Why Did the League of Nations Fail? What Critical Factors Led to Its Demise?

Why did the League of Nations fail? Established after World War 1, the League of Nations aimed to keep the peace. It provided a platform in Geneva, Switzerland, where nations could resolve disputes and avoid the cycle of military conflicts that led to the Great War. Sadly, the League fell short of its objective. Let’s find out!

Why Did the League of Nations Fail?

The League aimed to prevent wars through disarmament, collective security, and negotiation. It also tackled issues such as drug trafficking, arms trade, and global health.

Although the League disbanded during World War 2, it was succeeded by the United Nations, which remains active and influential in the present day.

The First World War had significant consequences that needed to be addressed. Determining national boundaries and deciding which countries would control specific regions were among the pressing issues. 

The victorious Allied powers, primarily through the Allied Supreme Council, took charge of most of these matters, while the League of Nations had a limited role and dealt only with exceptionally difficult cases. 

Successes and Failures of the League

During the early interwar period, the League played a minor role in resolving the aftermath of the war.

However, as time went on, the League’s influence grew, and by the mid-1920s, it became the focal point of international activity. This shift was evident in the League’s engagement with non-member countries. 

The United States and Russia, for instance, increasingly collaborated with the League. France, Britain, and Germany utilized the League of Nations as the hub of their diplomatic efforts, with their foreign secretaries attending League meetings in Geneva. 

They effectively utilized the League’s mechanisms to enhance relations and settle disputes.

Apart from territorial issues, the League also aimed to intervene in conflicts within and between nations. It achieved notable successes in combating the international trade of opium and sexual slavery, as well as in assisting refugees, particularly in Turkey. 

The League introduced the Nansen passport, a groundbreaking internationally recognized identity card for stateless refugees.

However, the League’s failure to intervene in conflicts such as the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, the Spanish Civil War, and the Second Sino-Japanese War highlighted its shortcomings. 

The outbreak of the Second World War ultimately demonstrated the League’s failure to fulfill its primary purpose of preventing global conflict. 

Reasons for this failure included organizational weaknesses, challenging ratification processes, incomplete representation, and the United States’ refusal to join.

Establishment of the League of Nations

Woodrow Wilson instructed Edward M. House to develop a U.S. plan reflecting Wilson’s idealistic views and the work of the Phillimore Committee. The plan aimed to end unethical state behavior and proposed severe measures like blockades and the use of force. 

Lord Robert Cecil and Jan Smuts were the main architects of the League of Nations covenant. Smuts proposed a Council of Great Powers and a mandate system for captured colonies, while Cecil focused on administrative aspects. 

The Hurst-Miller draft served as the basis for the Covenant, which was approved in January 1919. The League consisted of a General Assembly, an Executive Council, and a permanent secretariat. 

Member states were expected to defend territorial integrity and reduce arms. Disputes were to be resolved through arbitration or judicial inquiry. 

The League’s headquarters moved to Geneva in 1920, and the first General Assembly took place in November of that year. 

Despite Wilson’s efforts, the United States did not join the League due to Senate opposition, particularly concerning Article X, which obligated the defense of League members.

Final Thought

The League of Nations aimed to prevent wars and address global issues but disbanded during World War II. Its efforts laid the groundwork for the United Nations, which continues its work today. 

Lessons from the League remind us of the importance of diplomacy, multilateralism, and collective responsibility in achieving peace. 

Collaboration and a commitment to justice and equality are essential for a peaceful and prosperous future.