Out of all the wars that the world has gone through, none has been more devastating as world war II. But what caused this war? Well, world war II had six major causes: anger over the Versailles Treaty, the failure of peace efforts after world war I, the rise of Fascism, the goals of Hitler, the isolationism by America and Britain, and the re-armament of Europe. This paper will go over each of these causes individually and then draw some conclusions about world war II.
The first cause of world war II was the intense anger over the Versailles Treaty. Germany was very angry over two things and the first of which was the many territorial losses they had to endure as a result of the treaty. They lost two cities on the French-German border and as per Wilson’s thirteenth point Poland was re-formed with access to the Baltic Sea, which went right through Germany. Giving Poland Sea access split Germany into two parts, the main part of Germany, and a small portion to the North of the Danzig corridor. The Danzig corridor really inflamed Germany for many years, but they really could not do anything about the situation because they lost world war I. Another country that was angry over the Versailles Treaty was Italy. They were angry because they thought that the land that they had received as a payment for their participation in the Allied effort against Germany did not offset the cost of the war, nor did it satisfy their ambitions to grow. The final country that was angry over the Versailles Treaty was Japan. They were also a victor over Germany and they wanted to gain control over China as reward for their participation in the war. This, however, did not happen and they were angry over the situation.
The second cause of world war II was the failure of the many peace efforts that occurred after world war I. The League of Nations, which was one of Wilson’s fourteen points and part of the Versailles Treaty, was a forum in which nations could settle their disputes with one another. The problem was that the League did not have any real power. The only thing it could do was try to persuade the offending nation to concede and if that did not work out they could impose economic sanctions on that country. But the league had so little power that the sanctions it passed were normally ignored and it could do nothing from that point on. Another failed peace effort was the Washington Conference. At this conference the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. But again none of the powers really went through with their agreement. Yet another failed peace effort was the Locarno Conference. This conference produced a treaty between France and Germany stating that the border between the two countries was guaranteed. However, we know that this treaty failed because Germany invaded France during world war II. The final failed peace effort was the Paris Peace Act. At this conference all of the major countries, excluding Russia, and many smaller countries agreed that war was not a national policy and stated that they would try to resolve problems through diplomatic means. The only way that war was acceptable in this act was by means of self-defense. These did not directly cause world war II, but they made it possible by their obvious lack of power. Countries still did not trust each other enough to follow through with the good ideas that they had.
The third cause of world war II was the rise of Fascism. Fascism was a movement that began before world war I, but did not become a serious political power until Benito Mussolini took control of the Italian government in 1922. Under Mussolini Italy became a Totalitarian government where labor unions were abolished and political opponents were killed or silenced. This caused many things to happen to Italy’s social and economic problems. The first of these problems was the lowered living standard of the Italian people. The people lost their eight hour work day protection and their wages were lowered by the government. Mussolini acknowledged that the living standard had gone down, but explained it by saying that the Italian people were not used to eating much anyway, so they would not feel the lack of food as badly as others. Another thing the Fascist government caused was an increased birthrate in Italy. Mussolini wanted women to have more children so that he could create a larger army in the future. In this way he felt that he could have a large army by the time he was ready to go to war for more land. Mussolini used tactics much like the communists in that he had total control over all of the Italian population and could have people killed whenever he wanted. Italy, however, was not the only country to fall under Fascism. Germany adopted this form of government only it was called national socialism. It’s leader was Adolf Hitler and it called itself the Nazi party. The Nazi party differed slightly from Mussolini’s government in that the Nazi’s were more racist and believed that it was their destiny to make the world subject to the perfect German people. They were particularly hateful to the Jewish people, which was proven after they started to exterminate all of the Jews within central Europe after world war II started. These events did not directly cause world war II, but they brought us to the brink of war. People that listened to these dictators believed that these men could bring them to world domination.
The fourth cause of world war II was the goal’s of the German dictator, Hitler. He had a vision of the German people becoming a master race and dominating the entire world, but he also knew that he could not achieve all this during the war he intended to start. He, however, had two major goals which was to bring all of central Europe together and form a larger Germany and to create more room for Germany to grow by taking over Poland. His first move was to test the other European powers by inserting troops into Germany’s coal mining area next to France. This was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles and Hitler wanted to see how far he could push his adversaries before they would strike back. If Britain had not been so passive to Hitler they might have stopped this war before it ever started. They, however, allowed Hitler to do this because they did not want to start another war. Hitler then pushed the European powers further and further until he invaded Poland and Europe had no choice but to react.
