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This was nations defining their borders and fighting for them, not imperial rivalry.

It was a continuation of the 19th century great power rivalry in Europe - where the dominant European powers had not realized or accepted that they were no longer truly the relevant great powers. But, again, the access to resources afforded the UK and France by the UK's effective control of the sea lanes was perceived as an advantage which Germany sought to offset. Japan did more to put an end to European overseas colonies than anything else. That was one reason Germany entered into an alliance with Japan. For Germany the role of colonies was more that of phantom limb pain.

The ideologies of national exceptionalism were virtually universal - to the extent it is surprising that the nations involved could even form alliances. But reality trumps ideology provided there is no hard requirement to repudiate ridiculous ideologies.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 11:19:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to add this:

Adolf Hitler

In Mein Kampf and in numerous speeches Hitler claimed that the German population needed more living space. Hitler's Lebensraum policy was mainly directed at the Soviet Union. He was especially interested in the Ukraine where he planned to develop a German colony. The system would be based on the British occupation of India: "What India was for England the territories of Russia will be for us... The German colonists ought to live on handsome, spacious farms. The German services will be lodged in marvellous buildings, the governors in palaces... The Germans - this is essential - will have to constitute amongst themselves a closed society, like a fortress. The least of our stable-lads will be superior to any native."

So while the actual German pre-wwI colonies did not matter so much, the idea of a colonial empire was very much involved. One can speculate about what would have happened if France and Britain had not declared war on Germany in September 1939, but backed down again. Would Hitler have gone directly for the Soviet Union then?

I would argue that either way Htiler attacked the order upheld by Britain, as that order included that no single power might dominate the European continent.

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by A swedish kind of death on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 12:30:59 PM EST
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One can speculate about what would have happened if France and Britain had not declared war on Germany in September 1939, but backed down again. Would Hitler have gone directly for the Soviet Union then?

Unlikely. The whole purpose of the Russo-German partitioning of the Baltic region, from the German point of view, was to leave Germany free to curbstomp France without having to worry about an Eastern front. If war had not been declared, they'd probably have made a slightly greater effort to pretend that they were simply allying with Denmark and Norway rather than conquering them. But that would likely be about it.

After all, the Germans knew that the peace in the East would be unlikely to last forever, and they had already tried and failed to secure a deal with the Western powers to go after Russia together. So the whole "curbstomp France" project came with a sell-by date.

They might have tried partitioning the Balkans with either Russia or Turkey, but then they would have risked their relationship with Italy. Which was of ideological, if not particular practical, value to Germany.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Sep 5th, 2011 at 04:54:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hitler's notion of what India was for Britain was largely delusional. And dreams of imperial adventure and grandeur are one thing, but the essential causes of the war lay in the power relations between European nations (some recent creations of 19th-century nationalism) - as you point out:

A swedish kind of death:

I would argue that either way Htiler attacked the order upheld by Britain, as that order included that no single power might dominate the European continent.

The British Empire, however, did not include the European continent, and Britain could support but not impose that policy (Hitler thought Britain would accept the change he intended to bring about). Again, we're in the field of the definition of nations (subtext nationalism), their extent and borders, and their relative power positions, because some at least (Germany most) considered those questions as not yet having been satisfactorily settled.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Sep 6th, 2011 at 11:07:55 AM EST
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