Was the Second World War primarily caused by the appeasement policy?
The appeasement policy is adopted first by the Britain and then by France to avoid war with the aggressors, namely Germany, Italy and Japan during the interwar period in 1930s. The policy is to give way and fulfill the aggressors’ demands as much as possible, like what historian Paul Kennedy defines: the appeasement is “a policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying the grievance through international negotiation and compromise, thereby avoiding the resort to an armed conflict which would be expensive, bloody and possibly dangerous.” In my opinion, the appeasement policy is not a primary cause of the Second World War, it can only be considered as a catalyst of the outbreak of war instead of a root cause. As comparing with other factors that leads to war like the rise of totalitarianism which is the Nazi party and the Fascist Party, the Great Depression and the failure of collective security that undermined world peace in the long period of late 1920s to 1930s, the appeasement policy is rather an immediate cause that sparkled off the outbreak of WWII.
On one hand, the appeasement policy indeed caused the outbreak of WWII by encouraging the growth of aggressors, which increased the possibility of war. For example, regarding the expansion of Fascist Italy, after the Abyssinian crisis in 1935, there was the Hoare-Laval pact which appeased Italy by giving it two-thirds of Abyssinia. This encouraged the desire for expansion of Italy. In 1934, Italy withdrew from the League of Nations, and launched its plan of aggression to the fullest by breaking free from the control of the League.
Another example to illustrate how the appeasement policy encouraged the growth of the aggressor was that of the Nazi Germany. The Italian success of annexing Abyssinia set an example for Hitler to carry out his expansion plans and then after every territorial acquisition of Germany from the appeasements, such as the union with Austria and annexation of Sudetenland in 1938, Hitler got a larger army and more raw materials to prepare for war, this increased the readiness of Germany to go to war and it became potentially threatening and dangerous to other countries like Britain and France, not to mention the small central European countries as well.
The policy not only made Germany “physically” stronger, but also built up its confidence and desire of starting a war to conquer the whole of Europe. Because the appeasements revealed the weakness and fear of war from Britain and France, both of the powers did not stand up to aggressions and allowed them to grow stronger and stronger by merely compromising and satisfying their requests. For example: the Anglo-German Naval Agreement that allowed the rearmament of Germany and the Munich conference which gave Germany Sudetenland facilitated Germany’s foreign expansionist policy for lebensraum, and made its appetite of obtaining other country grew larger and larger. Seeing how both powers only protested and did not take real action to oppose it, Hitler was no longer afraid of the possibility of Britain and France’s interference or obstruction to its expansion acts, thus carried out more aggressive acts at ease, taking the whole of Czechoslovakia in 1938. This further created a powerful and threatening Germany and made the outbreak of war more possible. Therefore, similar to the case of Italy, appeasement policy did not stop the growth of Nazi Germany into an aggressor, but further encouraged it, making it a significant threat of European peace and main factor leading to the outbreak of war.
On the other hand, other factors also contributed to the outbreak of WWII. Firstly, the rise of totalitarianism led to the outbreak of WWII. Regarding the case of Nazi Germany, it first rearmed in 1935 and then remilitarized Rhineland in 1936 and also occupied Austria and Sudetenland in 1938 then...
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