal forthe Entente with France were from the outset at odds with the ma-jority of the Liberal Cabinet,” writes Ferguson:[W]ithin half a year of coming into office, Grey hadpresided over a transformation of the Entente with France,which had begun life as an attempt to settle extra-Europeanquarrels, into a de facto defensive alliance. [Grey] had con-veyed to the French that Britain would be prepared to fightwith them against Germany in the event of a war.
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 21
Prime Minister Campbell-Bannerman and his successor, HerbertHenry Asquith, had approved of the military staff talks, but neitherthe Cabinet nor Parliament was aware that Sir Edward had commit-ted Britain to war if France were invaded. In 1911, two new ministerswere brought in on the secret: Chancellor of the Exchequer DavidLloyd George and the thirty-seven-year-old Home Secretary, whosoon moved over to the Admiralty: Winston Churchill.In 1912, Churchill and Grey persuaded France to shift the bulk of her fleet to the Mediterranean to counter the Austro-Hungarianand Italian fleets. While the 1912 exchange of letters on the rede-ployment of the French fleet stated that Britain was not committedto defend France, Grey and Churchill knew this was exactly whatFrance expected. Should war break out, the Royal Navy was to keepthe High Seas Fleet out of the Channel and away from the coast of France. Lord Esher, adviser to George V, told Asquith that the plansworked out between the general staffs of Britain and France “cer-tainly committed us to fight, whether the Cabinet likes it or not.”
By 1914 there was
a war party in every country. In May of thatyear, Col. Edward Mandell House, the eminence grise of the WhiteHouse, whom Wilson once described as “my second personality . . .my independent self,” visited the great capitals of Europe to take thetemperature of the continent.
House came home with a chilling as-sessment:The situation is extraordinary. It is jingoism run stark mad.Unless someone acting for you [Wilson] can bring about adifferent understanding, there is some day to be an awfulcataclysm. No one in Europe can do it. There is too muchhatred, too many jealousies. Whenever England consents,France and Russia will close in on Germany and Austria.
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
Germany saw her situation exactly as did Colonel House.British hawks looked to a European war to enhance nationalprestige and expand the empire. A war in which French and Russianarmies tore at Germany from east and west, as the Royal Navy sentthe High Seas Fleet to the bottom, rolled up the Kaiser’s colonies,and drove German trade from the high seas seemed a glorious oppor-tunity to smash the greatest rival to British power since Napoleon.And the cost of the victory, the dispatch of a British Expeditionary Force to fight beside the mighty French army that would bear thebrunt of battle, seemed reasonable.Yet, as the summer of 1914 began, no one expected war. Thenaval arms race had ended in 1913 when Tirpitz conceded British su-periority by telling the Reichstag Budget Committee he was ready toaccept a 60 percent rule, a sixteen-to-ten ratio in favor of the RoyalNavy. Germany could not sustain a buildup of both her army and theKaiser’s fleet. In the end, the High Seas Fleet had nothing to do withBritain’s decision to go to war, but everything to do with convertingBritain from a friendly power aloof from the alliances of Europe intoa probable enemy should war come.On June 23, 1914, the Second Battle Squadron of the RoyalNavy, including four of its newest dreadnoughts,
Audacious, Coura-geous, Ajax,
King George V,
sailed into Kiel. And this time, unlike1906, there was no “invasion scare,” no panic in Kiel. A large and ex-cited crowd awaited. The British officers were received at the RoyalCastle by Crown Prince Henry and Princess Irene. Admiral Tirpitzarrived the following day from Berlin, boarded his flagship
and invited all senior British officers to his cabin for a briefingon the High Seas Fleet. That afternoon, every British and Germanwarship in Kiel fired a twenty-one-gun salute as the royal yacht
entered the harbor. The British admiral and his captainswere invited aboard by the Kaiser, who donned the uniform of aBritish Admiral of the Fleet and inspected
King George V.
That day, the Kaiser’s yacht regatta began. British and Germannaval officers visited one another’s warships and attended parties
The End of “Splendid Isolation” 23
together. Tensions between the two nations had eased. On June 28,the Kaiser was aboard his racing yacht
when an urgenttelegram was brought out. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to theAustrian throne of the octogenarian Emperor Franz Josef, whoseonly son had committed suicide, and his wife Sophie had been assas-sinated in Sarajevo.“The character of Kiel Week changed,” writes Massie. “Flagswere lowered to half-mast, and receptions, dinners and a ball at theRoyal Castle were canceled. Early the next morning, the Kaiser de-parted, intending to go to Vienna and the Archduke’s funeral.”
Asthe British warships sailed out of Kiel, the masts of the German war-ships flew the signal “Pleasant Journey.”
King George V
respondedwith a wireless message,
Friends TodayFriends in FutureFriends Forever
Pa t r i c k J . B u c h a n a n
A b o u t t h e A u t h o r
Patrick J. Buchanan, America’s leading populist conservative, was asenior adviser to three American presidents, ran twice for the Repub-lican presidential nomination, in 1992 and 1996, and was the ReformParty candidate in 2000. The author of nine other books, includingthe bestsellers
Right from the Beginning; A Republic, Not an Empire; TheDeath of the West; State of Emergency,
Day of Reckoning,
Buchananis a syndicated columnist and a founding member of three of Amer-ica’s foremost public affairs shows, NBC’s
The McLaughlin Group,
The Capital Gang
He is now a senior politicalanalyst for MSNBC.
To purchase a copy of
Churchill, Hitler, and “TheUnnecessary War”
visit one of these online retailers: Amazon Barnes & Noble Borders IndieBound Powell’s Books Random House
Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War" by Patrick J. Buchanan - Excerpt
Were World Wars I and II inevitable? Were they necessary wars? Or were they products of calamitous failures of judgment? In this monumental and provocative history, Patrick Buchanan makes the case that, if not for the blunders of British statesmen–Winston Churchill first among them–the horrors of two world wars and the Holocaust might have been avoided and the British Empire might never have collapsed into ruins. Half a century of murderous oppression of scores of millions under the iron boot of Communist tyranny might never have happened, and Europe’s central role in world affairs might have been sustained for many generations. Among the British and Churchillian errors were: • The secret decision of a tiny cabal in the inner Cabinet in 1906 to take Britain straight to war against Germany, should she invade France • The vengeful Treaty of Versailles that mutilated Germany, leaving her bitter, betrayed, and receptive to the appeal of Adolf Hitler • Britain’s capitulation, at Churchill’s urging, to American pressure to sever the Anglo-Japanese alliance, insulting and isolating Japan, pushing her onto the path of militarism and conquest • The greatest mistake in British history: the unsolicited war guarantee to Poland of March 1939, ensuring the Second World War Certain to create controversy and spirited argument, Churchill, Hitler, and “the Unnecessary War” is a grand and bold insight into the historic failures of judgment that ended centuries of European rule and guaranteed a future no one who lived in that vanished world could ever have envisioned.