World War II: Collective Security and Disarmament


Figure 1.--There was a reaction in France and other countries to the Nationalist uprising in Spain led by Franco, especially among Socialists and other left-wing groups. These groups in the 1920s and 30s had opposed military spending and promoted pascifism. Notice the response to the Nationlists here--"Disarmament!". This popular attitude played into the hands of the Fascists. Click on the image here to see what was happening on the other side of the Rhine.

Several efforts followed World War I to ensure that there would never be another Great War. The major effort was The League of Nations that Wilson thought would guarantee collective security. The League of Nations was the first international organization established on the basis of collective security to preserve world peace. It was created by the Versailles Peace Treaty ending World War I. The unbrideled nationalism that had inflamed Europe in the early 20th century was widely seen as a major cause of World War I. The horendous losses in the War convinced many Europeans that there must never be another war. A League of Nations as proposed by President Wilson was seen as a way of preventing war in the future through a system of collective security. It proved totaly incapeable of dealing with the challenges to peace as a result of the rise of militarism in Asia and Communism and Fascism in Europe. A major problem was that the United States did not join. Other diplomatic efforts were notable, such as the Washington Naval Conference (1921-22) and the Kellog-Briand Pact.

World War I

World War I was the most devestating conflict ever fought in Europe up and tell that time. It cripled an entire generations of Europeans. Many uropeand had rushed to the colors in 1914 with a very romantic picture of war. That was no longer the case by the end of the War in 1918. Even the victors had been horified by the suffering and loss of life. People throughout Europe were determined to never fight another Great War. Ironically the aftermath of the War unleased pssions and dislocations that would lead to just such a cataclism.

League of Nations

Several efforts followed World War I to ensure that there would never be another Great War. The major effort was The League of Nations that Wilson thought would guarantee collective security. The League of Nations was the first international organization established on the basis of collective security to preserve world peace. It was created by the Versailles Peace Treaty ending World War I. The unbrideled nationalism that had inflamed Europe in the early 20th century was widely seen as a major cause of World War I. The horendous losses in the War convinced many Europeans that there must never be another war. A League of Nations was proposed by President Wilson was seen as a way of preventing war in the future through a system of collective security. It proved totaly incapeable of dealing with the challenges to peace as a result of the rise of militarism in Asia and Communism and Fascism in Europe. A major problem was that the United States did not join.

Washington Naval Conference (1921-22)

The major naval powers (America, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan) agreed to substantial limitations on their naval strength which at the time was measured in battleships. American Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes organized a conference to address the problem of spiraling naval expendidutres as a result of the naval arms race. Senator William E. Borah, Republican of Idaho, who had led the fight againstvAmerican ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and participation in the League of Nations, strongly advocated efforts to limit the arms race. His efforts were not at first favored by the new Harding administration, but was eventually adopted as the Republican alternative to the Democrat's (Wilson's) policy of collective security through the League of Nations. The Confrence opened on Armistice Day 1921--a very meaningful date so close to World War I. The American delegation was led by Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. Hughes shocked the other delegates by proposing a major reduction in naval fleets and not just limitations on new construction. This was far beyond what the other countries had anticipated. Some have called this one of the most dramatic moments in American diplomatic history. The American proposals entailed scrapping almost 2 million tons of warships as well as alengthy “holiday” on new building. The consequences of the Washington Treaties went far beyond this.

Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928)

The Kellogg-Briand Pact or the Pact of Paris where it was signed. The treaty renounced war "as an instrument of national policy." It was one of the best known efforts to prevent another Great War. Its idealism appealed to the temper of the times, but the treaty was one of the great failures of the inter-War era. It is name after American secretary of state, Frank B. Kellogg, and French Foreign minister Aristide Briand, who jountly drafted the pact. The pact was conceived in 1927 by Briand. His goal was a bilateral treaty with the United States. Because the United States had not joined the League, the United States was not involved in European security arrangements. Briand conceived of the danger to France of not having strong allies. The Russian Revolution meant that France no longer could look to Russia. Briand wanted a bilateral treaty with the United States. He knew that Ameica would never agree to a military alliance. So he conceived of a treaty outlawing war between the two countries. Of course war between the two countries was hardly likely, but Briand theorized that such a treaty might help secure American aid if another country attavked France. Kellogg was not at all interesed because the temper of the time was to avoid entangling alliances. Most Americans had come to think of participation in the War as a mistake. On the other hand, Briand's concept of outlawing war had appeled to the American public. Kellogg thus countered with a proposal for a multilateral treaty. Negotiations were held in Paris and an greement signed (August 27, 1928). Eleven countries (Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, India, the Irish Free State, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States) signed. (France and the United States did not immediately sign. Three more countries (Poland, Belgium, and Japan) quickly signed. The United States Senate overwhelmingly approved the treaty with only one discenting vote. The Senate added a reservation that the treaty coul not infringe upon America's right of self defense and that the United States was under no oblifatio to enforce the treaty against countries which violated it. Sixty-two nations eventually signed the pact. The Kellogg-Briand Pact like the Washington Naval Conference help to allay public fears about war and probably helped to reduce military spending in America and other countries. This is one of the reasons that the democracies were so poorly prepared when World War II erupted. The Pact did not prevent war. Only a few years after signing the Pact, Japan invaded Manchuria (1931). The Pact did, however, help establish the legal bases for making the use of military force unlawful. The Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II found several NAZI defendents guilty of wageing aggresive war.

Disarmament

The Washington Naval Conference was the world's first true disarmament treaty. It reflected the public mood. Many in part influenced by Socialist idelogy believed that the War was caused and prlonged by arms merchants. There were even Congressional investigations on this subject that helped popularize isolationist sentiment. While disarmament never occurred, this widely head view did affect military spending. The basic concept of collective security under the League of Nations was that the international community would have the force needed to deal with aggressor nations. Disarmament or reduced military spending, however, reduced the capability od the international community to deal with the Axis aggressors. It is one reason why a crash armament program launched by the NAZIs was able to quickly estanlish Germany as the dominant military power in Europe.

Pacifism

There has always been a strong pacifist thread in Socialism. This is understandable s it has been workers that had to fight the intermable European wars. Also conscription laws in European countries primarily affected workers and in the less developed Eastern European countries, peasants. The experience of World War I had strengthend the pacifist thread among socilist parties, some of which entered government or were very influential in important European countries, notably Britain and France. Pacifist feeling was also strong in Germany, but other political trends affected the national ebate. In America the dominant attitude was adesire to disaociate from Europe and another war there. This affected both defense budgets and military planning. The movement to disarm affected the capability of the Democracies to deal with the Axis. The pacifist movement impaired their will ti deal with the Axis. It affected morale and attitudes in conscript armies, notably the French Army.

Communism and Pacifisn

Communist Parties competed for votes in the Western denocracies, primarilty with the Socialist parties. The Communists were under the control of Moscow. As a result their policies on military and defense issues gyrated during the 1930s and early 40s. Dufring the early 30s the Communists opposed defense spending. At the time Stalin considered the Western democacies possible military advesaries and thus did not want strong militaries in thjose countries. This changed with the rise of Hitler. Thus Communists supportedthe Popular Front against Fascism abd supported military spending. Then Stalin with the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (1939) allied the Soviet Union with Germany. Communists parties were ordered to pull out of the Popular Front and oppose military spendingand promote disarmament and pacifisn again. This changed again when the NAZIs launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the Soviet Union (1941). Now the Communists promoted defense spending. It was of course too late for France which fell to the NAZI jugernaught (1940).

