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UPSC Civils Daily Mains Question 20th May-2021

The League of Nations had several integral weaknesses that finally led to its demise. Elaborate. Also examine the success and failure of it.

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). The idea of the League of Nations is 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. Unfortunately, the League failed miserably in its intended goal: to prevent another world war from happening (WW2 broke out only two decades later). Although the League disbanded during WW2, it was replaced with the United Nations, which is still going strong today.

Weaknesses of the League of Nations

  • 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.

Successes and Failures Of The League

The aftermath of the First World War left many issues to be settled, including the exact position of national boundaries and which country particular regions would join. Most of these questions were handled by the victorious Allied powers in bodies such as the Allied Supreme Council. The Allies tended to refer only particularly difficult matters to the League. This meant that during the early interwar period, the League played little part in resolving the turmoil resulting from the war. The questions the League considered in its early years included those designated by the Paris Peace treaties.

As the League developed, its role expanded, and by the middle of the 1920s it had become the center of international activity. This change can be seen in the relationship between the League and non-members. The United States and Russia, for example, increasingly worked with the League. During the second half of the 1920s, France, Britain, and Germany were all using the League of Nations as the focus of their diplomatic activity, and each of their foreign secretaries attended League meetings at Geneva during this period. They also used the League’s machinery to improve relations and settle their differences.

In addition to territorial disputes, the League also tried to intervene in other conflicts between and within nations. Among its successes were its fight against the international trade in opium and sexual slavery and its work to alleviate the plight of refugees, particularly in Turkey in the period up to 1926. One of its innovations in this latter area was the 1922 introduction of the Nansen passport, the first internationally recognized identity card for stateless refugees.

The League failed to intervene in many conflicts leading up to World War II, including the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, the Spanish Civil War, and the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The onset of the Second World War demonstrated that the League had failed in its primary purpose, the prevention of another world war. There were a variety of reasons for this failure, many connected to general weaknesses within the organization, such as voting structure that made ratifying resolutions difficult and incomplete representation among world nations. Additionally, the power of the League was limited by the United States’ refusal to join.

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