definitive debunking of the Churchill myth in five parts , by our
greatest historian of liberty, from The
Costs of War . . . .
Churchill, Part 4
Catch Your Hare"
in the war, Churchill, declared: "I have only one aim in life, the
defeat of Hitler, and this makes things very simple for me." "Victory
victory at all costs," understood literally, was his policy practically
to the end. This points to Churchill's fundamental and fatal mistake
in World War II: his separation of operational from political strategy.
To the first the planning and direction of military campaigns he
devoted all of his time and energy; after all, he did so enjoy it.
To the second, the fitting of military operations to the larger
and much more significant political aims they were supposed to serve,
he devoted no effort at all.
on the other hand, understood perfectly that the entire purpose
of war is to enforce certain political claims. This is the meaning
of Clausewitz's famous dictum that war is the continuation of policy
by other means. On Eden's visit to Moscow in December, 1941, with
the Wehrmacht in the Moscow suburbs, Stalin was ready with his demands:
British recognition of Soviet rule over the Baltic states and the
territories he had just seized from Finland, Poland, and Romania.
(They were eventually granted.) Throughout the war he never lost
sight of these and other crucial political goals. But Churchill,
despite frequent prodding from Eden, never gave a thought to his,
whatever they might be. His approach, he explained, was that of
Mrs. Glass's recipe for Jugged Hare: "First catch your hare." First
beat Hitler, then start thinking of the future of Britain and Europe.
Churchill put in so many words: "the defeat, ruin, and slaughter
of Hitler, to the exclusion of all other purposes, loyalties and
Ben-Moshe has shrewdly pinpointed one of the sources of this grotesque
years earlier, Churchill had told Asquith that . . . his life's
ambition was "to command great victorious armies in battle." During
World War II he was determined to take nothing less than full advantage
of the opportunity given him the almost unhampered military management
of the great conflict. He was prone to ignore or postpone the treatment
of matters likely to detract from that pleasure. . . . In so doing,
he deferred, or even shelved altogether, treatment of the issues
that he should have dealt with in his capacity as Prime Minister.
policy of all-out support of Stalin foreclosed other, potentially
more favorable approaches. The military expert Hanson Baldwin, for
is no doubt whatsoever that it would have been in the interest of
Britain, the United States, and the world to have allowed and indeed,
to have encouraged the world's two great dictatorships to fight
each other to a frazzle. Such a struggle, with its resultant weakening
of both Communism and Nazism, could not but have aided in the establishment
of a more stable peace.
of adopting this approach, or, for example, promoting the overthrow
of Hitler by anti-Nazi Germans instead of even considering such
alternatives Churchill from the start threw all of his support to
Roosevelt's fatuousness towards Joseph Stalin is well-known. He
looked on Stalin as a fellow "progressive" and an invaluable collaborator
in creating the future New World Order. But the neo-conservatives
and others who counterpose to Roosevelt's inanity in this matter
Churchill's Old World cunning and sagacity are sadly in error. Roosevelt's
nauseating flattery of Stalin is easily matched by Churchill's.
Just like Roosevelt, Churchill heaped fulsome praise on the Communist
murderer, and was anxious for Stalin's personal friendship. Moreover,
his adulation of Stalin and his version of Communism so different
from the repellent "Trotskyite" kind was no different in private
than in public. In January, 1944, he was still speaking to Eden
of the "deep-seated changes which have taken place in the character
of the Russian state and government, the new confidence which has
grown in our hearts towards Stalin." In a letter to his wife, Clementine,
Churchill wrote, following the October, 1944 conference in Moscow:
"I have had very nice talks with the old Bear. I like him the more
I see him. Now they respect us & I am sure they wish to work with
us." Writers like Isaiah Berlin, who try to give the impression
that Churchill hated or despised all dictators, including Stalin,
are either ignorant or dishonest.
supporters often claim that, unlike the Americans, the seasoned
and crafty British statesman foresaw the danger from the Soviet
Union and worked doggedly to thwart it. Churchill's famous "Mediterranean"
strategy to attack Europe through its "soft underbelly," rather
than concentrating on an invasion of northern France is supposed
to be the proof of this. But this was an ex post facto defense,
concocted by Churchill once the Cold War had started: there is little,
if any, contemporary evidence that the desire to beat the Russians
to Vienna and Budapest formed any part of Churchill's motivation
in advocating the "soft underbelly" strategy. At the time, Churchill
gave purely military reasons for it. As Ben-Moshe states: "The official
British historians have ascertained that not until the second half
of 1944 and after the Channel crossing did Churchill first begin
to consider preempting the Russians in southeastern Europe by military
means." By then, such a move would have been impossible for several
reasons. It was another of Churchill's bizarre military notions,
like invading Fortress Europe through Norway, or putting off the
invasion of northern France until 1945 by which time the Russians
would have reached the Rhine.
the American opposition to Churchill's southern strategy did not
stem from blindness to the Communist danger. As General Albert C.
Wedemeyer, one of the firmest anti- Communists in the American military,
we had invaded the Balkans through the Ljubljana Gap, we might theoretically
have beaten the Russians to Vienna and Budapest. But logistics would
have been against us there: it would have been next to impossible
to supply more than two divisions through the Adriatic ports. .
. . The proposal to save the Balkans from communism could never
have been made good by a "soft underbelly" invasion, for Churchill
himself had already cleared the way for the success of Tito . .
