Here is a term paper on the ‘League of Nations’ for class 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short term papers on the ‘League of Nations’ especially written for school and college students.
Term Paper # 1. The League of Nations — Vision and Reality:
Most of the costly wars in history have produced plans for the prevention of war among nations and for the settlement of international dispute by arbitration rather than by armed conflict. The nineteenth century had witnessed a considerable growth of international cooperation in various fields. The League of Nations was, in fact, the culmination of a series of attempts made in the nineteenth century to avoid war by the peaceful settlement of international disputes.
The phrase that “a war to end war” should be replaced by “never again” became an urge of the people, particularly after the First Great War. This indignant and passionate resolve to find a better way to settle international disputes in the future than had ever been found in the past, enlisted the support of many men in France, England and the United States.
During the war American President Wilson declared that “when the great present war is over, it will be the duty of America to join with the other nations of the world in some kind of a league for the maintenance of peace”.
At the Paris Conference after the war, the chief concern of President Wilson was the establishment of some kind of international organisation for the maintenance of peace. And it was due to his untiring perseverance that the League of Nations came into existence. President Wilson’s Fourteen Points provided for the creation of a League of Nations, whose primary aim was to maintain world peace.
The League has been described as a “guarantee of peace” and a “definite guarantee by world against aggression”. The vision of the League was to create a world free from war. The League was required to do all that lay in its power to achieve that ideal. Production of armament was to be checked, size of the armies was to be reduced to such an extent that they were sufficient to keep internal law and order.
The members of the League were required not to go to war without exhausting all the pacific means for the settlement of disputes. The League of Nations was thus the culmination of a series of attempts made in the nineteenth century to avoid war by the peaceful settlement of international disputes.
It carried the movement towards world organisation into the sphere of politics by setting up a mechanism for the preservation of peace and also for international cooperation in other fields. The Covenant of the League of Nations is contained in twenty six articles. In the preface to the Covenant the object of the League has been stated to be the promotion of the international co-operation and the achievement of peace and security.
The League was to function through an Assembly, a Council and a permanent Secretariat headed by a Secretary-General. The Assembly was to consist of representatives of all the member states joining the League, each state being entitled to a maximum of three delegates, but only to one vote. The Council was to consist of the representatives of the chief Allied powers, viz. Great Britain, the United States, France, Italy and Japan, and later on China, with four other members elected by the Assembly.
Two other major agencies connected with the League were the Permanent Court of International Justice and the International Labour Organisation.
The League, in reality, settled many minor disputes but ultimately reality differed from vision. Thomson urges that the Vienna Congress system of 1815 “was more realistic”.
The League, however, settled the quarrel between Sweden and Finland over the Aaland Islands. The vexed question of Upper Silesia, in dispute between Germany and Poland, came in for the consideration of the League Council. It appointed a special commission which demarcated the boundary between the German and Polish zones. On three occasions the League successfully intervened in the disturbed Balkan area.
In 1921 it protected Albania against aggression by Yugoslavia. Two years later it successfully intervened to protect Greece against the threat of attack by Italy. In 1925 the League stopped the threatened outbreak of war between Bulgaria and Greece and thereby averted what looked like a serious crisis.
Another interesting dispute settled by the League was the boundary dispute between Iraq and Turkey. After a lengthy investigation by a League Commission an award was made in 1926, which was accepted by the parties. Turkey, however, was not satisfied with the decision. She became suspicious of the League and for a time drew closer to Soviet Union.
(i) Collapse of the Selective Security System in the 1920s: Japanese Aggression:
First shock to the League of The Nations was given by Japan. In 1931 she violated the League Covenant and the Kellogg Pact by occupying the Chinese territory of Manchuria and setting up a puppet state there. Japan, still a member of the League, attacked China which was also a member of the League, following a minor incident like bomb explosion on the south Manchurian railroad a few miles away from the Japanese garrison town Mukden.
