Friday, March 28, 2008

The First and Second World Wars as Global Conflict

The First and Second World Wars as Global Conflict

The First and the Second world wars were global conflicts in that it involved and affected the whole globe. The main differences lay in the development of older forms of technology, the vast implications it had on the people and the countries that were involved and the time span of the war, and ideologies concerned.

Firstly, global is defined as worldwide, affects the whole world and covering a wide scope.1 Conflict is defined as a state of open, often prolonged fighting, a battle or a war, a state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests, clash, hostility, an open clash between two opposing groups, a hostile meeting of opposing military forces in the course of war.2 Therefore, global conflict can be defined as a war that is fought between two opposing sides, which affects the whole world and covers a wide scope of land and sea.

The First World War, rather known as the ‘Great War’ or ‘the war to end all wars’ was fought from 1914 to 1918, and affected or involved every part of the world in one way or another. There were two main opposing sides the Allies and the Central Powers, on one side stood Japan, United States, the British Empire, France, Italy, and the Russian Empire, while the other side, the Central Powers consisted of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. As demonstrated the war involved more than half of the globe, in that the war brought in the superpowers of the world in war.

The First World War was a war that had been coming for years but needed a force to start it. The First World War was triggered by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria and heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne who was assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb student on the 28th of June 1914. This event caused Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia on the 28th of June 1914 after it was not satisfied with the response of Serbia with the ultimatum it gave. This caused a wave of countries to get involved in the issue, due to the alliances the country had either with Austria-Hungary or Serbia or either with a country that had treaties or alliances with the country involved. Russia was the first country to mobilize its armies and defend Serbia and this caused Germany to issue an ultimatum to Russia to stand down, but this was futile and thus Germany declared war on Russia, which started the whole globe from supporting either side. Russia supported Serbia, France supported Russia, Germany supported Austria Hungary, Britain supported Russia, Japan supported Britain, and the Ottoman for Germany3

The First World War was a not only fought in Europe but was fought also in other countries. The war which originated from Europe and spread to the rest of the world, it was fought in Africa, the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. Some of the very first actions of the war occurred far from Europe, in Africa and in the Pacific Ocean. In Africa for instance the continent was under European control of which Germany, Britain and France had neighboring territories. According to Carrie Africa became involved in the war because the continent was under European imperial control, and in that of the stalemate that existed African resources and materials were mobilized for the European war effort, this also was due to the stalemate in which the empires wanted too be much more superior the other with resources and allies.4 The war in Africa touched the lives of millions of Africans who were affected by its economic, social and political consequences5 also it was described as the most costly and destructive, in which the British had the Military advantage over the German with the control of the sea and larger military forces, which were drawn from India, South Africa, East and West Africa, the Belgian Congo, and Portuguese East Africa6. The Pacific and Asia were also involved in the war because according to Blum et al this was motivated by the desire for Japanese to take over German possessions in the Pacific and in China.7 Also in the Middle East the Arabs were beginning to have a nationalistic feeling of their imperial overlords the Turks, and this was to the negotiations between the British and the Sherif of Mecca, Hussein.8 In the Mediterranean it was all about the supremacy of the sea of both the British and the Germans, of which according to Carrie involved submarine warfare and the navy, in which it forced America to enter the war due to the Germans sinking of its ships. Also, Carrie states that the Allies were supreme in the sea, which enabled them to deprive the enemy of access of resources to the rest of the world9. The Second World War originated from the Germans taking over Poland, and began from 1939 to 1945, but there were other issues as well, totalitarian regimes, militaristic regimes in Germany, and in Italy and Japan also stemming from the Great Depression from World War One. The war was between the Allies and the Axis powers. The Treaty of Versailles was the main focus point of this issue. According the Blum et al, Hitler the furor created a crisis in Polish- Germany by demanding cession of the Free city of Danzig to Germany and rights of extraterritoriality for Germans in the Polish Corridor, the strip of Poland bordering the Baltic Sea, which separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany.10 This caused Britain and Germany to intervene and help Poland and began a negotiation with the Soviet Union for a common front against the Axis powers. 11 The Axis consisted of Germany, Japan and Italy under the Tripartite Agreement of 1940, while the Allies consisted of Britain and its colonies, France, Soviet Union and later the United States of America.

