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League of Nations

LEAGUE OF NATIONS

LEAGUE OF NATIONS. The name of this organization is generally traced to the 1908 book La Société des Nations by the influential French peace negotiator Leon Bourgeois. During World War I a growing number of political leaders, including Lord Robert Cecil in Britain, Jan Christian Smuts in South Africa, and the former U.S. president William Howard Taft, pointed to the need for an international organization that would facilitate greater security and cooperation among nations. The U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, whose name would become most closely associated with the League of Nations, had also repeatedly proposed such an organization. Wilson's concern to set up an international organization to secure and maintain peace between nation-states was laid out in a number of speeches and public addresses before and after the United States entered World War I in April 1917. On 8 January 1918, in a major address to the U.S. Congress, he outlined his proposal to end the war and provide a framework for a new postwar international order. Wilson's address centered on his so-called Fourteen Points, which, with some revision, provided the overall framework for the negotiation of an armistice in Europe by 11 November 1918. Of particular importance was his fourteenth point, which called for the establishment of an organization that would protect the independence and sovereignty of all nations. Wilson certainly played an important role in the establishment of the League of Nations, even if the notion that he was its veritable "father" is exaggerated.

Origins

In a more general way the League of Nations was grounded in the rise and fall of the practice of consultation among the European powers, which was increasingly formalized as the Concert of Europe after 1815. By the late nineteenth century the Concert of Europe was breaking down in the context of the rise of imperial Germany. The emergence of the United States as an increasingly important player also weakened the balance of power on which the Concert of Europe rested, as did the wider social and political changes in Europe itself. However, the central idea of the Concert of Europe—that the Great Powers had particular rights and duties in international relations—underpinned the creation of the Council of the League of Nations. This was the organization's supreme decision-making body and included only the major powers.

Despite the influence of the Concert of Europe, a more immediate and equally important catalyst for the League of Nations was World War I. The war stimulated a general dissatisfaction with the management of inter-state relations and encouraged growing interest in a new international system of collective security. In May 1916 Woodrow Wilson publicly spoke of the need to reform the international order. This gave the whole idea greater legitimacy and encouraged European political leaders to examine the idea. This interest was further strengthened when the Russian Revolution of 1917 brought pressure to bear on the old international system. A number of draft versions of the constitution for the League of Nations were produced by the United States and by the European governments. The actual peace conference in 1919 focused on a draft produced jointly by the United States and Britain.

Establishment and Organization

By 1918 there was general agreement that a League of Nations should be established. The key articles of the actual covenant (constitution) spelled out the role of the league in identifying and addressing threats to peace, the settlement of disputes, and the imposition of sanctions against states violating international agreements. These articles occasioned limited disagreement. Participating nations also generally agreed that the league should be made up of an executive council, a deliberative assembly, and an administrative secretariat, but they disagreed over the exact function and makeup of these bodies. In an early draft of the covenant, membership of the council was restricted to the Great Powers and any smaller nation-states that the Great Powers chose to invite. However, the formulation that eventually prevailed designated the Great Powers as permanent members of the council while small powers had nonpermanent membership. The operation and membership of the assembly, which was the model for the General Assembly of the United Nations after 1945, was also a subject of some debate. In fact its overall operation and significance was really only worked out in subsequent years.

The administrative secretariat, set up as a coordinating and administrative body, was a less divisive issue. Its power was grounded entirely in the council and the assembly. The headquarters of the league were in Geneva, Switzerland, where the secretariat prepared reports and agendas. The assembly, which was made up of representatives of all the member governments, set policy and met on an annual basis. Britain, France, Italy, and Japan held permanent membership in the council, which met more regularly than the assembly. It had been expected that the United States would be the fifth permanent member of the council. At the same time, the assembly elected another four (eventually nine) temporary members to the council to serve three-year terms. All decisions taken by the council and the assembly had to be unanimous if they were to be binding. The league also included a number of subsidiary organizations. One of these, the International Labor Organization (ILO) was a specific response to the Russian Revolution. It was hoped that the ILO would appease some of the more radical tendencies within the trade union movement in various parts of the world and curtail the attractions of international communism. A Permanent Court of International Justice was also set up, as well as a range of commissions that dealt with issues such as refugees, health, drugs, and child welfare. At the time of its foundation in 1919 the league had forty-two member governments. This increased to fifty-five by 1926; however, the failure of the United States to become a member contributed significantly to the decline of the organization by the 1930s. Meanwhile, Germany only became a member in 1926 and withdrew in 1933, while the Soviet Union was only a member from 1934 to 1939. The Japanese government departed in 1933, and the Italian government ended its association with the league in 1937.

