Causes of World Wars
The causes of World Wars in the 20th century (World War I, World War II, and Cold War) include socio-economic hegemony, the clash amongst liberalism-led capitalism, Marxism-led Socialism, and Totalitarianism.
The 20th century was a tumultuous period in history. It was marked by rapid globalization and industrialization. The socio-economic and political systems were also in a state of flux. The novel system created new powers as economies shifted from purely agricultural to industrial. This divided the world into various fault lines.
Clash amongst Liberalism, Socialism, and Totalitarianism
The clash amongst Liberalism, Socialism, and Totalitarianism was one of the main causes of World Wars in the 20th century. In this regard, there were three important systems that emerged; liberalism-led capitalism, Marxism-led Socialism, and Totalitarianism. They all collided with each other into bloody conflicts. Totalitarianism perished in the wake of World War I and World War II (precisely after the suicide of Hitler).
Then, as Westad says, Communism and Liberalism locked horns in a vicious battle, one of the major causes of World Wars. It ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 and the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic colloquially termed the end of the Cold War (1945-91) (Westad, 2017, 7).
Since then, Liberalism has remained the talk of the town as world politics seems to embrace this system. Therefore, it is important to examine the root causes of World Wars in the 20th century.
Economic Meltdown: One of the Causes of World Wars
Moreover, the economic meltdown was one of the underlying causes of the World Wars. The conflict began in 1890 when the labor movement became radicalized. This is considered the first major global capitalist crisis in international relations. This was nothing else but the expression of frustration of people.
This exacerbation was caused by the fact that people had expected a tremendous transformation in their lifestyle after the rise of industrialization and urbanization.
But it was not the case since the poor class remained poor. Making the matter worse, their exploitation was increased manifold, and the gulf between haves and haves-not increased further. Therefore, people felt largely disillusioned and disappointed with capitalism-led industrialization and urbanization.
In 1890, the labor movements got more radicalized and pronounced especially in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. It became one of the causes of World Wars. The books like Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital became important and vociferous. This was the reason that created a lot of tumult and turbulence in the early days of the 20th century.
Rise of Industrial Powers and World Wars
Besides, the emergence of the new industrial powers in the 20th such as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, etc. was one of the causes of World Wars. They tried to increase their hegemony, political clout, and sphere of power by creating more allies and punishing their adversaries.
As Westad says, this first pushed the West into a bloody conflict, World War I (Westad, 2017, 12). It was more or less a war of economic, political, and social hegemony between the United Kingdom, France, and the United States and Germany, Italy, and the Ottomans. They were fighting to increase their outreach and lessen the power of their adversary.
From Treaty of Versailles to Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Notoriously, the Treaty of Versailles (1919) was one of the major causes of World Wars. This treaty ridiculed the German nation and put all the onus and economic cost of World War I on Germany. According to John Maynard Keynes, the end of World War I sowed the seeds of World War II.
That was why there were Two World Wars that caused over 130 million casualties and squandered away trillions of dollars. This war of hegemony among the major powers ended with the victory of The Allies when the US dropped Fat Man and Little Boy on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Cold War between Socialism and Liberalism
Then started a Cold War between the Stalin-led USSR and the USA from 1945 to 1991 with the fall of the latter. This conflict between Socialism and Liberalism [Korean War 1948-53, the Vietnam War 1954–75, Afghanistan war 1979-1989] was one of the main causes of World Wars.
This was another clash of systems; Socialism and Liberalism. The United States, being the largest economy with rather invincible borders was considering itself the only Master. It gave nearly half-trillion dollars Marshall Plan for the renovation of Europe which further substantiated American stature.
It had accepted America as the new global power. Asia, Latin America, and Africa were not strong enough to challenge it. This shifted the world into three groups. One group was under the influence of the Liberalism-led USA, the second group was Socialism-led Russia, and the third one was the group of the Non-Alignment Movement.
Korean War (1948-53), the Vietnam War (1954–75), and Afghan War (1979-1989)
From Korean War to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the Vietnam War to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, it was the conflict between Socialism that wanted more followers and Liberalism which wanted to strengthen its roots and do away with Socialism (Westad, 2017, 620). During this Cold War, over 7-8 million people died (In Vietnam, Afghanistan, and other hotspots).
Joshua Goldstein of Foreign Policy magazine estimated 180,000 deaths per year, or over 7 million. The Association of Responsible Dissent, made up of ex-CIA agents, estimated 6 million deaths by US actions during the Cold War. In short, the 20th century began with a tumult and turbulence (radicalization of labor movements) and ended with the end of the USSR.Share