The incident inspired Japan to resume her old policy of expansion. The Chinese Nationalist government at Nanking appealed to the League under Article 11, which actually empowered the League to take “an action that may be deemed wise and effectual to the peace of nations.” The Chinese government also appealed to the United States under the Briand-Kellogg Pact. The League, however, less condemned this act of aggression and asked both China and Japan to withdraw their armed forces to amicable settlement.
The American Secretary of State, Henry L. Stimson, also asked both of them to settle the disputes peacefully and authorised the American Consul in Geneva to take more interest in the Council’s meetings. But he paid no heed to that. The League appointed a commission under Lord Lytton to investigate and submit a report.
In October 1932, the commission submitted a report which condemned Japanese action in Manchuria. The League adopted the report in February 1933, but the fulmination of the League against Japan had no effect on her. On the contrary, Japan in March 1933 gave notice of her withdrawal from membership of the League.
(ii) Italian Aggression (1936):
The defection of Japan was definitely a serious blow to the League. But worse was to come. Italy under Mussolini pursued an imperial policy and in 1935 made an unprovoked attack upon Abyssinia, a member of the League. The only East African independent state, Abyssinia was ruled by a native emperor Haile Selassie. Its geographical location was such that it was vulnerable and could be attacked simultaneously both from north and south.
Being wealthy, fertile and enriched in natural resources, Abyssinia lured Italy and the latter had already extracted some privileges there and now determined to conquer Abyssinia. In December 1934 there arose a dispute between Italy and Abyssinia over the ownership of the oasis of Walwal near the border between British and Italian Somaliland. An armed clash between the troops of both countries made the situation worse.
Italy took possession of it, but in the clash some thirty Italian colonial troops were killed and Italy demanded compensation and apologies from Abyssinia. The Emperor of Abyssinia, Haile Selassie, appealed to the League under Article 11 against this act of wanton aggression by Italy. The League declared Italy to be the aggressor and recommended the application of economic sanctions.
But the sanctions were applied half-heartedly. Although economic sanctions were imposed, coal and oil were excluded from the list of goods to be withheld. And, again, a few states like Austria, Hungary, Albania, and Switzerland refused to apply sanctions. The United States, led by President Roosevelt, operated the American neutrality laws, restricting trade in arms and ammunition.
The Italian campaign was short, swift and brutal. After some resistance Haile Selassie fled abroad and his capital Addis Ababa was occupied in May 1936 by Italian troops. The king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, was declared as Emperor of Ethiopia. Mussolini “forthwith organised Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somaliland into Italian East Africa and made Marshal Badoglio its Viceroy.”
It conclusively proved that the League had no “teeth” and could not prevent its own members from fighting with one another. The Council of the League abandoned sanctions in July, and the whole idea of sanctions was discredited by their partial application and their failure to save Abyssina. In 1936 Italy withdrew herself from the League of Nations. The action of Italy was a shattering blow to the League of Nations. Italy had proved that might is right and that collective security is an idle dream.
(iii) German Aggression:
The League had further suffered a blow from the direction of Germany. The World War had greatly intensified nationalism and made it very exclusive and intolerant. Each national state was regarded as an end in itself and determined to place its interests above everything else. When this was the feeling everywhere Germany under Hitler made the situation worse by subordinating international interests to national interests and also policy to international adjustment, which alone could have ensured the success of the League.
The “economic blizzard” of 1929 not only intensified the prevailing distress in Germany but also paved the way for the rise of Nazism vis-a-vis the rise of Hitler which proved to be bad omen not only for Germany but also for the whole world.
On 7 March 1936 Hitler’s first territorial aggression took place when he sent German troops “dramatically into the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland” and occupied it. But long before this event, in October 1933, Hitler withdrew Germany from the Disarmament Conference and the programme of rearmament was pressed on violating the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. In March 1935 conscription was introduced.
