The War of the World?

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by adamcotton, Apr 22, 2015.

  1. adamcotton

    adamcotton Senior Member

    Historians have in recent years argued that WW1 and WW2 were essentially the same war, the battles of the latter merely a continuance of the former, and simply separated by an armistice of 20 years duration (much like the many gaps in fighting during the 100 years war). Biggest proponent of this argument seems to be Professor Niall Ferguson in his book "The War of the World", who actually goes so far as to say all the colonial wars and minor conflicts of the 20th century, as well as the two world wars, were in fact part of one huge, long running conflict that resulted ultimately in the decline in power - militarily and economically - of the west , and the rise to dominance of the east.

    But, focusing on the two world wars, it's not hard to see such a link between the two. The second was born out of the first, at least as far as Europe was concerned, and with hindsight it is all too easy to see how the reparation demands placed on Germany and the allied re-drawing of the map of Europe post November 1918 was bound to lead to a second European conflict, with all the potential therein to escalate into a global war once more.

    So, do you think it's right to conflate the two world wars from an academic, historical perspective? Or were they entirely separate, springing out of entirely different geo-politics?
     
  2. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    I think there's a powerful argument for seeing the Great War and the Second World War as essentially one conflict, with the Versailles Treaty and its perceived harsh terms being the vital link. After Versailles, the French Marshal Ferdinand Foch said: 'This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.' In his memoirs, Winston Churchill also spoke of the conflict being another 30 Years War. By the same token, the Franco-German conflict can be seen as stretching from 1870 to 1945.
     
  3. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    I think there's a powerful argument for seeing the Great War and the Second World War as essentially one conflict, with the Versailles Treaty and its perceived harsh terms being the vital link. After Versailles, the French Marshal Ferdinand Foch said: 'This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.' In his memoirs, Winston Churchill also spoke of the conflict being another 30 Years War. By the same token, the Franco-German conflict can be seen as stretching from 1870 to 1945.
     
  4. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I seem to remember that the German's at the start of world war 1 thinking that they were embarking on a continuation of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Prussian_War and had Paris once again in their sights :banghead:

    Whereas in WW2 Hitler was willing to think of the British as actually his most "natural" allies and his bemusement was that we might choose to side with the French and Poles rather than reestablish our traditional ties with Germany and play things his way. He had the army, we had the navy, why not together, have the world?

    Niall Ferguson makes a good case, but history is like a river, just as you can't swim in the same river twice history moves on. They weren't really the same thing. (WW1 and WW2). For one thing Japan was on our side in WW1 (!) and Italy too. What went wrong :Hydrogen:

    Likewise when did WW2 start or even end? China suffered a long time, both "before and after" and Russia for a while was with Germany at the "start". In essence Korea was almost a follow on of WW2, Vietnam too. And aren't we allied with Germany now against the "wishes" of Russia, and who's side would we be on if Japan decided unilaterally to take the Kurils back (and have a vote of the population on who had the right to "rule" there)? (At least in the eyes of some I guess WW2 still goes on :pipe: )

    In a sense Britain played it's best game - the same one since Napoleon of trying to prevent one dominance in Europe from taking over and then turning everything on us. It's one of the reasons the British built an empire, to compete with the Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese and because the channel was never wide enough to prevent fears of invasion and never narrow enough for us to speak of ourselves as European (Europe always seems to be that bit of land over there - and not "us")

    Hitler didn't learn from "Napoleon" but he tried to fight a similarly "risk like" piece by piece war. He should have studied WW1 and realised that once the US was in it, it was over for him, and he should have told Japan not to poke the eagle or worry the bear.

    If Hitler went to war in WW2 because German was treated so badly in the enforced peace after WW1 why did he treat the countries he conquered so badly? Wasn't he worried about risking some future WW3 when they licked their wounds and came back perhaps years later for more? Of course you might say he treated them badly exactly to keep them cowed and prevent them from ever rising again... in which case what was his complaint about Germans being treated badly after WW1 all about? By his standards they shouldn't have been allowed to rise again... and the treaty of Versailles should only logically have been much worse and more strictly enforced. But we didn't do things that way.

    It's all history and it repeats itself in funny ways, but never - except in hindsight in quite such predictable ways.

    All the best,

    Rm

     
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    cf Gulf Wars 1 & 2 - if you don't do the job properly the first time, you have to go back and do it again.

    If it's got to be the Allies' fault that Germany started two wars, it's because the former were too lenient on the latter after the first round, not too harsh. A bit more guilt and bit less self-pity might have curbed the desire for another go.
     
  6. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    Foch would agree with idler. When he made his 'not a peace but an armistice for twenty years' comment he was arguing that Versailles was not harsh enough.
     
  7. L J

    L J Senior Member

    The second was born out of the first,but that does not mean that without the first,there would be no second .

    I also disagree with the claim that Versailles was not harsh enough: Versailles was as harsh as possible .Besides,it is not so that a harsher Versailles would have prevented WWII .
     
  8. L J

    L J Senior Member

    I disagree : in the first Gulf War,the job was done as properly as possible .And the second GW did not happen because the US were to lenient during the first GW,but because 9/11:without 9/11 there would be no second GW .
     
