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Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931-1941 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Maiolo (The Royal Navy and Nazi Germany, 1933–1939), of the department of war studies at King' s College, London, challenges the familiar thesis that WWII was a consequence of the democracies neglecting their defenses in the 1920s and failing to rearm quickly enough in the 1930s to stop Axis aggression. This thoroughly researched work makes an alternate case: growing political tension in the 1930s generated a general arms race. It began with the Red militarism initiated by Soviet Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky. It was thrown into high gear when Nazi Germany repudiated the Versailles treaty, and a synergy of action-reaction surges increased the pace of military spending and production. With an emulate-or-capitulate logic, the arms race became a vast maelstrom, with its own dynamic that destroyed the participants' master plans. Maiolo makes a strong case that by 1939 the Axis' s enemies had taken a sufficient lead that Italy, Japan, and Germany sought to create windows of opportunity using what they had. The result was a global, total war--and continuation of the arms race in thermonuclear, superpower contexts that continued until the U.S.S.R.' s implosion. 16 b&w illus.; maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
At first glance, one might think that Maiolo inadvertently mixed up his wars. But he isn’t writing about the buildup to World War I. He marshals a great deal of data, including production statistics and policy statements by politicians and military officials, in an effort to show that the arms race of the 1930s was central rather than peripheral in causing the outbreak of global war in 1939. This is certainly a bold thesis, and Maiolo provides plenty of interesting and sometimes surprising information as he moves forward in the decade. As he illustrates, each of the major nation-states had its own particular goals in rearming, but they all seemed to be preparing for total war, and their planners’ determination to be “prepared” is portrayed as obsessive. A provocative work that is likely to cause considerable debate. --Jay Freeman
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Top Customer Reviews
The overall lesson to be drawn by the work done here is that arms race dynamics, particularly in their self fulfillment, create traps for those who launch them. Maiolo does not seriously argue the arms competitions of the thirties caused World War 2 but he shows how that competition affected every decision each of the national leaderships took, usually in the direction of limiting choices and options. It is therefore a wisely cautionary tale of history.
Maiolo does not hesitate nor equivocate about the personal characteristics of those involved in decision making for their countries. He is most sympathetic to Neville Chamberlin who he, in line with recent revision, depicts as principled, able, disciplined, energetic and thoughtful. He seems to appreciate FDR's essentially conservative nature and his genuinely intended attempts to make the world better - attempts that always seemed to need more warships and warplanes. He manages to depict Daladier and Gamelin in a positive light, at least in their pre-war actions. While he covers German rearmament before 1933, Maiolo makes clear that the relentless, ruthless, racially driven desire and actions for lebensraum of Hitler set off the cycle of armament and war that led to the culmination of 1941. The author does a good job of exploring Soviet attitudes and actions about armament under the leadership of Stalin, showing how these armament plans and actions affected the other Powers. He explains how Japanese militarism overcame the democratic form of its government and led to the Japanese decision for war. Finally he looks at the actions of Mussolini with a rational critical eye and explains how any practical Italian armament was never going to satisfy his ambition. These brief comments only scratch the surface of the material Maiolo covers, especially as an overall history of the march toward conflict.
The only reason I don't give this book five stars is that I think the publisher and author attached a relatively misleading title to the book to create more controversy and therefore more interest and sales. I would have appreciated a more direct and descriptive title.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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