Sample DP Paper 2 essays on Collective Security

From IBDP May 2014 History PAPER 2

Examine the factors that hindered the successful establishment of collective security in either the period 1920–1930 or the period 1945–1955. 

 The IBO awarded this essay 15/20 


From IBDP May 2013 History PAPER 2 TZ2
 Compare and Contrast the factors that helped and hindered attempts at collective security in the 10 years after each World War

                  Looking at the post-war periods (1919-1929 and 1945-1955) it becomes clear that the efforts and factors that helped and hindered the attempts made at collective security are directly linked to Germany. Hence, this essay shall analyse the attempts at collective security made, ye recognizing the significance of Germany indirectly conveyed by the given time frames within this question. Mainly economic and political factors influenced collective security, therefore the following essay is structured accordingly.
                  Beginning with attempts at collective security as a result of the First World War, one must clearly begin with the Paris peace treaties of 1919 and 1920. Clearly the Treaty of Versailles, being the most known amongst these, must be dealt with in more detail. Why is it that French Ferdinand Foch described it as: “This is not peace. This is an armistice for 20 years.”? Its significance is due to the fact that it dealt with Germany – the most difficult candidate to handle after the war: Was she to blame or not? How harsh should the consequences be? These were the questions that led to the main disagreements among the three leading discussers (French Clemenceau, British Lloyd George and American Wilson) who were aiming to prevent a proximate German revolt yet leaving room for it to rebuild itself, while simultaneously establishing conditions that would help collective security within the coming time. It is clearly the agreements of Versailles – dealing with Germany – that were most crucial in the influence on collective security in the coming years not the treaty of St. Germain dealing with Austria or Neuilly dealing with Bulgaria, yet which were also attempts at helping the establishment of conditions for collective security.
Clearly all attempts to help collective security 1919-1929 were related to Germany. The financial aid that it was supplied with was the only effort of the US in European aid through the Dawes Plan of 1924 and the Young plan of 1929. The political agreements also related to German such as the Rapallo treaty, where Germany itself attempted to help collective security  by improving its relationship with Russia through releasing tension from the imposed ideas of Brest-Litovsk. Just as the Locarno Treaty of 1925 focussing on Germany being treated equally, which is often seen as the ‘climax of fulfilment’ and a step towards world peace. The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 which renounced to the use of aggression in the solving of political conflicts was immediately signed by Germany which clearly focussed on previous German actions such as WWI and the Franco-Prussian war.
However, one could possibly argue that the highlighted focus on Germany was simply a result of the fact that it was blamed for the war and was forced to pay incredible reparations (articles 231 & 232 of the Versailles Treaty) and that these were not always the attempts to help collective security but attempts to support Germany. The really significant events affecting collective security were related to the League of Nations which Germany only joined in 1926! Events such as the plebiscite of the Aaland Islands of 1920 (helping collective security) or Corfu of 1923 (hindering collective security through showing the league’s and Europe’s weaknesses) are significant aspects of collective security between 1919 and 1929. On the other hand French historian André Le Breton would potentially argue that it was the Ruhr invasion of 1929 which in his words is “the key event of collective security in the interwar period”, that must be looked at more closely. It was an event clearly hindering collective security, but interestingly again is also directly linked to Germany and the Treaty of Versailles. This is because Le Breton refers to the invasion of 70,000 French and Belgian troops of the Ruhr area in January 1923 as a result of Germany not paying its reparation fees agreed upon in Versailles. One can certainly debate Germany’s affect on collective security yet one can see that all the events mentioned in the above are political or economic efforts made but frequently not aiming directly at affecting collective security, rather than aiming at a more directed and narrow purpose. The U.S. wanting to support the German recovery or the French wanting to punish Germany for not paying its fees has more selfish purposes, rather than being aimed at affecting collective security. However it can be agreed upon, that even if events affecting collective security were not based on Germany within the given time frame, it certainly played a very significant role in determining and affecting it.
As to collective security after WWII, the time frame therefore being 1945 to 1955 also initiates with a conference dealing with Germany – the Potsdam Conference of July to August 1945. Throughout this period it can be seen how Germany was seen as a “power vacuum” in Europe and how this was a clear factor affecting collective security after the war. When looking at the Potsdam conference, one must look at the Yalta conference of February 1945, yet it is important – especially when answering this question which clearly specifies that one must analyse 10 years AFTER each World War – that this conference was still held during the war. However it is so crucial and affected the following Potsdam conference so significantly that it must be considered as well, especially because it is often argued that it was the perspective change of the powers from one conference to the other, which mostly affected the conflicting relationships in Europe afterwards, obviously affecting collective security. The Yalta conference of February and the Potsdam conference of July and August 1945 discussed (as at Versailles, and in fact seen by some as the “Versailles of WWII”) the consequences Germany would have to deal with after WWII including reparations and its division into zones. Yet what can be seen is that within this time frame Germany was the source of a conflict between two “super powers” with very conflicting ideologies and policies: the democratic United States and communist Russia. The Iron Curtain Speech of March 5th 1946 in which Winston Churchill argued that “an iron curtain has descended” among Europe, the Russians reacted by claiming he had “declared war on the Soviet Union. Yet, meanwhile the USSR pursued its “Salami tactics” gradually taking over Eastern European countries until 1948: Albania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia and East Germany – clearly not encouraging collective SECURITY if not acting against it. The Truman Doctrine of March 1947 was the beginning of what the Russians called “dollar imperialism” as they began to financially support Western countries and as a result Stalin formed “Cominform” in October of the same year taking control over the economy of all Communist states. Hence one can see how the conflict of treating Germany after the war, being a significant ‘power vaccuum’, was a source of conflict catalysing a competition for power which completely hindered the development of collective security and led to the next war – the Cold War.
In conclusion, one can clearly see that Germany was the main source of conflict and debate within the two given time frames and therefore was one of the key factors helping and hindering collective security. In  the first it led to efforts helping it and therefore supporting collective security, while in the second it initiated an increasingly heated pursuit of power as it itself was a ‘power vaccuum’ and therefore encouraged the hindering of collective security. What one can definitely say is that it was the main factor affecting collective security within the two given time frames, as it affected the most of the political and economic efforts made.