Operations and Activities

The prevention and settlement of disputes between nation-states in order to avoid another conflagration like World War I was central to the operations and activities of the league. Although it did not have a military force of its own, the league prevented or settled a number of conflicts and disputes in the 1920s. In fact, it was the activities of the league in the 1920s that made it appear to many people that it had some long-term prospects for success. The league played a major role in the resolution of a dispute over the Aaland Islands between the governments of Finland and Sweden. In 1925 it got the Greek government to withdraw from Bulgaria and resolved a border dispute between the governments of Turkey and Iraq. The league's inability to settle a conflict between the governments of Bolivia and Paraguay at the beginning of the 1930s demonstrated that the league's sphere of influence was centered on Europe. It also showed that the league's activities in Latin America were hampered by Washington's lack of support for, or membership in, the organization. During its entire history, none of the disputes that the league successfully resolved affected the interests of the Great Powers.

It is generally argued that the limitations of the league were manifested most obviously in the Manchurian crisis of the early 1930s. The Chinese government requested help from the league following Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931, but the league failed to prevent the ensuing Sino-Japanese conflict. None of the other major powers in the league were able or willing to take a strong stand against Japan, and the league moved slowly on what little action it did take, following well behind the unfolding situation. By early 1932 the Japanese government had set up the puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria. It was not until February 1933 that the league discussed and adopted the report of the Lytton Commission, which had been dispatched earlier to look into the affair. Although the report was a relatively mild document, it did recommend that Manchuria be given autonomous status within China. Within a month of the adoption of the report of the Lytton Commission, the Japanese government had withdrawn from the League of Nations.

In the wake of the league's failure in Manchuria, the crisis that clearly signaled its waning influence in the 1930s was the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy in October 1935. This led to the imposition of economic sanctions on war-related materials that were, in theory, carried out by all members of the league. These sanctions soon proved insufficient. But the ability of the league, or more particularly of Britain and France, to move to more significant actions, such as closing the Suez Canal to Italian shipping and the cutting off of all oil exports to Italy, was constrained by the fear that such action would provoke war with Italy. The situation was further undermined because Britain and France tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a secret deal with Mussolini (the Hoare-Laval Pact) that would settle the dispute peacefully by allowing Italy to retain control of some Ethiopian territory.

The End of the League of Nations

In broad terms the decline of the League of Nations in the 1930s reflected the unwillingness or inability of Britain, France, and the United States to oppose the increasingly nationalist-imperialist and militaristic trajectories of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and imperial Japan. The post-1919 international order that resulted from the Treaty of Versailles was fragile, and the league embodied that fragility. Following the Ethiopian crisis the league was more or less irrelevant. It failed to respond to the direct military intervention of Germany and Italy in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). Meanwhile, Turkey's capture of part of Syria, Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia, and Mussolini's invasion of Albania in the late 1930s also produced virtually no response from the league. Its final, and largely symbolic, action was the expulsion of the Soviet Union following its invasion of Finland in 1939. The League of Nation's numerous shortcomings ensured that it never played the role in international affairs that its early promoters had hoped it would. In a somewhat circular fashion it is clear that the lack of cooperation and collective action between nation-states that encouraged political leaders to call for a League of Nations in the first place was the very thing that undermined the league once it was created. The League of Nations was dissolved in 1946. However, World War II also led to the reinvention of the League of Nations, insofar as the United Nations, which was first suggested in the Atlantic Charter in 1941 and formally established in late 1945, built on the earlier organization.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Armstrong, David. The Rise of the International Organisation: A Short History. London: Macmillan, 1982.

Gill, George. The League of Nations: From 1929 to 1946. Garden City Park, N.Y.: Avery, 1996.

Knock, Thomas J. To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Ostrower, Gary B. The League of Nations: From 1919 to 1929. Garden City Park, N.Y.: Avery, 1996.

