By Hillsdale College December 14, 2018
HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America. Bonjour, hi, Canada. It's Hugh Hewitt in the ReliefFactor.com Studio inside of a very chilly Beltway.
That music means it is the last radio hour for me of the week. That means it is time for the Hillsdale Dialogue. Once a week, we go high, they go low. Once a week, we talk with either Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, or one of his many extraordinary colleagues about something that endures, something that matters, beginning with Homer right up to the present.
And this week we're talking about a brand-new Hillsdale College online course, the Second World Wars, which is now available—the first two lectures—at HughForHillsdale.com, or you can go to Hillsdale.edu. And I'm going to binge-watch this. It begins with Dr. Arnn, and then it's VDH—it's Victor Davis Hanson talking about World War II. I'm just going to binge-watch this when it's all available, Dr. Arnn. I hope you got the opening right. I hope you stuck the open.
LARRY ARNN: Well, I just read from Victor's book.
HEWITT: You can't go wrong. You can't go wrong there. Tell us about this course, because we'll come back and talk about the specifics of the seven weeks and how to sign up, but why do it now?
ARNN: Well, one reason is, Victor Hanson has written this fantastic book. He's written many. But this—it's a major work. It's covers the whole “wars,” he calls them. I can tell you why. And that's one reason. And another reason is, read the paper and see where the disputes are on the front page of the paper today. And you will find that they are all over the world, and that tendency for the world to go to war and be in turmoil all at the same time starts in 1939.
HEWITT: Not ten minutes ago I was speaking with Kay Bailey Hutchison, our ambassador to NATO, about Kosovo's decision to form an army, which has upset the Serbs. And you know how that always turns out, when the Serbs—right?
ARNN: Very good. Yeah.
HEWITT: No one's understanding why we're laughing. We're not laughing at what happens. It's—history has a way of absolutely latching on to certain parts of the world and making them untenable as a stable entity.
ARNN: Yeah. The Balkans, and that's a trouble spot. The First World War began with trouble down there. It wasn't really about that trouble. That trouble was just—the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was murdered in Serbia. And the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which started in Vienna, was ruled from Vienna and stretched south down through the Balkans—that was just a place of incredible turmoil. And the monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire lasted 1,000 years. But, the last couple of hundred, it wasn't very strong.
And so they saw a chance to get their empire down there in order. And the Germans saw a chance to solve their problems to the east and the west. So the Austrians attacked south, and the Germans attacked north and west. And they just started—the First World War was much bigger than any war that had ever been seen. And it was called the World War, but it's only in World War II that there was intense fighting by huge forces all over the world. And the casualties, including, especially, the civilian casualties, were much worse in the Second World War.
HEWITT: And it isn't truly an epic global struggle on every front. Only in North America—and this isn't even true, because the Japanese submarine shelled Santa Barbara ineffectively—but they did—but North America was generally not subject to the devastation of the war. I mean, it was tough economic times. You said it. But we didn't have that devastation.
World War II destroyed so much capital, Larry Arnn, not just human lives by the tens of millions—I think the number's like 60 million people dead as a result of the war and the famine and disease—but entire continents devastated.
ARNN: Yeah. And if you think about—our homeland was not the scene of battle in either world war, which is one of the reasons we're the strongest power in the world today, because it's way better to fight your wars on somebody else's territory. But, if you just think of the armaments that we made and sent—we made more than half of the armaments of the Western allies—Soviet Union, Britain, and China, chiefly.
And we sent that—you know, that's labor and materials and wealth, put into those ships. I think there was a Liberty ship every few days. Well, they were sent abroad to be destroyed. And the Russian army moved in Studebaker trucks, and the German army was still moving in horse carts—one of the reasons the Germans didn't complete their conquest of Russia.
And us sending that stuff changed that war. But, of course, all of the wealth that went into making all that stuff was lost, and that could have been used making stuff for people to live, and eat, and have a truck or whatever they wanted.
HEWITT: Or houses. There wasn't a house built in America. People were living three or four to a house. I have to tell you, it is ironic to a certain extent that we are talking today.
