Sunday, August 21, 2005

How did America avoid the cruel chain of history whereby civil war leads to more bloodshed, more civil strife, more war, as has happened to so many co

The World After World War IThree major powers had been dissatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Germany, the principal defeated nation, bitterly resented the territorial losses and reparations payments imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. Italy, one of the victors, found its territorial gains far from enough either to offset the cost of the war or to satisfy its ambitions. Japan, also a victor, was unhappy about its failure to gain control of China.
Causes of the WarFrance, Great Britain, and the U.S. had attained their wartime objectives. They had reduced Germany to a military cipher and had reorganized Europe and the world as they saw fit. The French and the British frequently disagreed on policy in the postwar period, however, and were unsure of their ability to defend the peace settlement. The U.S., disillusioned by the Europeans’ failure to repay their war debts, retreated into isolationism. The Failure of Peace EffortsDuring the 1920s, attempts were made to achieve a stable peace. The first was the establishment (1920) of the League of Nations as a forum in which nations could settle their disputes. The league’s powers were limited to persuasion and various levels of moral and economic sanctions that the members were free to carry out as they saw fit. At the WASHINGTON CONFERENCE, (q.v.) of 1921–22, the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. The Locarno Conference (1925) produced a treaty guarantee of the German-French boundary and an arbitration agreement between Germany and Poland.
In the Paris Peace Pact (1928), 63 countries, including all the great powers except the USSR, renounced war as an instrument of national policy and pledged to resolve all disputes among them "by pacific means." The signatories had agreed beforehand to exempt wars of "self-defense." The Rise of FascismOne of the victors’ stated aims in World War I had been "to make the world safe for democracy," and postwar Germany adopted a democratic constitution, as did most of the other states restored or created after the war. In the 1920s, however, the wave of the future appeared to be a form of nationalistic, militaristic totalitarianism known by its Italian name, fascism. It promised to minister to peoples’ wants more effectively than democracy and presented itself as the one sure defense against communism. Benito Mussolini established the first Fascist dictatorship in Italy in 1922. Formation of the Axis CoalitionAdolf Hitler, the Führer ("leader") of the German National Socialist (Nazi) party, preached a racist brand of fascism. Hitler promised to overturn the Versailles Treaty and secure additional Lebensraum ("living space") for the German people, who he contended deserved more as members of a superior race. In the early 1930s, the depression hit Germany. The moderate parties could not agree on what to do about it, and large numbers of voters turned to the Nazis and Communists. In 1933 Hitler became the German chancellor, and in a series of subsequent moves established himself as dictator. Japan did not formally adopt fascism, but the armed forces’ powerful position in the government enabled them to impose a similar type of totalitarianism. As dismantlers of the world status quo, the Japanese military were well ahead of Hitler. They used a minor clash with Chinese troops near Mukden in 1931 as a pretext for taking over all of Manchuria, where they proclaimed the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. In 1937–38 they occupied the main Chinese ports. Having denounced the disarmament clauses of the Versailles Treaty, created a new air force, and reintroduced conscription, Hitler tried out his new weapons on the side of right-wing military rebels in the Spanish civil war (1936–39). The venture brought him into collaboration with Mussolini, who was also supporting the Spanish revolt after having seized (1935–36) Ethiopia in a small war. Treaties between Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1936–37 brought into being the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. The Axis thereafter became the collective term for those countries and their allies. German Aggression in Europe Hitler launched his own expansionist drive with the annexation of Austria in March 1938. The way was clear: Mussolini supported him; and the British and French, overawed by German rearmament, accepted Hitler’s claim that the status of Austria was an internal German affair. The U.S. had impaired its ability to act against aggression by passing a neutrality law that prohibited material assistance to all parties in foreign conflicts. In September 1938 Hitler threatened war to annex the western border area of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland and its 3.5 million ethnic Germans. The British prime minister Neville Chamberlain initiated talks that culminated at the end of the month in the Munich Pact, by which the Czechs, on British and French urging, relinquished the Sudetenland in return for Hitler’s promise not to take any more Czech territory. Chamberlain believed he had achieved "peace for our time," but the word Munich soon implied abject and futile appeasement. Less than six months later, in March 1939, Hitler seized the remainder of Czechoslovakia. Alarmed by this new aggression and by Hitler’s threats against Poland, the British government pledged to aid that country if Germany threatened its independence. France already had a mutual defense treaty with Poland. The turn away from appeasement brought the Soviet Union to the fore. Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, had offered military help to Czechoslovakia during the 1938 crisis, but had been ignored by all the parties to the Munich Agreement. Now that war threatened, he was courted by both sides, but Hitler made the more attractive offer. Allied with Britain and France, the Soviet Union might well have had to fight, but all Germany asked for was its neutrality. In Moscow, on the night of Aug. 23, 1939, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed. In the part published the next day, Germany and the Soviet Union agreed not to go to war against each other. A secret protocol gave Stalin a free hand in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, eastern Poland, and eastern Romania.


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