The Causes And Consequences Of WWII History

Friday July 15, 2022

There were many causes for the beginning of World War II but one of the most important was the effect that the Treaty of Versailles had on Germany after World War I. When world leaders Wilson, Clemenceau and George gathered to discuss the treaty they had a combination of wants; Wilson wanted to find a way to bring peace to Europe whilst Clemenceau wanted revenge on Germany and George wanted a compromise of both (Eyewitness to History, 2010). With these thoughts in mind The Versailles Treaty was developed. Ultimately the treaty held Germany responsible for the majority of World War I. The War Guilt Clause stated that Germany should accept blame for starting the war. Along with this huge repatriation sums were charged, in excess of GBP6.6 million for damages caused during the war. The disarmament of Germany’s military was required, leaving them with a miniscule army and only six naval ships. Furthermore they were allowed no tanks, air force or submarines. Territories that Germany had taken control of in World War I were returned to the native countries. All of these factors began to cause a deep resentment throughout Germany and towards their government. The affect of the Great Depression in the decade preceding World War II, left Germany with a valueless currency, huge unemployment and a sense of hopelessness. Hitler took advantage of this and preached the return of the Third Reich to its former glory. This hope attracted many followers and allowed Hitler to carry out his plans to create a German Empire.

There were three major consequences of World War II. Firstly, the decades following the end of the Second World War involved the gradual fall of the traditional great empires and the rise and spread of nation states that replaced the colonial territories throughout the world (Brower, 1989, pg 1). Unlike the First World War which was mainly fought in Western Europe, the Second World War was a truly global conflict. Because of this the entire world was altered and consequences were felt in all countries across the world. The improved communications developed during the war and the replacement of empires with nation states led to the world becoming much more interconnected and “globalised”. It became difficult to avoid the eyes of the world or to act independently – the Information Technology revolution had begun.

The second consequence was that the events of World War II led directly to the Cold War developing over the next five years. During World War II the leaders of Liberal Democracy, the US, joined forces with the Communist Soviet Union, to break down the Fascist Regime. When this was completed in line with the end of World War II, it left these two differentiated societies virtually competing against each other for world power. The development of nuclear weapons during World War II also heightened the tensions leading up to and felt during the Cold War. The fear of nuclear war and/or terrorism persists today (Siracusa, J 2010, Lecture 6).

Finally, the most horrific and probably the most consistently remembered consequence of World War II was the monolithic death toll. Although statistics vary, it is thought that approximately fifty six million people, including both military personnel and civilians, were killed during World War II ( website, 1999). Included within this number are the deaths that resulted from Hitler’s Holocaust. The systematic method of killing associated with the Holocaust is one feature which differentiates it from other mass killings throughout history. Detailed lists of current and future potential victims were meticulously kept and considerable effort was put into finding more effective means of increasing the killings (World War II website, 2010). As a result, over six million Jews were killed along with an estimated 11.5 million Slavic civilians, Prisoners Of War, political dissidents, handicapped, homosexuals & Jehovah’s Witness in extermination camps (World War II website, 2010). Consequently, upon liberation, many of these people were left without any family and nowhere to go. There was a mass migration of Jews leading to the creation of Israel, which has had a profound effect on world politics and today is one potentially one of the most likely causes of future conflict. Children, particularly the very young, suffered loss of identity with no parents to claim them and no family connections. Many were sent to England to live with foster/adoptive families (Williams, Sandra, 1993). The loss of a large proportion of the world’s young people, particularly men changed the way society operated with women more likely to perform tasks previously taken on by men. The horror of this war is still vivid in the minds of its victims and their families today, and appears to have been, in Western societies at least, a lesson of history which has been remembered and not repeated.

2. Describe and examine the nature, course and consequences of Australian-American relations. Why does it matter? Give 3 examples.
Australia and America have a shared history since the early 1800’s. They’ve shared a common language, customs and the experience of being a frontier society.

