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Why was the League of Nations doomed to fail?

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  • Category: Europe

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The League of Nations, established in 1921, was the brainchild of Thomas Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States during World War 1. The idea was conceived during the advent of the “Great War”, and aimed to stop war through working together, improve people’s lives, fight disease and slavery, help workers, and disarm the world. Although the League of Nations was successful in some of its endeavours to maintain world peace and harmony, the majority of their attempts at creating a new world order were not successful. The League of Nations was doomed to fail from the very beginning of its establishment.

One of the main reasons why the League of Nations could not succeed in its aims of global harmony was the fact that the country that first proposed the idea of the organisation did not join in the end. The U.S. Senate forbade America from joining on the grounds that they did not want to forsake national sovereignty, they didn’t want to police the world, and many German-Americans, a significant percentage of the population at the time, resisted the idea of the States as a League of Nations member because of their indignance with the US’ role in the Treaty of Versailles. Because the US did not join the League of Nations, the League lost much credibility in the eyes of other nations. Furthermore, the US was a trusted nation because of its relative newness and apparent flexibility, and the loss of them as a mediator was a blow to the League’s effectiveness in negotiations with other countries.

Nations would have trusted the League more if the US was part of it, as other countries leading the League were considered to be only looking out for their own interests, and the US did not have that image. Also, the economic and political weight of the League would have increased exponentially had the US joined, as they were a financial superpower with even more influence after World War 1. Without them, the League was automatically less effective, both in terms of economic and arbitration power. If the simple addition of the US were made to the League, it would have made a much larger impact on the world and would possibly not have been destined to failure.

Another major issue with the League of Nations involved the fact that the General Assembly met once annually, and the Security Council only meeting a few more times per year. The aim of the League to unify the world through discussions rather than violence would be extremely difficult to carry out if the countries involved were only there to discuss issues once per year. Additionally, the Security Council, which consisted of the “Big Four”, only met three or four times a year, which was also insufficient enough to bring peace to the world. The organisation would have been more successful had the nations involved been prepared to put more time and effort into making the world a better place, rather than make false claims and then not attempt to solve issues that would require more time than was actually put in. Furthermore, when the General Assembly met and would discuss events, any decisions made would have to be a unanimous vote.

An organisation consisting of over 42 countries needing to reach a unanimous vote for any idea to be passed is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation. In short, nothing could ever agreed upon by every nation involved. The veto power provided to the Big Four also proved to be problematic. Britain, France, Italy, and Japan had the ability to table any decisions made after hours of discussion if there was one simple idea on the agenda one of the powers disagreed with. This created a slow and arduous negotiation process, and was another way the League of Nations was ineffective in solving global issues and maintaining world peace, and was doomed to fail from its start.

Any endeavour in the world requires financial backing, and the League of Nations needed enormous economic support to carry out its goals; lack of funding was another reason why the League could not possibly have fully succeeded in its aims. This is not to say that the League was useless in its entirety; they were quite effective in curbing slavery in some parts of the world and negotiating solutions to some conflicts between nations. However, their goal of curing all disease, aiding the world’s poor, and improving conditions for workers would need large amounts of funding, and a dearth of resources came to be the League’s undoing.

Without America, the League did not have enough resources to accomplish all their goals; although Britain and France were donors to the cause, their contributions were not nearly enough to sustain the continuous efforts of the League’s idealistic aims. Obviously, without the resources to carry out a task, an organisation would be rendered potentially useless, and if the League had lasted to this day, that would have been their current state. All factors taken into account, the League admittedly accomplished some of their goals, but lack of funding was another reason that the League did not have significant impact on the world and its problems.

The League of Nations, headed by four main powers, was destined for failure from its beginning because of its very structure. The Security Council was given the greatest power in the League, and it consisted of Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. The rest of the world did not hold much faith in these powers, with good reason. Britain and France, two major colonial powers, were regarded as selfish and imperialistic by other nations, who believed that the two countries would only consider their national interests. Wielding so much power would ultimately be an opportunity for them to improve their own countries, and that suspicion by the rest of the globe was the seat of unrest within the League. The two main powers, Britain and France, also frequently disagreed with each other, and did not particularly get along. This caused even more disruption in the elite group that was supposed to be resilient and confident in their decisions, which weakened the structure of the League even further.

Italy was also focused on their own territorial gain rather than the welfare of the rest of the world, and Japan, the only Asian nation, was isolated from the other powers. As the only nation in one part of the world, the entire responsibility of Asia’s well being was placed upon the shoulders of Japan, an unreasonable and completely unfair obligation for Japan, who found it impossible to patrol the largest continent on earth. The four main powers were also distant geographically from the rest of the globe, with three powers concentrated on one small continent, and the other power being an island nation with no easy access to other countries. The lack of an army for the League was another reason it was ineffective in policing the world, as the structure of the League made for a scattered, argumentative, powerless hierarchy, causing it to be doomed for failure.

The League of Nations, although an excellent idea, was ultimately a failure. Historians having studied its establishment have criticised its workings, and basically stated that it was completely useless. However, it must be stated that the League did accomplish some feats, but the sheer scale of their goals was their main undoing. With the loss of America as a member, additional problems such as frequency of meetings, lack of resources, and an unstable structure proved to send the League of Nations crashing to its knees from its very beginning.

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