Saturday, October 19, 2013

When Diplomacy Fails

Throughout history war is the outcome of diplomacy gone wrong.  Ever since man inhabited the earth feuds were fought over hunting rights and territorial boundaries. Even the animal kingdom marks their territory and will fight to defend it; or battle to obtain it.  
In the case of WWII several factors entered into diplomatic talks about territory that were thought at the time to be reasonable by Western Europe and the United States; especially concerning territory in the East.  Restraints on territorial boundaries and naval expansion for Japan were wearing thin by the 1930’s.  At the end of The Great War Japan was considered a smaller nation and therefore required less naval forces and national boundaries were restricted by the treaty signed between the allies while British, Dutch and American settlements in the East continued to retain oil and ore rich claims.  Japan was an ally to the West, but now her loyalties were beginning to change as the restraints on a growing nation irritated a changing governmental environment. 

The Great War in the early part of the 20th century was the result of several diplomatic conflicts over territory between what was then the Great Powers (Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Austria-Hungarian Empire and Russia).  Nations were embroiled in alliances between the Allies and Central Powers within weeks of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which is considered the trigger that started the war.  This one incident brought to a head the historic squabble over territorial boundaries at the diplomatic table and men took up arms. The end of what is now known as WWI is where the story of WWII and diplomacy come together. 

At the end of The Great War the Treaty of Versailles was signed in Paris in June 1919, seven months after the official end of the war that besides making substantial territorial concessions called for Germany to disarm and make reparations which in today’s dollars would be about $442 billion.  Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States was instrumental in drafting the Treaty of Versailles with his 14-point plan and believed an alliance of nations was necessary to bring national concerns before the great powers of the world to avoid international crises.  The League of Nations was formed in Europe, but the United States did not join the alliance.  President Wilson was soon out of office following the end of the war in November 1918 and Congress did not feel America should become a member of this European league that could lead to the United States being embroiled in another conflict in Europe. 

It is this treaty; the insensitivity of the League's member nations to fairly adjudicate legitimate minority complaints about discrimination toward German natives within Slavic states along with the world depression of the 1930’s, that eventually allowed Hitler’s party to attain power in Germany.  The 1929 crash of the New York Stock Exchange caused millionaires to become paupers and businesses to fail on an unprecedented scale, putting the common man out of work.  As time passed Europe felt the severe impact as well, but none so much as Germany which still was expected to pay restitution for The Great War.  Hitler built on this hardship that trickled down to the average citizen’s ability to lead a productive life.  Hitler gained loyalty and power by pointing a finger at the repressors of Germany until he emerged its unchallenged Furor.
All of these factors came together in 1939 with German troops entering Prague, Czechoslovakia, ignoring the Munich Pact signed in 1938 negotiated between Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy.  The pact called for the secession of Sudetenland to Germany currently occupied by Czechoslovakia between October 1 and 7, 1938 in four specified districts. Afterwards, additional territories consisting of mostly German population were to be specified by an international commission, composed of delegates from France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Czechoslovakia. Several international incidents followed this act of aggression against Czechoslovakia, culminating with the invasion of Poland by Germany on September 1, 1939.  Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany immediately following the aggressive act against international treaty and WWII began. 

As the war entered its second year Japan’s political atmosphere brought to power those who wanted the restraints the treaty signed at the end of The Great War between Japan and the West to end.  By 1941 Japan became the third nation to join with Germany and Italy when the Tripartite Pact was negotiated.  Though this was not yet the nation’s entrance into the war, it was a step toward conflict.  Negotiations with the West continued to unravel until November 1941 brought an end to the diplomatic talks.  By November 25, 1941 the die was set when ships sailed from Japanese ports after the Diet (Japan’s legislators) supported the “East Asian Cooperative Sphere” in support of Premier General Tojo’s government.

The fact that Japanese carrier task forces carried out two consecutive attacks on both sides of the Pacific and the Japanese Army crossed the Thai border into the Malay States in the same timeframe is a logistical feat.  The bombing of Singapore and Pearl Harbor brought destruction to two major naval ports in the Pacific giving the Japanese an opening blow that left the western allies reeling for several months.  Japan’s Tripartite Partners must have raised an eyebrow at the nearly fatal opening attack the West endured.

The struggle by Indian, Australian and British forces to stem the overwhelming flow of Japanese invaders into the Malayan Peninsula using the latest tools of war ended after a mere 70 days.  Air superiority, mechanized troops and the sheer numbers of Japanese troops overwhelmed defenders using outdated equipment and outdated strategies.  History notes that most Indian troops had never seen a tank prior to the invasion leaving the men unprepared to face the fire breathing dragon overrunning their defensive lines. 

The end of WWII saw the inception of the NATO Alliance to prevent war and bring aid to struggling nations.  In time we witnessed the fall of Communist Russia and the reunification of Germany.  Today the Middle East is in turmoil as one country after another erupts in conflicts with one faction trying to annihilate the other, and the world is responding.

Throughout time the instruments of war have become more destructive and more precise.  As we learn about the human factor and noncombatant casualties there is a cry for more humane ways to settle our differences, but still man makes war.  As the media covers war-torn fronts across the world today we watch in our living rooms while smart bombs zero in on targets and drones are flown from thousands of miles away.  The question is: will we see the end of war before the end of time?