Competing interests among big powers played a role in the making of World War II. But, and not separated from this, another element had a serious impact: the sense of psychological insecurity experienced, each in its own way, by Germany and Japan in the context of their quest for recognition by other major powers – Great Britain, France, Russia, and the United States – and the implications this had internationally. In connection with their material conditions (internal and international) compared to other great powers, this pushed Germany and Japan to embrace policies that were ultimately self-defeating. It led them to see and assess themselves, others, and the international environment in conflicting terms and, faced with the unwillingness of other big powers to accommodate them to the extent they wanted, to overplay their hand, with lethal outcomes as a result.
This article follows two previous articles published in this journal.1 It is a case study that focuses on Germany and Japan, and the making of World War II. In the first section, it begins with highlighting the overall relevance of this case study in the context of the analysis of emotions and passions in international politics. In the second section, it shows that both for Germany and Japan a sense of psychological insecurity regarding their international status and their urge to catch up and compensate, put them on a collision course with the great powers of the period. In the third part, the article explains how, in time, this contributed to the fact that Germany and Japan embraced negative and exclusionary political emotions and passions that translated into belligerent policies. In the fourth section, as a way to conclude, the article touches upon how a better understanding of the nature and role of emotions and passions in international affairs can encourage a psychology of peace, and international peace altogether.