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I thought that GW1 was to clear Iraqi invaders from Kuwait - full stop, which it did. I have to say I am not quite so clear as to GW2

    TD
     
  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I have to admit it's not a period I've looked at in any detail, but I recall comments along the lines that they could have been finished off but weren't. Certainly the 'regime change' mission came along later.
     
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Foch me!
     
  12. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Foch!

    How does the “Versailles” justification explain the German treatment of the Danes, Norway, the Netherlands (who so helped the Germans after WW1?) and Greece (an ancient culture Hitler aspired to and thought he was the primary descendant of?) none of whom had anything to do with Versailles. Maybe it’s the argument of a mistreated dog becoming a terror and just randomly biting anyone? And then it’s the maltreater being the one ultimately to blame?

    As I understand it though the French didn’t get “great” treatment after the Franco-Prussian war? They had it so bad they turned to ally with Britain (the “old” enemy) – so things must really have been dire!

    So why not start with the German’s “being to blame here” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Prussian_War#Aftermath

    There’s a thought? Or perhaps they were “just reacting” themselves to the Napoleonic campaigns? And maybe Napoleon came about because the French colonial empire was being curbed by the British in the 7 years war…. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Years%27_War

    I think Niall Ferguson's primary point would be “first buy my book, watch my TV shows and employ me to teach you and hire me to come to your debate”, all perfectly valid and but it taints the ground, as you have to be controversial and “out there” to be heard and earn a crust in the media these days. Aka Katy (who occasionally channels through Owen apparently ;) ).

    It’s good that it starts a debate and a discussion though.

    And I think Niall also tries to point out where "we are heading" by using "history as a guide" - which is a very worthy objective to have.

    "Treat others as you would like them to treat you" is a sensible motto in any "game of life"...

    All the best,

    Rm.
     
  13. pminotti

    pminotti Junior Member

    It's possible to say that the World War I and II are the second and third rounds of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.

    Germany, but especially Hitler, did not appreciate the behavior of the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, together with that of the commercial Jews during World War I, then decided to invade these countries and to eliminate the Jews.

    Italy changed sides between the first and the second world war as it did not get any satisfaction to their requests within the Balkan and colonial.

    The fading of the historical alliance with the United Kingdom for the colonial question with Ethiopia and the continuing diatribes of the French Popular Front (the leitmotif of the Great Italian Maneuvers for years 20 and 30 foresaw a conflict with France and Yugoslavia ) are emblematic of this situation.

    Underlying all this there was definitely a totally wrong assessment of what would have been the war and our strategic position.

    The German intervention in Greece and Yugoslavia are a direct result of our ideas of autonomous war and consequent waste of resources without significant strategic advantages .

    One can not consider how the choice to invade Greece and Yugoslavia have had the consequence absolutely negative for the Axis to stop completely neutral merchant traffic in the Mediterranean.

    The same thing can be said for the Netherlands and Norway, even if the action in Narvik from allies forced the hand to the Germans.
     
  14. pminotti

    pminotti Junior Member

    Another consideration is how Italy, Germany and Japan have been "created" by the English diplomacy to fight the enemies of the moment.

    France, the Empire, Russia from time to time have been addressed with the "Wooden Wall" and continental allies.

    The problem is that then you forget what to make of the precious pieces created for a certain issue.

    Ooops, there recalls the policy of some other state in recent times? ;)
     
  15. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Most of the Jewish peoples Hitler killed were just those too poor to get away. I just don't see what he could possibly have had against them. Or did he just particularly hate the weak and the poor? If he acted to get back at the rich, why did he lead such an indolent, money grabbing and wasteful life? If Hitler had had to start out again from scratch during world war II - he'd have hated the Germans for bringing such ruin on the world and would have set out just to set up an empire to herd all of them into camps?

    Whilst saying "the poor Austrians" why should they have to "suffer" for WW2?

    Nicely reasoned for the rest of it though ;)

    As for the "English" I'm never sure what this means ;) If those would do things are always to blame, then those who do nothing have nothing to worry about. Before the "English" there was something else... after the "English" there is something else.... who's doing good these days? it's better if at least everyone tries....

    But there's the argument that you have to have something to give something, if you have nothing you have nothing to give....

    But to have something do you have to take something from somebody else???

    All the best,

    Rm.
     
  16. pminotti

    pminotti Junior Member

    Korea and Vietnam are two different issues.

    The UN intervention in Korea is the closing of an old problem with a new system, not particularly successful.
    So much so that we are still firm on the 38th parallel.

    The war in Viet Nam should be divided into two parts.

    The first is the liquidation of the old French colonial empire occurred under the benevolent eye of the new superpower USA, which was careful not to support the French allies.

    The second is the failed attempt to create a neo-colonial state in the interests of multinational rubber companies.

    For short, is not explained the reasons for traveling between north and south of the population, given that the North was firmly in the hands of the French and the Viet Minh had south fully under control.

    But, coincidentally, rubber plantations are in the south.
     
  17. pminotti

    pminotti Junior Member

    Hitler in Mein Kampf explains it pretty clearly.

