In the days prior to World War Two, the First World War was referred to as “the War to end all Wars”. (Devine, 14) Despite this name, only twenty-odd years had passed before the nations of the world once again engaged in armed conflict. The treaty of Versailles and the conditions in Europe precipitated a second large-scale conflict in Europe. (Devine, 16) The conclusion of WWII ended the problems that derived from WWI by ending the Fascist dictatorships of Europe, ending European and Asian imperialism, and shifting military power out of Europe.
The Treaty of Versailles created tremendous pressure on Germany, Austria-Hungary, and other nations who bore the blame for the conflict. (Morgan, 18) The economic depression in these nations that resulted from their attempts to pay reparations led to a political climate ripe for the rise of Fascism. (Morgan, 27) The people of nations such as Italy, Germany and Spain were willing to embrace this hyper-nationalist form of government, giving up their freedoms in exchange for the promise of better economic conditions and a return of their respective nations to international prominence. Morgan, 30) The rise of hyper-nationalism in Fascist Germany and Italy was one of the precipitating causes of the Second World War in Europe. Hitler’s Germany began to militarize and “reclaim” areas of Europe that Hitler declared to be part of the rightful German empire. (Morgan, 108) These regions included all of Austria, and part of the nation of Czechoslovakia, referred to by Hitler as the Sudetenland (southland). When Germany invaded Poland to return the land to Germany, France and Britain declared war.
The results of WWII ended the reign of fascism in Europe. ( Morgan, 117) The personalities around whom the fascist governments were built, Hitler in Germany, and Mussolini in Italy, were killed in the war effort, and their philosophies discredited when the atrocities they committed became public knowledge. (Morgan, 197) Of the Fascists of Europe, only Francisco Franco of Spain, which had remained neutral in the war, survived. (Morgan, 201) After WWII, Germany was divided into a Soviet-controlled Eastern half, and a Republican western half.
Nationalist efforts were turned to reunification, rather than conquest. (Morgan, 203) The destruction of the German War machine was absolute, eliminating them as a future threat to stability in Europe. (Morgan, 205) Italy and Japan were similarly disarmed at the conclusion of WWII, making future threats to world stability from these powers unlikely in the extreme. (Morgan, 206) The end of WWII also marked the end of the naked Imperialism that characterized all the major European nations since WWI. Betts, 113) Britain, France, Germany, Japan and other nations granted independence, or protectorate status to their imperial holdings, making self-sovereignty the “new” goal of international foreign policy. (Betts, 127) Japan was forced to give up the Pacific Islands they had occupied, and withdraw their invasion of China. (Betts, 128) Germany similarly ceded their occupied territories and permitted free choice for the subsequent governments. Betts, 133) One of the world powers that emerged from WWII, the United States, embraced self-determination as the ideal for nations of the world, and began to fight against efforts to engage in imperialist activities on the parts of other nations. (Betts, 144) The conclusion of WWII marked a shift in the dynamic of world conflict. (Levering, 18) During WWI and WWII, dominance on the seas determined a large part of military control. After WWII, nations who had access to weapons of mass destruction became the powers of the World. Levering, 22) For the first time in modern history, the central conflict of the world was not between Britain and Germany or France, but between the United States and the Soviet Union. European powers became pawns in a worldwide power struggle between opposing ideologies. (Levering, 27) The United States used war reconstruction money as a lure to the nations of Europe to shun Communism in favor of republican government. (Levering, 34) After WWII, armed conflict was limited to third-party wars where one side or the other effectively acted as a proxy for one of the Superpowers. Levering, 46) This was managed to avoid direct conflict between the Superpowers, which could have led to destruction of the entire world through nuclear annihilation. (Levering, 55) As a result, dozens of minor conflicts and a handful of major wars were fought after WWII by indigenous people with military and economic support from the USSR and the United States. (Levering, 58) This scenario played out in countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba, Afghanistan, and many others. (Levering, 75)
It is clear that the effects of WWII resolved many of the issues that resulted from WWI. WWII ended European Fascism, eliminated European and Asian imperialism, and permanently shifted the balance of World Power away from Europe. The Treaty of Versailles produced conditions in Europe that made Fascism an attractive and popular option, which played a great role in precipitating WWII. As a result of the unresolved issues of WWI, WWII became the latest “war to end all wars”. It is hoped by the nations of the world that conflict on the scale of WWII never be repeated in the history of mankind.
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