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Monday, February 27, 2012

Act of Valor - Movie, or Video Game?

                    Rev. by Hugh Murray 
    I expected a good movie but was disappointed. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! This is not a film; it is a video game. It begins with a scene in the Philippines with a woman in an ice-cream truck at an international school and a bomb. Then confusion. At times the fighting is at night, and one is unsure who the Seals are. Another time, a truck chase - but who are the Seals? The film is constantly loud, action, over the top. A good film has build up, time to breathe and try to follow the plot. A good film included discussion of the problems faced and how the group might solve them. Then there is the split between the plan and the unexpected elements that make the audience wonder if the good guys will succeed. None of this is provided in the Act of Valor. Also, you need time to identify with the actors. Too often, I found them indistinguishable. Overall, I found it hard to stay awake.
     Worse, there was a kind of cultish aspect to the film.  "My dad, my grand father were all fighters."  "I received this flag from my great, great..."  I do not mean that there is something wrong with many generations defending the best ideals of their country.  But if the unit is based on merit, then even the son of an Amish should be able to join.  Do you have to trace your ancestry to the Mayflower to be a Seal?  There is this exclusive club aspect to the film that probably turns off possible recruits.
     The Seals in this film may be heroic; they may be terrific, brave, patriotic men.  But this film is a bore.
     Contrast this with the great recruiting film, Top Gun. That had everything. By comparison, this is one dimensional, loud, a shooting gallery in which one hardly cares about the outcome. This film has many guns, but it is no Top Gun. As cinema, Act of Valor is an Act of Failure.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Should Churchill Have Saved the British Empire?

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire
By H. W. Crocker III (Regnery, 2011)
Rev. by Hugh Murray
            How does one describe world history of the past few centuries in large print in 350 pages?  Selectively.  Clearly, Crocker cannot include every crucial encounter, every major battle, war, treaty, or policy.  Does he include all the important points?
            Around 1600 some thought England overpopulated with some 4.4 million souls.  It was not yet the United Kingdom, and yet from these small islands were launched ships that conquered a quarter of the globe.  How does one explain this?
            In an early chapter on the dispute between England and its 13 American colonies, Crocker quotes John Adams in a reference that might be summarized as “demography is destiny”:  “…our people,…,will in another century become more numerous than England itself.  Should this be the case,…,it will be easy to obtain mastery of the sea; and then the united forces of all Europe will not subdue us.”(p. 32)  Thomas Paine in COMMON SENSE said something similar: “…there is something very absurd in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.”  More recently, Pat Buchanan has written that Europe and traditional America are doomed because Third World immigrants are overwhelming them in their own homelands.
            However, is demography destiny?  The British Empire may provide sufficient examples that it is not.  True, England did lose its 13 colonies by 1783.  Yet, even then, England was approximately 5 millions, while the American colonies were less than 3.
            If demography is destiny, how can one explain the British Empire?  One good feature of Crocker’s work is that he provides statistics (imprecise as they may be) of British and British-led armies against various native opponents.  So often, the British were  outnumbered – frequently overwhelmingly outnumbered, and yet the British defeated their more numerous foes.  Crocker describes the courage of the British leaders, some of the wounds inflicted upon them, and yet how they were able to establish an empire.
            The mechanical, fatalistic approach – the continent rules the island and not the reverse - is disproven by Britain.  Around 1850 the entire British presence in India was 100,000; yet they ruled over approximately 250,000,000.  The British islands dominated the subcontinent of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and more: Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Oman.  In addition, by 1900 nearly half of the continent of Africa was also under British rule.  The island ruled simultaneously all these places plus important trading areas in China, the continent of Australia, and a large section of North America (Canada), and smaller islands scattered across the globe.  A famous phrase was grounded in reality – “The sun never sets upon the British Empire.”  How does one explain this?  Clearly, demography is not necessarily destiny.
            We are aware of how Cortes, with a few hundred Spaniards and horses defeated the millions of Montezuma in Mexico.  How Pizarro and his few conquered the Incas with their masses of men.  The British accomplished similar feats, - from the raids by Francis Drake and English pirates on Spanish islands and homeland ports, to the defeat of its massive Armada.  The British also won land battles against enormous odds.