Yesterday my son was at Auschwitz—physically at Auschwitz. Never been there before. He's in Poland now, and he went to Auschwitz. And he found there the records of the fetching Mrs. Hewitt's family who went from Prague and were interred and did not escape from there. So it is an interesting day to be talking to you about this, because at the core of World War II is an evil so despicable that we forget it. And I do think—he sent me some pictures. I said, you could not have spent your time more wisely in Poland than to go to Auschwitz because that is the center of the debate about what was going on in World War II.
ARNN: Yeah. Well, in both world wars, the Germans had plans for the domination of Central Europe and the taking—you know, in the First World War they were going to take parts of France and parts of Belgium, and they were going to cripple France's economy so that it could never challenge Germany again. So that's aggressive, right?
But two new kinds of regimes—a new kind of regime—both of them—grew up after the First World War—one in the Soviet Union during the First World War and one of them in Germany after. And they are both totalitarian, the new word for tyranny. And what those modern scientific tyrannies had was the object, simply to remake the entire society, one along class lines and one along race lines—Nazi Germany along race lines.
And the Germans, they decided that the Jews were the locus of evil. And, according to their lights, they were right about that, because the Jews were a people whose God did not abandon them even when they were conquered. And that meant that, in the story of the Jews—the thing that makes them Jews—that story and the God who makes the story—in that story they could never assimilate. And so, Hitler wanted to kill them all.
HEWITT: He insisted, and he laid it out. I mean, we're going to talk about Mein Kampf after the break. This was not a surprise to anyone who knew Hitler. But as the husband of a second-degree mischling, as they would say, we're invested in people understanding this was not a war in the way that other wars were. It was not the Franco-Prussian War, trying to get the Sudetenland or whatever they were over. What did they call it? Scholsteing? The province that they fought back and forth over for 200 years? Holstein?
ARNN: Well, Alsace and Lorraine.
HEWITT: Yes. Alsace and Lorraine. Thank you. They fought, like, ten wars over that. This was not that, correct?
ARNN: That's correct. It was a much more—just think what of an ambition it is, right. It turns out race is this kind of a scientific conception. Family—that's your relations, right? You can track them.
But race is—they didn't have DNA back then, or they didn't know about it. But they thought that there was this bloodline thing. And they were developing what they called sophisticated measures to find out how Aryan you were or how Jewish you were. There are those photographs of them measuring people's noses with calipers to see if your nose was of a Jewish shape and size. And, if it were, that meant death.
And so, once you start on that thing, then it's the war of all against all, sort of—every race against every race, according to that principle. And they wanted the Aryans to dominate. And they got close. They did. But for a few things, they might have controlled the territory from Moscow to the Atlantic.
HEWITT: And I got to say this is very timely, because as we speak, a new—I said this to the secretary of state on Monday. If you look at what the PRC is doing these days, it has a whole lot of parallels with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere of Imperial Japan. Thirty seconds to you, Larry Arnn.
ARNN: Exactly right. And China was a big scene of action. The Second World Wars really started in China when the Japanese attacked it in 1931. But it was a secondary—I mean, it was a huge war, but it came second to the European war until the last year of the war. Now, that could be the place where the great wealth is. And China's alliance with Russia is growing.
HEWITT: Everyone has got to go watch this course. It's absolutely free. You can sign up for the course at HughForHillsdale.com. You can watch the trailer with VDH, the great Victor Davis Hanson. You can also get his brand new book, The Second World Wars:—plural—How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won. And you can come back with Dr. Larry Arnn right after this. Stay tuned, America.
Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt in the ReliefFactor.com Studio inside of the Beltway. It is the Hillsdale Dialogue, the last radio hour of the week—all things Hillsdale, including their brand new course on the Second World War is available at Hillsdale.edu, as is the opportunity to sign up for Imprimis. If you want to see the trailer for the new online course, the Second World Wars, which is part Dr. Larry Arnn and mostly Victor Davis Hanson, you can go to HughForHillsdale.com.
