Provocative examination of modern history, showing that World War II was all but inevitable given the military-industrial-political complex of the day.
In Europe and Asia in the era following World War I, writes Maiolo (International History and War Studies/King’s College, London; The Royal Navy and Nazi Germany, 1933–1939, 1998), many of the world’s powers decided to shake off the bad memories of the trenches and rearm. As the author notes, the United States hardly figured at the beginning, its standing army tiny and military budget almost nonexistent. France had the biggest army in the world in 1929, and the other powers measured themselves against it. Some rearmed deliberately, taking the first steps to do so under the tutelage of the likes of Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky and Werner von Blomberg. This armament and rearmament came packed with apocalyptic visions. Joseph Stalin, for instance, believed that “the ruling classes in Paris and London would soon face the choice of either class war on their own streets or joining forces to strike a spiteful blow against that beacon of proletarian hope, the Soviet Union.” That blow would come from Germany, of course, which had an apocalyptic vision to match Stalin’s—as did Japan, whose military leaders predicted an Armageddon in which “the Japanese were destined to lead Asia against the United States.” Ironies abound in Maiolo’s account. For one, the plan to build up the United States as a military-industrial power was drafted by an army officer named Dwight Eisenhower, who later warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. For another, Germany never fully rearmed until well into WWII, in part because Hitler “never dedicated himself to hands-on administration,” and his lieutenants spent too much time squabbling about who got which resources. In the end, writes the author, most of the nations that indulged in the arms race of the era wound up in smoke and ruins or nearly bankrupt.
A fruitful, timely work in an era of ever-increasing military spending.