. [who] had been firmly ensconced in Yugoslavia with British aid
long before Italy itself was conquered.
remarks about Yugoslavia were on the mark. On this issue, Churchill
rejected the advice of his own Foreign Office, depending instead
on information provided especially by the head of the Cairo office
of the SOE the Special Operations branch headed by a Communist agent
named James Klugman. Churchill withdrew British support from the
Loyalist guerrilla army of General Mihailovic and threw it to the
Communist Partisan leader Tito. What a victory for Tito would mean
was no secret to Churchill. When Fitzroy Maclean was interviewed
by Churchill before being sent as liaison to Tito, Maclean observed
that, under Communist leadership, the Partisans'
aim would undoubtedly be to establish in Jugoslavia a Communist
regime closely linked to Moscow. How did His Majesty's Government
view such an eventuality? . . . Mr. Churchill's reply left me in
no doubt as to the answer to my problem. So long, he said, as the
whole of Western civilization was threatened by the Nazi menace,
we could not afford to let our attention be diverted from the immediate
issue by considerations of long-term policy. . . . Politics must
be a secondary consideration.
would be difficult to think of a more frivolous attitude to waging
war than considering "politics" to be a "secondary consideration."
As for the "human costs" of Churchill's policy, when an aide pointed
out that Tito intended to transform Yugoslavia into a Communist
dictatorship on the Soviet model, Churchill retorted: "Do you intend
to live there?"
benign view of Stalin and Russia contrasts sharply with his view
of Germany. Behind Hitler, Churchill discerned the old specter of
Prussianism, which had caused, allegedly, not only the two world
wars, but the Franco Prussian War as well. What he was battling
now was "Nazi tyranny and Prussian militarism," the "two main elements
in German life which must be absolutely destroyed." In October,
1944, Churchill was still explaining to Stalin that: "The problem
was how to prevent Germany getting on her feet in the lifetime of
our grandchildren." Churchill harbored a "confusion of mind on the
subject of the Prussian aristocracy, Nazism, and the sources of
German militarist expansionism . . . [his view] was remarkably similar
to that entertained by Sir Robert Vansittart and Sir Warren Fisher;
that is to say, it arose from a combination of almost racialist
antipathy and balance of power calculations." Churchill's aim was
not simply to save world civilization from the Nazis, but, in his
words, the "indefinite prevention of their [the Germans'] rising
again as an Armed Power."
wonder, then, that Churchill refused even to listen to the pleas
of the anti-Hitler German opposition, which tried repeatedly to
establish liaison with the British government. Instead of making
every effort to encourage and assist an anti-Nazi coup in Germany,
Churchill responded to the feelers sent out by the German resistance
with cold silence. Reiterated warnings from Adam von Trott and other
resistance leaders of the impending "bolshevization" of Europe made
no impression at all on Churchill. A recent historian has written:
"by his intransigence and refusal to countenance talks with dissident
Germans, Churchill threw away an opportunity to end the war in July
1944." To add infamy to stupidity, Churchill and his crowd had only
words of scorn for the valiant German officers even as they were
being slaughtered by the Gestapo.
place of help, all Churchill offered Germans looking for a way to
end the war before the Red Army flooded into central Europe was
the slogan of unconditional surrender. Afterwards, Churchill
lied in the House of Commons about his role at Casablanca in connection
with Roosevelt's announcement of the policy of unconditional surrender,
and was forced to retract his statements. Eisenhower, among others,
strenuously and persistently objected to the unconditional surrender
formula as hampering the war effort by raising the morale of the
Wehrmacht. In fact, the slogan was seized on by Goebbels, and contributed
to the Germans' holding out to the bitter end.
pernicious effect of the policy was immeasurably bolstered by the
Morgenthau Plan, which gave the Germans a terrifying picture of
what "unconditional surrender" would mean. This plan, initialed
by Roosevelt and Churchill at Quebec, called for turning Germany
into an agricultural and pastoral country; even the coal mines of
the Ruhr were to be wrecked. The fact that it would have led to
the deaths of tens of millions of Germans made it a perfect analog
to Hitler's schemes for dealing with Russia and the Ukraine.
was initially averse to the plan. However, he was won over by Professor
Lindemann, as maniacal a German-hater as Morgenthau himself. Lindemann
stated to Lord Moran, Churchill's personal physician: "I explained
to Winston that the plan would save Britain from bankruptcy by eliminating
a dangerous competitor. . . . Winston had not thought of it in that
way, and he said no more about a cruel threat to the German people."
According to Morgenthau, the wording of the scheme was drafted entirely
by Churchill. When Roosevelt returned to Washington, Hull, and Stimson
expressed their horror, and quickly disabused the President. Churchill,
on the other hand, was unrepentant. When it came time to mention
the Morgenthau Plan in his history of the war, he distorted its
provisions and, by implication, lied about his role in supporting
the issue of the plan itself, Lord Moran wondered how it had been
possible for Churchill to appear at the Quebec conference "without
any thought out views on the future of Germany, although she seemed
to be on the point of surrender." The answer was that "he had become
so engrossed in the conduct of the war that little time was left
to plan for the future":
detail had long fascinated him, while he was frankly bored by the
kind of problem which might take up the time of the Peace Conference.
. . . The P. M. was frittering away his waning strength on matters
which rightly belonged to soldiers. My diary in the autumn of 1942
tells how I talked to Sir Stafford Cripps and found that he shared
my cares. He wanted the P. M. to concentrate on the broad strategy
of the war and on high policy. . . . No one could make [Churchill]
see his errors.
Raico is professor of history at Buffalo State College and a senior
scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
to space limitations, the 169 detailed footnotes which thoroughly
document all assertions in Professor Raico's paperRaico's paper
are not included. They are, of course, included in the printed
version of the paper, published in The Costs of War,
available from the Mises Institute.