The Gathering Storm
To hell with Europe and the rest of those nations! -- Minnesota senator Thomas Schall, 1935
For all its agony of carnage and destruction, the Great War of 1914-18 settled little. In time, it would come to be seen as but the opening chapter in the twentieth century's own Thirty-Year War, a conflict that endured thirty-one years, to be exact, from 1914 to 1945, and at the price of some sixty million lives forever transformed the world. To be sure, the First World War had shattered the Austro-Hungarian empire and left Germany defeated. But the treaty signed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles on June 28, 1919, neither extinguished the ambitions that had ignited the war nor quieted the anxieties it had spawned. Victors and vanquished agreed only that the conflict had been a dreadful catastrophe, a blood-spilling, man-killing, nation-eating nightmare of unprecedented horror. All were determined to avoid its reoccurrence. More precisely, each nation was determined to avoid the repetition of its own role in it.
For two countries, Italy and Japan, it was not so much the war itself as its disappointing outcome that rankled. The Italians and the Japanese alike felt cheated at Versailles out of their victors' just desserts and eventually fell under rulers dedicated to redressing that grievance, by force of arms if necessary. Italy's Fascist leader Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922. Il Duce dreamed of a new Roman empire in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. Militarists in Japan cast covetous eyes on China, especially the rich northern region of Manchuria, and ultimately on Southeast Asia and the Dutch East Indies as well.
Russia, revolutionized by the Bolsheviks in 1917, had made its own peace with Germany at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 and then found