IBDP Paper 3 History May 2021 Exam:

 “The Great Depression caused the collapse of collective security.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Many historians blame the collapse of collective security on the League of Nations and its shortcomings, with Norman D. Palmer and Howard C. Perkins themselves regarding it as a “complete failure as an instrument for enforcement of collective security”.1 Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that the Great Depression gave origin to a series of events that sparked aggression among powerful nations, thus accelerating the demise of collective security. Therefore, this essay will analyze the rise of Hitler, aggressive foreign policies and domestic economic affairs to argue that the Great Depression did indeed cause the collapse of collective security.

In the words of A.J.P. Taylor, “the Great Depression put the wind in Hitler’s sails”.2 Hitler’s rise to power initiated the collapse of collective security by leading Germany out of the League of Nations. The Great Depression was followed by a referendum to determine whether Germany should remain a member of the League or leave the organization. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of the latter and in November 1933, a mere nine months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, Germany announced its withdrawal from the League. This was a result of increasing acceptance of extremist ideals in an act of pure desperation, as is often the case during economic depressions. Germany’s departure from the League made Hitler’s renunciation of collective security clear and highlighted its weakness, setting the stage for Italy to also leave the League in 1937 in order to avoid economic sanctions for the invasion of Abyssinia.3 Collective security was also threatened by Hitler’s rejection of the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles. After the Western powers refused to grant Germany military equality, Hitler initiated rapid militarization and, as a result, numerous violations of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1935, Hitler announced the construction of a new Luftwaffe (air force), the reinstitution of conscription and the creation of an army of 500,000 men - which vastly exceeded the limits set by the Treaty.4 Although Hitler’s militarization posed a threat to the rest of Europe, no country acted to stop him early on. This is because his intentions in Europe were still somewhat ambiguous and taking military action against Germany at this stage would have seemed unreasonable. This failure to act against Hitler in the early stages of his leadership would eventually cause the collapse of collective security as “only military force could undo that which Germany had already accomplished”.5 The British and French governments condemned Hitler’s decisions, with France also requesting an “extraordinary session of the League Council to investigate German actions”, but no action was taken by the League. Ultimately, the League of Nations’ status as a ‘peace-making’ organization rendered it useless in stopping German expansion. That which should have been accomplished by the League was impossible due to its lack of an army; and convincing Britain and France to take military action with their recovering armies in the years following the Great Depression was unlikely. Hesitance to act against Hitler at this point in time may have been justified, however, as factors such as the ten-year “Non-Aggression Pact” signed with Poland in 1934 gave the impression that Hitler’s intentions may have been peaceful. Ultimately, Hitler’s rise to power as a result of the Great Depression was a key factor in highlighting the weaknesses of the League and collective security.