            At the Battle of Plassey, with some 3,000 men, only a third British, Robert Clive defeated the Indian sepoys with 50,000.(133)  Charles Napier, outnumbered 10 to 1, defeated 22,000 Ballucks at Meanee in India in 1843, and the following year, some 26,000 at the Battle of Hyderabad.(122)
            Yet, there were some occasions where the British were badly defeated, and Crocker includes these setbacks.  In the 1840s some 16,000 British and Indians were slaughtered after Afghanistan had promised safe passage through the Khyber Pass.  The British won revenge shortly after by returning to the country, occupying Kabul, and destroying the villages responsible for the attacks.(136 )
            In South Africa some 20,000 Zulus slaughtered 1,300 British defenders at the Battle of Isandlwhana, with almost every corpse desecrated.  A little later, at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, 120 Brits and colonials held off 4,000 Zulus.  However, following that 4,000 British soldiers defeated 15,000 Zulus and burnt their capital at Ulundi.(198-99)
            Overall, one may generalize, the British defeated numerous enemy forces on nearly all continents even though they were usually outnumbered, and sometimes overwhelmingly so. There were a few areas where the British had trouble.  One was in South Africa against the Boers, the Dutch settlers who sought to retain their independence against the encroaching English.  Unable to defeat the Boers, who resorted to guerrilla warfare, the British rounded up the Boers’ families, herding them into concentration camps with barbed wire fences.  Using Mao’s analogy before Mao uttered it, the Boer guerrillas – the fish who swam in the water of the people, were cut off and isolated from their sources of supplies and support.  The British policy of concentration camps succeeded and the Boers were subdued.
            One important battle omitted by Crocker was that between British crack troops and American irregulars.  The British coalition had just defeated mighty Napoleon in his come-back attempt at Waterloo in 1813.  The newly established United States, which had purchased Louisiana from Napoleon in 1803, thereby lost its friend in Europe at Waterloo.  Suddenly, America had to confront alone the might of the victorious British Empire.  Veteran troops of the European conflicts were sent to seize New Orleans in 1814-1815 (during the War of 1812).  The Americans were ill prepared, but under the leadership of Andrew Jackson, a motley group of defenders – Americans, pirates, Cajuns, Blacks – were organized behind a canal- embankment.  The British, under Gen. Pakenham, disembarked south of New Orleans, and marched upstream where they encountered the American front line.  In what some contend was a prelude to trench warfare of WWI, the Americans behind the embankment fired from relative safety at the oncoming enemy.  In the end, Americans casualties numbered 71; the British 2,000, including Gen. Pakenham himself.  The British withdrew.  Of course, in WWI, the British suffered grievous losses against the forces of the Central Powers.  (One error in Crocker’s book: he writes of the Axis powers of WWI.(94)  Italy was part of the Axis in WWII, but in WWI it was NOT among the Central Powers.  Indeed, in the Great War Italy became an ally of Britain and France.)
            In simplest terms, the British invariably defeated Third World peoples in battle, often though vastly outnumbered, often conquering them.  A small number of British sailors and soldiers might defeat massive armies of Third Worlders.  Demography was not destiny.  The British did, however, experience a much tougher time in battles against Americans, Boers, Germans, and other Europeans.
            Victor Davis Hanson in CARNAGE AND CULTURE has written about the superiority of the Western soldier first evidenced in the wars of ancient Greeks against the Persian Empire.  That superiority generally continued until the mid-20th century, and Britain was the primary exhibit of this generalization.  Britain did conquer a quarter of the world – with France, Germany, Belgium, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, and America, gobbling up much of the rest.  Britain would face its greatest challenges when warring against other white peoples.
            What did the British Empire do to or for its conquered peoples?  Overall, the British created infrastructure, roads, ports, railroads, telegraph lines; it helped develop products like rubber, tobacco, cotton, tea, gold, and provided world-wide markets for these products.  It was the British Empire that embarked upon a crusade against slavery, and in so doing, battled ever more and ever deeper into Africa to end the practice.  Strange, but the Empire grew in its quest to abolish slavery.  In time, the British brought Western law, Western values, fair play, sport, and even the English language as a unifying element.  The British Empire ruled before the madness of multiculturalism infected its leaders; so the British could seek to end slavery no matter what the local practice was.  The British could seek to end the burning of widows, no matter what the religion of the people maintained.  Cannibalism, the murderous Thuggee, and other practices were abolished and could be abolished before multiculturalism declared all cultures equal.
            What else did the British Empire do?  It brought modern medicine.  It brought written language to some areas (no written language had been invented in sub-Saharan Africa; nor had the wheel).  Even confronting older cultures, the British added something important.  What was Hong Kong before the British acquired it?  Nothing.  What was Singapore before the Brits?  Nothing.  Indeed, what was America?  And the British developed Australia, Canada, and other lands.