Now, I want you to listen very closely. If you're a fan of dieting, you know that some dieting degrees are higher than others. Or gymnastics, they attempt different maneuvers, ice skating. I'm about to attempt the 10.0 radio transition, because I am going to effortlessly move from the War of Spanish Succession to World War II, using Dr. Arnn as my diving board.
Dr. Arnn, the War of Spanish Succession is the subject of the new movie, The Favourite, which is not very historically well-grounded. But there is, in that movie, Godolphin, and Marlborough, and Lady Marlborough, and Queen Anne. And, at the end of that war, which was as bloody in many of its days as World War II—there was the transition—they dumped Marlborough. Why did Queen Anne do that?
ARNN: So that transition was a monument to ADD. Very good. Well first of all, there isn't much mystery about that, because, back in those days, people wrote letters to each other. And Anne and Sarah Jennings Churchill had a big correspondence. And they were very close friends. And, you know, she was the queen, one of them, and the other one was not.
And so, Sarah was bossy. And finally Anne got tired of it. And, you know, she showered wealth—the great Blenheim Palace—on the Marlborough family. And you could say she made him a famous man. But that's not quite what happened.
What happened was, she gave him an army and he went out there and just creamed the French for five years.
HEWITT: And he did it again, in bloody battles, right? These are not what we were used to.
ARNN: Well, there were four major battles in Marlborough's campaigns. There were many minor battles. But the four major battles—only one of them, Malplaquet, was really bloody. And Churchill makes a big point about that. Churchill thought that the finest generals fought wars in ways that maneuver and save slaughter, and, he liked to say, leaves a sinister sense of legerdemain that leaves the enemy puzzled as well as defeated.
And Marlborough—see, George Patton and Douglas MacArthur—they were that kind of general—really great generals who—you just never knew where they were coming from. Well, at that one battle they just went on the field and they just slogged each other.
And the Allied forces, led by the British that Marlborough commanded, possessed the field at the end of the day. But the French went off cheering too. And so, he was physically sick, Churchill records, after the battle. He didn't want that to happen ever again.
HEWITT: Well now, my effortless transition. Peter Jackson has a new documentary out where he has colorized a lot of World War I footage. And I don't know if you've seen the trailer yet. It's really quite remarkable. He's pouring his great wealth into saving this film footage. That was bloody can be as, the end of the War of Spanish Succession was, but that did not deter World War II from coming on, which was bloodier still.
ARNN: Well, World War I helped to make World War II. First of all, the Tsar, who was not a very good ruler—his regime was destabilized, and he was replaced by something much worse, the Communists, right? The Bolshevik Revolution at the end of the First World War.
Well, the same thing happened in Germany. Germany was destabilized. I mean, Germany launched all of that. And other powers were complicit, but Germany—there's a really great book, and I wish I could remember the author, but it's called The Short War Illusion. And it's how Germany went into both world wars sure that it'd be over in six months, and they'd be sitting pretty.
So, what you've got is, you've got a peace treaty that was draconian in some ways that it shouldn't have been. Churchill was for a more moderate peace. But the Germans prepared the way for Hitler, because the republic they founded was weak.
HEWITT: When we come back, we'll talk about that, as Dr. Larry Arnn introduces the brand-new Hillsdale College course, the Second World Wars, available at HughForHillsdale.com.
Welcome back, America. I'm Hugh Hewitt, 32 minutes after the hour from the ReliefFactor.com studio inside of the Beltway. I'm joined by Dr. Larry Arnn. He is the president of Hillsdale College. He is a scholar of World War II and of Winston Churchill. And he has combined with Victor Davis Hanson—Professor Hanson himself a great scholar of World War II and a Hillsdale College professor—to produce an online course that I suspect will probably be the most successful online course in the history of many successful online courses at Hillsdale.edu.
You can see the trailer for it at HughForHillsdale.com. And I stress it is completely free. It is for your edification. Hillsdale does this to try and make the country smarter, which is a desperately necessary project, and they're doing it well.
