World War II
The Second World War was arguably one of the most significant events in the 20th century. This because it resulted in the death of about 70 million people globally, introduced major leap in the technological realm, it led to the rise of civil right and modern woman rights movements in societies such as the United States. Historian and scholars have held the belief that aggressions by Germany in Europe were the major cause of the war. Britain and its allies were threatened by the expansionist and ethnocentric ideologies propounded by Hitler. The war became a platform for seeking global dominance and this explains the role of the United States and the Soviet Union. Despite massive deaths and destruction of property, the war was the best alternative to eliminate German expansionist and ethnocentric ideologies.
Germany was a major player in the Second World War. However, there were two essential factors, which undermined the ability of the country to acquire any form of success during the Second World War. One of these factors was the involvement of the United States as this boosted the arms producing capacity of Britain and its allies. Sheer Soviet power also led to the eventual defeat of Russia.[i]
The Second World War was arguably one of the most significant events in the 20th century. This because it resulted in eh deaths of about 70 million people globally, introduced major leap in the technological realm, it led to the rise of civil right and modern woman rights movements in societies such as the United States.[ii] The major combatants in the war were the Axis nations, which comprised of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and other smaller states allied to the Axis nations. Other parties to the conflict were the Allied nations which under the leadership of Britain. The Allied nations included all the commonwealth nations in Europe. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics were also parties to the conflict.[iii]
The main objective of this paper will be to conduct an in-depth analysis of the cases and the effects of the Second World War. This will be realized by focusing on the roles of different countries in the war and the positive and negative implications of the war with regard to the gainers and the losers of the war.
Despite massive loss of property and lives, the military effort to ensure the defeat of Germany Italy and Japan was benefited in enhancing lasting peace on the global platform.
Causes of the Second World War
Actions of Adolf Hitler
After the defeat and the destruction of Germany in the First World War, the country began a process of reconstruction. In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and he immediately began re-arming the country and improving on its military capability. Some of the armament initiatives by Hitler included the building of warships and the creation of a German air force.[iv] Furthermore, through his leadership, Hitler introduces compulsory military service for Germans. Countries within Europe such as Britain and France perceived Hitler’s decision to rebuild Germany as an initiative that would help in curbing the spread of Communism within the continent.[v]
The formation of the Rome –Axis Alliance between Germany and Italy, and the formation of the Anti-comitern pact between Germany and japan in 1936 were considered as signs of aggression and expansionism by Germany hence a threat to peace and stability in Europe.[vi] The expansionist ideology by Hitler, which sought to regain land that had been taken away from Germany, saw German troop march into Austria in 1939, later to Czechoslovakia to reclaim Sudetenland region and the invasion of Poland in 1939. Germany and France conducted the expansionist ideologies by Hitler despite agreements and threats of military action.[vii]
Policy of appeasement
In the 1930, Germany had been condemned for its actions in the First World War through the Treaty of Versailles. However, politicians in France and Britain perceived the terms of these treaty, which restricted the actions of Germany, as relatively unfair. This explained why the two countries considered the actions by Hitler as justifiable.[viii] When Germany, under Hitler, began a rearmament process, the actions were considered effective to ensure the protection of the country against perceived adversaries. After the signing of a treaty between France and Russia, Hitler considered the treaty as a threat to the peace and stability in Germany. The positioning of German troops in Rhineland was also considered as the right of Germany since it was part of the country.[ix]
The policy of Appeasement was adopted to give in to the demands of Hitler and prevent the possibility of another war. Through the Policy of Appeasement Germany was able to regain its lost land through negotiations and signaling of treaties.[x] However, the invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland meant that Germany was in a mission of gaining political and regional power over other European counties.[xi] The policy of appeasements was criticized because Hitler could not be trusted yet the policy provided him with the power to build a military and weapons. In addition, the policy was also criticized for exposing the weaknesses of other counties such as France and Britain and increasing the possibility that Germany would gain confidence in re-armament and attack against weaker states.[xii]
Failure of the League of Nations
The end of the First World War was characterized by the formation of the League of Nations which was aimed at ensuring world peace. According to the tenets of the League of Nations all disputes between nations were to be solved through negotiations. The failures of the League began during the depression era of late 1920 when countries such as Japan lost faith in their governments and turned to the military to provide economic solutions.[xiii] The League failed to defend China from Japan. In 1935 when Italy invaded Abyssinia, the League did not offer protection to Abyssinians, as member states were not ready for military aggressions. The failure of the league was further witnessed when member states gave Italy the permission to conquer two areas in the African country.[xiv]
From an overall perspective, the failure of the League of Nations was because not all countries became members to the organization. The idea of forming the League was from US president Woodrow Wilson. However, prior to the sign of the treaty, there was a change in government in the US and the new government failed to sign the US as a member state. Germany was excluded from the League due to its role in the First World War. Other countries such as Russia were excluded due to its communist ideology. There were also countries such as Japan, which joined but later withdrew to serve its own interests.[xv]