Thorne, Christopher G. The Limits of Foreign Policy: The West, the League, and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1931–1933. New York: Putnam, 1973.

Walters, F. P. A History of the League of Nations. 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1952.

Mark T.Berger

See alsoVersailles, Treaty of .

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League of Nations

League of Nations

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The League of Nations, inaugurated in 1920, was the first major international organization to attempt to tie individual nation-state security to international security. Envisioned as a collective securityrather than a collective defenseorganization, the League of Nations attempted to replace individual nation-state self-interest with an altruistic vision of international justice and cooperation. In a first for international law, the Covenant of the League committed every signatory to settle disputes through arbitration before going to war. The centerpiece of the League Covenant was Article 10, which bound the League to collectively preserve the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members.

Despite its all-encompassing mandate to preserve peace and security of the international community though mutual action, the League was not the first international organization to espouse such goals. The Concert of Europe (18151900) and the two Hague Conferences (1899 and 1907) had each in their way advanced the issue of international cooperation on the world stage, but both had serious limitations. The Concert of Europe was limited by the fact that only the Great Powers of Europe took part, and its means of conflict resolution (arbitration) only worked as long as each power agreed to submit. For their part, the two Hague Conferences were more inclusive (twenty-six and forty-four states, respectively) and accomplished more with respect to codifying into international law the peaceful settlement of disputes. The three Hague Conventions that arose from these conferences, along with the Permanent Count of Arbitration, presaged the Covenant of the League of Nations.

The League was born out of the experience of World War I. Many politicians believed the war had occurred in large part due to the brutal nature of realpolitik and the secretive diplomacy and shifting alliances between the Great Powers. For Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States from 1912 to 1920, the League of Nations represented a capstone of a morally based foreign policy; one designed to replace the dangerous balance of power politics with a more transparent and cooperative system between sovereign, democratic states governed by the principle of national self-determination. Wilson articulated his vision several times during his presidency, but his most famous statement on the League concluded his famous Fourteen Points speech presented before the U.S. Congress on January 8, 1918: A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

The League was an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles, negotiated in early 1919 and enacted on January 10, 1920. The League began operations in Geneva, Switzerland, with Sir Eric Drummond its first secretary general. Structurally, the League consisted of a council, an assembly, and a secretariata structure that would subsequently serve as the model for the United Nations. The Council was originally designed to have nine members: the five great powers (Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the United States with permanent seats, as well as four temporary rotating members (the first four were Belgium, Brazil, Greece, and Spain). However, despite an ardent cross-country campaign by Wilson, which eventually contributed to his debilitating stroke, the isolationist Senate failed to ratify the treaty and the United States never officially joined the League. Thus, the Council consisted of eight members until 1922, when two additional small states were added. In 1926 the Council was further increased to fifteen members, including Germany.

The foremost goal of the League was the prevention of another world war, and the League Covenant included calls for disarmament and dispute resolution through arbitration in the International Court or inquiry before the League Council. The central focus of the Covenant was the set of articles outlining the principles and responsibilities of collective security. Article 16 declared that any state that went to war without first vetting disputes through the League processes would be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other member states of the League. Building upon the idea of deterrence through the threat of all against one, the collective members were then expected to sever all trade and financial relations with the aggressor state. Notably member states were not legally obliged to apply military sanctions, although Article 16 claims that military sanction may be a political and moral duty incumbent to states. The Leagues architects, including Wilson, believed that this collective security system would ultimately preempt the precarious alliance behavior and arms races that had caused war repeatedly in the past.

The League did enjoy numerous successes, particularly in settling territorial disputes such as those between Albania and Yugoslavia (1921), Germany and Poland over Upper Silesia (1922), and Greece and Bulgaria (1925). Yet it is largely the Leagues spectacular failures that stand out when accounting for its fate. Conventional wisdom holds that the refusal of the U.S. Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles crippled the League from the outset. Other reasons for failure are both structural and operational. Reflecting its origins as an international organization with members of varying power and interests, the League Covenant contained structural compromises needed to ensure member state ratification and participation. The biggest of these concessions was the discrepancy between Articles 5 and 10. Article 10 promised collective preservation of territorial integrity and political independence of all member states, whereas Article 5 required all decisions taken by the League Council be made on the basis of unanimity of the members in attendance. Article 5 thus ensured a veto for any member of the Council who undertook aggressive action against another member.

