The Origins of War
There are many ways in starting any war. As we have seen in the past there are good examples where we could say and analyze these causes and link many of the facts or factors that lead to war. It’s not easy to find what or who was the main ingredient that caused the war because we can always find out that it’s more of a collective responsibility rather than only one thing/ person. In this project the wars that will be analyzed are: – The ‘Great War’ – World War Two – Spanish civil war There are many motives that were similar in each of the wars, where the people didn’t learn from the mistakes of the ‘Great War’.
If we could list all the possible origins of any kind of war, then we would create a utopian world, where wars would not exist. There are many ways to prevent wars and that’s by putting together these three wars and actually visualizing all of the common or links that can be found in each war. There are several equalities, but the one that can never be predetermined is the nature of the human being and the way it may act. On the other hand we can bring out other political and alliances factors that can be considered and improved for the prevention of them happening again.
It’s very easy, for the victor’s countries, to blame completely the country that lost the war because it would be immoral that only one country started a war, just like A. J. P Taylor did in his book ‘The origins of the Second World War’, he took out some of Hitler’s blame and broadened between the other countries involved in the Second World War. ‘Hence any guilt left over after Hitler had been condemned could be passed on the French for failing to expel him from the Rhineland in 1936 or on to Chamberlain for flinching in September 1938.
For this explanation there could be a great debate that would clash the views because ‘it seems unlikely that historians a hundred years hence will look at these events exactly as men did in 1939… ‘. Here we can see that what Taylor wants to mention is the fact that the people are too narrow minded and that they will always blame the ‘bad’ guys such as Hitler. To some extent this statement is true because if we would go and ask people what/ who was the main factor of starting the Second World War, about 90% of the people would turn their eyes directly to Hitler without any hesitation.
It’s true that Hitler was wicked and vicious individual and that saw a war as a perfect test or trail for ‘the survival of the fittest’ (Darwinism) and clean Europe of the defects with ‘his’ Aryan Race surviving and winning the war. On the other hand blaming him as the whole cause would be as imprudent as saying that the Great War was only caused by the death of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand or by saying that the Spanish Civil War’s origin was only by the influence of Italian fascism and German Nazism.
This examples mentioned are only some influences and factors of the wars, but they don’t completely sum up as the only thing. In the past we can see and learn from most of our errors as historians have tried to analyze the causes of wars, to prevent them from happening again, although each time it’s much more difficult for the historians after the situation that the World is in. The goal of this project is mainly to link the common factors of all of the wars, mentioned, above to get to a conclusion where we can say which are the true links that, right now we are having as a hypothesis.
At the end in the final conclusion there will be a combination of reasons that can be prevention of wars as well as what are the actual problems and threat of having a World War Three. Alliances in the past arguably have been as much responsible for the outbreak of wars as they have been useful in preventing them. These alliances were mainly of fear of staying in isolation or because they felt that countries were willingly prepared to be hostile with the country. So we can say that these alliances, which started as defensive ones, created an aggressive atmosphere between the different and enemy countries.
They were competitions to see which country would have the greatest support and also to see which country would back out and respect the other one, in the case of the Spanish civil war, it was mainly the fact that which political band (The left or the right) had more support inside Spain and also out in the rest of Europe. As we have seen that both in the Great War and in the Second World War, the alliance system was nearly the same ones, with the two groups that were headed by the same countries that had started the Great War.
We could argue that there would be something strange because if the alliance were formed to end or prevent wars, why was there a similar situation at the end of 1939? To understand this we first have to see the alliance system before the Great War and compare it with the one before 1939. In 1872 the alliance’s started with the Dreikaiserbund (League of the three Emperors), ‘It’s objective,’ A. J. P. Taylor wrote, ‘in so far as it had one, was to prevent a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Eastern question. At the same time the Germans prevented them in allying with the French. This aliasing could be compared with the Nazi-Soviet Pact (1939) that at the same time it meant an agreement of non-aggression, but in both cases Russia and Germany finished disputing against themselves in the war. This was due to the next pacts in both cases, in 1879 the Dual alliance between Austria-Hungary with Germany and alternatively the Anti-Comintern pact (1936) between Japan and Germany. In both cases the objective of this pacts was mainly to frighten and be intimidating against any Russian move.
Although the pact in 1936 didn’t consist with the Austrians, this mainly because Austria soon would be part of Germany with the 1938 Anschluss, Hitler knew this already. For the opposition countries we had the French and British that stood in isolation and allied in the same way on the both wars and the reason also was the same, which was the fear that they had with the aggressive movements that the Germans were making and also the inconvenient (for the French and British) treaties they were making, they feared, in both cases, having to fight a war against Russia and Germany at the same time.
That’s why they tried to ally with the Russians, first with the Franco-Russian alliance (1894) and in 1939 the Anglo-Soviet negotiations. Although the bonds weren’t that strong on both cases, we could see how desperate they were in having Russia on their side. These treaties and connections started to get each time more serious as the countries started to separate on two sides and each time they were getting prepared for a mayor conflict, like a war, they speculated too much between them and mistrusted the other countries that didn’t form part of their sphere of alliance system.
Firstly there was a separation in The Great War were the Triple Alliance was signed (1891) between Germany, Austria and Italy and there was the Triple Entente (1904) formed by France, Russia and Britain. Similarly on the Second World War there was a separation on the Axis formed by Germany (Austria was already part of Germany), Italy (after the Rome-Berlin Axis in 1936) and Japan, the Allied forces were France, Great Britain (consider it’s colonies) and Russia (1941).
On both cases we can see that the alliance system wasn’t working because it made the countries separate in two just because they feared themselves and didn’t want to stand in isolation, but, on both cases, the alliances didn’t work in order to prevent conflicts from happening instead it encouraged them to some extent so they got prepared and wanted strong allies. There was great rivalry between some countries, especially Britain with Germany, and there was great fear from the French against the Germans, they had despised them and had always felt mischievous against them.