Dr. Arnn, though, I have to comment on the breaking news. It appears as though Theresa May has been spurned by the EU—will return from her handbag trip, they were trying to call it, where she was going to be Maggie May—in other words, do a Thatcher moment—to the EU—empty-handed. So, Europe is once again combining to screw the United Kingdom, and that never ends well.
ARNN: Yeah. Well, they're teaching a lesson to all the other countries where the polls show the people would like to leave. And that's mean, right? They're supposed to be allies and friends. And the whole thing—it's terrible how this thing has just become a bureaucracy that no one can understand—no one can control either. And it began with a wish to have free trade across the borders of Germany and France, especially so they didn't go to war with each other anymore.
HEWITT: The Schuman Plan. And what's interesting to me is, as we begin the study of the Second World Wars, the good intentions of the Versailles Peace Treaty metastasized into the League of Nations, which failed in the United States, and the reparations which burdened Germany and opened the way for the radical party.
And you said, as we exited two breaks ago, Germany was destabilized by the weakness of their government. And I'm not sure that the Allies didn't indeed make that weak, even as the EU is ushering in Corbyn. They may not know it, but they're bringing in Corbyn if they do this.
ARNN: Yeah. Well, they may want that. It's a vision now of a—by the way, Winston Churchill helped to invent this thing, right? But he said emphatically, again and again, this is not a government. This is nations allied with each other. Because we don't have nations—Imprimis is written by yours truly about this very point. You can't have consent of the governed unless you have a people who are identified, and who are governed. If the people change freely—they love to say, free movement of labor and free trade in goods.
And I had an argument one time with a fellow, a member of the House of Lords. And I said, aren’t those different? And he said, what do you mean? I said, people—different from goods—aren't those different? And he said, what do you mean? And I said, well, where my wife comes from, they had factories that took Egyptian cotton, and they turned it into cotton cloth, and they sent a lot of it back to Egypt and everywhere in the world.
Well, that can go on all day long, and Lancashire remains Lancashire, and Egypt remains Egypt. But if you take all the Egyptians and put them in Lancashire, and you take all the Lancastrians and put them in Egypt, you've got different countries.
HEWITT: Yes, you do. And neither of them will work.
ARNN: That's right. That's right. It'd be too hot down there.
So, the point is, it's just that there's this ideology, right?—and just remember, people are then resources, right, not human—not treated fully as human. And this fight—the British people—and it's interesting, it's like the forces that didn't vote for Hillary Clinton over here. The British people see a loss of control of their lives, and their society changing in ways that they don't like.
HEWITT: Well, let's pause for a moment on the British people, because I'm having over for dinner tonight a retired United States Marine Corps general who is not optimistic about where the UK is heading. And he's a good friend of mine. And I've been debating, saying, the yeomanry is still there in the heart and soul of England.
And I know because last summer I went up to Hadrian's Wall in a rainstorm, and doggone it if there weren't hundreds of Brits, head down, walking in the rain along Hadrian's Wall, because that's what they do. That's how they enjoy themselves. They go to walk from the east coast to the west coast of Britain along this wall.
And that is not an ordinary thing to do. That is not a pastime that is widely done. But the English do it a lot. And I infer from that they're still as stubborn as they've ever been, and they're going to be quite stubborn about the EU now.
ARNN: Well, I hope and pray so. And, you know, it's like our country. It's a very divided country. And so, it's hard to know exactly what will happen. The vote on Brexit was close. A new vote on Brexit would be close. But I agree with you. I would not want to be Theresa May, made the leader of the party upon the resignation.
So, David Cameron was the prime minister and head of the Conservative Party, and he held a referendum about the European Union. And he did that because the pressures were mounting, year after year, to do something about that thing. And they passed laws in Brussels that are binding on the British people just the same as British laws are. And there's no real means for the British people or any particular people to control the European Parliament, or the European Council, or any of those bodies, because you're a tiny part of a international whole.
And remember this point about trying to make a nation out of Europe: A nation is a place where people can talk together, because they reason and deliberate together. They don't share common languages in those European countries. The nearest they have is English, by the way. So, in other words, you can't make a polity—you can't make a system of government in which citizens deliberate together about their lives.
