"What Would Winston Do?"
So asks Newsweek's cover, which features a full-length photo of the prime minister his people voted the greatest Briton of them all.
Quite a tribute, when one realizes Churchill's career coincides with the collapse of the British empire and the fall of his nation from world pre-eminence to third-rate power.
That the Newsweek cover was sparked by my book "Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary War" seems apparent, as one of the three essays, by Christopher Hitchens, was a scathing review. Though in places complimentary, Hitchens charmingly concludes: This book "stinks."
Understandable. No Brit can easily concede my central thesis: The Brits kicked away their empire. Through colossal blunders, Britain twice declared war on a Germany that had not attacked her and did not want war with her, fought for 10 bloody years and lost it all.
Unable to face the truth, Hitchens seeks solace in old myths.
We had to stop Prussian militarism in 1914, says Hitchens. "The Kaiser's policy shows that Germany was looking for a chance for war all over the globe."
Nonsense. If the Kaiser were looking for a war he would have found it. But in 1914, he had been in power for 25 years, was deep into middle age but had never fought a war nor seen a battle.
From Waterloo to World War I, Prussia fought three wars, all in one seven-year period, 1864 to 1871. Out of these wars, she acquired two duchies, Schleswig and Holstein, and two provinces, Alsace and Lorraine. By 1914, Germany had not fought a war in two generations.
Does that sound like a nation out to conquer the world?
As for the Kaiser's bellicose support for the Boers, his igniting the Agadir crisis in 1905, his building of a great fleet, his seeking of colonies in Africa, he was only aping the British, whose approbation and friendship he desperately sought all his life and was ever denied.
In every crisis the Kaiser blundered into, including his foolish "blank cheque" to Austria after Serb assassins murdered the heir to the Austrian throne, the Kaiser backed down or was trying to back away when war erupted.
Even Churchill, who before 1914 was charging the Kaiser with seeking "the dominion of the world," conceded, "History should ... acquit William II of having plotted and planned the World War."
What of World War II? Surely, it was necessary to declare war to stop Adolf Hitler from conquering the world and conducting the Holocaust.
Yet consider. Before Britain declared war on him, Hitler never demanded return of any lands lost at Versailles to the West. Northern Schleswig had gone to Denmark in 1919, Eupen and Malmedy had gone to Belgium, Alsace and Lorraine to France.