Evolution of International Society in International Relations (IR)

Here you will know about the Evolution of International Society in International Relations. The evolution of the International Society in International Relations (IR) has passed through several steps. Two World Wars 1900-1950, the Cold war period, German’s bid for world power status, and different peace-making treaties.

History is closely connected with political events. The historical developments have a profound bearing on the structure and principles of International Relations. Let’s discuss these different stages of progress of international society in IR.

Two World Wars 1900-1950

Though World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-45) consumed only 10 years of the 20th century, they molded the character of the century. These wars left their permanent impact on the destinies of mankind. Nothing like those wars has happened ever since but they are still a key reference point for the world in which we live today.

With perhaps just two other cases in history the Thirty Years’ War and Napoleonic Wars— the two World Wars were global or hegemonic wars in which almost all major states participated in an all-out struggle over the future of the international system.

Origins of World War-I

There were convincing reasons for the outbreak of World War I which include Germany’s imperialist designs and Europe’s feeling of insecurity at the hands of other countries. European states indulged in cruel warfare on their own soil.

However, the continent which had given birth to the Industrial Revolution, and had formed the hub of global financial activity, also faced economic challenges from rapidly-industrializing states, most obviously the United States. Similarly, in the Far East, Japan underwent rapid expansion in the early twentieth century, posing a significant economic and military challenge to the European powers’ trading and colonial interests in East Asia.

Europe’s relative tranquility was shaken following the Napoleonic Wars when a single unified German nation state emerged on the world map.

Germany’s Bid for World Power Status

Unified Germany very soon unveiled its expansionist designs and sought to annex territories to expand its empire. Although Bismarck himself had cautioned against further German expansion, his successors ignored his advice. They desired to assert German ” parity with the other great powers by acquiring the most important and attractive title of great power status and yearning for an overseas empire.

Imperial disputes thus were an important-contributory factor to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Certainly, Britain was not prepared to see its own position as the world’s most powerful trading nation being withered away and overshadowed by Germany with whom it was now engaged in a fierce naval rivalry. France too genuinely feared German expansion.

Therefore, an unlikely alliance between Britain, France, and Tsarist Russia emerged at the beginning of the 20th century to halt Germany’s determined quest for territory and markets. Germans, however, did not consider themselves but rather the victims of an imperial system that operated entirely to their disadvantage.

Britain and France dominated Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Russia, Japan, and Britain sought to subdue China while the US held sway in Latin America. Between them, these powers appeared to have captured the international market for their exclusive interests. Germany, therefore, did not wish to have colonies simply for prestige or status but it had become imperative for the economic survival of Germany to set up markets for its products.

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The main areas of contention were North Africa, where clashes erupted with France and Britain over Morocco in 1906 and 1911, and the Middle East where Germany wanted to build a railway from Berlin to Baghdad.

The European colonial powers had already clashed over imperial issues. A number of historians, therefore, do not hold these disputes alone responsible for the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Some other historians subscribe to the victors’ view and hold that war guilt belonged to Germany alone. They emphasize that the German government deliberately went to war in their pursuit. Others insist that a general war came about more by accident than design, partly due to the way in which military plans had been drawn up.

German strategy devised by Count Alfred Von Schlieffen was meant to counter the prospects of Germany fighting a war on two fronts against France and Russia. His plan, therefore, conceived a decisive blow against France before German troops turned to the belatedly-mobilized Russians. Thus, the Schlieffen plan served to widen the war rapidly, once the opening shot had been fired.

The opening shots were fired not by the Germans but in Sarajevo at Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro- Hungarian empire, by a Serb nationalist in 1914 which escalated the war.

For many people, World War I exposed the disastrous inconsistency of war. It attracts the scholars of IR because it was a calamitous war that seems unnecessary and perhaps even accidental. After a long interval of relevant peace and tranquility, the great powers marched off to battle for no good reason.

A popular feeling emerged that the war would bring prosperity to Europe and provide an opportunity for young men to test their muscles on the battlefield. Such flimsy and fallacious ideas were soon dashed by the immense pain and irrelevance of War.

The previous major war was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 when Germany launched a speedy attack by using railroads to dispatch troops to the front. The war quickly and decisively came to the end with Germany being victorious. The swiftness of war convinced the people that another war would follow the same pattern. All the great powers then embarked on plans for a swift railroad-borne offensive to gain rapid victory, called the cult of the offensive.

They believed that the one who strikes first would win. These perceptions virtually forced each and every country to mobilize. Thus, when a Serbian nationalist assassinated Archduke of Austria Ferdinand in 1914 in Sarajevo, a minor crisis intensified and the mobilization plans pushed Europe to an all-out war.

The war was long and an inglorious adventure. It was neither decisive nor short and bogged down in trench warfare along a fixed front. Men and materials were thrown away on a massive scale. The British lost 400,000 men in a failed ground attack in the Battle of Passchendaele (Belgium).