The Great Depression also spiked nations’ sense of self-interest, giving rise to fascism, and with it, aggressive foreign policies.6 In 1934, “Italy was suffering from the depression, and a victorious war would divert attention from internal troubles”,7 causing Mussolini to invade Abyssinia by 1935. The invasion helped improve morale and a sense of national pride as it avenged the Italian defeat at Adowa in 1896. However, collective security was once again proven to be ineffective, as the economic sanctions applied by the League did nothing to stop Mussolini’s conquest. Similarly, Britain and France were reluctant to take a stand against Mussolini in the hopes that Italy would remain allied to them in a war against Germany, showing how the idea of ‘collective security’ was of secondary importance. Even Haile Selassie’s appeal to the League council in 1936 was not acted upon, causing A.J.P. Taylor to regard the League as a “sham” and “a failure”.8 Fascism and Mussolini’s expansionist ideals that arose as a result of the Great Depression caused a lack of faith in collective security, proving its inability to resolve international conflicts. On the other hand, it can be argued that the Italian attack on Abyssinia was inevitable due to nationalist and colonialist ideals, along with the need to avenge the Italian defeat that came thirty years prior. Additionally, there had not been any plans to invade Abyssinia before 1934. The invasion was the result of a border incident between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland, which Mussolini used as an excuse to intervene, providing a quick fix to boost national morale.9 Regardless of the origin of Mussolini’s decision to expand into Abyssinia, the need to redirect attention from domestic problems was a result of the Great Depression, with one of the byproducts being the collapse of collective security.
Another effect of the Great Depression was the increased focus on countries’ domestic economic situations rather than international peacekeeping. With a collapsing economy, most countries could not afford to spend their resources on international affairs. One example of this is Britain’s reluctance to take action during the Manchurian incident of 1931 in order to protect national interest.10 

Britain had interests in Manchuria but, due to its economic struggles, a war against Japan for the sake of Manchuria was not an option.11 Collective security was of little concern  after the Great Depression as, even if a country could afford to intervene in an international conflict, its entire population would consider it unjust to prioritize another country’s safety over their numerous domestic troubles. Economic interest abroad also became increasingly important in the 1930s, causing nations to prioritize investments over peace. At the time of the Manchurian incident, “the bulk of British investments were not in the northern but in the southern parts of China.”12 This explains why the British decided against action in Manchuria, as they had little to protect. When the Japanese fought the Chinese in Shanghai in 1932, on the other hand, Britain acted quickly to resolve the conflict. Clearly, the British had no interest in collective security as they ignored China’s appeal to the League just days after the invasion and only took action when their economic interests were at stake. However, British actions cannot entirely be blamed on financial factors. In 1931, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, defended Japanese actions, claiming that Japan had a right to Manchuria.13 Therefore, it is possible that Britain did not want to interfere with what they believed was Japan’s rightful territory. It is clear that the Great Depression resulted in an urgent need to prioritize domestic economic affairs, thus shifting the focus away from international peace and undermining the system of collective security.

In conclusion, the Great Depression played a major role in the collapse of collective security. The depression gave rise to aggressive foreign policies, particularly those of Mussolini and Hitler, and increased nations’ need to prioritize their own interests. Mussolini and Hitler’s actions showed the ineffectiveness of collective security, while domestic economic interests prevented countries from acting upon appeals to the League of Nations.

