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on 31 January 2018
Mr Buchanan writes a very eloquent and erudite book and judging by his quotes (if indeed it was he who read the books rather than researchers) is widely read on this subject, i.e. the politics leading up to WW1 and WW2. The picture he paints is entertaining and informative; I think it likely most readers will learn something new on both Hitler and Churchill - certainly I did. Things like Chancellor Churchill's decision to spend less on what was his beloved navy are surprising and the extent of Hitler's attempts to avoid war with Britain likewise even though many of us realised Hitler's admiration for the British Empire.
What, however, I could not agree with is Mr Buchanan's conclusions. It can't be denied that errors were made in dealing with Hitler and as I see it the rather clumsy (and foolish) guarantee to the Poles was an attempt at belatedly containing Hitler on the supposition that he would shy away from war with Britain and France. I'm afraid Mr Buchanan rather over-eggs his arguments by, at one stage, make 'poor' Hitler appear to be harried into war by a belligerent Churchill hell-bent on his destruction.
Mr Buchanan suggests at one point that the plight of the Jews could hardly have been worse and may have been better had no war occurred but HItler had never made any pretence that their fate would be anything but dire from early on in his political career and Kristallnacht occurred almost a year before WW2 started
I guess Mr Buchanan attempts iconoclasm when it comes to Churchill, but surely few of us believe that our great heroes lack great faults as well as having great talents. It is puerile to suppose that heroes like Churchill and FDR were all white or that evil geniuses like Hitler and Stalin were all black; even the evil have streaks of good and the good streaks of evil - such is what human beings are.
Most of us know that Churchill was an egotistical boozer who was probably manic depressive; but who could imagine that a world
after WW2 dominated by the ideas of Churchill and FDR was worse than one dominated by the ideas of Hitler and Mussolini or Stalin
and Tojo. Mr Buchanan is delightfully honest in his view of of his own country and its blinkered view that Western democracy is the pattern into which all other countries should be forced to fit. The West really has plutocracy rather than true democracy and realising this makes us in the West no great pattern for all to follow, though having said that, Churchill was probably right in saying that democracy was the worst form of government except for all the others. Examination of 'all the others' reveals tyrannies far worse that rule by the rich in the West. Furthermore who could conceive of a British Empire persisting into the future only by being supported by the military might of a Nazi ally? Better that it subside into a Commonwealth as in fact it did.
In summary this is a good and edifying read despite its odd conclusions.
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on 2 August 2014
Absolutely fascinating, no holds barred, arguments for anyone who doesn't like the stereotypical perception we are normally fed. Will suit those who have been suspicious of the standard line we normally call history..
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on 11 March 2016
If you are interested in the causes of World 1 & 2; the potential for alternative responses to the events at the time and potentially different resulting outcomes, and, you have an open mind, you will probably enjoy this book. Buchanan has a clear take on the issues: Britain should have stayed out of the conflicts that became WW1 & WW2; and, Churchill was a poor statesman who bears a significant level of responsibility for Britain entering both wars. In my opinion Buchanan makes a good case. However, he fails to fully explore the logic of his arguments and therefore ignores the dangers that would have arisen had Britain followed his line. For example, if Nazi Germany had defeated the Soviet Union one would expect them to go onto develop atomic weapons just as the Soviets did. Would this be a better outcome than what actually happened? Over time the Nazi regime, with its cult of war and aggression, armed with nuclear weapons, and in control of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union would be a very dangerous adversary for Britain, France and the USA. Buchanan also claims that Nazi Germany was the lesser evil when compared to the Soviet Union. He does this by citing the many deaths that occurred as a result of communist regimes in the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Cambodia. Whilst these were truly appalling events, he either ignores, or does not know of the Nazi plans for the mass starvation of the Soviet population after the war, which may have caused 20 million additional deaths to those the Nazi's actually caused. Following on from achieving this "goal" it is quite possible that the Nazi's would then go on to commit other atrocities against the remaining populations of Eastern Europe whom they also regarded as being sub-human. Buchanan also states a preference for Nazism over Soviet communism as Nazism was a national movement that was purely concerned with its own country whilst Soviet Communism was an international movement that threatened the world. However, Buchanan ignore the evidence of Nazi Germany being involved in fermenting/supporting right wing/fascist governments in Austria, Spain, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia (before being invaded), Bulgaria and Finland. It must be very naive to assume that if Nazi Germany had defeated the Soviet Union that it would not then seek to broaden it's influence and infiltrate the politics to other countries including Britain, France and even the USA? In conclusion a thought provoking read that will be of interest to many people who wish to think beyond the "standard version" of this part of history. However, casual or new readers on this subject should be wary of Buchanan's conclusions as there are many other viewpoints out there!
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on 24 January 2018
A critical work far from the victors propaganda, it is an eye opener and when read in conjunction with similar works yields a better understanding of the myth, reality and lies we are told of the history of the Second World War .
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on 11 December 2013
Absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended!
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on 31 December 2012
Mr. Buchanan gives a rather pedestrian history of the run up to the First World War, but this is made up for by his analysis of the period between the wars and the slide into the Second World War. His analysis is cogent and lucid. It is written in easily readable language and provides insights which many other histories have managed to omit.
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on 6 November 2014
History is often said to be written by the winners. The reality is far murkier. It's more often a string of facts-at best-moulded by the writers own prejudices, opinions and narrative. It mostly ignores the effect of the collective mind of of the people and how those who should be wiser are equally drawn to make erroneous decisions through the same contagion and not in spite of it.

