Leading on from the horrors of the First World War, the pussyfooting involved in the Second World War could be likened to that of a swinging mechanism of war, rapidly followed by peace, then followed by war.

Have any historians made any similar suggestions?

Please do not penalise me for the wording of the question, this is historical analysis!

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    I'm afraid I don't understand the question. Are there historical examples of unsuccessful peace treaties? of pervasive causes of conflict that persist past the wishful desires of peacemakers? yes, absolutely - the Peace of Amiens comes to mind, or the seven years war followed by the American Revolution and teh Napoleonic wars. But you seem to be generalizing from a single example - an example which is generally recognized as being singular. What is it you want to know? – MCW Apr 19 '16 at 17:47
  • @MarkC.Wallace Thank you for your swift response. I would like to understand whether there has been any further development and understanding into the concept that a state swings from war to peace, war to peace, etc. and not in a neutral or persistent state. – Turbo Apr 19 '16 at 17:48
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    I'm afraid I'm with Mark and am struggling to understand exactly what you're asking. You ask in your comment if there has been "any further development...into the concept". Presumably, you've read about this "concept" somewhere, so it might help if you referenced this source so that we can gain a better grasp of what you're trying to find out. – Steve Bird Apr 19 '16 at 19:10
  • I have no sources whatsoever to reference for my question, and therefore, I did not provide any, since this was a question that came out of independent thought and study. – Turbo Apr 19 '16 at 21:00
  • As clarification for those who did not understand the question, I simply wanted to know whether the theory of war occurring in cycles is one that has been previously considered and further developed by historians. – Turbo Apr 20 '16 at 18:37

I'm still not sure I understand the question, but I'm going to grope around in the dark in a hopeful manner.

Let's look at some examples:

  • OP suggests WWI and WWII - despite the opinion of my daughter's teacher, I perceive these as two episodes of the same conflict driven by underlying issues of colonialism and mercantilism, influenced by changes in the nature of the nation state. WWI didn't settle the issue; WWII conclusively resolved the issue, as a result of which we have globalism, and an international consensus that prefers liberalism over fascism and prefers peace to conflict.

  • The example that immediately leapt to my mind was the treaty of Amiens; an interlude in the Napoleonic wars where both Britain and Imperial France agreed that while the conflict was still important, both parties were so exhausted that they could not carry on. But I think the Napoleonic conflict can't easily be separated from the Seven Year's War. (there are a few other conflicts in this sequence that seem really vital to me as an American.) I believe these conflicts are connected by themes of imperialism and colonialism, and studying them in isolation is a partial picture. So this supports OP's contention.

  • @Schwern poses the civil war as a counter-example, and it is interesting. I grant him his argument, although I think the conflict begins during the Articles of Confederation, and in my opinion the civil war is merely the armed portion of a conflict that was identified prior to the founding of the United States of America.

  • Obviously wars such as the Thirty Years War and the Hundred Years war support this thesis - while there weren't explicit declarations of peace during the conflict, the intensity and engagement varied frequently.

  • The War of Jenkin's Ear - which I initially thought was a counter-example, is tied to the War of Austrian Succession.

  • The English Civil War (I"m skeptical that it fits the pattern, although analysis of the Civil war to the Glorious Revolution might be interesting. The connection from the Civil War to the American Revolution undercuts my thesis, but does not support OP's

Others can propose and analyze different examples. I'd like someone to analyze:

  • the Putsch of 1848 and the associated pan european conflicts
  • asymmetric conflicts (indigent resistance, Vietnam, War on Terror, etc.)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms (test this against any non-European theater!)
  • The Thirty Year's War - superficially seems to support, but how do we understand the relationship between the Thirty Year's War and Bishop's Wars?
  • Punic wars - an example of conflict between pre-modern nation states that would support OP's hypothesis and weaken mine. (My thesis doesn't address Hannibal, but it would be interesting to compare the role of Hannibal to that of Charles I of England.

I've actually changed my opinion during the process of writing this. I think that IF there are examples to support OP's thesis, then the following supporting factors are in play.

  1. Strong nations use peace treaties as a strategic ploy. Peace can be a way to re-arm, and restart the conflict on strategically advantageous grounds.
  2. War is exhausting and undermines the legitimacy of the participating regimes. When a regime is forced to peace by internal questions of legitimacy and the underlying issues remain, the war will recur.
  3. War can be the result of intrinsic conflicts (who will control resources, etc.) these will be fought to the end.
  4. Civil wars are less likely to be punctuated; all sides are fully engaged.
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    If I may sum this up: "cycles" are really resurgences of an unresolved, multi-generational conflict. Once that conflict is resolved the "cycle" ends. I agree. Hardcore History's Blueprint For Armageddon has a good example arguing the Napoleonic Wars to WWII are the 150 year-long death throes of European empires. – Schwern Apr 20 '16 at 0:05

This question appears to be asking about the idea that history operates in cycles. War follows peace follows war. Prosperity follows recession follows prosperity. And so on. Many, many people have made such suggestions.

These sorts of theories ignore that history is about cause and effect. Wars don't cause peace. Peace doesn't cause wars... though they can appear to if you pick and choose. It's too simplistic. Each peace and each war is different.

Sometimes the way a war is concluded will set up conditions to create a new war, as in the Treaty Of Versailles setting up the conditions for World War II, but a great depression and fall of European empires also had a lot to do with that. Sometimes the way a war is concluded will set up conditions to create peace, such as the US Civil War (peaceful enough that we didn't have another one).

WWII's ending heralded an era of peace, 70 years with no global war. This is in part due to the UN, the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War, the spread of democracy, global communications, and global trade. All this creates a situation where social and economic stability is valued over nationalistic land and resource grabbing. Start a major war and everyone gets hurt. Plenty of regional conflicts though, but that's nothing new.

And, I'm happy to note, there was no World War III. Two is not much of a cycle.

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