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 unbridled nationalism that had inflamed Europe in the early 20th century was widely seen as a major cause of World War I. The horrendous 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 totally incapable 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 Kellogg-Briand Pact.
World War I was the most devastating conflict ever fought in Europe up and tell that time. It crippled an entire generations of Europeans. Many Europeans 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 horrified by the suffering and loss of life. People throughout Europe were determined to never fight another Great War. Ironically the aftermath of the War unleashed passions and dislocations that would lead to just such a cataclysm.
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 unbridled nationalism that had inflamed Europe in the early 20th century was widely seen as a major cause of World War I. The horrendous 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 totally incapable 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.
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 expenditures as a result of the naval arms race. Senator William E. Borah, Republican of Idaho, who had led the fight against American 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 Conference 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 a lengthy holiday on new building. The consequences of the Washington Treaties went far beyond this.
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 jointly 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 America 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 attacked France. Kellogg was not at all interested 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 appealed to the American public. Kellogg thus countered with a proposal for a multilateral treaty. Negotiations were held in Paris and an agreement 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 dissenting vote. The Senate added a reservation that the treaty could not infringe upon America's right of self defense and that the United States was under no obligation 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 defendants guilty of waging aggressive war.
The Washington Naval Conference was the world's first true disarmament treaty. It reflected the public mood. Many in part influenced by Socialist ideology believed that the War was caused and pronged 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 of 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 establish Germany as the dominant military power in Europe.
There has always been a strong pacifist thread in Socialism. This is understandable s it has been workers that had to fight the interminable 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 strengthened the pacifist thread among socialist 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 debate. In America the dominant attitude was a desire to disassociate 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.
Communist Parties competed for votes in the Western democracies, primarily 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. During the early 30s the Communists opposed defense spending. At the time Stalin considered the Western democracies possible military adversaries and thus did not want strong militaries in those countries. This changed with the rise of Hitler. Thus Communists supported the Popular Front against Fascism and 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 spending and promote disarmament and pacifism 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 juggernaut (1940).
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 reestablish democratic rule. Hitler needed to play a careful political and diplomatic game. His tactics were to divide and conquer. First he disposed of the Communists and then went after the Socialists while for a while tolerating the Catholics. Use of the police and opening of concentration camps soon silenced press opposition and brought the courts under NAZI control. All the while he courted the military with a secret rearmament program. To allow him time to gain mastery of Germany, he projected a new moderate image, signing treaties with Poland and Britain and assuring France that he had no designs on French territory.
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 and he did not want to precipitate foreign intervention before he was ready. The German military itself has already sponsored secret armaments 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 research. The German military expanded in secret during 1933-34. Hitler by March 1935, felt sufficiently 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 instituting a compulsory military conscription and planned to expand the Wehrmacht to 550,000 men. Actual armaments production began in earnest in 1936. The NAZIs in 1936 doubled armament spending over 1935 levels. It was in 1936 that NAZI arms spending first exceeded 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.
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 Hitler seized power in 1933, but the next few years was spent in suppressing domestic opposition and steadily excluding Jews from national life. The NAZIs re-militarized the Rhineland in 1936 and carried out the Anschluss with Austria in 1937. These actions could be seen as domestic German matters. he next target was Czechoslovakia which had been created by the Versailles Peace Treaty. Hitler in 1938 demanded the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia 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 populations. The Germans beginning 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 suppress 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 including poison gas, to attack a largely unarmed country. They were condemned by the League of Nations and then walked out of the organization. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1932 and established a puppet regime, Manchuko, under the figurehead last Chinese Emperor, Pu Yi. The Japanese invaded China itself in 1937. They 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 assistance 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 were commanded by Georgy Zhukov 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.
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