This relationship was further strengthened when large numbers of people emigrated from Europe, particularly Ireland, in the middle of the nineteenth century. People from the same area, village or even family emigrated to Australia and the United States and these links created a further bond between the two countries. The Australian Gold Rush in the early 1850’s brought large numbers of American prospectors to Australia who also contributed to closer ties between the countries.

In the twentieth century Australia remained a society focused on Great Britain until the Second World War. The catalyst for the commencement of a deeper Australian-American relationship was “The American Invasion of Australia” (Siracusa &Cheong, 1997, pg.6) during the Second World War. One million American soldiers were sent to Australia to assist in protecting the country from Japanese invasion when Britain failed to. It was this initial assistance that put Australia into America’s debt, beginning an ongoing relationship with America whereby the US held the cards of power and Australia needed their alliance because of that power.

A second example of attempting to build on the Australian-American relationship was the signing of the ANZUS treaty in 1951. The treaty binds together Australia, America & New Zealand in a military alliance to co-operate together on defence matters in the Pacific Ocean, extending today to cover attack in any area (Australian Politics website, 2010). This treaty was put into place after much discussion. Whilst Australia wanted a binding “secure relationship” (Siracusa & Cheong, 1997, pg.15) with the US guaranteeing them America’s aid in times of need, the US simply wanted Australia’s co-operation, based on their “unique geographical location” (Siracusa & Cheong, 1997, pg.15) in the Asia Pacific region. The eventuating treaty is a vague document that many believe holds no real political worth, but is simply a symbol of alliance.

The final example of Australian-American relations was Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. During this period Britain were removing themselves from the Asian region and showing no support for involvement in the war, thus further disabling any type of available military protection for Australia. America on the other hand was moving in and taking a lead role in the war. As Britain began to move away from the situation Australia found itself again requiring a strong protector. No longer having to contend with the issue of conflicting interests between British or US allegiance (Siracusa &Cheong, 1997, Preface pg.xi), Australia was seeking to align more strongly with America. At the request of the US, Australia entered the Vietnam War, initially with a verbal offering of assistance. As pressure from Washington mounted, Australia, being intent on ensuring tight political ties with the US, eventually saw approximately 61,000 Australian Service personnel serve in Vietnam from May 1962 to April 1975 (Dept Veterans Affairs website, 2010). In saying this, it was not simply because the US requested Australia enter the war, but also that Menzies so hastily agreed. Menzies had been looking for a way into the war as a means of assisting the US and in turn gaining their gratitude, support and alliance (Siracusa, J 2010, Lecture 8). As the Vietnam war progressed, public opinion and support began to decline as a result of mounting casualty rates & conscription in Australia, finally resulting in the end of the war, the ‘defeat’ of the US and a new Labor government being voted into parliament in Australia. The outcome of this war had large consequences on Australian-American relations. Whitlam immediately abolished conscription, withdrew troops from Vietnam and announced that Australia would not automatically follow US defense policy any longer, thus beginning the deterioration of Australia’s partnership with the US (National Museum of Australia website, nd). Despite this, Australia still remains reliant on the US as its major defensive partner and has entered into several conflicts apparently for the sole purpose of currying favor with the US. The relationship between the countries matters profoundly as it affects the way in which Australia is viewed in Asia and will have a large effect on Australias’s relations with China and other Asian countries.

3. The United Nations was supposed to be an improvement on the League of Nations. Give 3 examples why this may be so. Be specific.
EXAMPLE ONE (Improvement) – The United States, a leading world power, was a main instigator of the covenant of the United Nations. Previously the US had not belonged to the League of Nations. This membership of the UN saw an immediate change in the dynamics of the new unification of nations and the expansion of members. The United States at the time was ‘the world power’ which encouraged a great number of new nations to join the UN, as opposed to the League, giving it further powers and recognition. This extra membership in turn allowed the UN to operate peace keeping forces in a much larger number of nations where civil wars were threatening the lives and security of the population in these regions (Brower, 2005, p.16).