Operationally the League was hampered throughout its existence by the reluctance of its member states to intervene in international disputes and apply collective security mechanisms. One of the most egregious cases was the Leagues weak response to Japans invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Instead of sanctioning Japan, the League failed to take decisive action for more than seven monthspartly due to the structural flaw of the League Council, which enabled Japan (as a permanent member) to delay League action. The League finally sent observers, but only after Japan formally withdrew from the League. By 1934 the Leagues lack of teeth would become readily evident again in the case of Italys invasion of Ethiopia (which solicited only a weak set of economic sanctions on the part of the League) and Adolf Hitlers obvious rearming of Germany. Ultimately, the declaration of World War IIwhich the League was designed to preventspelled the demise of the institution. Although the League lingered on through the war, it finally faded into irrelevance and it functions were formally turned over to the newly created United Nations in 1945.

SEE ALSO Alliances; Confederations

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Knock, Thomas J. 1992. To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order. New York: Oxford University Press.

Link, Arthur S., ed. 19661994. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson. 69 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Northedge, F. S. 1986. The League of Nations: Its Life and Times, 19201946. New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers.

Scott, George. 1973. The Rise and Fall of the League of Nations. London: Hutchison & Co.

Catherine Weaver

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League of Nations

League of Nations, former international organization, established by the peace treaties that ended World War I. Like its successor, the United Nations, its purpose was the promotion of international peace and security. The League was a product of World War I in the sense that that conflict convinced most persons of the necessity of averting another such cataclysm. But its background lay in the visions of men like the duc de Sully and Immanuel Kant and in the later growth of formal international organizations like the International Telegraphic Union (1865) and the Universal Postal Union (1874). The Red Cross, the Hague Conferences, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (Hague Tribunal) were also important stepping-stones toward international cooperation.

The Covenant: The Basis of the League

At the close of World War I, such prominent figures as Jan Smuts, Lord Robert Cecil, and Léon Bourgeois advocated a society of nations. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson incorporated the proposal into the Fourteen Points and was the chief figure in the establishment of the League at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The basis of the League was the Covenant, which was included in the Treaty of Versailles and the other peace treaties.

The Covenant consisted of 26 articles. Articles 1 through 7 concerned organization, providing for an assembly, composed of all member nations; a council, composed of the great powers (originally Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, later also Germany and the USSR) and of four other, nonpermanent members; and a secretariat. Both the assembly and the council were empowered to discuss "any matter within the sphere of action of the League or affecting the peace of the world." In both the assembly and the council unanimous decisions were required.

Articles 8 and 9 recognized the need for disarmament and set up military commissions. Article 10 was an attempt to guarantee the territorial integrity and political independence of member states against aggression. Articles 11 through 17 provided for the establishment of the Permanent Court of International Justice (see World Court), for arbitration and conciliation, and for sanctions against aggressors. The rest of the articles dealt with treaties, colonial mandates, international cooperation in humanitarian enterprises, and amendments to the Covenant.

Members

The original membership of the League included the victorious Allies of World War I (with the exception of the United States, whose Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles) and most of the neutral nations. Among later admissions to membership were Bulgaria (1920), Austria (1920), Hungary (1922), Germany (1926), Mexico (1931), Turkey (1932), and the USSR (1934). Through the efforts of Sir Eric Drummond, the first secretary-general of the League, a truly international secretariat was created. Geneva, Switzerland, was chosen as the League headquarters.

Successes and Failures

The League quickly proved its value by settling the Swedish-Finnish dispute over the Åland Islands (1920–21), guaranteeing the security of Albania (1921), rescuing Austria from economic disaster, settling the division of Upper Silesia (1922), and preventing the outbreak of war in the Balkans between Greece and Bulgaria (1925). In addition, the League extended considerable aid to refugees; it helped to suppress white slave and opium traffic; it did pioneering work in surveys of health; it extended financial aid to needy states; and it furthered international cooperation in labor relations and many other fields.