In order to compare the Spanish Civil War, it would have to be separate because first we have to see the mood that there was in the other European countries to understand what happened and why was there many political moves from outer places like France and Germany, just to name a few. There had been conflicts in the Republican government and the right wing parities allied to finish with the Republican government, which at the same time had made it’s allies with other left parities because they saw it coming.
On the hand of Franco and his Nationalists there was the Carlist, the CEDA (catholic church), the Falange and the Monarchists, there was also support of the Germans and Italians that were pro-Nationalist. Then we had defending the Republican government the Republicans, the Anarcho-Syndicalists, the Basques, the Catalans, the Communists, the Marxists and the Socialists, they also had some support from the French and the Russians that were pro-Republican.
So we have seen how these separations between two sides also happened on the Spanish Civil War and made the opponents act in a rather aggressive way creating a very bloody war. There other elements present in this war that can be considered as very important and it was the intervention of the Germans and Italians on one side and the French and Russians on the other.
The Spanish Civil War is also considered as a cause of the Second World War because since then we can see that, on one side, the Germans and Italians wanted to exterminate the left wing countries (USSR good example) and also countries that helped them (France another example). Then we had the French and Russians that were fighting against the diktat and against countries that were so called ‘fascist’. Before the Great War there were also some similar problems that challenged some clashes between countries opposed, for example in the Balkans there was some kind of a military situation between Austria and the Russians.
Finally, to conclude the part of the alliance system we can finish proving that what was stated at the first paragraph of these section is completely true because the alliance system instead of being for the prevention of wars it was much more a contribution and we have seen this in all of the three wars studied and that there were many similar cases between them specially between The Great War and the Second World War. After taking a good look at the alliance systems we can see now how the political factors also contributed to the wars.
In many of the cases there had been a radical change in democracy where the new leaders had hostile or wanted revenge of any kind of way. Through the years, politics changed in various countries that had had a monarchy to a right wing military dictatorship (not the case of Russia) because there was a great fear against the communist ideas that were new for many of the people and they knew that only a strong military movement would save them from the economic disasters specially after the end of The Great War and also after the Wall Street Crash (1929).
This mainly applied to the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War, where fascism was very popular among some European countries, but for The Great War we could contrast imperialism with fascism, to some extent, because this was the popular policy before this war sparked of.
During the periods of 1900-1939 there was a great sense of nationalism and people of these countries wanted to see themselves living in a country with military greatness, expansion overseas and a stable political system, hence during these years people feared that the left-parties would steal their dreams so there was a support for the diktats like the fascist groups in Italy, or the Nationalists in Spain and also the Imperialism of Britain, all of these policies carried a big ambition for the governments.
A factor, which also contributed the increase in rivalry in Europe, was imperialism where countries competed for economic expansion and there came the crisis in Africa. The Germans created the Weltpolitik, which satisfied many of Germany’s foreign policies, like the “German Colonial League”, the “Pan German League” and the “German Navy League”. With this the Kaiser wanted Germany to have more power in world affairs in his own words summarised Weltpolitik, stating, “nothing must henceforth be settled in the world without the intervention of Germany and the German Emperor. .
Britain and France resolved their differences in Africa; several crises revelation the war involved the clash of Germany against Britain and France in North Africa. In the Middle East, the division of the Ottoman Empire was appealing to Austria-Hungary, the Balkans and Russia. For these to happen and for the countries to defend themselves, there had been an Arms Race. France and Germany doubled in size between 1870 and 1914. Naval expansion was also extremely competitive, mainly between Germany and Great Britain.
Efforts for worldwide disarmament were made at the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907; international rivalry caused the arms race to continue. Conversely, in the start of the 1930’s, after many fascist and dictators like Mussolini and Hitler got to power, there were also problems in other countries were territorial ambition was also the main interest, the two best examples are the Abyssinian (1935) and Manchurian (1931) crisis. Hitler started his own arms race by rearming all Germany to finish with unemployment and he also moved his troops to the Rhineland (1936).
As in The Great War, there were some disarmament conferences in Washington that hardly worked at all because the countries feared the fact of another conflict, so they wanted to be prepared. He, like the British in Africa during The Great War, wanted some ‘Lebensraum’ or space for his people and a greater economy. By 1939 Hitler had already annexed Austria (by the Anschluss) and had Czechoslovakia (after the Munich Agreement). The policy of appeasement, introduced by Neville Chamberlain, didn’t work or give ‘peace form our time. The Paris Peace Conference was a political success at the time, but what they didn’t know was that it soon would have been studied as an origin for the Second World War with some links to the Spanish Civil War. This Treaty made countries like Italy, Germany and Spain look for strong governments, either a left party or a right one. The Peace conference helped by the economic depression (Wall Street Crash) in the Spanish Civil War separated the whole country into two fronts fighting for power.
This events are also linked with the Second World War because firstly, the Peace Conference created lots of enemies like Hitler and Mussolini, second of all it was a cause of the civil war in Spain that this incident resulted as another origin of the Second World War and lastly the depression caused the starvation and death of many people so they wanted revenge from this and gripped onto radical governments with extreme views.
To finish up with this second section of the political factors contributing for the causes of war we have seen how the growth of nationalism created the fascist and strong governments to take control of important countries, especially Italy and Germany. As we have seen there are many ways to link up the three wars with similar cases that intervened comparatively.
There was also a fear against the communist and success of the left wing parties and its true that in many countries (Spain good example) they acted violently fighting against the right wing diktat. Each individual country had been separated into political bands that constantly fought street fights with armed forces killing innocent people.