The German Air Force, contrary to the Versailles Treaty, was revived and it increased rapidly. Submarines, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, aeroplanes, guns, tanks, shells and all kinds of materials needed for military began to be produced ignoring the strictures. These all violated the norms of the Locarno agreements which Germany had made not “under a Dictat but voluntarily.”
After the re-occupation of the Rhineland, the Siegfried Line of fortifications was constructed on Germany’s western frontier. As a result France was exposed to attack and Germany was more defensible against attack. According to David Thomson, if Britain and France could have opposed or attacked Germany then Hitler would have been checked “for a time and may be forever”.
But none of them marched against Hitler and, on the contrary, pursued divergent policies by France and Great Britain with regard to Germany. This must have encouraged Hitler in flouting the League of Nations and in embarking on a policy of wanton aggression. The two countries drifted apart diplomatically at a time when, from the standpoint of practical politics, they ought to have cooperated in enforcing the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
The French feared more than anything else a revived and vengeful Germany. To them the Treaty was the only guarantee of their security and so their statesmen opposed the reduction of reparation, or any other measure, likely to ease the German situation. They did their best to hamper the economic recovery of Germany.
Britain, on the other hand, feeling secure in her isolated position and powerful navy, was mainly interested in the revival of her trade. Germany had been one of her best customers and so she welcomed any step which might assist Germany’s economic recovery and purchasing power. In such circumstances, the selective security system could not work.
Term Paper # 2. Failure of the League of Nations:
Planned, proposed and formulated by President Wilson of the United States was the establishment of the League of Nations. It was practically founded in June 1915 and in 1916 Wilson opined that “when the great present war is over, it will be the duty of America to join with the other nations of the world in some kind of a league for the maintenance of peace.” After the war, it was largely through his efforts that the League of Nations came into existence. But right from its inception it appeared to be crippling for various reasons.
Before going further, it is imperative to throw light on the principal object of the League. There is no denying the fact that the main function of the League was to avoid wars and maintain peace in the world. Now the question arises how to avoid war? It cannot be denied that the governments and peoples all over the world must be interested in preserving peace and only concerted determination can bring about the success.
The member countries of the League were required not to go to war without exhausting all the pacific means for the settlement of disputes. In fact, people are the real machineries to ward off war once for all and the League was a definite guarantee by world against aggression. If the moral force cannot be implemented, the physical force cannot restrain violence. A war to end war is a wrong philosophy because violence begets violence.
Despite its best efforts, the League failed to preserve peace and-the whole world was involved in war in 1939. By that time all sources of the League were brought down and its machinery completely failed to serve its purpose.
The most powerful and founder nation of the League, the United States, withdrew from all its European commitments and declined to accept the membership of the League. Russia and Germany were not given the membership. Although Russia became a member of the League in 1934, she was forced to relinquish her membership after her attack on Finland in 1939. Germany was given the membership in 1926 but left the same in 1933 after Hitler came to power.
Italy was an original member, but, after the conquest of Ethiopia, she left the League in 1937. Japan left the League in 1931 after her conquest of Manchuria. Except Germany all other states, namely Russia, Italy and Japan, discarded the system of collective security as established under the League and ways and means for an amicable settlement of disputes for averting a threat of war.
The provisions of the Covenant of the League for dealing with threats to war, or terminating one which had broken out, did not deter at least a strong nation that was bent upon carrying out its will, from an act of aggression and could not check its aggressive course and far less compel to repair the wrongs it had committed or disgorge its unlawful gain. Since the Covenant only forbade war under certain circumstances and not the use of force, the League proved itself a teeth less organ.
Britain and France, the two most important members of the League, nourished a deep and underlying divergence as to the nature of the League. While France maintained that a system of security be developed directing against Germany, the British regarded it as a system of conciliation which would include Germany. The two countries never argued this difference out to a conclusion.