    As always, the weakest are the first to pay.

    In Italy came coined the term "Potenze Demoplutogiudaiche" to refer to Western democracies, established democracies controlled by Jewish wealth.

    What then was nonsense is another matter.

    Heven't today people worried by the "Conspiracy" and the influence of Bilderberg?

    The Austrians have always been considered Germans by Hitler and were very convinced of this, especially when they have had to deal with us as Italians in Leros, Rhodes or Cephalonia.

    Hitler was himself Austrian.
     
  18. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    "So, do you think it's right to conflate the two world wars from an academic, historical perspective? Or were they entirely separate, springing out of entirely different geo-politics?"

    AJP Taylor touches upon this in his 'Origins of the Second World War':

    "The first World war left 'the German problem' unsolved, indeed made it ultimately more acute. This problem was not German aggressiveness or militarism, or the wickedness of her rulers...The essential problem was political, not moral. However democratic and pacific Germany might become, she remained by far the greatest Power on the continent of Europe; with the disappearance of Russia, more so than before."

    Taylor argues that the old balance of power had, with the withdrawal of Russia and the end of Austria-Hungary, broken down. France and Italy, inferior in man-power and economic resources, were both exhausted. It had been this balance of power which had restrained Germany. Now, "nothing could prevent the Germans from overshadowing Europe, even if they did not plan to do so."
     
  19. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I don't know "Uncle George",

    "nothing could prevent the Germans from overshadowing Europe, even if they did not plan to do so."

    I think, as before, that it wasn't the same river - as in: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070921182130AA8zmFg

    So in sum: Every experience is different

    France cast a long shadow, as does Russia, Italy (once i.e .Rome), and Germany is just "a collection" of disparate states "Prussia" ought not really to get along with Bohemia - and Hanover has in theory very strong links with the UK, whereas Alsace/Lorraine is/was German/France.

    I just don't see that it was so inevitable there that "nothing could have prevented it"

    I don't want to just cherry pick the bit I "want to answer" and "ignore everything else" but essentially WW2 didn't have to happen, but if it didn't happen I don't know what would.

    WW1 was a total waste, but it came about and was "seen through" - a lot of hands were on the treaty of Versailles - the German's at armistice might have thought that they'd get Wilson's 14 points. When they didn't (it was only an armistice afterall) they might have fought on - but the German Navy wasn't going out in a blaze of "glory" - "mutinied" and the German war effort couldn't re-start.

    Who could have just given "Italy" just what it wanted after WW1 ? I think we had to fight Attaturk, we had to fight the Bolsheviks in Russia beyond the "end" of WW1. Should Italy have not fought on alone for what it wanted if it wanted "satisfaction to their requests within the Balkan and colonial." ? Who amongst the allies thought Italy deserved Abyssinia after WW1 (as a prize? if so why?) - I think the rule devolved simply to "you have what you (can) hold" - after WW1 some counties just have bigger hands (or could afford "catchers gloves") - the moral is don't fight a war unless you have to and if you have to be aware that whilst you might get a victory it might be a Pyrrhic one at that.

    Being broke at the end (and nevertheless victorious) is a moral victory, but you might still have to pay... and the lender might even make you at that ;)
    The US is happy to be a superpower, but as we know it has its costs. China wants to rise in rank and France and the UK's UN seats might one day be subsumed into the EU, and a new vote might be created for the South Americas or the whole of Africa. Germany and Japan even want to be considered now for a permanent seat on the UN: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_of_the_United_Nations_Security_Council

    It's just a rolling river.... if the Soviets (aka Stalin) had to choose German's fate after WW2 they would have chosen to have it as a wasteland of nothing and a perpetuial inconsequence. it was the US's choice to "rehabilitate" Germany and Japan (and the Marshal plan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan ) that caused the West to "triumph" (So can be grateful for that ;) ). And it is "increasing" freedoms in China right now that is pushing them on the course towards betterment (I hope :pipe: )

    If Russia wants to "chose another way" - and it devolves once again into a "them-and-us" it's just another river and some may say - looking at history - in hindsight why didn't someone stop it there? If you take a hard line and refuse to be pragmatic, what you fear may happen, may just happen any way and you'll still be blamed for the consequences by somebody - simply because both action and inaction have consequences... but somebody has to take that call....

    ...and everyone else gets to debate it and figure out what would have made more sense (when there's a chance for a bit of hindsight there).... ;)

    All the best,

    Rm.
     
  20. Uncle George

    Uncle George Active Member

    " just don't see that it was so inevitable there that 'nothing could have prevented it' "

    Taylor was not arguing that the war was inevitable: but with Germany's population and economic preponderance, nothing could prevent her "overshadowing" Europe.

    The OP's question is looked at by Pat Buchanan in his 'Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War.' (2008). He writes of 'The Great Civil War of the West", which comprised both World Wars. And he argues that the Second World War was certainly not inevitable. It is summarised here:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churchill,_Hitler_and_the_Unnecessary_War#World_War_II

    Like 'The Origins of the Second World War', a controversial, thought-provoking book.
     

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