And another thing is, when people live in widely different places, they live in different ways, and the same laws don't work for them in these different places.
HEWITT: And am I right—
ARNN: They want Federalism in America.
HEWITT: Am I right that the English especially are very protective of their individual space—their freedom—their negative liberties? That the British constitution, unwritten though it might be, is about leaving people alone generally to live their own life as they choose to do it? And that that's a view of how a human becomes happy. I think it's in Thucydides—the secret to happiness to freedom—the secret to freedom is courage. Is that not the British view? And is that not what won World War II in the final analysis? Because if they hadn't hung on, we weren't in the war for two years after they got into it.
ARNN: Yeah. So a man's home is his castle. That's a British thing. Of course it is. The difference between the British and us is, we think our castle is half of Montana.
HEWITT: Yeah. No little garden for us.
ARNN: We live in a really big place, and they don't. And yet it's interesting, see? And it's a deep thing. It's interesting that the division here is the English Channel, because Churchill gives a wonderful description of how Britain came to be. And the Channel is terribly important because the seas around Britain are stormy, and they have faced much bigger powers in Europe, who have to have really big armies because they're close to each other.
And, if you give a king a really big army, he'll be a very powerful guy. And the British don't have that immediate threat because of the Channel. They have to have a navy. And the navy goes on the sea. You can't use it to make a tyrant on the land as readily, right? So the British develop over time—Churchill—he describes all of this in The History of the English-Speaking Peoples and other places very beautifully. And, just to make a reference to the Second World War, the Channel was decisive in the Second World War too.
So, anyway, once they become a maritime power in 1588, when they defeated the Spanish Armada—once you're controlling the waters around your home, the seas go everywhere, and you can go everywhere. And that turned the British into a great trading people and a free people with a balance of power between the Parliament and the king.
HEWITT: And an infectious people. They carried the germs of their approach to government everywhere.
ARNN: That's right. That's right. And Churchill loved this expression: the English-speaking peoples. And we learn in our classics—in Aristotle, for example—we learn that our political relations grow from our ability to speak. And speaking and thinking are the same phenomenon. The word for them in Greek is logos, both of them.
And so that means that what we think we can share, just as well as we can think it. And that's what binds us together and makes us fellow citizens. Aristotle writes, “Animals then use their voices to indicate pleasure and pain, but humans use theirs to distinguish the just from the unjust and the advantageous from the disadvantageous.” And that means we're called to be together by our nature to decide the moral questions that are settled in the law.
And Churchill's point was, if you can all talk, then you can be citizens together. And, just to go back to the war for a minute, the English Channel is important for two reasons: One is, the Germans couldn't get across it. And they tried and, just like Napoleon, they hovered there and made plans. They were afraid. They were right to be afraid. That's one thing.
But the second thing is, because of the maritime nature of the British, and because of the limited government that they had, then they built, and as Churchill said, “in a fit of absence of mind,” they built this great empire. And more than 40% of the British war effort was from imperial nations—other members of the empire. And Britain had no power to conscript any soldier from any of those countries. They came on their own.
Canada declared war on Germany by the middle of September 1939, less than two weeks after Britain did. And Britain had no power to make that happen. And, since it turned out in the war that from June of 1940 until June of 1941, Britain was simply alone. But its strength was increased by 40% from volunteers who had a kinship with them, and mostly a kinship of language.
HEWITT: That is an amazing thing to think on during the break. Also I'll have you think on this. The Europeans have never successfully crossed the Channel, though the Spanish, the French, and the Germans have tried. But the United Kingdom, with the United States, has successfully crossed the Channel to invade Europe. They ought to keep that in mind in EU Land.
I'll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn, talking about the Second World Wars. Go to HughForHillsdale.com to get enrolled in this course. It's absolutely free. You're going to love it.