The member states declined to come to terms in matters of their sovereignty in order to strengthen the cause of peace through a world organisation. The League stood to guard the international interest, but the member states did not hesitate to violate the Covenant of the League to guard their own national interests. As the different states guarded their interests zealously, it became increasingly difficult for the League to serve its purpose, i.e., to maintain peace.
The proposal that Britain and the United States jointly guarantee the frontiers of France was speedily abandoned by the British government when in 1920 the United States withdrew from all its European commitments. The selfish policy of the United States, her policy of isolation — except in Latin America and the Far East — left France in an awkward situation.
The unwillingness of Britain to take up international obligations and the hapless situation of France weakened the system of collective security expected to be established by the League. Britain and France followed a policy of appeasement to please the dictators of Germany and Italy because of the lack of cooperation between them which weakened the system of collective security expected to be established by the League.
The Peace Settlement of 1919-20 was not based on justice and fair play. Obviously there are controversies which should now be discussed in historical terms. Some scholars like A. J. P. Taylor say that the Germans denounced the harshness and shortsightedness of Versailles. But the German government accepted the treaty or better to be told that Germany had to accept the terms of the treaty and by doing so “acquired valuable asset”.
A new German aggression was made impossible by the treaty, but it could be made possible if Germany herself cooperated. So the security of Europe was no security in case Germany behaved otherwise so it can be safely said that even after the victory of the Allies and even after the conclusion of Versailles treaty Europe was not safe from future German aggression.
To make this aggression impossible, Germany was to be included in the League and, as long as her tenure in the League would last, Europe would be freed from further German aggression. As soon as Germany left the League, the latter proved itself good for nothing and security of Europe was under imminent danger. Hence, it has been said “In the years that are coming, there is more reason to fear for Germany than to fear Germany.”
The League had neither army nor executive officials. No state made any surrender of administrative power to the League. Therefore, it was easy to defy the League, and one by one the aggressor nations withdrew. Prof. Taylor suggests that the “real death of the League was in December 1935” Since then the League continued in existence only by averting its eyes from what was happening around it.
In October 1935 Italy, an original member of the League, found Abyssinia as the soft target and perfect victim for aggression. The Abyssinian affair in which the League proved her impotency, assured Hitler that the League could not take any action against him if he carried on his aggressive activities; and Hitler was right. He clearly saw the pangs of death of the League.
“By 1940, Great Britain and France alone of the Great Powers were left in the League.” They became the guarantors of the treaties and guardians of the stability and equilibrium of the new order and keepers of the peace. Hence the League lacked the representation of the world. Moreover, Britain wanted to use the League as a means to perpetuate the balance of power, while France used the League as a means to encircle Germany and declined to transform French security into collective security. Britain, over and above, did not adapt the balance of power to the requirements of a community of powers.
The League was tied with the Treaty of Versailles and, therefore, the League was looked upon by the vanquished as an association of the victors, where they were given the final say. The anti-revisionist powers like France was determined to maintain the status quo, while the revisionist powers like Germany wanted to revise the existing status quo. Hence the vanquished regarded the League as a partial body and looked upon the League with ever-increasing suspicion.
The League failed to solve the problems created by world slump and Depression of 1930. Out of the chaos the Nazis in Germany stormed into power. They were determined to revise the harsh terms of the Versailles and to establish their rights to secure living space for their growing population. The rivalry with the Anglo-French bloc for trade, commerce and colonies became intense and the League failed to bring the powers to come to terms. The League was dominated by the Anglo-French bloc and, therefore, other States lost their confidence in that organisation.
The Versailles Treaty completely humiliated Germany and the latter was determined to defy the provisions of the Treaty as she did not accept these willingly. They were forced upon her at the point of bayonet. When that was the case the League failed to bring to book the recalcitrant country.
The League mechanism for the preservation of world peace was provided under Article 16 which laid down that any attack upon a country by another country would be treated as an act of war against all other member countries. In that case the aggressor state was to be subjected to immediate “severance of all trade and financial relations.”