The Second World War happened across the globe, which included Europe, the Pacific, Africa, Mediterranean and Asia. The war can be seen as a global conflict since it did not only occur in Europe but also in Africa, which according to Blum Italy for instance attacked British possessions in Africa since Britain was concerned with protecting its homeland due to the invasion of Germany12. The Second World War was described by Werner as a global war, fought out between two worldwide coalitions, the Allies and the Axis13. Also Werner stated that the war at sea and air in the Mediterranean area in 1945 and 1942 with forces that were comparatively limited, the British navy enjoyed a tactical superiority, while the Italians had more cruisers and light naval forces. The war was conducted principally along communication lines, by submarine and air forces. 14 The war in Europe also saw the fall of France, the unsuccessful invasion of Britain and Russia. The event was unsuccessful due to the wrong time of invasion, which in Russia occurred when winter was approaching and in Britain in which the United States of America provided support in terms of vast amounts of food and military equipment, which according to Blum led Hitler to abandon plans for an invasion of Britain.15 In Asia the Japanese focused on enhancing its powers in Asia, and the control of Indochina due to the fall of France. The Japanese had an aim of controlling the Pacific and saw the United States of America as an obstacle to the complete domination of the Orient; this was due to their aims in expanding southward into Thailand and Indo-China16. So, Japan knew that the only means of deterring the United States of America was to weaken its navy and remove its naval bases in the Pacific, so it bombed Pearl Harbor, which according to Blum was the worst disaster to befall the United States in its history.16 Therefore, it can be seen from the spread of the war, that it involved countries from around the globe, and the conflict between the allies and the axis powers.

The differences around the world involved the time factor of each war, the technologies that were present in each war, the inclusion of countries in the war, and the effects it had globally. Firstly, a main factor that states the difference between the first and the Second World War was the time spent fighting the war, for the First World War it lasted for four years from 1914 to 1918 while the Second World War lasted for six years dating from 1939 to 1945. The time span of the second World War enabled the countless loss of lives than compared to the First World War, for example in the first World War the death rate stood at 8550000 which included Germany, Russia, France, Austria Hungary, British Empire, Italy, Ottoman Empire and the United States17, the Second World War tripled the casualties.

Secondly, the technologies in both wars differed markedly. The First World War included weapons which were not as destructive and lethal as those used in the Second World War. For example the atomic bomb used by the United States on Japan in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which flattened the city and killed thousands of peoples and affected the generations of those affected.17 Unlike the First World War, it used poisonous gases for the first time18, which was lethal at first, but was quickly overcome by gas masks, the atomic bomb on the other hand led to the surrender of a powerful axis member. According to Blum the technology that was involved in the Second World War relied

… on science as the basis of military technology, the extraordinary degree of regimentation and planning of the economy and society, and the refined and sophisticated use of propaganda both at home and abroad. In other respects it differed markedly from all previous wars.19

The new weapons included both offensive and defensive, ranging from radar to rocket bombs, jet propelled aircraft, atomic weapon and machine guns, torpedoes and explosives20. This was a deciding factor on the outcomes of the war, in which the Second World War had far more losses than the First World War. Thirdly the involvement of directly or indirectly of populations of every continent in the world, which unlike the First World War had been a war of position, it was a war of movement, on land, in the air and at sea. Also the difference in ideology of the war in which the First World War was about the usage of the resources of the colonies and the spread of nationalism away from Europe, the Second World War was about the expansion of territories and the building of weapons, which would bring their enemies to their knees. Nationalism was seen in the Arab countries where the Turks had controlled, and the extracting of resources included that of the colonies of Britain and Germany in Africa. Lastly, the expansion of empires was clearly seen in the movement of Germany to take over Poland and the regions in Europe, which included Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Rotterdam21 and the Japanese expansion into Asia and the Pacific.21. Furthermore, the First World War ideologies was the resources that can be obtained from the rest of the world, while the Second World War was about the expansion of ones territory and the spheres of influence it wanted to gain.

To conclude, the first and the second world wars were both global conflicts, in the sense that they both involved two main sides each of which consisted of the major powers of the world. The First World War saw the alliances of the Central powers that were Germany, Austria Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, while the Allies consisted of Russia, France, Britain and the United States of America. The Second World War consisted of the Allies and the Axis powers; the Allies consisted of Britain, France, Soviet Union and the United States, while the Axis powers consisted of Germany, Japan and Italy. The location of each war was fought around the globe but the Second World War proved to be more wide spread than the First World War. Each war used weapons to outdo their opponent but the Second World War proved to be more destructive as it was seen in the bombing of the two cities in Japan. Lastly the two wars differed in ideologies, the first included a materialistic war while the other included a war of power and expansion into the rest of the world. Furthermore, the two wars gave society and those affected that it was best to avoid war than to fight one, because the losses that comes with a war affects not only the country but the people and individuals themselves.

Bibliography H. Stranchaw. The First World War, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998.

H. Commager. The Story of the Second World War, Little Brown and Company, New Jersey, 1945.

J. Blum et al. The European World: A History, 2nd edition, Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1970,pp.947-975. [Ch.36: The Second World War].

M. Chambers et al. The Western Experience, 2nd Edition. New York, Knoppf, 1979.

M. Werner. The Great Offensive, Richard Clay and Company Ltd, 1943.

P. Gove. Webster's third new international dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 1986. R. Carrie. The Meaning of the First World War, Prentice-Hall Inc., New Jersey, 1965.

by Anonymous Student


Alma Mccarthy said...

This essay explains briefly the effects brought about by the first and second world wars. I can't imagine how will it be like if Third world War occur.

Cartoon HD Can’t Play Video said...

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