            On several pages Crocker states how the British admired the warlike peoples against whom they fought.(288)  There is some irony here.  He also notes that in 1831 some 42% of the British Army was composed of Irishmen – Protestants often officers, Catholics in the infantry.  The Irish outnumbered the English in the British Army.  Yet, most Brits did not admire the Irish.  And the enmity was mutual.
            Crocker’s short book presents biographical sketches of the courageous men who made the British Empire – Drake, Henry Morgan, Cornwallis, Raleigh, the Duke of Wellington, Clive, Gordon, Kitchener, Lawrence of Arabia, Churchill, Ian Smith and others.  His range is several centuries and many continents.  The writing is clear.  Crocker’s Chapter 2 is an utter waste and fantasy (an alternative history) and nearly turned this reader away from the otherwise worthy volume.
            Yet there is an important “fantasy” question that Crocker does not, yet should have raised.  1)  Could Churchill have saved the British Empire?  2) Should he have saved it?  Most are aware of how Britain and the US stirred National Liberation Movements in WWI in order to help defeat the empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottomans.  At the peace treaties new nations were carved from old empires: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania.  Yet one often neglects – and Crocker is typical here –the German contribution to National Liberation Movements.  Thus, in 1916 from a German Uboat Sir Roger Casement emerged to help lead a revolt of the Irish against the Brits.  No need to recount the failures of the revolt and its related Easter Uprising in Dublin.  But it is from this failed attempt that finally sprang a more independent Irish Free State under De Valera, one of the rebels of 1916.
            It was also in WWI that some of the Germans inspired a new excursion of guerilla warfare in Africa.  Most of the German colonies, deprived of supplies from the Vaterland by the dominant British naval forces, had to capitulate.  However, in German East Africa, the colonials relied on ingenuity and the natives, first to survive Allied blockade and invasions, and then forging their guerrilla forces, by war’s end, the German-Africans were preparing to invade British colonies to the South.  Africans were also aware of the how well they did with little support from Europe.
            In WWI the British also stirred the Arabs to revolt against the Ottomans, but unlike in Europe, few new nations immediately resulted.  At the peace tables Lebanon and Syria were given to France, while the British won Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Trans Jordan.  Saudi Arabia became independent.  To muddle the situation, the British had also promised a homeland for the Jewish people in the Trans-Jordan area.
            The newly created Soviet government in Russia had publicized secret documents by the Allied coalition concerning their desire to carve up the lands of the Central Powers.  The Soviets’ early response was to attack imperialism and permit nations to secede from the Russian Empire.  So Armenia, Georgia, and other nations came to exist, for a short time.  But soon thereafter, most of these lands were re-incorporated into the Soviet Union.  Soviet leaders sought to portray their new land not as an empire, not as Russian, but a union, multicultural, composed of many peoples, customs, and languages, and all prospering under “socialism.”  Even Jews were given a homeland in the new USSR, in Birobizhan in eastern Siberia.  There was the Communist answer to Zionism.
            The common notion that the Left and the National Liberation Movements are intertwined with, if not identical to, the Left was reinforced after WWII.  Mao’s China, Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam were not merely Left, they were Communist.  The Algerian FLN fought against France, and seemed Left, as did the Egyptian military that overthrew King Farouk, then seized Suez, and negotiated the large Aswan Dam project with the Soviets.  In newly independent nations of Africa, many leaders proclaimed their policy African Socialism, some even spurning American aid for that of the Soviets.  Castro “liberated” Cuba from being an American satellite, and Che fought to spread socialist revolutions throughout the hemisphere.  National Liberation and the Left were essentially the same; or were they?
