The League of Nations

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Why did the Senate oppose U.S. membership in the League of Nations post World War I?

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The United States Senate was opposed to the United States joining the League of Nations. There was a provision in the charter of the League of Nations, called Article X, which required member nations to commit troops if needed to help a member of the League of Nations fight if a war broke out and the League of Nations ordered military action. Article X might also require some other kind of diplomatic action that we might not want to do. These senators, called reservationists, were concerned about the United States getting involved in a war that we had no interest in joining or would have no impact on us. They also were concerned about losing some control over our foreign policy. These senators wanted to make changes to this part of the charter of the League of Nations. However, President Wilson didn’t want this to occur. As a result, we not only didn’t join the League of Nations, we didn’t ratify the Versailles Treaty. We ended up signing separate peace treaties with the Central Powers.

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When Woodrow Wilson introduced the League of Nations in his Fourteen Points, the Senate ended up voting against it by a vote of 49-35.  Senate majority leader Henry Cabot argued that the US would be giving up too much power by joining the League of Nations. Cabot argued that joining the League would commit the US to an expensive collective security group that would reduce our chances of defending our own interests; the idea was that international disputes could be mediated in habitually-neutral Switzerland, which would potentially deter wars in the future (remember- the world had just suffered through WWI).  

Additionally, many opponents did not want to become involved in an organization where the US would possibly become entangled with European politics again, as WWI had proved to be a bloody war that many felt the US had no place in joining.  

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The major reason for this was the fact that many Senators were afraid that membership in the League of Nations would reduce the sovereignty of the United States and its ability to have complete control over its own foreign policy and military actions.

The treaty creating the League of Nations committed members of the League to defend the independence of any other member that got attacked by another country.  Many Senators worried that this would force the US to go to war whenever any member of the League was attacked by another country.  This would, they felt, rob the US of its control over its military and its foreign policy.

The Senate, then, rejected membership in the League of Nations to prevent the US from being forced to fight whenever another member of the League was attacked.

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Why did the United States reject the League of Nations after WWI?

The League of Nations had proud aims but was doomed because it was based on the Treaty of Versailles which most nations signed but disliked. It hoped to aid disarmamnet so stopping wars therefore making the world a better and safer place by improving citizens' working conditions, and by preventing disease. But the US, among other countries wasn't convinced. The organisation consisted of an assembly meeting yearly and a more frequent council for considering crises. A small secretariat was to manage paper work. The Court of International Justice was seen as necessary and many committees (eg  International Labour Organisation,Health Committee) were put to implementing humanitarian work. This was not seen as doable by the US which also saw other weaknesses as well as strengths.
Its main strengths was that it had set up by the Treaty of Versailles, which the nations had signed but didn't like, and there were 58 nations members by 1930s. However the US was not happy. The league had no army to enforce its will, (and anyway the US only had faith in or needed its own) and though it could give arbitration through the Court of International Justice, or apply trade sanctions against countries that went to war this was not seen as powerful enough.
Many other nations disliked the Treaty of Versailles and considered that its aims were far too ambitious. Not only that, but Germany and Russia  were not members either. The League's its adminstration was seen as way too heavy impractical and onerous and also decisions were going to be made unanimous only.

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