World war 2, Reasons of World War 2, Division Of World In Ideological Camps, Japanese Aspirations in world war 2
WORLD WAR – II
The Second World War was a ‘total’ war, unprecedented in its destruction of military and non-military assets and people, and truly world- wide in its scope. Its outbreak in Europe in September 1939 was preceded in August 1937 by the Sino-Japanese War and succeeded in December 1941 by the entry of the US against both Japan and Germany.
The peace treaties of 1919, coupled with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and a fundamentally weak League of Nations, did not resolve the basic problems of security of Europe. Deep seated ambitions, fears, insecurities, and mistrust there were bound to clash politically and militarily in the absence of habits, institutions, and mechanisms to facilitate the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Nazi Germany in general and Adolf Hitler in particular was primarily responsible for the war and deliberately prepared for it, whether or not he intended the exact timing of its outbreak or expected its ultimate scope. Britain and France were equally responsible for the war because their leaders had appeased Hitler’s ambitious demands instead of checking them, had neglected to build an anti-fascist alliance, and had encouraged an eastward expansion of Germany so as to draw the Soviet Union into war.
Germany was penalized by the 1919 peace treaties but not destroyed; it remained potentially the strongest power in Europe. Germany harboured many grievances that some people in Britain and the US considered legitimate and was the leading proponent of ‘revisionism’ even while it strove in the 1920s toward acceptability in world councils and democracy at home under the Weimar Constitution. That constitution could not withstand the strain of coping with economic depression The Nazi Party had eliminated all opposition, especially of the Communists and the Socialists. Hitler led a ‘resurgence’ of Germany on an explicit ideology of ‘Aryan’ racial purity, virtue and superiority, reunification by ‘self- determination’ of the German race, lebensraum or ‘living space’ for them, and cancellation of the 1919 peace treaties.
The US was at fault for not participating in the League, for being isolationist and ambivalent about Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, and then for encouraging Britain, France and Poland to resist without clearly warning Hitler. Poland was at fault for not forming a common front with the Soviet Union and then for not submitting ‘peacefully’ to German demands. Mussolini was blamed for support and encouragement of Hitler, before joining the Western allies in 1943.
The Soviet Union was responsible for propagating the idea of an ‘inevitable’ conflict between communism and capitalism / fascism, but most of all for entering into a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August 1939 and so giving it a ‘green light’ for attack on Poland while simultaneously annexing several territories itself. This temporary alliance was reversed when Hitler ordered an invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 and his armies advanced towards Moscow and other cities before being halted at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43.
In East Asia and the Pacific militarist Japan took on an aggressive role with all its neighbors to build on Economic Co-Prosperity Zone, antagonizing the US, another Pacific Ocean power that tried to deny Japan access to oil and other raw materials. When Japan destroyed part of the US fleet anchored at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii on 6 December 1941, and Hitler declared war on the US on 11 December 1941, the US entered a new global war against both Japan and Germany, which ended only with their ‘unconditional surrender’ in 1945.
Reasons of World War 2
The treaties (of Versailles, Riga, Lausanne, Locarno, etc.) simply, redrew the map of Europe. Four great empires, the Russian Romanov, the Hohenzollern, the Habsburg, and the Ottoman faced defeat and collapsed. Germany became a republic, suffering from the stigma of defeat and burdened by allied reparations. The victorious western democracies gained territories. France, for instance, gained Alsace-Lorraine which was with Germany since 1871. Discontent over the severity of the Allied peace terms and squabbles over the newly drawn frontiers contained seeds of future conflicts.
The idea of a world organization for maintaining peace in the globe was proposed by Woodrow Wilson, the American President. But it did not generate much hype as the treaty of Versailles, the cornerstone of this organization- the League of Nations-was not ratified even by America. Moreover, the defeated powers were also not invited to become members. Germany was allowed to join the League only in 1926. League sponsored Disarmament Conference in Geneva (1932-34) failed to reach any agreement. Cracks began to appear in global peace in the early 1930s. The League lacked the executive powers to impose peaceful solutions. Japanese Militarism, Italian Fascism and German Nazism became increasingly strident in their demands.
In 1931, Japanese forces seized Manchuria, a region of China rich in natural resources, and made in a puppet state called Manchukuo. Italian forces invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and conquered it by May 1936. In Germany, Hitler started a program of military build-up-in violation of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. In March 1936, he notified to the western powers the existence of a German Air Force (Luftwaffe). In the same year, Germany and Italy formed an alliance, called the Rome-Berlin Axis, which was joined in 1940 by Japan.
Germany abrogated the disarmament clauses of the Treaty in December 1933 and proceeded to build an army, air force and navy machine oriented to the future that virtually overran Europe in 1940-41. Germany recovered the Saar region by plebiscite in January 1935, overturned the free city status of Danzig between 1934 and 1936, and remilitarized the Rhineland in March 1936.
Months of negotiations and increasing tension culminated in a four power conference of Britain, France, Germany and Italy in Munich on 29 September 1938 renouncing war and permitting German military occupation of most of Czechoslovakia.
In March 1938, German army moved into Austria to achieve union (Anschluss) with Germany. In 1938, Hitler sought the control of Sudetanland, a region of Western Czechoslovakia dominated by German speaking people. Britain wished to preserve peace at all costs, by meeting Hitler’s demands and following a policy of appeasement.
In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Premier Daladier agreed to turn over the Sudeten-land to Germany and forced Czechoslovakia to accept the agreement (which became known as the Munich Agreement). The failure of appeasement soon became clear. Hitler violated the Munich Agreement in March 1939 and seized the rest of Czechoslovakia. Similar treatment was meted out to Poland later on.
