The latest edition of the Journal of Strategic Studies contains a couple of articles of interest to historians of the inter-war period.
Steven E. Lobell, ‘Bringing Balancing Back In: Britain‘s Targeted Balancing, 1936–1939’
This article challenges the conventional wisdom that Neville Chamberlain rejected the British tradition of balance of power in the 1930s. In contrast to balance of power and balance of threat theories, states do not balance against aggregate or net shifts in power. Instead, leaders define threats based on particular elements of a foreign state’s power. The import is that different components of power of a foreign state are more or less threatening and aggregate shifts in power alone may not provoke counterbalancing behavior. In the 1930s, Britain balanced against the most threatening components of power: the German Luftwaffe and the threat of a knock-out air assault against the homeland, Japan’s Imperial Navy and its threat to Britain’s commercial trade routes and the Dominions in East Asia, and the Italian Navy and the threat to Britain’s line of communication through the Mediterranean Sea to India and Asia. Given Britain’s difficult financial circumstances, all other components of power, such as the army and the land components of power of Germany, Japan, and Italy were ranked as secondary in terms of its rearmament priorities. Thus, London was able to narrow the gap with Berlin in specific components of power of strategic importance such as aircraft production or to exceed Germany in other areas such as the Royal Navy and its battlefleet.
John H. Maurer, “Winston has gone mad’: Churchill, the British Admiralty, and the Rise of Japanese Naval Power’
As Chancellor of the Exchequer during the late 1920s, Winston Churchill was at the center of British strategic decision making about how to respond to the naval challenge posed by Japan’s rise as a rival sea power. Churchill downplayed the likelihood of war with Japan. The leadership of the Royal Navy disagreed: they saw Japan as a dangerous threat to the security of the British Empire. Examining this dispute between Churchill and the Admiralty highlights the awkward political, economic, and strategic tradeoffs confronting British leaders between the world wars.