Evaluating the Success of the League of Nations

Evaluating the Success of the League of Nations

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Evaluating the Success of the League of Nations

The League of Nations was formed in 1919 to encourage the member
countries to co-operate in trade, improve social conditions, complete
disarmament and to protect any member country that was being
threatened with war. The League of Nations was the initial idea of
Woodrow Wilson, the president of the USA, and was formed to make sure
such world atrocities like the First World War never happened again.
However, we know that a Second World War with even greater loss of
life took place, and therefore most people conclude that the League of
Nations failed. But why did the League fail?
The League of Nations had many 'design' weaknesses; with probably the
most important and noticeable weakness was the absence of the USA. It
was a great shock and disappointment for the rest of the world when
the American people voted for a 'policy of isolation', and despite the
campaigning of Woodrow Wilson, decided not to join the League of
Nations. This can be considered a great weakness because the USA was
becoming the most powerful and influential country in the world, and
therefore the League would probably be unwilling to make a decision
which would go against the USA, and it would also mean that a country
inside the League, who had trade sanctions placed upon them would
still be free to trade with the USA.
The League of Nations also seemed to have a weakness in not accepting
Germany in the League when it was first formed. This gave the
impression that the League was for the 'winners' of WWI, with Britain
and France part of the inner council, and kept the German people
bitter and still wanting revenge.
Another weakness of the League was that it did not have an army of its
own, and that if it wanted an army to stand up to a troublesome
country, it must raise an army from member countries. This became
ineffective, as many member countries were very unwilling to raise an
army and physically challenge a country, as they were afraid that it

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would affect their own self-interests, as we'll see later in the
Manchurian and the Abyssinian crisis.
Despite all these weaknesses, the League did have some success in the
1920's. The League had successfully sorted out a disagreement between
Finland and Sweden over the Aaland Islands; between Germany and Poland
over Upper Silesia, and between Greece and Bulgaria. Apart from
international disputes, some of the League's greatest successes came
in its work in the 'International Labour Organization', in which they
got member countries to agree to things such as the '8 hour maximum
working day' and that there should be 'No-one to be in full time
employment under 15 years of age'. However, the League did have
failures in the 1920's, such as Vilna and Corfu, and failed in its aim
to achieve disarmament.
The small holes in the League became gaping ones after its downright
failure to do anything significant in the two main 'crisis'' of the
early 1930's: The invasion of Manchuria by Japan in '31 and the
invasion of Abyssinia by the Italians in '35.
In 1929 the world experienced the 'Wall Street collapse', a mass
economic depression that affected many of the countries of the world
hard, especially Japan. Therefore, Japan was in desperate need of raw
materials such as coal and Iron Ore, which an area of China, named
Manchuria, was rich in. Japan already had influence in Manchuria, and
so decided to take it over. China appealed to the League, which
decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry under Lord Lytton, who was
sent to the area to make a report. During the year it took to make the
report, Japan tightened its grip on the area. When the League finally
'morally condemned' Japan with the report, Japan simply ignored the
report and left the League. Japan continued to make successful trade
with the USA, its biggest trading partner, and then announced the
intention to invade China itself. This incident showed that if an
aggressive dictator wanted to invade neighboring countries, he could.
This point was underlined 4 years later, when Abyssinia appealed for
help to the League about the Italian Invasion. The League took eight
months to discuss the matter, and then concluded that Italy could have
some of Abyssinia (as Italy had roots in Abyssinia), but Mussolini
rejected this offer. The League delayed its decision to apply trade
sanctions, meaning that Italy could stockpile enough resources. Also,
in self-interest, France and Britain refused to stop trading in oil
with Italy as it could harm their own economies, and refused to shut
the Suez Canal, the route Italy used to get things from Italy to
Abyssinia, because they were afraid of war with Italy, and they also
did not want to upset Mussolini, as they hoped he would be their ally
with in increasing threat of Hitler. So, this meant that the League
did not manage to stop Italy, and showed that the League was actually
weak and quite powerless. Hitler saw this, and was able to exploit the
League's weakness to rearm and march into the Rhineland.
So, in conclusion, and to directly answer the question "Was the League
bound to fail?" I would say that yes, the League was bound to fail
eventually, as I personally feel that the League's Physical weakness
was too great in a world that was still very self-interested. For
example, Britain and France were happy for Italy to invade the
virtually defenseless country Abyssinia, as long as it meant that they
would stay on good terms with Mussolini. To put it simply, the
League's main aim above all others was to end world conflict, and it
failed to do this, meaning that the League must have been a failure.
However on the other hand can it truly be argued that the League of
Nations was a failure when so many of its principles and structures
were echoed less than half a century later? It seems clear that the
failures of the League were not that of the League itself but of the "realist
attitudes of the nations involved". Unwilling to surrender their ideas
of sovereignty to another organisation. The fact that the United
Nations is still functioning suggests that ideas of sovereignty are
less important or that "Realism has been understood with the
intentional trigging of the veto power to the permanent members". The
United Nations is almost the League in another form but it is deemed
to be successful so far, however the U.N has its own problems for it
has picked up some of the League Of Nation problems in a dictating
country to big to be repremanded but instead being allowed to dominate
and do what ever they please The United States Of America. So was The
League, therefore, successful in that it created a legacy for the
future! But will this legacy of The future altogether be a success or
just another wonderful idea thurst into the sands of time? As You
there are far too many pieces of information to take into account so I
will take the neutral side and say the league was both a failure and a
success.
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