The world has witnessed drastic effects of two world wars, and every time there are tensions escalating between two nations it is alarming for other nations as it could lead to a third world war.
The Pacific Ocean has been the area of Japanese aggression in Second World War and counter attack by USA with its retaliation of Pearl Harbor using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This event led to the change in power balance with the decline of European powers and rise of two super powers USA vs USSR. It commenced a new war term which was ‘Cold War’. This becomes pertinent in order to know the past and the reasons for the Second World War, so not to make those mistakes in future.
The broad factors that led to second world war can be summarized as, the unjust Treaty of Versailles, that was harsh and humiliating for Germany. It created hatred and the Germans wanted to wipe out the humiliation. After Germany lost WWI, the winning nations drafted a treaty to address issues such as territorial adjustments, reparations, armament restrictions, war guilt and the League of Nations. The treaty punished Germany and left bitter feelings. Germany was forced to accept all the blame for the war and pay millions in reparations to Britain and France. Italy was disappointed that it was denied territory promised by Britain and France.
The next was an improper behavior of France, as it acted in a spirit of revenge and was harsh. Germany had taken away the Valley of Saar and the industrial zone of `Ruhr’ in 1923 from Germany. Followed with dissatisfaction of Italy, who had also suffered under the Treaty of Versailles, a dictatorship was established under Mussolini which had an aggressive policy of Conquest (annexed Abyssinia and Albania and defied the League of Nation).
Another major factor was the rise of the Nazis in Germany, as Germany became a dictatorship under Hitler, he rejected the Treaty of Versailles and imposed an imperialistic policy annexing Austria, Sudentenland and Czechoslovakia. He then formed the Rome-Berlin Axis.
In addition was the Japanese Policy of Aggression; after the First World War the Japanese followed the policy of expansion, attacked China in 1931 and annexed Manchuria. This led to another Japan-China war in 1937. Japan later joined the Rome-Berlin Axis and joined the Second World War in 1941.
The aloofness of USA as well became a cause for Second World War. After the First World War, USA kept aloof from European politics. They did not join in League of Nations. It helped France in ill-treating Germany. It also helped Mussolini and Hitler in their aggressive designs. Moving further, the world witnessed rise of nationalism. ‘Nationalism’ is the belief in the superiority of one’s own nation over all others. In the extreme, it can lead to major conflicts between nations. Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan’s Tojo, each touted their nation’s ability to dominate all others in the years leading up to WWII
Moreover, there were conflicts between imperialistic nations. France and England were supreme in colonies and they had deprived Germany of its colonies leaving it with no facilities for raw materials. Japan also wanted to acquire colonies. These nations came into conflict because of their imperialistic interests. Race for Armament also became another cause, as Italy and Germany had defied other nations and made preparations for war by arming themselves. Japan was also preparing for war. As a result, the democratic nations also started arming themselves. It paved way for the war.
The Great Depression of 1929 also pooled to be cause for Second World War. After WWI many European economies were unstable. The boom in the U.S. throughout the 1920s helped sustain worldwide trade. The 1929 stock market crash in the U.S. resulted in Great Depression being spread throughout the world. The U.S. restrictive tariff policies worsened the depression. As economies plummeted and unemployment rose, many people turned to powerful leaders and governments who promised success through military buildup and the conquest of territory.
The rise of Fascism and Nazism, dictatorship created conflict in world. League of Nations failed to maintain peace. It could not take any action against Italy, Germany and Japan for the annexed territories. As a result, all nations started preparing for war. Fascism is a totalitarian form of government which glorifies the tate; has one leader and one party; All aspects of society are controlled by the government; No opposition or protests are tolerated; Propaganda and censorship are widely practiced.
Another factor was the Anti-Communist ideology. Under communism, all means of production are controlled by the government, as are property, the media, and all other aspects of society. The 1930s saw the rise of many totalitarian regimes; but most people chose fascism over communism. Hitler exploited people’s fear of a communist takeover in Germany to rise to power in 1933. Next was the Policy of Appeasement, Appeasement is the act of giving in to an enemy’s demands in hopes of avoiding further conflict. In 1938, Hitler demanded that Czechoslovakia cede the Sudetenland to Germany. He claimed that the German population living there was being mistreated. The British and French prime ministers agreed to Hitler’s demands without consulting Czechoslovakian leaders, in the hopes that this would avoid a war in Europe.Formation of Power Blocs also aggregated the situation, as Italy-Germany and Japan formed a power bloc known as Rome-Berlin Tokyo Axis. England and France formed another bloc. Europe was divided into rival camps by 1939. Immediate cause was Germany’s attack on Poland on September 1, 1939. England declared war in Germany on September 3, 1939. The Second World War began and continued till 1945.
After assessing the factors that led to Second World War, it gives lessons to be careful in the future and resolve every issue on peaceful talks and negotiations. War gives nothing for future; they are the deadliest, dirtiest and horrifying event for the humans. Although this event made a possible change in the Pacific that led to rise of nationalism against colonial powers and many Pacific Island nations got independence. (Sakul Kundra)
Disclaimer: Dr. Sakul Kundra is Assistant Professor in History, College of humanities and Education, Fiji National University. The views expressed are his own and not of this newspaper or his employer. For comments or suggestions, email. email@example.com