Thursday, 17 November 2011

Structural Analysis of World War I, World War II, and the End of Cold War

Reagan and Gorbachev signed Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at the White House in 1987

Neville Chamberlain (British Prime Minister) show Munich Treaty, signed by himself, Hitler, and France, to the public in 1938. He declared "peace of our time" to his people after returning from Munich, Germany. However, This treaty failed to stop Hitler's planned aggression which started in 1939.

I.                   World War I

There are structural and process factor the help explain the change of the alliance system  in Europe between 1815 and 1914.  In 1907, Britain, France, and Russia established Triple Entente while Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary formed military alliance since 1882. First, from the realists’ view, the big change was caused by the unification of Germany in 1870, resulting in a major change in the distribution of power in central Europe. Located right in the middle of Europe, a united Germany had tremendous geopolitical consequence. From a structural perspective, a united Germany was either too strong or too weak in challenging both with Russia and France. In the process, due to Bismarck’s brilliant diplomatic talent (1871-1890), the newly unified Germany had not produced instability in Europe from 1870 to 1890. So, effects of major structural change on the system’s political process had been delayed until 1890. However, Bismarck’s successors were not so adept and were too aggressive. From 1890, the alliance system of Europe grew more rigid and lost diplomatic flexibility, with one alliance centered on Germany and another on Russia and France. The bipolarity of alliances gradually grew more and more rigid and exploded in 1914, resulting World War I and the surrender of Germany in 1918.  

II.               Two Different Models of War (World War I versus World War II)  

World Wars I and II are often seen as two different models of war: accidental war in WWI versus planned aggression in WWII. World War I is seen unwanted spiral of hostility while World War II was not an unwanted spiral of hostility, but it was a failure to deter Hitler’s planned aggression. In these two models, the policies appropriate for preventing WWI and WWII were completely opposite. Appeasement of Germany might have helped delay or prevent WWI and deterrence of Germany might have prevented WWII, but the policies were reverse. In 1938, Britain and France chose to appease Hitler by signing the Munich Treaty which gave Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany rather than taking deterence approach. However, Hitler still went on his planned aggression at the complacency of peace by Britain and France. So, The important lesson is never to appease dictators during their aggressions. If appeasement is applied, Aggressors are still not satisfied, and appeasement is indirectly encouraged them to continue their violence. Another lesson is that we should be careful of complacency about peace or believing that the next crisis is going to fit the same pattern of the last crisis. Furthermore in between WWI an WWII, the Versailles treaty was both too harsh and too lenient in dealing with Germany. As it was too harsh, it stirred up German problem, caused the Weimar Republic to collapse due to big reparation bill and too high inflation, and, finally, gave way for Hitler to come to power. Since it was so lenient, Germany had capability of manipulation on the Treaty. 

III.            Factors Contributing the End of Cold War

At the end of World War II in 1945, ideological and military challenges between United States and Soviet Union began in the European continent, especially in the defeated Germany (East and West Germany), which provoked civil wars and arm races across the world. Although the two superpowers have never gone into the real warfare, wars in the third world countries erupted between two opposing local parties who held different ideologies (pro-Soviet Union communism/socialism versus pro-Western democracy), For example, Korean War and Viet Nam War. There are three factors (individual, state, and systematic levels) contributing to the end of the Cold War. First, individual factor precipitated the end of the cold war. Gorbachev’s Perestroika (economic, political, and social restructuring) reform and Glasnost (openness of discussion and information) had undermined Soviet Union’s internal strength for challenging with the US in cold war. Second, state level is also another contributing factor. The imperial overstretch of the Soviet Union in its Eastern Europe and in Afghanistan was very costly and provided very little benefit. So, by over-expanding, it exhausted itself from within and then collapsed. Third, at the systematic level, the United States' military buildup and growing military and economic power in the 1980s and United States' success in spreading democracy and Western culture all around the world has inspired impoverished communist and socialist countries in Eastern Europe and other continents to embrace democracy and abandon their old ally (Soviet Union), resulting in the decline of communist ideology and declining support for the Soviet Union.

The Signing of Munich Agreement which gave Sudetenland to Germany in 1938. Britain and France chose to appease Germany rather than taking deterence approach.

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