“Territorial disputes were the main cause of wars.” Discuss with reference to two wars, each chosen from a different region.

The assertion that territorial disputes were the main cause of wars warrants careful examination. While territorial disputes have indeed been significant triggers in various conflicts, they often emerge from and intertwine with broader issues like nationalism, ethnic tensions, and economic factors. For this discussion, let's analyse the Pacific Theatre of World War II (1937-1945) and the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).

In the Pacific Theatre of World War II, territorial disputes played a crucial role in the outbreak of hostilities, notably Japan's invasion of China in 1937 and its subsequent expansion into Southeast Asia. These actions were driven by Japan's imperial ambitions, its desire for self-sufficiency, and its quest for resources, particularly after the US embargo on oil exports to Japan following the invasion of French Indochina. However, viewing the war's causes solely through the lens of territorial disputes overlooks the deeper issues at play. Japan's militarist and expansionist policies were rooted in nationalistic fervour, economic pressures from the Great Depression, and a desire to counter Western influence in Asia. Historian John Dower, in "War Without Mercy," discusses the influence of racial ideologies, viewing the war as a clash between the Japanese concept of a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" and Western imperialism.

Similarly, the Iran-Iraq War was triggered by territorial disputes, particularly over the strategic Shatt al-Arab waterway. Saddam Hussein, seeking to exploit the chaos of post-revolutionary Iran, also harboured ambitions to annex Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province and establish Iraq as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. However, these territorial disputes were closely tied to broader geopolitical and ideological factors. Saddam feared the spread of Iran's revolutionary Shi'a Islam among Iraq's Shi'a majority, potentially destabilizing his Sunni-led regime. Meanwhile, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini sought to export his Islamic revolution and viewed Iraq's secular Ba'athist regime as anathema. Historian Pierre Razoux, in "The Iran-Iraq War," highlights how the war was not only a territorial conflict but also a profound ideological battle.

 In both wars, territorial disputes were indeed significant triggers. However, they were closely interlinked with broader geopolitical, ideological, and economic factors, underscoring the multi-causal nature of these conflicts. It is essential, therefore, to approach historical causation with nuance, acknowledging that while territorial disputes can be a major cause of wars, they are often symptomatic of deeper issues. Thus, the statement that territorial disputes were the main cause of wars can be seen as an oversimplification of the complex tapestry of causes that precipitate armed conflicts.