In addition, the organization was relatively powerless since it had no armies but relied on the soldiers from member states, which were reluctant in providing assistance when needed. The main element of power for the League was to ask counties to sop trade relations with an aggressive country. This technique failed because such counties could trade with non-member states. The depression of late 1920s also made it relatively difficult for member states to stop trading with aggressive countries to minimize the possibility of economic losses.[xvi]
Effects of the Second World War
Loss of life and destruction of property
The second World war like any other war was characterized by massive loss of life. Prior to the war, there was an invasion of China by Japan in 1937, which led to loss of millions of live. The aggression and the conflicts between the two nations continued due to failure by the League of Nations to provide the necessary assistance. The conflicts continued into the Second World War, which began in 1939 and ended in 1945 with the defeat of Germany, Japan, Italy, and their allies. Loss of human life in the war was caused by unspeakable atrocities such as the Genocide of about 6 million European Jews by Hitler during the holocaust.[xvii] The genocide was considered as an ethnic cleansing initiatives aimed at asserting the dominance of the Germans in the world. Other than the sporadic bombings orchestrated by different parties to the war, the use of terror laden weapons of war such as the Atomic bomb dropped by the United States in Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the death of millions of Japanese’s civilian and military.[xviii] The estimate for the total death toll attributed to the war for both civilian and military population was about 70 million with civilian loses accounting for about 50% of the deaths.[xix] The massive loss of human life can be attributed to an increase in the number of countries participating in the war and the nature of technological apparatus used in addressing in perfuming military activities during the war.
The Second World War also resulted in massive destruction and loss of property. This explains why there was a mass movement of millions of Germans, Italians, and Japanese into the neighboring countries during the war. However, at the end of the Second World War, German refugees in the liberated countries were expelled and some of them suffered diseases and died in displaced-persons camps.[xx] There was material destruction of areas considered as battlegrounds or military targets. The destruction of cities in Germany, Russia, Japan, and Italy left millions of civilians homeless. Damage of essential transport and communication infrastructure such as railways, bridges, roads, and industrial plants was also a main source of the economic dislocation in different countries. This resulted in massive financial losses for the countries involved.[xxi]
The involvement of countries such as the US in the Second World War meant that the country was to spend additional financial resources that could be acquired through high taxation and debts. By the end of the war, the gross debt of the United States was about 120% of its Gross domestic Product. There was also a 20% increase in its taxation.[xxii] The government acquired the control of raw resources and material to enable taxation that could provide enough financial resources for the war. Britain also experienced different economic implication s considering that through the war there was destruction of factories and machines, which were considered essential for economic development hence a 12% reduction of the country’s level of economic productivity.[xxiii]
Other than the destruction of property in most of the cities in Germany, the war also resulted in massive loss of human life and displacement of millions of German nationals. The effect of this destruction and loss was insufficient supply of labor to contribute to the economic development of the country. During the war, Germany needed more men to help in the reconstruction of the cities and in replenishing war materials. However, the country was overwhelmed by the war and this led to a reduction in in the population of Germans.[xxiv]
By 1944, the extent of destruction was an indication that many economies in Europe could face the challenge of rebuilding. This meant that it was the responsbility of the US and her allies to consider the formation of institutions that could help in the reconstruction of these economies.[xxv] The Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, which led to the formation of the Bretton Woods system, was meant to a new international monetary system. The system was also envisioned to establish some level of coordination on the global platform. This was cauterized by the institutionalization of the American dollars the global currency.[xxvi] The Bretton Woods System also established the International Monetary Fund and the World Banks whose roles were to finance and monitor the development of economies after the devastating effects of the Second World War.[xxvii]
Until 1941, countries such as the United States were considered as neutral to the war. This was until the attack on the US naval fleet by Japan. After the war, the US emerged as one of the victors and its desire to establish its authority on the global platform was through the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, which provided financial assistance to the economies in Purpose and Asia that were destroyed by the events that characterized the Second World War.[xxviii] At the end of the war parties decided to form the United Nations, which was an international body that would facilitate the process of solving disputes and minimize the possibility of another war on the international platform. An additional political effect was the beginning of the Cold War between US and the Soviet Union.[xxix]
The Second World War was a result of the expansionist, ethnocentric and aggressive ideologies propounded by Germany during the reign of Adolf Hitler. Despite constant warning by other European countries, Germany continued with its expansionist ideologies until 1939 when an invasion into Poland sparked the Second World War. The war involved Germany and its allies, Britain and its allies, the Soviet Union and the United States of America. One of the essential features of this war is that unlike the First World War it was characterized by massive loss and destruction of property.