            When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, one of his aims was to “liberate” Germans at home and abroad.  For example, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, and the peace leaving only a tiny slice to constitute the new Austrian republic, many Austrians, whose language and culture were Germanic, sought to unite with their larger, German neighbor.  While the victorious Allies spoke of self determination of nations, they implemented the policy only when it suited the national interests of the Allies.  The Allies had just defeated Germany, taken its colonies, taken away German majority areas to give them to Poland, and the Allies were not about to let Austria enlarge Germany, no matter what the Austrians and Germans desired.  Germany was so weak following its defeat in 1918 that France occupied the demilitarized Ruhr in 1923, and the German government responded by supporting a strike, and printing evermore Reichsmarks for the strikers.  The inflation of the German currency in 1923 is a textbook case on worthless paper money.  There were economic and political consequences of this inflation.  To prevent another such catastrophe, Hitler ordered German troops to occupy the German “demilitarized” Rheinland.  Later, the Saar voted overwhelmingly to return to Germany under Hitler’s leadership.  Although Hitler intervened before a plebiscite could be held, there were many Austrians who approved the unification of Austria with powerful and prosperous Germany, including the Cardinal, who the day after the Anschluss, stepped from his car and raised his arm in a fascist salute.  Germany’s growing pride and prosperity encouraged others.  After political negotiations, German troops were permitted to incorporate the 3.5 million Germans who had been assigned to live in Czechoslovakia.  The Sudentenland Germans were added to Germany without a shot being fired.  All of this was in accord with liberal ideals of self-determination of people.  Hitler was not an imperialist, trying to subjugate other people into his German Reich, he just wanted all the Germans.  He was a leader of National Liberation.  Then, Hitler violated the Wilsonian doctrines when German armies marched into the rump state of Czechoslovakia.  He took over Prague and the 7 million Czechs in their lands, but even then he was a “liberationist” for he allowed 4 million Slovaks to secede and become independent under Monsignor Tiso, while smaller crumbs were awarded to Hungary and Poland.
            The free city of Danzig had voted for a Nazi Party, and the population, overwhelmingly German, sought to enter the Reich.  Moreover, East Prussia was separated from the Reich, although its population was mainly German, because the Allies of 1918 wanted to allow Poland access to the sea.  Poland was unwilling to compromise on these areas.  The Poles did not care if most of the people in these areas preferred Germany.  They no longer cared about self-determination or Woodrow Wilson.  They wanted to keep what they had.  And Britain and France encouraged the Poles to stand firm and avoid compromise.  Poland did not yield to German threats in 1939.  Then Hitler made a secret deal with Stalin’s Soviet Union.  In September 1939 Germany launched the blitzkrieg against Poland.  As German armies swept so quickly across the borders, Stalin had to move fast to get his share of the Polish pie.  By October 1939, Poland was no more.
            Britain and France had kept their promise to Poland and declared war against Hitler’s Germany.  But nothing happened in the West.  While in the east Poland was crushed in a month, in the west Sitzkrieg was  the word to describe the non-war.  After all, did it make any sense for Britain to go to war to save Poland now that Poland had disappeared?  Surely, England would come to its senses, avoid war, and recognize the changes in eastern Europe.
            But Chamberlain had other ideas.  His government now planned to strangle Germany economically, depriving it of essential war materiel by occupying Norway.  The Norse government apparently agreed to British occupation.  But before the Brits could come, the Germans struck, marching into Denmark, and then with the aid of a Norwegian politician, Vidkun Quisling, the gates were opened to German occupation.  The Norwegian fiasco toppled the Chamberlain government, and he was replaced by the more hawkish Churchill.
            Next German armies stormed through the Netherlands, Belgium, and into France, - even capturing the unobtainable jewel of WWI, Paris.  In weeks the mighty French Army was defeated and the government sued for peace.  Meanwhile, many British troops were stranded on the continent being squeezed into an ever smaller pocket near Dunkirk.  They were trapped; Hitler could have destroyed them.  Instead, he stopped his armies and bombers.  He allowed the British to evacuate in an armada of small ships.  This was a major gesture of peace.  Hitler admired the British; he desired peace; he did not seek to destroy the British Empire.  If England would simply give him a free hand in Europe, he would not disturb their empire.  This would be a reasonable method to restore peace to the world.  Unfortunately, Churchill dismissed such peaceful proposals; the war went on.
            Its hope for peace spurned by the British, Germany then began to pursue an alternative strategy.  If Hitler could not count upon a unity of interests between the world-wide British Empire and a German dominated Neurope, then Germany would have to attack both the British Isles and its Empire.  The latter would be accomplished by support for National  Liberation Movements, even if this meant the destruction of the British Empire.
            In 1933 when Hitler was first appointed Chancellor, there was a strange conjuncture of interests between the Nazis and Zionists – both sought the removal of Jews from Germany.  While in January 1933 few Jews in Germany were Zionists, there numbers grew as Nazis imposed ever more restrictions upon those who remained in the Vaterland.  An agreement was signed between the German government and Zionists whereby German Jews who left for Palestine might get credits for some of their possessions in Reichsmarks so they might import German goods to the Middle East.  While Jewish organizations of the Left were boycotting German products, Zionists in Palestine were importing them.  The agreement succeeded in getting 50,000 Jews out of Germany with products worth some $100 million Reichsmarks.
