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What was the League of Nations, and why did it fail?

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perfect | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 25, 2010 at 12:54 PM via web

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What was the League of Nations, and why did it fail?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 25, 2010 at 1:10 PM (Answer #1)

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The League of Nations was the first attempt at something like the United Nations that we now have.  It was formed after WWI.  It was meant to keep the peace in the world in two ways.  First, it would give countries a place to talk about their differences.  Second, if a country attacked another country, all the other countries were supposed to go to war with the country that attacked (this is called "collective security").

The League of Nations failed for a couple of reasons:

  • The United States was not part of it.
  • More importantly, the countries in the League did not take the idea of collective security seriously.  When countries attacked others, nothing was done.  For example, Italy attacked Ethiopia and Japan attacked China.  In both cases, nothing serious was done.

So it quickly became obvious that the League of Nations wasn't accomplishing anything and it fell apart.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:09 PM (Answer #2)

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perfect (nice nickname),

The League of Nations was the one real glimmer of hope to emerge from the Versailles Conference ending World War 1. It was chartered in 1919 “to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security.” It had four specific functions: international disarmament, arbitration of international disputes, economic sanctions against aggression, and treaty revision. But it suffered from two fundamental flaws.

The charter contained no provision for the use of military force against recalcitrant aggressor nations, and three major powers were not members: Russia was not invited to join; Germany was excluded; and the United States chose not to join. Wilson campaigned hard to convince Congress to ratify the Versailles Treaty and the league charter. But Republican senators and congressmen opposed further involvement in European affairs.

The league first convened in Geneva on November 5, 1920.
The first matter on the agenda was international disarmament. In naval disarmament conferences held in 1921 and 1936, the British, Americans, and Japanese agreed to a ratio of 5:5:3 in capital ships. The naval conferences also agreed on a moratorium on building new ships until 1931, but they did not address submarines or aircraft. A 1932 conference on military disarmament could not identify a reasonable formula for determining a country’s land force needs.

The second matter on the agenda was arbitration of international disputes. This was accomplished with some success when the countries were small and relatively powerless, but larger and more powerful countries tended to simply ignore the international community. The only recourse for the league was economic sanctions, which were applied unevenly and failed to solve international disagreements. Finally, the League of Nations offered the possibility of treaty revision, which was used to ease the German situation somewhat in the 1920s and 1930s.

The League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles have been viewed as failures, but the treaty enabled the reconstruction of Europe. Further, the League of Nations brought about naval disarmament, attacked international traffic in narcotics and prostitution, assisted war refugees, and addressed health and labor conditions. The league also brought Germany and the Soviet Union back into the brotherhood of nations and set a precedent for global cooperation. Both the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, however, would be overwhelmed by the economic, social, and political tensions of the 1920s and 1930s.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:33 AM (Answer #3)

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League of Nations was an association many countries established after World War I with the objective of promoting good relationship among different countries and maintaining peace. Covenant for the League was drawn up jointly be  in 1919 by France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and USA. The League was established in 1920 with membership of 42, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. However, USA opted not to join the league. The League was dissolved in 1946, and replaced by the United Nations Organization.

Members countries of the League had agreed to preserve independence and territory of all member countries against attack, and refer all mutual disagreements arbitration to a third party or to League Council for investigation. The League provided measures such as economic sanctions to enforce decisions of the League by member countries.

However the league was not effective because, the agreed provisions of arbitration and economic sanctions were not effective for preventing war and in helping an attacked nation, and member countries could not agree on more direct methods like member countries coming to the direct aid of the attacked country. Absence of powerful countries like USA from the League aggravated these problems.

These limitations of the League became quite evident when, in 1935, Italy attacked Ethiopia. The Economic sanctions against by the member countries proved quite ineffective, which in any case were only partial. Further these countries were not willing to risk major war by direct intervention.

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