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Chemical weapons were used to further aggravate the prevailing horrific conditions. Britain and Germany employed every means and tactic to starve each other’s population into surrender.

Russia was the first to fall apart. A revolution at home forced Russia to give in to the war in 1917 which led to the founding of the Soviet Union. However, the US joining the war on the anti-German side in 1917 quickly changed the whole scenario of war.

The war came to an end with an armistice at Versailles in 1919. Germany was made to surrender by accepting degrading and humiliating terms and conditions. She was forced to give up territory, apologize and pay compensation, coerced to reduce its army and armament in the future, and admit guilt for the war.

Germany’s resentment against the harsh and disgraceful terms of Versailles contributed to Adolf Hitler’s rise in 1930. It is believed that the Versailles sowed the seeds for the Second World War in 1939-45. After World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson launched his endeavors to create the League of Nations, a forerunner of today’s United Nations. But the US Senate did not approve US participation which rendered the League of Nations ineffective. US isolation between the wars, along with declining British power, and Russia crippled by its revolution, left a power vacuum in World politics.

Peace-Making 1919 (Consequences of Versailles Settlement)

The peace-making efforts were not left without giving consequences. Let’s discuss some of them here.

Post-War Problems

When the first World War finally came to an end, the peacemakers found themselves precariously placed against some discouraging and scary set of problems. The War had left millions of individual casualties either through deaths, injury, or the loss of heart and home.

The wobbling Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires also suffered heavily from the war, while a Bolshevik Revolution exterminated the Tsarist regime in Russia. The aftermath of the war brutally exposed the aimlessness and rationalities of the war as no decisive conqueror emerged after it.

The war had ravaged the economies of both the victors as well the vanquished nations. The belligerent states sought to inflict defeat on their enemies till they were totally erased from the scene.

Total war demanded total victory, but the cost of total elimination of an enemy was near the ruination of one’s own state. The domestic ruin facing France, in particular, on whose soil much of the fighting took place, added much to the peacemakers’ travails as how reparations i.e. money, goods, and raw material be extracted from Germany to finance domestic reconstruction. The very perplexing issue before the peacemakers was how to ensure that Germany will not try to dominate Europe ever again.

However, there was disagreement amongst the peacemakers on the exact shape of the postwar order. The main victors, Britain and France, though agreed on German responsibility for the war which justified a harsh settlement, but they differed over its terms. However, the guiding force at Versailles was not any of the European powers, but the President of the United States.

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The Future of Germany

The territorial settlement, which Versailles administered, gave roots to many problems for the future reshaping of Germany. When the peacemakers sat to determine Germany’s fate, they did not apply the principle of self-determination rigidly. Mainly due to France’s insistence.

France regained the lost province of Alsace-Lorraine and occupied the Saar -the key industrial area on Germany’s western flank in order to extract coal, steel, and iron. French troops also occupied Rhineland to ensure that Germany demilitarized as the treaty insisted.

Additionally, German politicians and people resented the inclusion of Germans in the re-constituted Poland. Poland had not existed as an independent state since the eighteenth century, but now it divided the vast bulk of Germany from Prussia. The territorial arrangements of 1919, under which Germany lost 13 percent of her land and nearly seven million people, infuriated many Germans which provided a genuine pretext for Hitler’s national Socialists to hit back in the 1930s.

War Guilt Clause

The victor nations had inserted the war guilt clause deliberately in order to justify the extraction of compensation from Germany. Massive pressure in Britain and France compelled the peacemakers to squeeze everything out of Germany. French premier Georges Clemenceau and British Prime Minister Lloyd George concurred that atonement should be extracted from Germany.

However, the British showed a comparatively lenient view with regard to imposing penalties on Germany. The issue of exactly how much Germany should pay in ransom was left unsettled at Versailles. As the allies could not agree, the matter was left to Reparation Commission.

The Treaty of Versailles did not solve the problems emanating from World War I. In 1919, immediately after Versailles was concluded, a woman congress in Zurich predicted that the settlement would create, all over Europe, discords and animosities which can only lead to future wars. The eminent British economist John Maynard Keynes blamed the treaty in his findings entitled “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”.

Keynes said that the positive reparation would prevent the recovery of Europe as a whole. Germany was the motor of the European economic regime. In punishing Germany, the Allies were effectively prolonging their own destitution. As the French General Foch predicted after the signing of the treaty, “Versailles would not bring peace, only an armistice for twenty years. It had solved none of Europe’s fundamental problems. It was too hard on Germany and consequently on Europe as a whole.”

The inter-war years thus saw Europe’s economic position dwindle further than that of the United States which emerged from the war as net beneficiaries being owed huge sums by Britain and France, which Wilson insisted they repay.

Versailles of 1919 in fact sowed the seeds of hatred and rancor. The harsh and degrading terms imposed on Germany and the venomous behavior of peacemakers gave roots to a deep sense of outrage amongst the German masses that retaliated with force by launching a more devastating war on Europe in 1939.

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