What were the short and long term effects of World War II?

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brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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World War II, in the short term, reduced the number of effective empires in the world to two: the US and the Soviet Union.  The war bankrupted the British and occupied the French, with of course, Germany and Japan being completely defeated.  The American economy boomed both during and after the war, as the jobs and wealth it created took us out of the Great Depression and heavily industrialized the country.

In the long term, the economy remained healthy in the US and the middle class greatly expanded, but the Cold War struggle between the two remaining superpowers would dominate world affairs for half a century, divide countries in Europe and Asia, launch civil wars in dozens of places around the world and begin a very expensive nuclear and conventional arms race.  The atomic bomb invented during World War II could not be uninvented, and in the modern day nuclear proliferation is still a problematic leftover from World War II.

mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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World War II had short-term and long-term effects. One short-term effect was it put an end to the threat posed by the aggressive actions of the governments of Germany, Italy, and Japan. These countries were invading other countries and taking over these lands. Much of Western Europe, parts of North Africa, and parts of Asia were occupied by the Axis Powers against the will of the people in these areas. As a result of the defeat of the Axis Powers, they were removed from the land they invaded.

Another short-term effect of World War II was that is got us out of the Great Depression. Putting people to war in the military and war industries helped to end the Great Depression. Then, after World War II ended, we went into a period of significant prosperity. Thus, World War II had economic benefits for us. This eventually turned into a long term effect, as the United States became an economic superpower.

One long-term effect of World War II was it led to the Cold War. For approximately 45 years, the United States and the Soviet Union fought over political and economic ideologies and the spread of these ideologies. We tried to stop the spread of the Soviet Union’s system of communism. This led to confrontations throughout the world in places like Cuba, Europe, and Asia. It wasn’t until 1990, when the communist system collapsed, that this threat subsided.

Another long-term impact of World War II was to reinforce the idea that appeasement doesn’t work as a policy. When the Allies gave in to Hitler’s demands to try to avoid war, it backfired terribly when Hitler took more land later on despite his promise not to do this.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The main short term effect of World War II was to destroy the power of many countries that had previously been relatively strong.  Before WWII, Japan was strong and had an empire.  Before WWII, Germany was a major power.  France was a major power with an overseas empire.  The UK was as well.  After WWII, all of those countries were significantly weakened.  Japan, Germany, and parts of France were devastated physically.  Japan lost its empire immediately.  France and the UK had their economies severely weakened by the war.  In the short term, these changes in the fortunes of nations were the most important effect of the war.

In the long term, there were at least two major effects.  One was that WWII led to the Cold War.  Because the US and the USSR were the only two major powers left in the world, and because their political and economic systems were antithetical to one another, they entered into a decades-long rivalry a few years after WWII ended.  The second major effect of WWII was to make the US the world’s dominant economic power.  All of the countries that had once been competitors to the US were devastated by the war.  The US homeland was not touched by the war and many things about the war (particularly the scientific and engineering advances that came with it) helped the US economy grow.

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