Buchanan Is clearly aware the effect the crowd and strong myth has on the decisions of statesman, although he often resorts to today's tabloid style expose headlines to express opinion rather than sticking to dry forensic analysis and logic. However this does not detract from the work itself because the questions he poses provoke the reader to examine those decisions and myths that continue to effect how we see the world today.

What really struck me was just how easily we lead ourselves into the barbarous conflict and the process by which this becomes an inevitability. Even with millions dead and Europe in total ruin it's almost easy to convince ourselves there were winners and losers. Buchanan shows that there are only losers and yet those who are revered today as saviours and heroes-who had sort fame on the glorious field of battle-do themselves conclude the price was not worth the transient moment of joy of that fame.

We should all learn the lessons that this book provides. That those we promote to lead us are as fallible as we are. They cannot make 'better' decisions despite education, intelligence and character. Indeed they seem hell bent on violent destruction and are poised to indulge their whims in the rosy glow of public opinion. They are ring masters giving the crowd what it wants and we promoted them into those positions to provide that service. Conflict appears to be just something that we are drawn to as moths to a light bulb. We seek it and yet are revolted by it. This book exposes our underlying desire for violence and the esteem in which we hold those who can make it happen. The idea that we seek peace is a fallacy and Buchanan exposes the lie that we tell ourselves. We continue to elect those who can provide the entertainment of destruction and revere the leaders who vicariously give us some form of victory. N
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on 9 November 2014
I've read this twice now, the first time I enjoyed it so much I failed to take notes. It's a very enjoyable read, and contains a high proportion of thinking-to-writing from the author. I was a big Churchill fan and read Roy Jenkins on Churchill and Buchanan has succeeded in, without really saying anything Jenkins didn't say, convincing me otherwise in a quite fresh take on the events surrounding these wars.
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on 15 November 2016
I suppose that the best recommendation I can give to Mr Buchanan's book is that when I finished reading it I immediately began reading it again. The author describes the ways in which Britain, once the most powerful nation on earth, slipped during the course of the twentieth century from its pinnacle position to that of a middle ranking nation. The decisions that the nation's political leaders took at the start of the century while other states were jockeying for position on the road to World War One, and again in 1939 when committing Britain to a promise to the Poles that was incapable of being carried out ensured that rather than being in the nature of European 'civil wars', the conflicts escalated to World War status and the demise of the British Empire..
Winston Churchill is seen to be a successful war-monger, but a disastrous statesman whose place in history is to say the least questionable as his various ventures resulted in the deaths of millions and the condemnation of others to decades of life under a communist system they never wanted. I would strongly recommend the book to anyone wishing to look beyond the manufactured myths that surround Churchill and who seek a clearer understanding of Britain's foreign policy disasters during the last century.
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on 28 February 2015
A provocative book by a prominent US conservative political commentator. In summary he argues that Great Britain should have let the two evil regimes of Nazi Germany and Stalin's USSR bleed each other to death and thereby kept its wealth and empire intact. It is well written and argued but he did not convince me. Apart from any of the many arguments one can put against this idea my immediate thought was, how many more than six million Jews and other "Untermenschen" would have died had that happened?
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