Hace unos meses terminé de leer el último libro de Patrick Buchanan: Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. Una lectura provocativa y absolutamente recomendable. Su controvertida tesis es que el Reino Unido no debería haber entrado en la Primera Guerra Mundial, en cuyo caso no se habría producido la segunda, y debería haberse abstenido también de declarar la guerra a la Alemania nazi (lo mismo que Estados Unidos), o al menos no haber interrumpido su tradicional alianza con Japón ni haberse comprometido inútilmente a entrar en guerra por Polonia. Ahora estoy leyendo el clásico y monumental libro de historia del siglo XX de Paul Johnson, Modern Times : The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, y me acuerdo de la interpretación de Buchanan conforme me acerco al estallido de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.
The Unnecessary War está extensamente documentado (no sé hasta qué punto está también selectivamente documentado), repleto de citas de historiadores mainstream y de los propios personajes históricos que participaron en el desarrollo de los acontecimientos. Los argumentos, algunos polémicos (otros mucho menos), están articulados de forma persuasiva y no ignoran los contra-argumentos más comunes. Pero claro, es más fácil tomar la "decisión correcta" en retrospectiva, cuando escribes sobre la historia, que hacerlo cuando estás haciendo historia. Algunas decisiones que Buchanan critica quizás son comprensibles en el contexto en que ocurrieron, aunque muchas otras no lo fueron y tenían opositores contemporáneos que veían la situación como la ve hoy Buchanan.
Copio a continuación un fragmento en el que Buchanan sintetiza la historia alternativa que podría haberse producido si el Reino Unido no hubiera intervenido en la Primera Guerra Mundial:
What would have happened if Britain had declared neutrality and stayed out? The Germans would have triumphed in France asin 1870 or there would have been a stalemate and armistice. The United States would not have come in. No American or British soldiers and many fewer French and Germans would have died. A victorious Kaiser would have taken some French colonies in Africa, which would have replaced one British colonial rival with another. The Germans would have gone home victorious, as they did in 1871.
Russia would still have been defeated, but the dismantling of Russia's empire was in Britain's national interest. Let the Germans pay the cost, take the casualties, and accept the eternal enmity for breaking it up. A triumphant Germany would have faced resentful enemies in both France and Russia and rebellious Slavs to the south. This would have presented no problem for the British Empire. The Germans would have become the dominant power in Europe, with the British dominant on the oceans, America dominant in the Western Hemisphere, and Britain's ally, Japan, dominant in Asia.
Before August 1914, Lenin had been living in a garret in Geneva. In 1917, as the Romanov dynasty was falling and Russia seemed on the verge of chaos, the German General Staff transported Lening in a sealed train across Germany. Their hope was for revolutionary chaos in Russia that might force St. Petersburg to sue for peace. Had Britain not delcared war, the war would not have lasted until 1917 - and Lenin would likely have died unmourned in Geneva. And had the Bosheviks still come to power in Russia, a victorious German army would have marched in and made short work of them.
Germany, the most powerful nation in Europe, aligned with a free Poland that owed its existence to Germany, would have been the western bulwark against any Russian drive into Europe. There would have been no Hitler and no Stalin. Other evils would have arisen, but how could the first half of the twentieth centry have produced more evil than it did? (p. 62)
Respecto a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Buchanan deja claro desde el comienzo que no pretende restar mérito a la causa aliada. No disputa quienes son los buenos y los malos, el suyo no es un estudio revisionista sobre la naturaleza totalitaria del nazismo o el cruel imperialismo japonés. Lo que disputa es la necesidad de la guerra. Si fue una acción sabia o contraproducente desde el punto de vista de las propias democracias occidentales, en particular el Reino Unido y Estados Unidos. O si lo fueron las distintas acciones que condujeron a ella (el Tratado de Versalles, el rechazo de la alianza con Japón, Munich, la garantía de guerra a Polonia). Alemania es la principal responsable de la guerra, pero Buchanan opina que la irresponsabilidad del Reino Unido contribuyó al estallido del conflicto, para perjuicio del propio Imperio Británico.
