It is said that when asked about what he thought of the French Revolution, the Chinese foreign minister Zhu Enlai replied that it is too early to say. This famous quip about the French Revolution can be applied also to the consequences of World War II. This article is the final installment in a series of articles which dealt with the greatest conflict ever to have been fought and provides a short-list of the far reaching consequences of this event. The list of consequences should not be viewed by the readers as being definitive and I strongly urge them to add more or comment on them.
The term appeasement is unpopular today both in politics and in academia as it is associated with the policy pursued by France and Great Britain towards Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The highpoint of this policy was reached on September 29, 1938 in Munich when the Western Powers gave in to Hitler’s territorial demands concerning Czechoslovakia. Since then the term has been associated with political and military weakness and treachery. This article represents the second installment in a series dedicated to the commemorations of 70 years since the start of World War II and will deal with the political implications of appeasement. In the following lines I will outline the meaning of appeasement and its implications for the international system. My approach will draw upon the work of Robert Gilpin and of Mark R. Brawley and will concentrate on defining appeasement and explaining the political context in which it was implemented.
Few events have had such a deep impact on world history as the conflict that griped the international system seventy years ago. As all great power wars in the last five hundred years it started in Europe, with a bid a for hegemony made by a Germany, the second in twenty-five years, but it soon spread to North Africa, the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. World War II was a total war, the second in less than a generation, and as such it involved attacks on civilians and genocide. From a military and strategic point of view it was a total war, as the aim of the war was the re-ordering of the entire international system and the destruction of some of its members; its scope was not limited to the European continent, it saw an unprecedented level of societal mobilization for the war effort in every country involved and it was prosecuted with every means available, culminating in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.