The International Context

1. Japan was seen as an ‘aggressor state’ and threatened Britain’s Eastern interests such as Hong Kong, Malaya and Singapore.2. Taylor’s assumption that Hitler was an opportunist like Weimar politicians can be argued with due to the German invasion of Russia and Poland which clearly indicated his determination in pursuing his objectives3. The recovery of Alsace Lorraine completed French territorial ambitions. Emphasis was placed on forming powerful alliances (e.g. -Britain) to restrain a resurgent Germany, however French politics remained uncoordinated and weak and the shortlived governments were hard to cooperate with.4. Western governments were faced with an unappealing ally in the USSR because it was necessary it deter a Stalin-Hitler alliance and therefore unavoidable, despite Russia’s communism.5. For the entire 1920’s, the US congress had remained isolationist. The 1935 Nye Commission concluded that high profits on American munitions had resulted in US involvement in WW1. As a result the ‘Neutrality Acts’ were passed which banned the sales of arms to any foreign country. Roosevelt failed to amend the act and as a result the USA were rendered powerless to aid foreign friends.B – The Policy MakersWhy were leading British politicains unwilling to take a stand against Hitler?MacDonald – A ‘spent force; by the time Hitler became aggressive, lack of power left him incapable of opposingBaldwin – Did not show much interest in foreign affairs and preferred to ‘preside over’ rather than direct his cabinetJohn Simon – ‘Sat on the fence for too long’ and favored a path of conciliation and concessionS. Hoare – Was committed to seeking peaceful solutionsT. Henderson – British German Ambassador – too sympathetic to Hitler.C – Factors That Shaped Foreign Policy 1929-371. How did the following put limits on policies?Chiefs of Staff – Produced reports resulting in ‘Defence Requirements Committee’ (1933) which put strict limitations on Britain’s freedom of actionTreasury – Also limited the radicalism of British foreign policy. Had a personal impact on Chamberlain who had held position of Chancellor of ExchequerPublic Opinion – Freedom of press supported appeasement as did very influential Oxford Union which helped create an appeasement supporting public climate. By-election results and peace ballots gave evidence of a strong pacifist sentiment, probably due to memories of experiences in WW1. However enthusiasm was limited to a military war only if necessary.GB’s Global Commitments – Scattered colonies were given priority to maintain links, and tied down many troops and materials overseas.GB’s Vulnerability to Air Attack -Shaped rearmament into building a deterrent defensive force rather than an aggressive-based one.2. Other than war, Britain had three possible responses to aggression.* Complete reliance on peace-keeping of League of Nations* Collective Security through a series of regional alliances* Appeasement3.D – The Collapse of International Cooperation1. International cooperation was sought through disarmament talks and international finance. Failure on both of these fronts can not be attributed to lack of British endeavor, diplomatic conferences were scheduled but did not gain any results. Parity was difficult to establish, especially between France & Italy and Germany. Germany’s objections to the fairness and ratios of arms were the main cause of failure for the disarmament program. The same day fair British proposals were made, Germany withdrew from talks and later left the League. Their resistance to any plan rendered the Disarmament Conferences useless. After the 1931 collapse of the Gold Standard resulting in serious currency fluctuations, a main objective was to create a stable, worldwide financial system. In June 1933, 64 countries attended the ‘World Economic Conference’, however differing degrees of loyalty and dependence on the Gold Standard resulted in a clash of interest and cooperation ceased.2. Fascist takeovers such as the invasions of Abyssinia and Manchuria, weakened the League considerably, and British policies did not help restrain this. The Lytton comission was set up to investigate the Manchurian crisis, and despite condemning the Japanese invasion, actually did little to stop it, instead recommending and passing that Manchuria should have independence under Chinese supervision, a decision which Japan ignored. British policy was similar- it condemned in all the right places, but refused to act. The Anglo-German naval Agreement, justified as a response to German conscription, gravely damaged Anglo-French relations and exposed the inconsistencies of British policy. Just after Britain had condemned German rearmament at the League, she had given German the right to build up to 35% of British capital ships and have submarine parity. The Abyssinian crisis was even more delicate. Italian support was needed for Britain to restrain Germany, and vice versa. Mussolini refused to accept parts of Abyssinia, instead claiming he wanted it all. A compromise could not be established, the closest was the Hoare Laval pact which drew up what in the circumstances, was the fairest pact Abyssinia could have hoped for, however it was rejected by both countries and Hoare resigned. Ultimately Mussolini took over the entire country and Hailie Selassie fled. The League’s failure to impose effective sanctions exposed it as weak and futile. Britain’s pursuing of two contradictory policies (Pressurize Italy to accept sanctions whilst seeking a compromise solution) failed, revealing the British government as seemingly incompetent.E – British Defence PolicyOften condemned as half-hearted, the British defense policy before 1933 was definitely impaired by the strict regulation of spending in accordance to the 10 year rule. It was only by 1935’s ‘Defence White Paper’ that the real threats to peace were taken into acocunt and expenditure was increased on the three defence services. A Minister for Coordination of Defence was appointed – however the man appointed to fill it – Thomas Inskip, a lawyer with no armed force experience – exposed the government’s lukewarm approach to rearamament. The 1937 Inskip Report constrained the economy until 1939, making no preparation for any expeditionary forceF – The Invasion of the Rhineland1. Eden’s view was that Hitler’s reoccupation of the Rhineland had removed another ‘bargaining counter’ in the concessions made towards Germany.2. The British government did not see the reoccupation as a great breach of the Treaty, instead accounting for it as Hitler merely ‘marching into his own back yard’. Avoiding antagonism was necessary for Britain, whose armaments and public were not in a fit state to go to war.3. As a result, France were more vulnerable with the now defended Rhineland no longer acting as a buffer from Germany’s troops.G – The Spanish Civil WarBritain’s ambivalent, non-interventionist policies, chiefly the ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ which accepted status quo with Mussolini in 1937, helped make forming any future anti-fascist alliance difficult. Russia consequently became increasingly distrustful of France and Britain because of their failure to prevent German and Italian support for the Spanish Nationalists. The League of Nations was revealed as weak and useless – a legitamate Spanish government had been overthrown. The mutual suspicions between Russia, France and Britain made a anti-fascist front even more unlikely.