Early NAZI Diplomacy

At the time that Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in Germany, they were vulnerable. They had many domestic political opponents, a free press, and an independent judiciary. In addition, the German military was militarily weak. Thus the Allies could have intervened in Germany and reestanlished democratic rule. Hitler needed to play a careful political and diplomatic game. His tactics were to dividecand conquer. First he disposed of the Communits and then went after the Socisalists while for a while tolerating the Catholics. Use of the police and opening of concentratioin camps soon silenced press opposition and brought the courts under NAZI control. All thre while he courted the military with a secret rearmament program. To allow him time to gain mastery of Germany, he projected a new moderate kmage, signing treaties with Poland and Britain and assuring France that he had no designs on French territory.

NAZI Rearmament

Hitler and the NAZIs planned from the beginning for a massive rearmament program. NAZI propaganda promoted the idea that Germany must rearm. [Riegler] The NAZI objectives could in fact only be achieved by war. The NAZIs did not, however, begin a massive rearmament program immediately upon seizing power in 1933. Hitler's first objective was to secure control of Germany abd he did not want to preciptate foreign intervention before he was ready. The German military itself has already sponsored secret armanents programs during the Weimar era in violation of the Versailles Treaty. The NAZIs thus had a solid foundation upon which to base a revived military. The NAZIs sharply expand weapon reseearch. The German military expanded in secret during 1933-34. Hitler by March 1935, felt suffucently secure to publicize his military. The NAZIs announced that they expansion - which broke the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Europe learned that the Nazis had a modern 2,500 plane Luftwaffe and a Wehrmacht with 300,000 men. Hitler publicly announced that he was insituting a compulsory military conscription and planned to expand the Wehrmacht to 550,000 men. Actual araments production began in earnest in 1936. The NAZIs in 1936 doubled armamets spending over 1935 levels. It was in 1936 that NAZI arms spending first exceeeded the combined total for transportation and construction spending. The nature of arms spending also increased. NAZI arms spending initially focused on research, development, and capital investment. The NAZIs in 1936 began concentrating on producing actual military equipment. This is one of the least economically beneficial types of government spending.

Failure to Confront Aggressor Nations

All three Axis countries Axis countries (Germany, Italy, and Japan) were involved in military campaigns before World War II finally began with the German invasion of Poland in 1939. NAZI Germany renounced the Versailles Treaty as soon as Hiltler seized power in 1933, but the next few years was spent in supressing domestic oppositon and sreadily excluding Jews from national life. The NAZIs remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936 and carried out the Anchluss with Austria in 1937. These actioins coukld be seen as domestic German matters. he nexyt target was Czecheslovakia which had been created by thge Versailles Peace Treaty. Hitler in 1938 demanded the Sudetenland in Czecheslovakia which had a minority German population. The British and French gave in at talks held in Munich, but the NAZIs then seized the rest of the country in March 1939, areas without German poulations. The Germans beginningh in 1936 were also active in Spain helping Franco establish a Fascist regiment. The defenseless Basque village of Guernica was the first European city to be destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The Italians conducted a merciless campaign in Libya to supress rebels, including the use of poison gas. This was generally seen as an internal colonial matter. This changed in 1935 when the invaded Ethiopia, using modern weapons, again inclusing poison gas, to attack a largely unarmed country. They were condenmed by the League of Nations and then walked out of the organization. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1932 and established a puppet regim, Manchuko, under the figurehead last Chinese Emperor, Pu Yi. The Japanese invaded China itself in 1937. Theuy were also condemned by the League of Nations and withdrew. Japan drove deep into China, but was able to defeat the Chinese which received military assiastance from the Americans and British. The war with China was to tie down the bulk of the Japanese Army throughout World War II. A little known, but major engagement was fought with Soviets troops along the border. The Soviets wree commanded by Georgy Zukov and smashed the Japanese. This experience probably played a major role in convincing the Japanese to strike America rather than the Soviets in December 1941.

Sources

Riegler





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Created: 6:57 AM 4/24/2006
Last updated: 3:11 AM 4/28/2007