The American Conservative, John Lukacs, and The Unnecessary Review

The latest issue of The American Conservative has a surprisingly negative review of Pat Buchanan’s latest book, Churchill, Hitler, and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost an Empire and the West Lost the World by John Lukacs. Well actually, it isn”€™t that surprising to me.  Allow me to explain why.

The question that I guess most lay-readers are asking: “€œIsn”€™t this Pat Buchanan’s magazine?”€  The answer is no.  Occasionally, people are under the impression that my employer

The American Cause is associated with TAC. We will receive checks for subscription (which, for the record, I forward), some phone calls from people who are unhappy with certain content in the magazine and even Katrina vanden Heuvel asking us to join a coalition against increases in bulk postage rates.

Pat Buchanan is listed as “€œeditor emeritus”€ at TAC.  His columns in the magazine are now all syndicated and he hasn”€™t written an original article for the magazine in over a year.  Nonetheless, whenever the magazine is given any sort of attention outside of the blogosphere it is referred to as “€œPat Buchanan’s Magazine.”€

While Pat Buchanan is a large name in and of himself, he is the figure most associated with a brand of conservatism that could be called “€œold right,”€ “€œpaleoconservative,”€ “€œAmerica First,”€ or even “€œBuchananite”€ or “€œPat Buchanan Conservative”€

Whatever you want to call it, neither TAC editor Scott McConnell nor the magazine fit into any of those categories. When David Frum attacked the magazine as “€œUnpatriotic Conservatives,”€ both Taki and Buchanan were still editors. The difference of Taki’s and McConnell’s response should serve as a good indicator of what you can now expect at Taki Mag and the TAC. McConnell emphasized his continued respect for the original neoconservatives as well as his differences with the paleoconservatives. Taki challenged Frum to a duel. 

None of this is meant to belittle McConnell, who I have a great deal of respect for, but to clarify exactly where the magazine fits into the greater ideological spectrum. I can”€™t speak to what compelled TAC to run such a negative review, but I suspect it was in part to make the same clarification.

Among his differences with paleoconservatives that McConnell expressed after “Unpatriotic Conservatives” was that “€œmy views on Lincoln and Churchill were and remain boringly conventional.”€ Fair enough, but John Lukacs views on Churchill are not conventional. He regards Churchill as the greatest man of the century if not of centuries and the savior of the West. His crusade against David Irving (a point I”€™ll return to shortly) has as much to do with the historian’s dislike of Churchill as much as his admiration of Hitler.  In other words, he is someone who you”€™d expect to hate this book more than David Frum. 

I find Lukacs to be a fascinating writer, but his passion for this issue seems to have blurred any rationality in his review. I plan on reviewing the book at length, so I will not go into all the details now, but there are a number of incredible whoppers.

He says the “€œdeeper problem”€ of the book is “€œBuchanan’s sincerity”€ because Buchanan is not an admirer of the British Empire. Well yes, Pat does not have any real fealty to the empire, but this cannot mean he can believe that the way it fell after WWII was good for the West.  Buchanan has lamented for years that the British have lost pride in their empire. Nor is it a terrible idea to point out that Churchill fought the War in large part to save the Empire, and it was destroyed in Pyrrhic victory

Lukacs twice invokes David Irving to smear the book,

Here is a difference between Patrick Buchanan and David Irving. The latter employs falsehoods; Buchanan employs half-truths. But, as Thomas Aquinas once put it, “€œa half-truth is more dangerous than a lie.”€

Nowhere in the book is Irving cited, and other than the fact that neither of them agree with Lukacs assessment of Churchill, there is absolutely nothing that he cites that suggests that there is anything in common with Irving and Buchanan. Given that the ADL, the neoconservatives, and their lackies frequently accuse Buchanan as a “€œHolocaust Denier”€ and that this slur is strong enough to get Irving jailed in Europe, (Something that the TAC editorial board does not seem to be completely opposed to.  When editorializing against hate speech, they qualified, “Perhaps laws prohibiting Holocaust denial constitute a special case”) this is something that you think Lukacs would have avoided unless it had any real substance.

Lukacs concludes the review:

But there is a fatal contradiction in Buchanan’s theses: Hitler’s regime”€”including, one may think, its expansion”€”was evil, but warring against him was unnecessary and wrong. Either thesis may be argued, but not both.

This statement would only be logical to a neoconservative. That something is “€œevil”€ does not necessitate that you must fight against it. Lukacs opposed both the Cold War and the invasion of Iraq. Does that mean that neither Sadaam Hussein nor Joseph Stalin were evil?

All of Pat’s book have been savaged by both the liberal and “€œconservative”€ establishment, and he has weathered the storm. In the past, they were able to preface their attacks with “€œEven Bill Buckley…”€ Now they can say “€œEven his own magazine…”€

The May 19 issue of TAC has an excellent article by Peter Hitchens, a man who admires Churchill and has disagreed with Buchanan’s nostalgia for the America First movement. Nonetheless, he managed to write a very thoughtful review of The Unnecessary War for the London Daily Mail.  It is a shame that TAC did not ask him instead of Lukacs. 



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