            In Palestine, however, there was rising resentment against the new immigrants, and the anti-Jewish feeling rose and riots against them raged.  The leader of this anti-Jewish faction was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the British authorities sought to keep the peace between the Arabs and Jews.
In the Depression of the 1930s, many were dissatisfied with a world one fourth British.  As Hitler seemed to revive German pride and prosperity, his nation won admiration, even from unexpected areas.  Thus in 1935 Persia changed its name to Iran to alert all that it was not a Semitic nation, but an Aryan one.
In Ireland, the blue shirts of fascism never achieved power, but they had connections to the opposition, Fine Gael Party.  Even in England Sir Oswald Mosely’s New Party had segued into the British Union of Fascists.
In India, as rumbles of war rose, how would India react?  For the likes of George Orwell, who had served as a policeman in Burma, this was not a question, - he and India should fight for the British Empire.  But Gandhi had other ideas.  He hoped to achieve independence through use of non-violence.  Gandhi even urged this method upon the British.  Crocker mocks Gandhi’s advice: “Gandhi advised that the British should foil the Nazis by surrendering unconditionally to them and thus defeat them through moral example….Winston Churchill (…) had other, more robust ideas.”(149)  Orwell wrote in opposition to Gandhi’s pacifism, but that pacifism may not have been so peaceful within India.  The Indian National Congress “sponsored an anti-British ‘Quit India’ campaign that called on Indians to act as saboteurs, blowing up trains, cutting telegraph wires, and rioting.”(149)  Yet, Crocker generally dismisses as a “bust” the alternative led by the Mayor of Calcutta, Subhas Chandra Bose.  Although mayor, because of his antagonism to British rule, the authorities held him under house arrest.  With the aid of the German Abwehr, Bose escaped, fled to Afghanistan, and then because of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, flew to Moscow and thence to Berlin.  In Berlin, Bose broadcast on German shortwave against the British in India.  He also met with Indian POWs in Europe and recruited them to join the German SS.  Later in the war, he sailed in a German UBoat to Madagascar, where he transferred to a Japanese UBoat.  The war in Asia had spread in December 1941, and now Bose recruited Indian POWs taken by the Japanese to form the Indian National Army.  Bose also proclaimed a Provisional Republic of India government, and declared war on Britain and the United States.  His government was recognized by several nations including Ireland.  By the time the INA reached 40,000 at its height, Japan was in retreat.  There was a major battle in Burma between the INA and Indians loyal to Britian.  The British won, and Crocker concludes the Bose effort was no real threat.
Yet, others drew different conclusions. Paul Scott, the author of THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN (The Raj Quartette), portrays British officers as confused, shocked, and hurt that their own captured soldiers could turn against them and join the INA.   Worse, they feared that they must defeat the INA while still on foreign soil in Burma, for if it reached India proper, all of India might quickly fall into the arms of Bose.  The INA was defeated in Burma, and India remained British.  Bose died in a plane crash at war’s end.  Nevertheless, there is a statue of him in Calcutta, and many Indians revere the two men whom they believe led them to independence, Gandhi and Bose.
Nazi policies toward Zionism changed as the 1930s wore on.  The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem put pressure on the British to halt Jewish immigration.  Once war broke out between Britain and Germany in 1939, it was then impossible to ship Jews to Palestine.  And with the conquest of Poland, Germany suddenly had millions of more Jews under its sway.  What would be the solution?  When the war began to turn against the Germans, some proposed an exchange of trucks for Jews.  One fierce opponent of any such deal was the Grand Mufti.  Not only did he broadcast to the Middle East on German radio, telling his nationals to kill the Jews, not only did he meet on occasion with the German Fuehrer, but the Mufti even went to some of the concentration camps to show support for and admiration for the Nazi policy toward Jews.
And what was happening in the Middle East?  Britain ruled Palestine, but France held nearby Lebanon and Syria.  In 1940 France was led by Le Marshall in Vichy, a collaborator with Hitler’s Reich.  Egypt was British, but the war came to North Africa when Mussolini’s forces in neighboring Libya invaded Egypt.  They did poorly, but were supplanted by Germans under Rommel.  Suddenly, the invasion of Egypt was ominously real.  Jews in Egypt began planning evacuation to South Africa.  The Muslim Brotherhood, and organization formed in the 1920s, admired the Nazis, and were planning to join with Rommel the moment he broke through the British defenses.  If the Germans could take Egypt, the Suez Canal would be neutralized, and Palestine (and its Jews) surrounded, and perhaps under Nazi supervision, or worse, that of a restored Grand Mufti.  (Look at some of the novels by Lawrence Durrell in the Alexndria Quartet for more on this period).