The problem of bringing its political influence to bear, especially on the great powers, soon made itself felt. Poland refused to abide by the League decision in the Vilnius dispute, and the League was forced to stand by powerlessly in the face of the French occupation of the Ruhr (1923) and Italy's occupation of Kérkira (1923). Failure to take action over the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (1931) was a blow to the League's prestige, especially when followed by Japan's withdrawal from the League (1933). Another serious failure was the inability of the League to stop the Chaco War (1932–35; see under Gran Chaco) between Bolivia and Paraguay.

In 1935 the League completed its successful 15-year administration of the Saar territory (see Saarland) by conducting a plebiscite under the supervision of an international military force. But even this success was not sufficient to offset the failure of the Disarmament Conference, Germany's withdrawal from the League (1933), and Italy's successful attack on Ethiopia in defiance of the League's economic sanctions (1935). In 1936, Adolf Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland and denounced the Treaty of Versailles; in 1938 he seized Austria.

Faced by threats to international peace from all sides—the Spanish civil war, Japan's resumption of war against China (1937), and finally the appeasement of Hitler at Munich (1938)—the League collapsed. German claims on Danzig (see Gdańsk), where the League commissioner had been reduced to impotence, led to the outbreak of World War II. The last important act of the League came in Dec., 1939, when it expelled the USSR for its attack on Finland.

In 1940 the League secretariat in Geneva was reduced to a skeleton staff; some of the technical services were removed to the United States and Canada. The allied International Labor Organization continued to function and eventually became affiliated with the United Nations. In 1946 the League dissolved itself, and its services and real estate (notably the Palais des Nations in Geneva) were transferred to the United Nations. The League's chief success lay in providing the first pattern of permanent international organization, a pattern on which much of the United Nations was modeled. Its failures were due as much to the indifference of the great powers, which preferred to reserve important matters for their own decisions, as to weaknesses of organization.

Bibliography

See F. P. Walters, A History of the League of Nations (2 vol., 1952; repr. 1960); W. Schiffer, Legal Community of Mankind (1954, repr. 1972); G. Scott, The Rise and Fall of the League of Nations (1974); F. S. Northedge, The League of Nations (1986); H. F. Margulies, The Mild Reservationists and the League of Nations (1989).

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"League of Nations." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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League of Nations

LEAGUE OF NATIONS

The League of Nations is an international confederation of countries, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, that existed from 1920 to 1946, its creation following world war i and its dissolution following world war ii. Though the League of Nations was a flawed and generally ineffective organization, many of its functions and offices were transferred to the united nations, which has benefited from the hard lessons the league learned.

President woodrow wilson, of the United States, was the architect of the League of Nations. When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, Wilson sought to end a war that had raged for three years and to begin constructing a new framework for international cooperation. On January 8, 1918, he delivered an address to Congress that named fourteen points to be used as the guide for a peace settlement. The fourteenth point called for a general association of nations that would guarantee political independence and territorial integrity for all countries.

Following the November 9, 1918, armistice that ended the war, President Wilson led the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. Wilson was the only representative of the Great Powers—which included Great Britain, France, and Italy—who truly wanted an international organization. His power and influence were instrumental in establishing the League of Nations.

Although Wilson was the architect of the league, he was unable to secure U.S. Senate ratification of the peace treaty that included it. He was opposed by isolationists of both major political parties who argued that the United States should not interfere with European affairs, and by Republicans who did not want to commit the United States to supporting the league financially. The treaty was modified several times, but was nevertheless voted down for the last time in March 1920.

Despite the absence of the United States, the League of Nations held its first meeting on November 15, 1920, with forty-two nations represented. The constitution of the league was called a covenant. It contained twenty-six articles that served as operating rules for the league.

The league was organized into three main branches. The council was the main peacekeeping agency, with a membership that varied from eight to fourteen members during its existence. France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union held permanent seats during the years they were members of the league. The remainder of the seats were held by smaller countries on a rotating basis. Peacekeeping recommendations had to be made by a unanimous vote.

The assembly was composed of all members of the league, and each member country had one vote. The assembly controlled the league's budget, elected the temporary council members, and made amendments to the covenant. A two-thirds majority vote was required on most matters.

When a threat to peace was the issue, a majority vote plus the unanimous consent of the council was needed to recommend action.

