Treaty of Versailles
To what extent was the Peace Settlement reached at Versailles in 1919 ultimately responsible for causing the SECOND WORLD WAR and initiating other Crises of the Twentieth Century?
The most persuasive and sound argument put forward between Margaret Macmillan and David A. Andelman regarding the peace settlement reached at Versailles in 1919 and how this settlement was responsible for causing the Second World War and furthermore initiating other crises of the twentieth century in my opinion is that of Margaret Macmillan’s.
Macmillan notes: ‘people of the past were creatures of their times’. I fully agree with this perspective as viewers of history from this day and age have the luxury of hindsight, whereas the people of the past had only the institutions and technologies of their own times they were in. Therefore these new realities that were created by these people were created with the little that they were given. These three prominent decision makers, DAVID LLOYD GEORGE of Britain, GEORGE CLEMENCEAU of France, and WOODROW WILSON of America, the best embodiments of leadership and decision makers of their time shouldn’t in my opinion bear the brunt of blame thrown at them by particular historians for the Second World War and other twentieth century catastrophes. Margaret also notes: ‘When SOCIETY was turned upside down, when it was NOT clear what the future would be’. Those arduous six whole months, the longest abroad decision making of world leaders, to collectively sort out an ugly mess and clearly a very hard to fix myriad of problems on a grand scale while the world looked on anxiously. The diplomacy this required regardless of these men’s personal foibles and at times certain stubborn leadership tactics were met with the constant contrast of different ideals and different goals wishing to be met by the other world delegates of the time.
In contrast to Margaret’s views, David A. Andelman’s more negative popular assessment:
‘No one quite knew how peace was to be made’. This statement doesn’t give much weight or respect to the decision makers and to their extraordinary dilemma they faced. Andelman also comments:, ‘lack of organization verging on the chaotic’. This would definitely make any decision making task that bit more harder to accomplish. The reasoning that this war ended quicker than these onlookers expected and taking many off guard especially the current main three leaders of the big three nations at the time.
The role of the decision makers who replaced the peacemakers in the 1920s and 1930s and whose implementation, neglect, or abandonment of the settlement must play a crucial part in any explanation of 1939.
This assessment from Andelman shows some empathy toward the unforeseen tragedies to come with some definite level of agreement with MacMillan’s more empathetic perspective.
Andelman notes: ‘the extreme lack of time these leaders had in organising and planning peace because of the end of this Great War coming to an end quicker than most had thought’. This lack of luxury of time to properly implement the very best and brightest strategies of lasting peace was built without the strength and foresight such leaders naturally would have hoped for. (Resulting in instability cropping up in areas not expected). All these factors of the aftershock of war giving rise to the opportunistic future dictator ADOLF HITLER, to seize upon Germany’s post World War hardships and use these as his expedient powerful dictatorial RISE to take control and agitate Germany to war once again in 1939.
Alan Sharp notes: ‘Hitler’s use of the Sudetenland Germans’ discontent to destabilize Czechoslovakia in 1938 realized one of the peacemakers’ nightmares’. Although this is true and undisputed, these events would be near impossible for Peace Makers of 1919 to foresee.
Dealing with the Middle East, for example, both Lloyd George and Clemenceau treated the region in the spirit of nineteenth-century imperialism (Wilson and the Americans had, at that stage, a limited interest in the area) – The Middle East. The vast, largely Arab, territories left adrift with the demise of the Ottoman empire were, in their view, up for grabs, and the opinions and wishes of the locals counted for very little.
This unfair treatment dished out to some of the minority regions would no doubt leave a lasting scar that would linger for many years even after 1939 and quite possibly well into these modern times.
Sharp notes: ‘The delegates in Paris wanted to make a lasting peace but knew they could not create a perfect world’. This empathises and takes the side of MacMillan’s sympathies on how tough the whole task was at the time and states with the fact that almost any outcome would be nowhere near ‘A perfect world’. Sharp also notes: ‘The conference was a staging post on the road to the outbreak of another major European war in 1939, but it was not the point at which that road began’. This observation takes the blame from the delegates of the capital of the world – Paris, and shifts a good portion of this responsibility to the future caretakers of this peace treaty who have for many reasons and/or others taken their eyes off the impending areas of dire impending risk.
Whether some or most of these elements at the time such as the fact of America NOT joining the League of Nations, the lack of attention given to these very volatile parts of the world in way of ideology and mass social concerns for financial stability. The fact that this issue of mass social concern can quite easily flip and move toward Bolshevism and ultimately Communism. Sharp notes: ‘The conference also feared Bolshevism would fill the vacuum of power in eastern and central Europe unless it made rapid decisions’. Hence hasty decision making forced by the current occasion.
Part of its appeal was that it offered a manageable explanation of the enormous complexities of the postwar world by reducing them to the decisions of three men, caricatured as the Wily Welsh Wizard, the Cynical Defender of France, and the failed American Philosopher-King.
An incredibly daunting job the big three really had in a crazy time in history.
A D Solomon