Andrew Roberts: Interviewed about his book, A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900





Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Andrew Roberts, a professional historian since the publication of his life of Lord Halifax, The Holy Fox, in 1991, which won the Wolfson History Prize in 2000. He is the author of the new book, A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900.

FP: Andrew Roberts, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Roberts: Many thanks for asking me. It's a delight to appear in your pages.

FP: Some have called your work a “revisionist” history of the English-speaking peoples. Can you share with us one or two revisionist interpretations you have?

Roberts: I think it was Roger Kimball of the New Criterion who said that any history writing that doesn't conform to the dictates of political correctness as adumbrated by left-liberalism was now 'revisionist history', and I tend to agree with him. My book does not consider British imperialism to have been a Bad Thing, argues that the Versailles Treaty was not harsh enough on Germany, defends the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and considers the United States to have been a great force for good in the world since 1900. Once put in its proper historical context, the foreign policy of the Bush Administration is seen as being in the mainstream of the English-Speaking Peoples' political tradition, and none the worse for that.

FP: What was good about British imperialism?

Roberts: The British Empire provided good government, uncorrupt public administration, inter-tribal peace, the rule of law, free trade, the abolition of slavery, famine relief, the abolition of barbaric customs such as suttee and thugee, huge infrastructural advances such as railways, roads plus irrigation projects, and in every colony nurtured its native peoples towards running their own countries once they were ripe for independence.

Compared to any other global empire, it was a fantastically beneficial institution. When one looks at the history of many parts of the former Empire today - especially in Asia and Africa - the most peaceful and productive part of their history was during British rule.

FP: What are some of the way the United States has been a great force for good in the world since 1900?

Roberts: The US liberated huge portions of the world from Spain at the start of the century, protected Europe from being taken over by Wilhelmine Germany in the Great War, called a unilateral moratorium on War Debts under the Dawes Plan, aided the Allies before Pearl Harbor, chose to destroy Hitlerism before Japan, mobilised more men in World War II and spent more money for victory than any other power, liberated North Africa, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Austria from the Nazis, and the Far East from the Japanese, launched the $14 Billion Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, saved Berlin from being forced into the Soviet zone of Germany in 1948, protected South Korea and Chile, attempted to her uttermost to protect South Vietnam from the murderous scourges of Communism, it reached the Moon, won more Nobel prizes per capita than any other country, discovered the cures for numerous diseases such as polio, spends more in private philanthropy than any other nation by a significant factor, financed a large part of NATO for over 60 years, masterminded ultimate victory in the Cold War under Ronald Reagan bringing democracy to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltics, and crushed Milosevic's murderous regime in Kosovo.

The US is presently shouldering around 90% of the burden defending Civilisation from the lethal and unappeasable threat of Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism. It's a glorious record, and one that deserves to be lauded more by a nation that all too often deprecated the enormously beneficial world role it has played since 1900.

FP: I agree, it is a glorious record and you have stated it powerfully and succinctly. I wonder why this side of history was never taught to me in university.

So give us a few sentences in terms of the key themes that you think mark the four world-historical struggles - against German Nationalism, Fascism, Communism and now radical Islam.

Roberts: The four great assaults on the English-speaking peoples since 1900 have been undertaken by various mutations of Fascism. The proto-Fascism of the Prussian militarists, the Axis powers' Fascism, the Red Fascism of the Soviets, and presently the Totalitarian Islamic Terrorist Fascism are all motivated by loathing of the English-speaking peoples' traditions of democratic pluralism.

FP: A large part of the Left, as you know, had a romance with Red Fascism throughout the 20th Century, just as it today cheers for Totalitarian Islamic Terrorist Fascism in our terror war. What explains this disposition of the Left? Why is it sympathetic to fascist ideologies and forces?

Roberts: Intellectuals of the Left bear a heavy responsibility for the cruelties and savagery of the 20th century, for reasons that I go into in some detail in my book. By believing that they could alter human nature given sufficient power over every aspect of people's existence, they tried to play God with human lives, around 95 million of which were lost in the process since 1900. It was a fatal conceit, yet they still believe it possible.

FP: What sacrifices do you think will be needed to maintain American greatness into the 21st century?

Roberts: I think that the English-speaking peoples will need to sacrifice their naivety about the true nature of war - and the losses that inevitably go with it - before they can win this latest bout of the anti-Fascist struggle. The experiences of conflicts such as Grenada, the Gulf War and Kosovo have instilled a belief that wars can be fought victoriously without significant allied losses. That was true of these localised, limited wars but is simply not true of the Manichean world-historical struggle they are presently engaged upon.

FP: Do the English-speaking peoples have the will to do what it takes to defeat the force of radical Islam?

Roberts: I fear, in the light of Congress's recent nonbinding (and utterly self-contradictory) resolution opposing the surge, the gross bias of much of the Left-Liberal media, and the present poll ratings of Sen Hillary Clinton, that the US will lose the will to fight the War against Terror in any manner that might hold out the hope of ultimate victory.

The alternative is isolationism, and the neutering of America and with her the English-speaking peoples. Her wealth will not protect her once the willpower has gone, as has been witnessed countless times in decaying empires of the past. It is, however, not too late.

FP: Let’s hope it is not too late. And if it isn’t too late, then may I ask what it isn’t too late for? What has to be done to win this conflict?

Roberts: The English-speaking peoples need to recognise that in a unipolar world they are not going to be as popular as they were in the pre-1989 bipolar world, especially when the other pole was Communism.

Therefore they must toughen their hearts to unpopularity, and instead earn the respect they deserve but doing what is right. In Iraq and Afghanistan this means fighting for as long as it takes to achieve complete and final victory over Radical Islam. They ought to view the conflict as a very long-term and necessarily painful but unavoidable generational conflict, and dedicate their energy and resources to it, in the way that they were willing to devote them to the extirpation of Nazism, Showa Japanese Fascism and Soviet Communism. They should not be afraid of threatening to widen the struggle to include foreign countries that aid and abet the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq. They need to do whatever it takes to ensure that no country becomes a safe haven for jihadist terrorism.

George W. Bush will be treated better by History than he has been hitherto by the 24/7 media, because of the aggressive way he rose to the challenge post-9/11. If either of his predecessors had put Islamic terrorism as high on their agendas as he was forced to, we might not be facing this world-historical struggle today.

FP: Andrew Roberts, thank you for joining us. You are truly a breath of fresh air.

Roberts: It's an honor: many thanks.


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