The secretariat was the administrative branch of the league. It was headed by a secretary general, who was nominated by the council and approved by the assembly. The secretariat consisted of over six hundred officials, who aided peacekeeping work and served as staff to special study commissions and to numerous international organizations established by the league to improve trade, finance, transportation, communication, health, and science.

President Wilson and others who had sought the establishment of the league had hoped to end the system of interlocking foreign alliances that had drawn the European powers into World War I. The league was to promote collective security, in which the security of each league member was guaranteed by the entire league membership. This goal was undermined by the covenant because the council and the assembly lacked the power to order members to help an attacked nation. It was left up to each country to decide whether a threat to peace warranted its intervention. Because of this voluntary process, the league lacked the authority to quickly and decisively resolve armed conflict.

This defect was revealed in the 1930s. When Japan invaded Manchuria in 1933, the League of Nations could only issue condemnations. Then, in 1935, Italy, under benito mussolini, invaded Ethiopia. Ethiopia appeared before the assembly and asked for assistance. Britain and France, unwilling to risk war, refused to employ an oil embargo that would have hurt the Italian war effort. In May 1936 Italy conquered the African country.

The league also lost key member states in the 1930s. Japan left in 1933, following the Manchurian invasion. Germany, under the leadership of adolf hitler, also left in 1933, following the league's refusal to end arms limitations imposed on Germany after World War I. Italy withdrew in 1937, and the Soviet Union was expelled in 1939 for invading Finland.

The beginning of World War II, on September 1, 1939, marked the beginning of the end for the League of Nations. Collective security had failed. During the war the secretariat was reduced to a skeleton staff in Geneva, and some functions were transferred to the United States and Canada. With the creation of the United Nations on October 24, 1945, the League of Nations became superfluous. In 1946 the league voted to dissolve and transferred much of its property and organization to the United Nations.

The United Nations followed the general structure of the league, establishing a security council, a general assembly, and a secretariat. It had the benefit of U.S. membership and U.S. financial support, two vital elements denied the League of Nations.

further readings

Anghie, Antony. 2002. "Colonialism and the Birth of International Institutions: Sovereignty, Economy, and the Mandate System of the League of Nations." New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 34 (spring).

Harriman, Edward A. 2003. The Constitution at the Cross Roads: A Study of the Legal Aspects of the League of Nations, the Permanent Organization of Labor and the Permanent Court of International Justice. Clark, N.J.: The Lawbook Exchange.

Zimmern, Alfred. 1998. The League of Nations and the Rule of Law, 1918–1935. Holmes Beach, Fla.: Gaunt.

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League of Nations

League of Nations

ADRIENNE WILMOTH LERNER

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the nation's intention was to fight in the final war to ensure the survival and strength of democracy in the Western world. After the war, Wilson encouraged the victorious Allied powers to establish an international organization that would mediate conflict through diplomacy and promote peace. Wilson's idea led to the creation of the League of Nations, and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. The League of Nations was short lived, and plagued with problems from its inception. The organization did, however, lay the foundations for international cooperative efforts in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Despite Wilson's efforts to gain public support for the League of Nations, the United States government failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the final agreement of the ending of World War I, and therefore, did not join the League. The lack of United States participation and financial backing forever plagued the League, hampering its efficacy and political influence. United States abstention from the League drew ire from some nations, and made others suspicious of the organization itself. Britain expressed dissatisfaction with the League, but ratified the treaty with the League of Nations provisions simply to avoid extended negotiation on reforming the already delayed peace settlement. Despite U.S. reservations, over 30 other nations joined the League in 1920 when the Treaty of Versailles went into effect on January 10: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hejaz, Honduras, Italy, India, Japan, Liberia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serb-Croat-Sloven State (later, Yugoslavia), Siam, South Africa, and Uruguay.

The League was headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, because of the nations long-standing policy of declared neutrality. Though the Treaty of Versailles provided for the establishment of the diplomatic entity, it did not outline its organization. Its eventual structure took shape over the first two years of representative meetings of member nations. Eventually, the League came to be composed of three principal organs and several technical organizations.

The main body of the League of Nations was the assembly. Composed of representatives from each member states, the assembly met annually. Each resolution, or legal advisory, passed by the assembly was subsequently published.

