Was WWII Inevitable?
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Was WWII inevitable? If so, why and when? If not, when and how could it have been avoided? World War II was inevitable for a multitude of reasons. The foremost reason was the existence of three respective, powerful aggressor states (Germany, Italy, and Japan) with imperial and ideological ambitions that would not hesitate to use force to achieve their goals. Germany lost much of its territory and was subject to numerous military and legal restrictions as a result of the Versailles Treaty imposed on them by the victors of the First World War. Germany's leader at the time, Adolf Hitler, viewed the treaty with contempt - as a humiliation of German national pride. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact with Hitler in 1938, conceding part of Czechoslovakia to Germany. This policy of appeasement not only was ineffective in deterring further Nazi aggression - it encouraged it. According to Nye (2008), "he [Prime Minister Chamberlain] did not think Czechoslovakia was worth war and he knew Britain was not ready for war."
In this sense, the Nazi regime was totalitarian, whereas the Japanese regime was authoritarian. Another difference between the two nations at the time was the manner in which decisions were made. Nye (2008) wrote "While Hitler had military and industrial support in Germany; he made decisions largely on his own. In Japan, there was a greater diffusion of power at the top and decisions were more the result of consensus among the political and military elite." (p. 109) The Soviet Union also played a major role in aggravating the war, highlighted by the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939 (known as the "Winter War") and the non-aggression pact between Soviet leader Josef Stalin and Hitler that same year. The pact in particular gave Hitler a "free hand to do what he wanted in the west [of Europe]" in the words of Nye, because it removed the threat of the Soviet Union in the east. (p. 101) The Soviets had ambitions of their own, and their initial cooperation with the Nazis helped the war happen.
However, they were often reluctant to do so. British academic historian Ruth Henig (1973) has suggested that, had the United States been a member of the League, it would have also provided backup to France and Britain, possibly making France feel more secure and so encouraging France and Britain to co-operate more regarding Germany and so made the rise to power of the Nazi party less likely. (League of Nations, 1924, p. 175) Sanctions could also hurt the League members imposing the sanctions and given the pacifist attitude following World War I, countries were reluctant to take military action. In short, WWII was caused by a series of events brought about by ambitious aggression from a few states that went unchecked by the opposing powers in the world until it was too late. The presence of three respective, powerful states with leaders who would use any means necessary to achieve their ominous goals, as well as the lack, as well as the lack of any effective check on the actions of those states and their leaders, made World War II inevitable.
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