Thursday, 26 April 2012

Account for the failure of the League of Nations

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The League of nation was an attempt to replace the ‘international anarchy’ of pre-war days with an organization which would use economic and possibly military sanctions against aggressors to maintain collective security for both the small and great states. During the initial years of its existence in the 10s, the League seemed to be functioning successfully. It worked well in dealing with less drastic affairs such as the repatriation of prisoners, the mandated territories, and epidemic diseases. However, by the 10s, the authority of the League was challenged several times. After 15, it was never taken seriously again. The real explanation for the failure of the League was that when aggressive states such as Japan, Italy, and Germany defied it, the members (especially France and Britain) were not prepared to support it. The League was only as strong as the determination of its leading members to stand up to aggression � unfortunately, determination of that sort was lacking during the 10s.

In 1, the world economic crisis began which contributed to the League’s decline. It brought unemployment and falling living standards to most countries, and caused extreme right-wing governments to come to power in Japan and Germany. Together with Mussolini, they refused to keep to the rules and took a series of actions . From 1 � 1, the World Disarmament Conference took place. The Germans asked for equality of armaments with France, but when the French demanded that this should be postponed for at least eight years, Hitler was able to use the French attitude as an excuse to withdraw Germany from the conference and later from the league. In addition, economic stresses in the major powers of Britain and France caused them to focus much of their attention on domestic affairs.


The League of Nation’s first failure was in dealing with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. In 11, Japanese troops invaded northeastern China; China appealed to the league, which condemned Japan and ordered her troops to be withdrawn. When Japan refused, the League appointed a commission under Lord Lytton who in 1 decided that there were faults on both sides and suggested that Manchuria should be governed by the League. However, Japan rejected this and withdrew from the League in March of 1. The question of economic sanctions, let alone military ones, was never even raised, because Britain and France had serious economic problems. They were reluctant to apply a trade boycott to Japan in case it led to war which they were ill-equipped to win, especially without the American help. Japan had successfully defied the League, and its prestige was damaged.

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The most serious blow to the League was the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in October of 15. The League condemned Italy and introduced economic sanctions; however, this did not include exports of oil, coal, and steel to Italy. Therefore, the Italy was able to complete the conquest of Abyssinia without too much inconvenience in May of the next year. A few weeks later sanctions were abandoned, and Mussolini had successfully flouted the League. Again, Britain and France did not want to antagonize Mussolini too much, so as to keep him as an ally against Germany. However, the results of their actions were disastrous. Mussolini was annoyed by the sanctions, and began to draw closer to Hitler .Smaller states saw the case with Abyssinia and lost all faith in the League. Finally, the major failure came when Hitler realizes the lack of power on the part of the League and was encouraged to break the Versailles treaty.


Through the events around the 10s, the League of Nations suffered from two fundamental weaknesses. First of all there was an absence of any independent power source and secondly it suffered from the incomplete membership. The League depended upon the member states to provide any cooperative military or economic sanctions. Where a major state was involved, it could ignore the League with virtual impunity. Initially Germany and Russia were excluded and above all, in March 10 the Senate of the USA rejected the scheme. Britain and France must share a large blame for the League’s failure, however on the whole it’s weaknesses were exploited to the fullest when a powerful state brought on challenges on a matter of major importance, for example invading an innocent country.

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