If the economic sanctions failed to produce desired result, the council might “recommend” to the other member countries “what effective military, naval or air forces the members of the League shall severally contribute to be used to protect the Covenants of the League.” But in practice this was never implemented. Economic sanctions were applied against Italy in a halting manner and they failed to produce the desired result. In the case of Japan no action was taken at all. Similarly, no action was taken against Hitler and the League remained a silent spectator.
The League, in fact, possessed no effective weapon to compel the states to follow its decision. If the decision would go against any country’s national interests it would never cooperate with the League. So the League was powerless to execute its own decisions and hence failed to preserve peace. When Japan occupied Manchuria in clear violation of the League and also the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the League merely registered a verbal protest and no effective action was taken against her.
The rise of dictatorship in Germany, Italy and Japan subverted the chances of the League. All the States were not prepared to honour their commitments under the Treaty of Versailles and when actions were taken against them, they left the League. Such a situation was not congenial for the success of the League. Inspired by burning patriotism Japan invaded Manchuria and this episode was a rude eye-opener to the realities of the world politics and the position of the League in relation to them. Italy attacked Ethiopia, and when the League decided to take action against her, she left the League.
German troops marched into the Rhineland in March 1936 in violation of the Treaty of Versailles; no action was taken against Germany although the safety of both France and Belgium was in danger. In the Civil War of Spain in 1936, both Germany and Italy had given all possible help to General Franco. Britain and France followed non-intervention policy. When Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, no action was taken against him. In the crisis of Czechoslovakia, Britain and France, overruling the League, followed the policy of appeasement to satisfy the overbearing Hitler.
As regards diplomatic sanctions, they were merely an expression of disapproval but, as a means of coercion, they were merely a slap on the wrist. The world was rent asunder by conflicting ideologies and some states determined to assume global dominance. In such circumstances it was quite difficult to carry on the functions of the system of collective security.
The success of the League was, in fact, based on the assumptions that all the member states would take a concerted action against any threat to the peace of the world. This could have succeeded if most governments wanted peace. These assumptions seemed reasonable in the immediately post-war mood of revulsion. It was assumed that most states would now be democratic states as democracy would be more peace-loving. But, as the days wore on, the memory of war gradually was on the wane.
The militancy of nationalism subverted the basically conservative role of the League. In such changed conditions the League was not suited for enforcement of obligations. More and more governments turned their back to democracy and transformed into totalitarian states, thus lessening the prospect of success of the League.
Powerful nations could not be brought to obey the regulations of the League if their national interests were at stake. Interestingly, they all desired peace but none was ready to subordinate their national interests to international accord and the League had no effective weapon in its hands to compel them. The League was almost helpless. The voting system in the Council of the League was also defective and lost its incisive teeth.
In fact, Germany, Russia and the United States were the Great Powers and the League did not get their service since its inception. The League was “voluntarist in character”. Goodwill and unselfish attitude were required to make it an effective organisation. But, regrettably, the quality was absent and the scope of the League’s success was remote. Political independence was the criterion for membership, whether it was democratic or totalitarian, and no question arises.
As a result, David Thomson remarks “There was, therefore, no attempt to restrict membership to democratic states or even to like-minded nations or trustworthy governments. By completely sacrificing selectivity and solidarity to the aim of being universal, it lost cohesion and decisiveness in action but still fell far short of universality.”
Great Britain and France were often made responsible for the failure of the League because, by 1940, the League came to rest on the shoulders of Britain and France. They, in fact, became the guarantors of the treaties, the protectors of the weak states, the chief agents of the League and the keepers of world peace. But they were helpless in the absence of other nations’ active help.
They took the responsibility without knowing their own limitations and, hence, they used the League to satisfy their partisan attitude. Ketelbey points out “If Germany came for a time to use it she came also to realize that “its cumbersome machinery, its diffused responsibility, its delayed action, and its pacifistic professions might be turned to her own purposes.”