The council was a smaller body of representatives separate from, but still accountable to, the assembly. Membership on the council varied, and included a mixture of permanent and non-permanent seats. The mission of the council was to mediate and settle international disputes. The League of Nations charter stipulated that the council meet every four years, or as needed in the event of a crisis. In the League of Nation's 20-year history, the council met 107 times.

The secretary-general directed the League of Nations, serving as its chief negotiator and the leader of the assembly. The office of the secretary-general, the secretariat, carried out the routine office work of the league.

In addition to the principal organs of the league, several technical committees advised the assembly and council on international policy and special concerns. The league maintained a health organization, an economic and financial organization, the Opium Advisory Committee, and the Permanent Mandates Commission, in addition to several other temporary groups.

In its two-decade tenure, the League of Nations produced the first truly international laws and cooperative initiatives. The League Health Organization promoted safe hospital practices, vaccination campaigns, and public health information campaigns to curb the spread of venereal disease and tuberculosis. In response to the horrors of poison gas on the World War I battlefield, member nations negotiated bans on chemical weaponry. The rules of engagement for war were modified and codified for the modern era in the terms of the Geneva Convention. The league prompted member states to adhere to its terms, but to avoid war if possible.

In the mid-1930s, the league became increasingly ineffective. Though several nations attempted to halt the spread of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism through diplomacy, their efforts failed to prevent the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The league met for the last time during the war, and was dissolved by its member states on April 18, 1946.

Despite its limitations, the League of Nations established modern, international diplomatic protocol and fostered increasing cooperation between large and small nations on both sides of the Atlantic. Participation in the league drew some nations out of isolationism and propelled others onto the international economic and political stage. After the dissolution of the League of Nations, another international and legal entity, the United Nations, emerged. The atrocities of the Holocaust and a rise in war crimes prompted the international community to establish a body that could define and administer international law. The United States joined the United Nations as a charter member, officially ending its remnant isolationist policies. The United Nations assumed the duties of the former League of Nations and continues to expand its role in international diplomacy.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Knock, Thomas A. To End All Wars, reprint ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995.

SEE ALSO

United Nations Security Council
World War I

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League of Nations

LEAGUE OF NATIONS

Formed by the victorious powers in 1919, the League of Nations was designed to enforce the Treaty of Versailles and the other peace agreements that concluded World War I. It was intended to replace secret deals and war, as means for settling international disputes, with open diplomacy and peaceful mediation. Its charter also provided a mechanism for its members to take collective action against aggression.

Soviet Russia and Weimar Germany initially were not members of the League. At the time of the League's founding, the Western powers had invaded Russia in support of the anticommunist side in the Russian civil war. The Bolshevik regime was hostile to the League, denouncing it as an anti-Soviet, counterrevolutionary conspiracy of the imperialist powers. Throughout the 1920s, Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs Georgy Chicherin aligned the USSR with Weimar Germany, the other outcast power, against Britain, France, and the League. German adherence to the Locarno Accords with Britain and France in 1925, and Germany's admission to the League in 1926, dealt a blow to Chicherin's policy. This Germanophile, Anglophobe, anti-League view was not shared by Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov, who advocated a more balanced policy, including cooperation with the League. Moreover, the USSR participated in the Genoa Conference in 1922 and several League-sponsored economic and arms control forums later in the decade.

Chicherin's retirement because of ill health, his replacement as foreign commissar by Litvinov, and, most importantly, the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany served to reorient Moscow's policy. The Third Reich now replaced the British Empire as the main potential enemy in Soviet thinking. In December 1933 the Politburo adopted the new Collective Security line in foreign policy, whereby the USSR sought to build an alliance of anti-Nazi powers to prevent or, if necessary, defeat German aggression. An important part of this strategy was the attempt to revive the collective security mechanism of the League. To this end, the Soviet Union joined the League in 1934, and Litvinov became the most eloquent proponent of League sanctions against German aggression. Soviet leaders also hoped that League membership would afford Russia some protection against Japanese expansionism in the Far East. Unfortunately, the League had already failed to take meaningful action against Japanese aggression in Manchuria in 1931, and it later failed to act against the Italian attack on Ethiopia in 1935. Soviet collective security policy in the League and in bilateral diplomacy faltered against the resolution of Britain and France to appease Hitler.