In terms of the economic effects, the war was characterized by the destruction of essential infrastructure, withdrawal of citizens from industrial production into war especially in Germany and the destruction of factories and machines. These had negative effects on the wellbeing of the economies of the parties to the conflict hence the need for the Breton Woods System., the IMF, World Bank, the Marshall Plan, and the Truman Doctrine whose main objective was the reconstruction of economies destroyed by the Second World War. Politically, the war led to the formation of a Neutral International body, the United Nations that was charged with the responsbility of marinating global peace and minimizing the possibility of another war.
The aggressive and expansionist ideologies of Germany were a threat to the sovereignty of different nations in Europe and a threat to global peace. This explains why the military efforts to ensure the defeat of Germany Italy and Japan were beneficial in enhancing lasting peace on the global platform.
Corrigan, Gordon. The Second World War. New York: Atlantic Books Ltd, 2010. Internet resource
[ii] Taylor, Antony. The Origin of the Second World War. 1967
[iii] Goodwin, Doris. “The Way We Won: America’s Economic Breakthrough During World War II.” Prospect. The American Prospect, 19 Dec. 2001.
[iv] Corrigan, Gordon. The Second World War. New York: Atlantic Books Ltd, 2010. Internet
[v] Goodwin, Doris. “The Way We Won: America’s Economic Breakthrough During World War II.” Prospect. The American Prospect, 19 Dec. 2001. Web. 30 Oct. 2012
[vi] Cohen, Martin. The Eclipse of ‘elegant Economy’: The Impact of the Second World War on Attitudes to Personal Finance in Britain. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Pub, 2012. Internet resource
[vii] Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm? New York, NY: RosettaBooks LLC, 2002.
[viii] Cohen, Martin. The Eclipse of ‘elegant Economy’: The Impact of the Second World War on Attitudes to Personal Finance in Britain. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Pub, 2012. Internet resource
[ix] Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm? New York, NY: RosettaBooks LLC, 2002.
[x] Corrigan, Gordon. The Second World War. New York: Atlantic Books Ltd, 2010. Internet resource
[xi] Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm? New York, NY: RosettaBooks LLC, 2002.
[xii] Richman, Sheldon. “The Consequences of World War II.” The Consequences of World War II. The Future of Freedom Foundation, Nov. 1991
[xiii] Kryder, Daniel. Divided Arsenal: Race and the American State During World War II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Print
[xiv] Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm? New York, NY: RosettaBooks LLC, 2002.
[xv] Ross, Stewart. Causes and Consequences of the Second World War. London: Evans, 2003
[xvi] Mandel, Ernest. The Meaning of teh Second World War. The Imprint of New Left Book: Verso, 1986
[xvii] Ross, Stewart. Causes and Consequences of the Second World War. London: Evans, 2003
[xviii] Lewis, Robert. “World War II Manufacturing and the Postwar Southern Economy.” Journal of Southern History 4th ser. 73, 2007.
[xix] Petrone, Karen. The Great War in Russian Memory. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011
[xx] Mandel, Ernest. The Meaning of teh Second World War. The Imprint of New Left Book: Verso, 1986
[xxi] Petrone, Karen. The Great War in Russian Memory. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011
[xxii] Ross, Stewart. Causes and Consequences of the Second World War. London: Evans, 2003
[xxiii] Hinsley, F H, and Richard Langhorne. Diplomacy and Intelligence During the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.h. Hinsley. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003
[xxiv] Hinsley, F H, and Richard Langhorne. Diplomacy and Intelligence During the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.h. Hinsley. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003
[xxv] Ross, Stewart. Causes and Consequences of the Second World War. London: Evans, 2003
[xxvi] Grazia, Victoria De. “U.S. Public Diplomacy After World War II by Victoria De Grazia – The Globalist.” The Globalist. Globalist, 14 Sept. 2005.
[xxvii] Lewis, Robert. “World War II Manufacturing and the Postwar Southern Economy.” Journal of Southern History 4th ser. 73, 2007.
[xxviii] Truman, Harry S. “Recommendation for Assistance to Greece and Turkey.” Letter to Congress. 12 Mar. 1947. House of Representatives. Vol. 1. N.p.: National Archives, n.d. 1+. Ser. 171. Our Documents. Our Documents.
[xxix] Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm? New York, NY: RosettaBooks LLC, 2002.