Considered as the most destructive conflict in history with deaths totaling to more than 60 million, World War II (WWII) was the first battle that was truly global (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson and Williams 744).
Unlike the First World War (WW1) which remained mostly in Europe with US intervening, WWII involved Europe, America, North Africa and Asia. The war started in 1939 following the German blitzkrieg and continued until 1945 when the Japanese surrendered (744). But the road to war started even before the first one ended.Following the formation of the Triple Alliance (Austria and Hungary, Germany, and Italy) and the Triple Entente (Great Britain, France and Russia), conflict arose in Europe with the major countries taking a crack at dominating the continent (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson and Williams 652). The result was the First World War. United Stated initially sought to remain neutral but soon mobilized its military, unleashing its machinery and army against Germany. Then US President Woodrow Wilson still longed to bring “peace without victory,” coming up with a proposal known as the Fourteen Points (Jordan and Litwack 617). The provisions aimed at arriving peace without secret agreements (Wilson found that the Allies had secretly negotiation on territorial regulation), free trade and new means of redrawing Europe’s boundaries (617).
By January 1919, a peace conference was held at the Palace of Versailles with attendance from US, Britain, Italy, France and other nations (619). The outcome of this conference was the Treaty of Versailles, signed by the Germans on June 28, 1919 (619).The treaty made the Germans give up some of its colonies to France and Poland (619). The treaty also included the creation of the League of Nations , which was to be an assembly of 42 Allied and neutral countries and a Council represented by the Big Four (US, Britain, Italy, and France) and Japan (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson and Williams 665).
The League of Nations would be responsible for ensuring that peace is kept among its members and that disputes would be tackled to avoid military intervention. This definitely did not sit well with the Germans. They deemed it as harsh.
Adding more distress and perhaps humiliation was the guilt factor which forced the Germans to not only own up the basis for the war but to pay for reparation or war damages (619). The Germans did not like this but signed nonetheless, for they were on the losing front. Perhaps, they were already thinking of a comeback when they signed the treaty.The Treaty of Versailles was viewed as the only chance for peace at that time but looking back, it failed to address the deep-rooted problems Europe was facing- imperial, industrial and commercial enmities. It seemed that what the treaty did at that time was cover up the flowing dilemmas of Europe instead of resolving them. Also, a debate over the Treaty occurred in America. Some US senators wanted to make ratifications. There were many points to consider: American Germans thought the treaty was altogether harsh, the Italian Americans were frustrated because of Italy’s demands and the Irish Americans were angry because there was no provision on their independence (620).
Even the American Left saw the treaty as “nothing more than props for a decaying economic and social order” (620). But Wilson was adamant and refused to do so and his all-or-nothing stand resulted in the end of the treaty and the League of Nation membership. The rest of the world tried to regain normalcy, rebuilding what was lost. Everything seemed to be good until a man named Adolf Hitler rose and Germany was back for revenge, aiming for global supremacy. The cover had again been opened and this time, spilled more damage.
The time after WW I saw a rise in dictators in Europe and Asia. It also did not help that depression was reeling in the US and Europe. With global depression setting in, many people turned to totalitarian movements such as those spearheaded by Hitler and Benito Mussolini of Italy (Jordan and Litwack 696). When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, a new war set off, this time proving more dangerous, more advanced. With every country trying to survive in bleak times, international conflicts continued. After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the formation of the League of Nations, it must be noted that another crack at peace was conducted, this time concerning the naval race.
The Washington Conference was ended with a five-power naval treaty, a four –power pact and a nine-power pact was no more effective (697). It was again another sad realization that peace efforts, however, genuine and globally encompassing were not enough to prevent another bloody war. The Treaty of Versailles may have been the first step in attaining global accord but its failure at the start (disagreement with the provisions, debates in the Senate) proved to be more damaging. The intention was good but the execution was not. Had the treaty, the League of Nations and the Washington Conference diligently addressed all issues, perhaps, the world would never experience the deaths of millions of people.