The Weaknesses of The League of Nations


Membership Problems

1. The United States didn't join the League of Nations. Wilson was very ill by this time, and the Senate rejected it:

  • The Senate disagreed with the Treaty of Versailles and had refused to sign it. They saw the League of Nations as connected to it.
  • Many thought that all people should live in democracies. They didn't want to be forced into wars to help countries like Britain and France keep undemocratic countries.
  • Wilson's political enemies wanted to make him unpopular.
  • Many people wanted to keep American troops and money out of Europe, and wanted to only worry about American affairs. This attitude was called isolationism.

2. Germany wasn't allowed to join the League of Nations until 1926. The USSR wasn't allowed to join either, mainly because its communist government worried the other world leaders.

3. This meant that 3 of the most powerful countries in the world weren't involved in the League. This undermined the League's authority and strength. It also meant that the League didn't have access to the armies of these nations, and had to rely mostly on Britain and France instead - both had been badly weakened by WW1.

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The League Wasn't Powerful Enough

Britain and France were in charge...but neither country was strong enough after the war to do the job properly. Also, the fact that these 2 countries had the most power was unpopular with some countries, who saw the League as an extension of the harsh Treaty of Versailles.

The League could introduce sanctions...but these would only work if powerful countries applied them - 3 of these countries were missing from the League. Most member countries couldn't afford to apply sanctions, especially those still rebuilding after WWI.

The League relied on the armies of member states...but members didn't have to commit troops to the League, and most of them didn't want to. This made it difficult for the League to act on its threats.

It was a large organisation...but it was also terribly complicated. Everyone had to agree in the Assembly and Council before anything could happen, and the Court of Justice had no powers to make a country act. This made it very hard to get anything done.

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