On Tuesday, Pat Buchanan decided to court controversy by arguing that Hitler never wanted to take over the world--in fact, he never even wanted war. "Winston Churchill," Buchanan wrote, "was right when he called it 'The Unnecessary War'--the war that may yet prove the mortal blow to our civilization.”
Buchanan supported his thesis by citing a number of seeming inconsistencies: "If Hitler was out to conquer the world," he asked, to quote merely one example, "why did he spend three years building that hugely expensive Siegfried Line to protect Germany from France?" Furthermore, "as of March 1939, Hitler did not even have a border with Russia. How then could he invade Russia?" For Buchanan, the conclusion was simple: "Hitler wanted to end the war in 1940, almost two years before the trains began to roll to the camps. Hitler had never wanted war with Poland, but an alliance with Poland."
A Half-Hearted Attempt at History For the past two days, bloggers have been howling their outrage and disgust. He asked good questions, Juli Weiner admitted at Wonkette, but "Pat Buchanan has the most retarded answers this side of AP European History." Ouch. "These are," wrote Michael Moynihan at Hit and Run, "coincidentally, the very talking points one would find on the September 2, 1939 editorial page of the Völkischer Beobachter." And the Siegfried Line point "is pretty thin gruel, even by Buchanan’s low standards of evidence." The "defensive structure ... was by no means an indication of Germany’s peaceful intentions."
Matthew Yglesias, calling Buchanan a "paleocon," began with the courtesy of a reasoned response: "The need for a German-Soviet war to obtain Lebensraum was long at the center of [Hitler's] thinking," the progressive blogger argued. "That's why," he added, witheringly, "Generalplan Ost was prepared in the early years of the war and called for German occupation of vast swathes of Soviet territory."
'Pat Buchanan: Sotomayor? Racist. Hitler? Misunderstood.' Most bloggers, having dealt with Buchanan's World War II eccentricities on numerous occasions, quickly descended into invective. Calling Buchanan "pretty goddamn crazy," True Slant's Ethan Porter opened fire: "the guy has been a very thinly-veiled fascist sympathizer for decades." Responding with scorn for the argument itself, he wrote, "Hitler tried to conquer the world without the requisite equipment because he was a mad man who was also a pisspoor military strategist."
Adam Serwer of American Prospect started out with the Sotomayor-Hitler headline and spent the rest of his post dripping sarcasm like an oversoaked sponge. "The whole invading Poland thing was clearly just a big misunderstanding," he simpered. Hitler "didn't want war, he just wanted to arbitrarily annex whatever part of Europe he felt like having."
But it was David Silbey, an associate professor of history at Alvernia University, who held forth on the Buchanan subject most vigorously:
Enough. This is the kind of horrendous drivel that would embarrass a crazy uncle spouting off at a family reunion as everyone stands by awkwardly and shuffles their feet. It is the historical equivalent of speaking in tongues: the syllables, accents, rhythms, and pauses of actual speech that, when actually heard, dissolve to gibberish. Buchanan strings together his events from the past in a coherent narrative; coherent but absolutely disconnected from reality. Somewhere in this world, a rabbit in a waistcoat is looking at his watch, muttering about lateness. Buchanan has no worries on that score; he is well down the hole already.