It was Britain whose capitulation to US pressure and dissolution of her twenty-year pact with Japan in 1922 insulted, isolated, and enraged that faithfull ally, leading directly to Japanese militarism, aggression, and World War II in the Pacific.
It was Britain's lead in imposing the League of Nations sanctions on Italy over Abyssinia that destroyed the Stresa Front, isolated Italy, and drove Mussolini into the arms of Hitler.
Had the British stood firm and backed Paris, the French army could have chased Hitler's battalions out of the Rhineland in 1936 and reoccupied it.
Had the British not gone to Munich, Hitler would have had to fight for the Sudetenland and Europe might have united against him.
Had Britain not issued a war guarantee to Poland and declared war over Poland, there might have been no war in Western Europe and no World War II. (p. 413-414)
Buchanan especula que los polacos hubieran negociado un acuerdo sobre Danzing, ahorrándose seis millones de muertos, y Alemania hubiera avanzado contra la Rusia comunista.
What was the alternative to giving a war guarantee to Poland? Quite simply, it was not to give a war guarantee to a nation wedged between Nazi Germany adn Bolshevik Russia. By 1939, Britain and France no longer had the power to save any nation of Eastern Europe, if ever they did, and they did not save any. As W. H. Chamberlain argued half a century ago:
"There was an alternative to the policy which the British and French governments followed after March 1939. This alternative would have been to write off eastern Europe as geographically indefensible, to let Hitler move eastward, with the strong probability that he would come into conflict with Stalin. Especially in light of the Soviet aggressive expansion that has followed the war, this surely seems the sanest and most promising course western diplomacy could have followed."
Hanson Baldwin, military writer for the New York Times, seconded Chamberlain:
"There is no doubt whatsoever that it would have been to 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. It would have placed democracies in a supreme power in the world, instead of elevating one totalitarianism at the expense of the other and of the democracies." (p. 271-272)
Ted Galen Carpenter escribió una reseña en The American Conservative (fundada por Buchanan) en la que alaba su obra pero cuestiona su tesis en relación con la Segunda Guerra Mundial: How Good Was The Good War?
The argument that the United States could and should have remained on the sidelines in World War II is not entirely convincing—at least with respect to the European theater. It assumes that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would have exhausted themselves in a stalemated struggle, and the United States and other Western powers would then have been well positioned to pick up the pieces after the collapse of the two totalitarian giants. The situation might have worked out that way, but such a strategy would have been high-risk. It is equally possible that either Germany or the USSR would have scored a decisive victory and then dominated all of Europe. A Soviet-controlled continent would have been catastrophic; a Europe dominated by Nazi Germany and its volatile, extremely aggressive dictator would have been even worse. Roosevelt deserves criticism for the deceitful way in which he maneuvered America toward war, but his alarm at the danger a totalitarian Europe could pose to America was not misplaced.
The Pacific theater was different. Japan’s expansionism, while brutal, was not dramatically worse than some European empire-building in the 19th century. With better diplomacy, America probably could have reached a modus vivendi with Japan and avoided war. Instead of seeking pragmatic solutions, however, the Roosevelt administration presented Tokyo with a laundry list of unrealistic and humiliating demands—couched in moralistic, sermonizing terms worthy of the Democratic Party’s sainted hero Woodrow Wilson. When the Japanese government did not capitulate, Washington ratcheted up the pressure through economic sanctions, including an oil embargo that threatened to strangle Japan’s economy and military. The predictable result was war.
John Lukacs, también en The American Conservative, es aún más crítico con las posiciones de Buchanan sobre la Segunda Guerra Mundial: Necessary Evil.
Actualización: a propósito del 70 aniversario del inicio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Lawrence Vance escribe en LewRockwell.com un extenso artículo, profuso en citas bibliográficas, cuestionando la necesidad y la moralidad de la guerra: Rethinking the Good War.