When Stalin could not persuade the Western powers to ally with the USSR, even in the wake of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, he abandoned the collective security line and signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Hitler on August 23, 1939. Subsequent Soviet territorial demands on Finland led to the Winter War of 19391940 and to the expulsion of the USSR from the League as an aggressor. However, Hitler's attack on Russia in 1941 accomplished what Litvinov's diplomacy could not, creating an alliance with Britain and the United States. The USSR thus became in 1945 a founding member of the United Nations, the organization that replaced the League of Nations after World War II.

See also: chicherin, georgy vasilievich; litvinov, maxim maximovich; nazi-soviet pact of 1939; united nations; world war i; world war ii

bibliography

Buzinkai, Donald I. (1967). "The Bolsheviks, the League of Nations, and the Paris Peace Conference, 1919." Soviet Studies 19:257263.

Haigh, R.H.; Morris, D.S.; and Peters, A.R. (1986). Soviet Foreign Policy: The League of Nations and Europe, 19171939. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble.

Haslam, Jonathan. (1984). The Soviet Union and the Struggle for Collective Security in Europe, 193339. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Jacobson, Jan. (1994). When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Teddy J. Uldricks

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League of Nations

League of Nations. The League of Nations was formally established on 10 January 1920 with a permanent headquarters at Geneva. It was very much the brainchild of President Woodrow Wilson, who insisted that it should be included in the peace treaties at the end of the First World War, and supported by the other allied statesmen, notably Lloyd George, with rather less enthusiasm. There was an assembly, at which all members were represented, and a council which included four permanent members (Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, joined by Germany in 1926) and a number of other members elected by the assembly. It supervised the transfer of German and Turkish colonies to the victorious allies under the mandate system. As a peace-keeping body, the League suffered from two handicaps which proved insuperable. First, some of the most important world powers were not members: Germany was excluded until 1926, the Bolshevik government in Russia denounced it as a capitalist club and did not join until 1934; worst of all, Wilson failed to persuade the US Senate to ratify the treaty and the most powerful nation of the world was therefore absent. Secondly, the League had no armed force of its own and member states were reluctant to provide troops: it was therefore obliged to rely upon economic sanctions, which were difficult to enforce and slow to take effect.

The League had some modest successes in its early days. Its specialized agencies did much to encourage international co-operation against slavery, drugs, and disease, and the Permanent Court of International Justice, set up by the League in 1920, resolved a number of minor disputes. In December 1925 at Locarno, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy reaffirmed their commitment to peace and accepted their western boundaries, a prelude to Germany's entry into the League in 1926. In 1928 the Kellogg–Briand pact, signed by most powers, announced their aim to repudiate war and settle all disputes peacefully. No more than a declaration, at least the USA was involved. Cynics pointed out that it merely repeated matters to which League members were already fully pledged.

The League's first major test came in 1931 when the Japanese invaded Manchuria. The League retorted with an investigation followed by a condemnation of Japan's violation of the covenant, and the Japanese promptly withdrew from the League in March 1933. A second challenge came in October 1935, when Mussolini's Italy invaded Ethiopia. This time the League did attempt to enforce economic sanctions, though there were vast gaps, particularly oil, and the invasion was completed before sanctions could bite. But, in any case, the rise of Nazi Germany presented a challenge on a far larger scale. Hitler had always made clear his contempt for the League of Nations as a talking shop and a tool for the Versailles victors. He lost no time in withdrawing Germany. The re-militarization of the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria, the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and the invasion of Poland followed in quick succession, with the League helpless. The council met only once after the outbreak of the Second World War, on 8 April 1946 when it handed over its powers to the new United Nations.

J. A. Cannon

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League of Nations

League of Nations International organization (1920–46), forerunner of the United Nations (UN). Created as part of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) ending World War I, the USA's refusal to participate impaired the League's effectivness. The threats to world peace from Germany, Italy, and Japan caused the League to collapse in 1939, and it dissolved in 1946.

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/leagcov.htm

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League of Nations

League of Na·tions an association of countries established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles to promote international cooperation and achieve international peace and security. It was powerless to stop Italian, German, and Japanese expansionism leading to World War II and was replaced by the United Nations in 1945.

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