The fifth cause of world war II was American and British isolationism. After world war I America turned away from Europe and went back to its domestic problems. The American people did not want anything to do with European affairs because many of the debts that were accrued during the war were not being paid and Americans were very bitter. Britain also turned to its domestic problems and did not want to interfere in Continental Europe’s problems. If one or both of these countries had attempted to stop Hitler when he first came into power he probably would have been thrown out of office and world war II might have been prevented.
The final cause of world war II was a direct result from all of the previous causes, and that is the rearmament of all the European powers. Tensions started to increase as Hitler tested the European powers and most if not all countries began to increase their armies and navies. This brought war closer because it meant that the government leaders were prepared to use force to resolve the problems that Hitler was causing, and it raised tensions even higher than they already were.
In conclusion, world war II was not an extension of world war I, but world war I was a big cause of world war II. Most of the causes of world war II came out of the Treaty of Versailles, and if that treaty had been better there might not have been world war II. Nevertheless, world war II happened and we can only learn from the mistakes we see from the past.
Filed Under: History, World War 2 (WW2)
World War II can be rightly called one of the most significant events in the history of humanity. It had a significant impact on the development of the entire world, and resulted in the revision of many socio-political doctrines, policies, and principles of international relations.
World War II had many consequences. The USSR lost over 24 million people, both military and civilians, and over 21 million people were left homeless and in poor conditions (Fussell 745). Great Britain and France had both collapsed as empires, and European boundaries had been literally redrawn. The United States of America claimed to lead the reconstruction efforts and started to conduct policy, directed to establishing itself as a new superpower. Thus, modern geopolitical balance of power in the world can also be considered as one of the direct consequences of World War II. Among many others, several consequences of this war are felt even today, such as the increase in baby boomers in the U.S., which has a continued effect on the economy; cold wars and war sensitivity, including the nuclear arms race today; and the establishment of the U.S. as a leading power in the world.
Between the years 1946 and 1964, a sudden and large increase in birthrate was detected in the U.S. The reason for such a dramatic growth in population is still a disputed subject among experts. At first, the U.S. welcomed this phenomenon by passing GI bills to improve education, skills and income. Now, the generation of baby boomers is already retiring, or fast approaching retirement age. Currently, the cost of Social Security is rising faster than the taxed income of the working population (Lavery 56). Due to this fact, nowadays, it has become questionable whether the American economy will be able to afford the future cost of Social Security, as the baby boomer generation continues to retire.
Another consequence of World War II is the continuing Cold War. One might say that it had ended several decades ago, but actually, it still goes on, though now it is not so intense (Lavery 76). Nation states spend billions of dollars to increase military power. Nuclear weapons today have become the weapons of choice. Diplomacy, combined with a demonstration of military power, is often used to pressure leaders who conduct policies which are different from those which the world’s superpowers consider desirable. Wars continue to influence domestic policies and define the full meaning of conflicts.
World War II hit the U.S. economy—the expenditure on military action approximated over 95 million dollars. After it ended, the United States established itself as a superpower and assumed the leading role in post-war reconstruction (Lavery 86). Today, the United States continues to play the role of global benefactor, whether or not their help is required, interfering in domestic policies of a number of states and nations. This results in many government leaders resenting U.S. policy and its superpower status.
After World War II, international conflicts have been perceived differently. A century ago, a war was mostly a local event, concerning only its direct participants (Fussell 87). Now, a war is a process which involves multiple sides, and has consequences which are often difficult to predict. Nuclear arms seem to be the weapon of choice, and nations often feel empowered by displaying their arms for the entire world to see. To promote peace and understanding among nations, a special organization, the United Nations, was established.
The world continues to feel the consequential tremors of World War II through financial and economic woes. Among the most obvious consequences of this war, one can point out an effect of the baby boomers generation on the economy of the U.S., cold wars, nuclear weapon races, and the establishment of the U.S. as a leading power in the world.
Fussell, Jeremy. The War Bible. New York: Penguin Publishers, 2009. Print.
Lavery, Vanessa. One Long Kill. Seattle: Rain City Press, 2011. Print.
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