In Spain in 1936, a ‘popular front’ of republicans, socialists, anarchists and syndicates assumed power. The army leaders and right-wing parties, socialists, anarchists and syndicates assumed power. The army leaders and right-wing parties feared the program of this front and rebelled under General Franco. The situation thus became ripe for other world military powers to show their powers. The divisions were quite apparent. The Fascist and Nazi regimes provided military support to General Franco while the Soviet Union helped the Republicans. The Republican forces also received “volunteers” from many countries though liberal democracies desisted from a direct national participation at this time.
Division Of World In Ideological Camps
In the Second World War, division of the world into two armed camps followed more or less same pattern as for the First World War. Only a few states such as Italy, Japan, Turkey, and Romania switched their sides Germany, Italy and Japan (Known as the Axis Powers) were joined by Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Finland and Thailand. The Allied armed camp mainly consisted of Britain, France, Soviet Union, Belgium, Denmark, Turkey and the United States. But more important was the ideological camp formations.
After the World War 1, liberal democracies re-established their control over the Central European Empires, helped by reformist, compromising socialist leaders in many cases. However, using ultra-nationalist slogans, induced by economic problems, Fascist and right-wing dictatorships soon gave a stimulus to establish a powerful right-wing armed front in countries like Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Spain and Japan. These dictatorships arose especially in countries that lacked traditions of democratic institutions. The central doctrine of these variegated dictatorships was the supremacy of state as opposed to the liberal democratic ideal.
Benito Mussolini established a Fascist regime in Italy in October 1921 when dissatisfaction with parliamentary democracy was high, and the peace settlement was unpopular for having brought only limited gains. Italy’s territorial ambitions in southeastern Europe were opposed by France, an uncompromising upholder of the Treaty settlement, and Italy’s bit to augment its north African colonies by occupying Ethiopia in 1935 antagonized Britain as well as created a crisis in the League of Nations, which was unwilling to enforce meaningful sanctions against Italy under Article 16. Mussolini had come to admire the more efficient Adolf Hitler and signed a pact with him to create a ‘Berlin-Rome Axis’ in 1936. Their fist collaboration was to assist militarily General Francisco Franco in overthrowing a newly formed and fragile Republic in Spain governed by a left-oriented coalition called the Popular Front.
The spectrum of politics had created three major hands in the 19th century-left, centre (liberal democratic) and right (counter- revolutionary). The War put the squeeze on ideological space (hegemonic space) available within a state. It tended to homogenize citizens, within territorially organized states, at least in their attitudes towards war and national defence and in demonizing enemy states. The left spectrum of this divide was mainly inspired by socialist ideology. Similarly liberal democratic parties represented the centrist politics of promoting industrial capitalism in their respective countries.
Britain, France, America, the main allies in both wars, had well-established liberal democratic traditions. Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, Hungary lacked such democratic traditions. Although Japan and Italy helped the Allies in the First World War, both left them during inter- war period itself and with their dictatorial, authoritarian regimes found their natural allies (the Central Powers) during World War II.
The Russian autocracy under the Romanovs supported western democracies owing to economic compulsions as 25% of investments from abroad came from France (1914) and Russian banking, railway development and the Southern Russian Industrial Complex all depended on French capital.
During World War II, ideological compulsions again compelled Communist Soviet Union to ally itself with western liberal democracies against the danger of extreme right-wing dictatorships despite inter-war recriminations. The Ottoman Empire supported the Central Powers during World War I; however, a democratically reformed Turkey joined the Allies in the Second World War.
German Constitution of 1871 entrusted formal sovereignty to a Federal Council (Bundesrat) whose members were nominated by the executives of member-states. It also established a Reichstag or Parliament of 400 deputies elected by a direct, secret, adult male suffrage. However, there was complete lack of parliamentary responsibility in this system as the Imperial Chancellor, appointed by the emperor, and enjoying enormous powers, was not accountable to the Reichstag. The German empire, therefore, emerged as a hybrid of Prussian military hegemony and imperial federation, combining modern franchise with ancient monarchical authority. The Emperor retained control over the three pillars of absolutism in the dominant Prussian state, the army, the bureaucracy and the foreign affairs. Similarly, the Habsburg monarchy of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were also dominated by medieval social institutions and military methods.
During the Second World War, liberal democracies of Britain, France and USA, etc. and Communist Soviet Union allied together to wipe out right-wing dictatorships. The outcome in 1945 left the two contending armed camps (Western democratic camp and Communist camp), antithetical to each other, reviling each other, but both with the same end in view, that of, global domination.
Japan’s modernization drive since the late 19th century led it to graft what it considered the best of America, Britain, and Germany on to its own homogenous and disciplined society, to alliance with Britain in 1902, a victory against Russia in 1904, the annexation of Korea in 1910, and a self-image of being the leader of Asia. Though it received the Shantung province of China (formerly controlled by Germany) in 1919, Japan’s other ’21 demands’ were not met at Versailles.
Japanese officials felt that they did not receive equal treatment in the Naval Disarmament Conferences of 1922 and 1927, or in the Council of the League of Nations. Japan’s assertiveness was externally expressed in expanding its commercial and industrial reach into Western markets, the Manchurian province of northern China, through Southeast Asia, and to the western Pacific basin where it rivaled the US. Internally, Japan’s civilian and parliamentary government came under increasing strain, especially as economic depression deepened, and soon passed under the control of a militaristic clique of army and naval officers. Japan announced its withdrawal from the League in 1933 and joined an Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany and Italy in November 1937.
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