EXAMPLE TWO (Improvement) – The UN placed armed forces at the disposal of the Security Council as a method of preventing war and acts of aggression (UN Web Services, 2006). Although the League of Nations was introduced originally as a peacekeeping organisation, it in fact had very limited powers which prevented their actions from having any kind of large impact upon civil disputes. The lack of the membership of the United States, a leading world power, also weakened the League’s status from the outset. Furthermore, dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler disregarded the League’s peacekeeping efforts, resulting in their betrayal of the League with the invasions of Ethiopia by Italy and Austria by Germany (UNOG website, 2010). The introduction of the United Nations, and more specifically the Security Council of eleven members to deal specifically with concerns relating to peace & security (Reynolds, 2000, pg.33) gave the UN a much larger voice and power within the global arena. The UN has been involved in many peacekeeping missions worldwide. Although some have not always been successful, in fact disastrous, due to new levels of power they have still achieved more than the League of Nations was ever able to.

EXAMPLE THREE (Not an Improvement) – The power of ‘veto’ was seen by many to be one of the most significant improvements on the League of Nations policies. In theory, the right of veto, imposes that the five permanent members on the Security Council, “could not block discussion of any issue, but they all had to agree before any substantive action could be taken” (Reynolds, 2000, pg.33), effectively ensuring that the UN could “co-operate effectively on security issues only if wartime cooperation among the great powers continued into peacetime” (Reynolds, 2000, pg.33). Compared with the League of Nations, majority rules voting system, this was a significant change. Unfortunately the power of veto, although still in effect today, did not work in the manner for which it was hoped. Because only the permanent members have the right to veto, it is not a fair system to work with in a global arena as it gives the permanent member nations advantage over non permanent members. When taking part in international politics a certain level of autonomy must be sacrificed for the good of the majority, otherwise why be involved in an organisation termed the United Nations? Unfortunately the power of veto appears to be a bribe to keep the world leaders members of the UN.

4. Describe and examine Avery Poole’s lecture, “Humanitarian Intervention and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’.” Do you agree with Avery’s conclusions?
The argument the Great Powers have given in response to adopting R2P – that the UN sufficiently deals with these situations and that all questions of military intervention should go through the UNSC – can be completely rebutted by using examples of the UN’s failings, as shown during Avery’s lecture. For example, the genocide that occurred in Rwanda instigated no United Nations action even though they had an active mission stationed in Rwanda at the time and were aware of what was taking place (Poole, A 2010, Lecture 11). A second example is the murder of thousands in the Bosnian ‘safe town’ of Srebrenica in 1995. This massacre occurred whilst UN troops were stationed in Bosnia, with the UN being quoted as stating in the aftermath of this atrocity, that it could only “stand by and watch” as Serbian armies took over the city as they were “not given the mandate or the resources by UN member nations” to do anything to stop or intervene in the war (Global Policy website, 1995). Again, in Kosovo, why was it left to NATO to intervene? If so many crimes against humanity were being committed, was this not a task that should have been undertaken directly by the UN?

The underlying theme that kept coming through during the research undertaken to write this paper, is that the UN is fundamentally backed by the United States. The US had no real interest in Bosnia as it was an oil-free state. The US turned a blind eye to fifteen years of guerilla warfare in East Timor, although not so blind enough as to not provide sell them arms (Reynolds, 2000, pg. 429). The removal of all US troops from Rwanda, which occurred after 18 American rangers were seen via media display; being dragged dead down the streets of Mogadishu, is argued to have impacted dramatically on the lack of the UN’s involvement when the genocide commenced the following year (Poole, A 2010, Lecture 11). Considering these factors, it seems imperative that the development of a body separate from the UN, with less focus on the vetoing rights of only five major powers, is implemented to help in times of humanitarian crises. It can be plainly seen that when these situations occur consideration is not being given to the right of humans to safety and security, rather the United Nation’s political issues are being taken into account, often preventing appropriate assistance when it is required.

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