 1 (Ebegbulem 26) 2 (Taylor) 3 (“Italy and Germany 1936 to 1940”) 4 (Kissinger) 5 (Emme 99) 6 (“What role did the Great Depression play in causing the failure of the League of Nations?”) 7 (Lowe 73) 8 (Taylor) 9 (“Italo-Ethiopian War | Causes, Summary, & Facts”) 10 (“What role did the Great Depression play in causing the failure of the League of Nations?”) 11 (Hecht 177) 12 (Hecht 178) 13 (Lowe 70)

“The Great Depression caused the collapse of collective security.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

The Great Depression, the financial plague, swiftly spread from its birthplace in Wall Street to the streets of London and of mainland Europe. The resulting recession caused mass chaos to unfold among the war-stricken European nations, while they were still trying to wholly recover from the devastating impact of the First World War. The Depression also further aggravated the already struggling nations while they were trying to find their footing again. This is evident when an ignominious Germany quickly turned to an extremist party to lead them back to prosperity. And when Italy and Japan decided to invade Abyssinia and Manchuria, respectively, in order to procure wealth and resources for their struggling economy. While such events would normally cause unease to the legislations of democratic Europe, they were instead focused with the concern of rebuilding their own economic collapse. This internal focus towards economic survival paved the way for the collapse of the League of Nations, and along with it the threat of a looming war. Robert Skidelsky argued that the Great Depression caused ‘a delayed reaction to the war,’ since Britain could no longer afford to serve ‘as Europe’s lender of last resorts.’ Considering the above described events, this essay will discuss how Britain’s weakened economy, caused by the Great Depression, predominantly brought about the collapse of collective security. And how its effects were further aggravated, by the demoralizing impact of the Treaty of Versailles to the nations of Japan, Germany, and Italy. 

The combination of the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression provoked events which ultimately led to the collapse of the collective security. After the end of the First World War in 1918, all the involved nations met in the palace of Versailles, outside of Paris, to discuss the content of the armistice treaty. While Japan, being an Ally during the First World War, was promised territories in East Asia, if they won the war; after Germany was defeated, Japan expected to acquire a number of German territories in South East Asia but since Japan was not seen as a respected nation during the negotiations; they didn’t receive much of the land that they hoped to obtain. This didn’t sit well with the Japanese, and caused them to have an ambition of expanding their influence around East Asia. When the Great Depression hit, public morale was very low, and the Japanese isles slowly were becoming too small to host their ever-growing population. Their recently appointed emperor, Hirohito, and his military decided that occupying Manchuria would be immensely beneficial for their country, supplying them with much-needed resources, and living space for the expanding Japanese population. This brought about the idea of attacking Manchuria, and their breaking of a multitude of international treaties, which ultimately started the slow grinding process of the collapse of collective security, especially since Britain was no longer policing the world security. Despite the effect it had on Japan; the treaty’s main purpose was to declare that Germany was at fault for the war, and must pay reparations, disarm, and lose territories in Europe and their overseas colonies as a punishment (“Treaty of Versailles | Definition, Summary, Terms, & Facts.”). This treaty effectively humiliated the German people, and made quality of life in Germany increasingly difficult. Once the Great Depression effects struck Germany hard in 1929, the German morale and unemployment rates were at an all-time low. This left the German people searching for an answer, something that would get them out of their slump. Desperate for an answer, the German people started to listen to a public speaker from the extreme right Fascist Nazi party, Hitler. Although many Germans didn’t agree with everything that Hitler and the Nazis stood for; his speeches condemning the Treaty of Versailles, and calling all “Germans to Stand Together” were adored by the public, who seemingly felt like their last resort was to vote him and his party to power. A.J.P Taylor himself argues, ‘that the great depression put the wind in Hitlers sails’. Indeed, it appears that without the effects of the Great Depression, such events may not have transpired, and would not have further led to the collapse of collective security with Germany threatening a chance for peace time. Again the Germans, like the Japanese, went unchecked as a result of Britain no longer focusing on the unfolding world events, but rather concerned with their own economic struggles from the Depression. The Treaty of Versailles did not only cause unrest in Germany, but it was also seen as unfair in Italy. The Italians had switched sides in the First World War with the hope that they would gain land after the war had ended. In the Treaty of Versailles, Italy was given land, but it was substantially less land than they expected, and only acquired the Austro-German region of Tirol, plus they still had to pay reparations despite being on the winning side. This small gain of territory, and the ‘unjust’ reparations, made Italy feel that they were dealt a bad hand. 