Welcome back, America. I'm Hugh Hewitt. Dr. Larry Arnn is my guest. If you're a new listener to the show, and that would include all of Jackson, Tennessee—the Talk of Jackson, 93.1 WTJS, welcome—the home of Pringles potato chips—you should know that the last hour of the radio week is usually with Dr. Arnn, who is, sadly, a friend of mine. And I have been endured that for many, many decades.
ARNN: He is sad about that.
HEWITT: And so, he and I talk about big things and big issues. But all of those conversations are at HughForHillsdale.com. And you've not yet been able to hear. Next week, we add Nashua, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine, and many others.
They've never heard you tell the story of Winston Churchill on confronting his cabinet and his insistence on not brokering a peace. It's in the movie, but I think it's important for people to know, World War II was won because of one man who said, No, we're not going to negotiate with them.
ARNN: Yes. Do you want me to tell the story?
HEWITT: Yes, please.
ARNN: It's in that movie, Darkest Hour. It's very well told there. It's a little different than it actually happened, but in the same spirit. So, Churchill becomes prime minister of Great Britain on May 10, 1940, the same day that the Germans attacked east—west, sorry, toward France and Belgium. And, by June 22, France was destroyed and out of the war.
But the early news was terrible. And so, on May the 23rd through the 28th, the British war cabinet—five people, including Churchill, the prime minister—considered an appeal from Mussolini, not yet in the war, to host a peace conference. And Edward Halifax wanted to do that. He was the foreign minister and he was one of the appeasers. He was a fine man but misguided on many points.
And so, Halifax brings this proposal, and he favors it. And Churchill thinks that, if you start talking peace, what is left of the British war effort?—and the British army, including my father-in-law, were streaming toward Dunkirk beach as this is going on, and nobody knows how many are going to get off or what they're going to bring with them—Churchill thinks that it will just take the gas out of everything.
But he can't insist, because, if he had insisted and just simply overruled Halifax, and if Halifax and Chamberlain had resigned from the government, then, likely, Churchill's government would have fallen. It was just like what we're talking about with Theresa May today.
ARNN: So he didn't have any power to compel them. And so, what he did was he played for time. He was silent a lot. And then, on the 28th of May, five days in, he called a meeting of the whole cabinet. In Britain, the cabinet is the executive branch, and it's all drawn from members of the House of Commons and from the majority party. And there were 25 of them. There were only five on the war cabinet, a sort of executive cabinet to run the war.
And he got them all together, and he told them about the situation in the war. And he gave them a very dark description of it. And then he says a really great thing. He says, if the Germans get across, the first towns they will take have names that after which towns in New England are named. And the Americans will see that. And we have to hold on. So just remember, that's a lesson in the importance of our country.
And then he talked about the navy, and he talked about the air force and how there's going to be a great air battle, and we don't know how that's going to go. And then he says in a last paragraph—he said, In these last few days I've been thinking how we carry on. And I believe that every one of you would rise up and tear me down from my place in an instant if I were to consider parley or surrender. If the British Empire is to end at last, let it end when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.
Churchill didn't have time to write that out before, but two people, including especially Hugh Dalton, a very left-wing Labour Socialist minister who, however, loved Winston Churchill, wrote it all down very carefully. And the record shows that they rushed up to him and cheered him. And then they had a war cabinet meeting after that, and Halifax said, I think if we started talking peace we'd be on a slippery slope.
And the point of that story is, the Germans and the Soviets, they are historicists. They believe that what matters is great trends. And they believed they were on the right side of history, and they were unconquerable. And all too much we think like that too. We see great things happening, and we think they can't be stopped.
And, if you do think that way—and this is really the lesson of Winston Churchill in his books and in his life—just remember, there was a room in a building in London—one room—and the people were gathered to have the power to decide whether there would be a Western war effort anymore, because they were the last remaining. And one guy walked in that room. And, if anybody else had been the one, it wouldn't have happened the way it did.
HEWITT: What a great way—that is why you want to go and watch the Second World Wars, the brand-new, seven-week online course at Hillsdale.edu, because you'll hear stories like that which may have been forgotten, may never have been taught to you, but you can go and get them for yourself. Thank you, Dr. Larry Arnn.