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Why did the League of Nations fail?

The League of Nations was the first intergovernmental organization that was established after World War 1 in order to try and maintain peace. It was headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and designed to be a forum for handling international disputes before they flared up into military action and caused domino effects that pulled ally nations into the conflict (as had happened with the Great War). Unfortunately, the League failed miserably in its intended goal: to prevent another world war from happening (WW2 broke out only two decades later). The idea was for the League of Nations to prevent wars through disarmament, collective security, and negotiation. It was also involved in other issues such as drug trafficking, arms trade, and global health. Although the League disbanded during WW2, it was replaced with the United Nations, which is still going strong today.

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Weaknesses of the League of Nations

The League of Nations had several integral weaknesses that finally led to its demise.

  • The League was supposed to present the world and encompass all countries, but many countries never even joined the organization, of which the U.S. was the most prevalent one. Some members only remained members for a short while, before ending their membership. Many historians believe that if America had joined the League, there would have been a lot more support in preventing conflicts. Other major powers such as Germany and the Soviet Union were not allowed to join.
  • The international relations of member countries conflicted with the League’s requirements for collective security.
  • The League didn’t have its own armed forces and depended on members to act, but none of the member countries were ready for another war and didn’t want to provide military support.
  • Pacifism was a great problem: the League’s two largest members, Britain and France, were very reluctant to resort in sanctions and military actions.
  • Disarmament was highly advocated by the League, which meant that it deprived countries that were supposed to act with military force on its behalf when necessary from means to do so.
  • When countries started to attack others in order to try and expand, the League didn’t have any power to stop them.

Despite its failure to prevent a second world war, the League of Nations impacted future international institutions by providing a framework for what does and does not work in such diplomatic organizations. The League of Nations was formed according to President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points, which designated a “general association of nations…formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.”

However, there was no regulation or enforcement mechanism for this point. Future organizations remedied this flaw by having more institutional strength, as the United Nations did. But in the creation of the League of Nations, Wilson did promote the opinion of statesmen and diplomats that a new sort of standing international organization that promoted global cooperation and security should be formed. Many supported this move after World War One, with Europe’s economies decimated and its population shattered after years of terrible warfare.

Cite This Article
"Why Did the League of Nations Fail?" History on the Net
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July 14, 2020 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/why-did-the-league-of-nations-fail>
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