Even in 2012 Palestinian leaders could be seen raising their arms in the Hitler salute as they continue their national liberation war against Israel and the Jews.  The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt remained in the background during the “Arab Spring,” but it, with its even more fanatical Muslim allies won 2/3s of the Egyptian vote.  Its policies are clearly anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli, with several more anti-s.  To a lesser extent, this ideology is true of all the Arab Spring movements.  To what extent are these National Liberation Movements a gift of the Third Reich?
The Hitler regime was anti-Jewish, but in its foreign policy, it was not anti-Semitic.  The Grand Mufti was a Semite.  So were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.  In 1940 a pro-Axis revolt occurred in Iraq, led by relatives of Saddam Hussein (he would come to prominence only later).  The British crushed this rebellion in Iraq rather quickly, but it was another indication of how volatile the Middle East was.  Both Britain and Stalin were unsure about Iran, so both occupied different sectors of that nation in WWII.
The Germans dismembered Yugoslavia, but a “liberated” Croatia was formed.  Also a Bosnia.  Germans recruited to the SS Muslims from the area who wore fezes atop the standard SS fare.  In each of these areas one can see how National Liberation Movements can stem from Nazism as well as from the Left.  (For more on the Germans as being anti-Jewish, not anti-Semitic, and in league with many National Liberation Movements, see some of the writings of Prof. Steven Farron of South Africa.)
The American Empire also felt the sting.  In the American Philippines, the aged antagonist of American invasion, Aguanaldo, endorsed the new government established by the Japanese.  And the Puerto Rican independence movement, harking back to it Spanish origins, preferred a Franco-type island to that imposed by its Anglo conqueror.  This movement became more prominent shortly after WWII when some of its members shot up the US Congress and sought to assassinate President Truman.
And here I speculate – but watching an old film with Brad Pitt playing an Austrian who goes to Tibet in the late 1930s, I wondered, was this based upon an individual’s desire to explore, or an effort to link a liberated Tibet with the New Germany?
Bottom line – by 1945 Germany, Italy, and its allies were crushed.  However, most of the National Liberation Movements it sponsored, encouraged, supported, and allied with continued to simmer, some to grow, and some to rise to leadership of their respective nations.  And by 1950, much of the British Empire was gone.  Even more by 1960.  And by 1970 – what British Empire?
Would this have occurred had Churchill made a deal with Hitler in 1940?  Hitler would have had Neurope and a free hand to tackle Stalin without fear of British attack on his rear, and the British might retain their empire.
Today, the British Empire is a memory.  Would many of its former colonies be better had they remained British?  Would Burma?  Ghana?  Bangladesh?  Sudan?  Go down that long list of lands.  Are they better off now?  It is not always an easy answer.  The British Empire that ruled a quarter of the globe performed many good acts to improve the health, the education, the roads, the ports, the railroads of the natives.  It challenged the superstitions of the natives and sometimes forced them to abandon their native customs, like slavery, burning widows, cannibalism, etc.  It often brought law and reduced corruption.  I suspect that many would fondly recall the rule of Britannia, and evoke a sense of loss that it withered away.
But it did not wither.  WWII, and especially the German policy of rousing National Liberation Movements meant that people all over the world fought against the British Empire.  The question I ask is, had Churchill, or Halifax, or even Chamberlain, agreed to peace in 1940, then German support of National Liberation Movements would not have occurred.  And the Empire would have been stronger.  Perhaps, it would still rule one fourth of the globe.  There might be some good in that.  And instead of making a deal with the devil to defeat Hitler, the British Prime Minister would have made a deal with the other devil to defeat Stalin.
Yet, there is something that we dislike about this proposal.  If Hitler had defeated Stalin, Germany would have ended far stronger than before.  Jews would no longer live in Europe.  Britain, Empire and all, would be a junior partner in a National Socialist world, which might even extend to Tibet.
Churchill sought to save the British Empire when he refused all peace feelers with Hitler.  He risked the empire to keep Britain free.  It was a gamble.  Britain won the war, but lost her empire.  The Nazis lost, but some of their National Liberation Movements succeeded and some continue to this day.
As the British Empire recedes into history, we can wonder at the island that ruled so many parts of so many continents – and ruled them well.