How does war affect a country's political development?

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War often has a profound effect on a nation's political development. Obviously this is the case when a country loses a war--this usually leads to regime change, either imposed from the outside or from within. When Germany surrendered at the end of World War I, for example, the Kaiser abdicated his throne, and his government was replaced by a republic. Sometimes a nation's participation in a war can lead to political turmoil. The United States during the Vietnam era is one example of this. In Russia, participation in World War I helped create the political atmosphere that led to a series of revolutions and civil war that toppled the tsar and established a communist government. Sometimes wars can lead to what we can call positive social and political change. Many historians have pointed out that World War I created momentum for women's suffrage in Great Britain and the United States. Similarly, some argue that World War II contributed directly to the Civil Rights Movement that emerged less than a decade after it ended. Of course, the American Civil War led directly to the emancipation of millions of enslaved people. During wartime, however, nations often engage in repressive policies that would not be pursued during peacetime. The United States Congress passed laws limiting speech critical of the government during World War I, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is another infamous example of this trend. So war can affect politics in a number of ways, and perhaps the best way to generalize about its effects is to say that a nation rarely emerges from war with its political institutions unchanged.

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