 This bad feeling lingered throughout the 1920s and when the Depression hit, the Italian people’s morale was lower than ever, and Mussolini saw a way to kill a few birds with one stone. His invasion of Abyssinia would give them access to natural resources, that they desperately needed, while also adding territory to their ‘empire.’ Ultimately, this would boost morale by boosting the economy and also repairing the major problem Italians had with the Treaty of Versailles. This led to Mussolini’s interest in Abyssinia, subsequently setting up the breaking of international treaties and laws. These broken laws, again, pierced the bubble which was Europe's collective security (“Treaty of Versailles”). The Treaty of Versailles, with its harsh terms towards secondary nations, eventually led to mass discontent of the affected nations. In combination with the Great Depression, this sparked the collapse of collective security as nations started to break treaties, and gradually became more hostile without the world police nation of Britain supporting world security. The Great Depression predominantly caused collective security to collapse, as Britain was too preoccupied with their own matters, deeming them incapable of upholding the League of Nations declarations and laws. The League of Nations’ idea of collective security was that all nations should condemn any nation that broke international treaties or laws; whether, it is through economic sanctions, diplomatic measures, or military action, as stated in Articles 10, 11 and 16 of the League’s accord. The League's directives were more of a code of honor since nations could choose whether to comply or not, as the League lacked the means to enforce any treaties made. Until the 1930s, the League was partially successful in maintaining peace and enforcing their law and referendums. This was entirely due to the fact that Britain acted as the world's policeman, always turning up to rescue, resolve or put an end to any conflicts which could result in a war. When the Great Depression infected the streets of London, Britain no longer had the economical means or the political will to police the world. Their politicians most likely wondered who would care for ‘Manchurians, Ethiopians, or Czechoslovakians’(“Why Did Collective Security Fail in the 1930s History Essay”) during our current crisis; and therefore only cared to improve their own conditions at home. When in 1931 the Japanese invaded Manchuria, breaking a multitude of international treaties; the British didn’t attempt to police them, but rather sent a League of Nations delegate, Lord Lytton, to evaluate the Mukden Incident, which seemed to be the cause of the conflict. This report achieved nothing, since the Japanese, who were found guilty to having caused the attack, were not going to consider the verdict unless there was someone who was going to enforce it, of course, nobody did. Britain was trade partners with Japan at the time, as such, they decided not to place any sanctions on Japan nor to deploy their military since it would just impair their own economy. Another example is when just two years later, the British again failed to lift a finger when the extremist Nazi party took control of Germany in 1933. Simon Jenkins suggests that Britain was ‘so immersed in the Depression as to be indifferent to Germany’s shifting power.’ This let Hitler build up his power, while the British sat around doing nothing, since their economic problems outweighed the potential breach in the security of Europe. Again, without consequences, more of such incidents were prevalent when Italy, when Mussolini probably noticing how Japan got away with Manchurian, invaded Abyssinia in 1935. Britain and the League of Nations, again condemned Italy for the attack, and threatened to place sanctions. The League also noted that Italy was the aggressor and proposed an armament embargo on Italy for the use of poison gas. Since Britain failed to properly enforce this embargo and didn’t place sanction, it was ignored. Hence, Italy, just like Japan and Germany before her, was able to get away with a “blatant breach of League of Nations rules [which] went unpunished,” as stated by Simon Jenkins himself. These actions together caused a domino like collapse of collective security, as the world creeped closer and closer to war. 

 To conclude, Britain’s ailing economy, cause by the Great Depression, ultimately caused the collapse of the collective security as they were unable to enforce the League of Nations accords. This was due to the fact that they didn’t have the economical means to sustain military operations, and lacked the economic stability to place sanctions. The effects of the Great Depression, along with the defeating impact the Treaty of Versailles had on its victim nations, provoked aggression and extremism from the nations in question, resulting in the collapse of collective security. As stated by Sun Tzu- “in the midst of chaos there is also opportunity,” and in the chaos of the Great Depression these nations used this opportunity to right their perceived wrongs, and ultimately collapse the collective security.

Bibiolography Jenkins, Simon. SHORT HISTORY of EUROPE : From Pericles to Putin. 2018. S.L., Penguin Books, 2021. Romer, Christina D, and Richard H Pells. “Great Depression - Economic Impact.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 10 Jan. 2019, . Accessed 13 Oct. 2022. “Treaty of Versailles.” History, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, Accessed 13 Oct. 2022. “Treaty of Versailles | Definition, Summary, Terms, & Facts.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 Oct. 2018, Accessed 13 Oct. 2022. “Why Did Collective Security Fail in the 1930s History Essay.”, Nov. 2018, essay.php. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.