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Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan embarked on aggressive war plans on opposite sides of the globe at nearly the same time.

Was this a coincidence, or were there structural factors in the world system that made this happen?

The case for coincidence is obvious. It's strengthened by the fact that there have always been aggressive states, so finding two on different sides of the world is not hard (you can do it today). The fact that it was two industrialized powers is just coincidence.

Unfortunately, I only have a bachelor's in history so I can't even really speculate about the opposite case. I've heard a few lectures about structural realism in international relations, so I know there are these kinds of discussion in faculty lounges.

Coincidence or more to the story?

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    Three late-to-the-table would-be imperialists.
    – Mark Olson
    Dec 12, 2022 at 19:59
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    At first thought... the nations enforcing the League of Nations and Treaty of Versailles and their Pacific territories (France, Britain, Netherlands) had war exhaustion and debt following WW1 which resulted in smaller, weaker militaries. They relied on arms reduction and other treaties to reduce military spending, and had less support to intervene when Germany and Japan violated them. Both Germany and Japan thought they came out worse from WW1 and following treaties.
    – Schwern
    Dec 12, 2022 at 20:38
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    Also note that Japan had been fighting in China since 1931, two years before the Nazis took power. They had been fighting for territory in Taiwan, China, Korea, Pacific Islands, and Russia since before 1900 so the "nearly at the same time" is not so at the same time.
    – Schwern
    Dec 12, 2022 at 20:42
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    @Santiago Modern nations rarely need space. They attack each other to gain resources or to neutralize perceived threats.
    – Schwern
    Dec 12, 2022 at 21:09
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    @AstorFlorida I'm not going to defend British imperialism, but "attempted to grow" sounds so benign, and "didn't like the competition" blames the British for two world wars. Germany, Italy, and Japan all "attempted to grow" by sacking neighboring sovereign nations. Britain got dragged into WW1 to guarantee the independence of Belgium, and into WW2 guaranteeing the independence of Poland. Japan was busy sacking Korea and China, needed oil for their war machine, so they attacked British, Dutch, and US territories to get it.
    – Schwern
    Dec 13, 2022 at 23:40

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