Finally, the League -had other drawbacks as its machinery was based in subtle as well as in obvious ways upon Anglo-French principles which impaired the League’s chances of success. The Anglo-French authority thought their own principles were best and they tried to implement their policies through the League ignoring principles of other nations or even did not try to accommodate those. The Anglo-French dogma was alien to states which had only a short or no experience of real democratic government.
During the Civil War of Spain the opportunistic Anglo-French diplomacy was revealed by the Russian diplomat M. Maisky. In his opinion “The division is not between Communism and Fascism, but war and peace. All countries are lined up with the aggressors who mock the League of Nations or with those who try to maintain peace on the basis of the covenant.” Despite its failure it cannot be said that the League did nothing to implement its objects. During its tenure for about twenty six years (1920-1946) the League was able to settle a number of disputes.
The League was literally dead in December 1939 when it declared Soviet Russia an aggressor of Finland and subsequently expelled it from membership. But Taylor thinks it was in 1935 when Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, the real death of the League took place.
The League was the first international organisation in the field of collective security. Its attempt to maintain peace is to be remembered in the history of international politics. On the basis of the League, the United Nations Organisation has been established with the same object of founding peace and war-free world. . On 19th April 1946 the existence of the League came to an end.
The existence of the League depended on the cooperation of the member states and again the collective security depended on the smooth function of the League. It was hoped that the governments and the people interested in preserving peace and maintaining the settlement of 1919 would work together to fulfill the mission of the League.
But the League could not be better than the members who composed it, and the members could not be brought to abide by its recommendations if these conflicted with their national interests, real or fancied. Despite its best efforts for at least two decades it failed to serve its purpose. The world was involved again in a war of devastation.
The League was looked down by the vanquished as an association of victors because the League was an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles and, therefore, a part of the Peace Settlement of 1919. It was dominated by Britain and France, hence some states close to these states such as Italy and Japan tried to flout the declaration appears deceptive and the union between the two German countries was an inevitable aspect of political evolution. Again, the declaration of self-determination was not put into practice in their colonies. The League, dominated by the Allies, lost its trustworthiness.
After the withdrawal of the United States from European politics, Britain also refused to shoulder any responsibility of French security and henceforth France’s only and one aim was to make Germany perpetually weak by encircling her with the help of the League. This made the League’s prestige pitiably low. The League lost its credibility.
The League failed to solve the problems of Depression of 1930s that cropped up because of economic blizzard which almost shattered the European economy. The German economy, too suffered serious setback.
The League was without the important countries like the United States, Germany and the Soviet Union. Italy left the League in 1937 and Japan left after her conquest of Manchuria in 1931. Thence the League lost its universality which was essential for its success.
The lack of unanimity among the members of the League, causing its failure to pass any unanimous resolution on any issue.
The national policies of the member states, if found inconsistent, then the League’s success seemed to be remote and, in the case of League, this became inevitable. While Germany, Japan and Italy began the career of imperialist conquest, Britain and France did not pay much heed and did not take early effective action through the League. While the countries desired peace, none of them was prepared to subordinate their respective national interests to international interests.
There was no such machinery in the hands of the League, so that it could compel the recalcitrant member state to accept and abide by the League’s resolution.
The rivalries of Nations for trade, commerce and colonies are largely responsible for the failure of the League. From the outset, to the Germans, the status quo was not peace and the Versailles Treaty was a slave treaty. No German accepted the treaty as a fair settlement between equals “without victors or vanquished”.
A. J. P. Taylor points out that all Germans wanted to undo its defeat and “to shake off at any rate some part of the peace treaty as soon as it was convenient to do so.” Hence Prof. Taylor remarks “The peace of Versailles lacked moral validity from the start.” While this was the German belief then the outcome would be disastrous and the League could not be able to maintain peace even if it would have sincerely tried.