World War I

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Did World War I make the world safe for democracy?

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World War I did not make the world safe for democracy. The League of Nations failed to establish a respected international body, leading to a breakdown in relations and contributing to World War II. In countries like Germany, Italy, and Soviet Russia, democracy faced significant threats or was replaced by totalitarian regimes, showing that the aftermath of WWI did little to protect or promote democratic governance.

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World War I did not make the world safer for democracy to flourish.

As said by previous educators, the failure of the League of Nations in establishing a powerful body which nations respected led to a breakdown of international relations among the more powerful nations.

Arguably, it was this breakdown that led to World War II, either directly or indirectly.

However, if we analyze political situations in several countries, we can see that democracy was far from safe. In Germany, for example, the Treaty of Versailles imposed serious economic and military restrictions on the nation after WWI. Despite the new Weimar Government being one of the most democratic in the world, at several times during their establishment, they had to undergo serious threats to this democracy. In 1919, there was almost a Communist takeover in Germany. The following year, in 1920, right wing revolutionaries also threatened the democratic government. Ultimately, by the end of the 1920s, the rise of the Nazis demonstrates that democracy in Germany was not at all safe.

In Italy, fascism took hold much earlier, when in 1922 the Fascists, led by Benito Mussolini, were voted into power and quickly abolished opposition parties, establishing Mussolini as a dictator and thus destroying democracy in Italy.

Italy, like Germany by 1926, was also in the League of Nations, so it would appear that the League was willing to overlook a country's lack of democracy and allow its members to be controlled by totalitarian regimes.

Finally, Soviet Russia had not established any form of democratic government after the Revolution of 1917. Instead, they had replaced an autocratic king with a Communist dictator—first Lenin, then Stalin. Despite being refused entry into the League of Nations, Russia still posed a perceived threat to democracy in Western Europe, which is one of the reasons suggested by Historians that Britain was so willing to appease Germany in the 1930s.

Overall, democracy has always had a shaky existence in many countries, and unfortunately, the loss of life in WWI did very little to improve this.

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Unfortunately, World War I did not make the world safe for democracy, as Woodrow Wilson had promised when deciding to get the United States involved in the war. The League of Nations, supported by Wilson, was intended to avoid future wars through engagement in collective security measures and disarmament. In addition, nations were supposed to use negotiation instead of war to resolve disputes.

Though Wilson wanted the United States to sign on to the League of Nations covenant, there was too much domestic opposition for him to do so. As a result, the United States never became a signatory to the League of Nations, and other nations began to see the League as not entirely credible. The Soviet Union signed the covenant only briefly. Despite other agreements such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, which outlawed war as a means of solving disputes, nations (including Germany under Hitler) started to rearm in the 1930s. World War II was in part the result of the failure of the League of Nations following World War I.

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U.S. intervention in the war became deeply unpopular following the signing of the armistice. This became very obvious with the Senate’s rejection of the Versailles Treaty and Wilson’s League of Nations idea. Congress took this a step further by passing laws aimed at preserving U.S. neutrality in the future. Polls taken right before the outbreak of World War II showed that a majority of Americans still viewed intervention as a mistake. This did change once France had fallen to Germany in 1940. So as far as global democracy is concerned, the Senate’s rejected of the treaty did not make the world safer for democracy.

In the years following the war, many began to question why we had gone to war in the first place. Wilson’s insistance that it was our moral duty as a nation began to be scrutinized. One school of thought was that bankers, who held more than $3 million in Allied war debt, were worried they would not get paid if the Central powers won, and used their moneyed interest to force the U.S. into the war. If this is true, than the war did not make the world safer for democracy, just safer for banks and those holding bank receipts.

And of course the fact that Germany was saddled with all the war debt meant that the rise of fascism was insured, and that certainly didn’t make the world safer for democracy.

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