Why did the League fail to keep its aims in Peace



Why did the League of Nations fail to keep it aim to keep Peace?

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Membership of League of Nations

1. 42 countries joined at the start. By the 1930s this had risen to 60.

2. May 1920, the US Senate voted against Versailles.

3. The USSR did not join the League. In 1919 it set up the Comintern to cause revolution.

4. Germany was not allowed to join the League as a punishment for causing WWI.

5. The leading members were Britain and France, helped by Japan and Italy.

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The Organisation Of the League [SCACHIRMS] & The 3

  • Secretariat: supposed to co-ordinate the different functions of the League/ too few secretaries to do the work - slow and inefficient
  • Council: met 4-5 times a year/ 5 permanent members - Br, Fr, It, *** & Ger - with a veto.
  • Assembly: the League’s main meeting, held once a year/ decisions only by unanimous vote
  • + the Committees: Court of international justice/ Health committee/ International labour organization/ Refugees committee/ Mandates commission/ Slavery commission  
  • ALSO Conference of ambassadors (not really part of the League's organisation).

The Three Powers

  • Condemnation (the League could tell a country it was doing wrong).
  • Arbitration (the League could offer to decide between two countries).
  • Sanctions (stopping trade).
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How the League kept peace

The League hoped that it could influence countries to 'do the right thing' by:

1. Collective security

2. Community of power

3. Moral Persuasion

The 'moral power' of the League lay in the League's Covenant, in which members promised to keep the peace. Many writers have pointed out that this is hardly a very effective deterrent against a powerful country which was determined to disobey the League.   

If these moral influences failed, the League had the three powers it could use to make countries do as it wanted. Theoretically, the League was able to use military force, but the League did not have an army of its own – so if a country ignored it, in the end, there was nothing the League could do.    

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Manchurian Crisis

  • The Dispute:          
  • In the 1930s there was a world-wide economic depression. Japan tried to overcome the depression by building up an empire.
  • In 1932, the Japanese army invaded Manchuria and threw out the Chinese. They set up their own government there and called it Manchuokou
  • China asked the League to help.
  • What the League did:
  • The League sent a group of officials led by Lord Lytton to study the problem (this took a year).
  • In February 1933 it ordered Japan to leave Manchuria.
  • The Outcome:
  • Japan refused to leave Manchuria. Instead. Japan left the League.
  • Many countries had important trading links with Japan. 
  • The League could not agree on sanctions or even a ban on weapons sales.
  • Britain and France did not want a war, so nothing was done. The Japanese stayed in Manchuria.
  • The League had failed.  
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Abyssinia Crisis

  • The Dispute:
  • Mussolini got ready to invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia).   He wanted war and glory.
  • Abyssinia asked the League to help.
  • What the League did:
  • The League talked to Mussolini – but he used the time to send an army to Africa.
  • The League suggested a plan to give part of Abyssinia to Italy.
  • The Outcome:
  • Mussolini ignored the League, and invaded Abyssinia.
  • The League banned weapons sales, and put sanctions on rubber and metal.
  • The Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie went to the League to appeal for help, but it did nothing else – in fact Britain and France secretly agreed to give Abyssinia to Italy (the Hoare-Laval Pact).
  • Italy conquered Abyssinia
  • The League had failed.
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Reasons for Collapse of The League [BUSTED UP]

  • Britain and France – were not prepared to use their armies and had other priorities.
  • USA, USSR and Germany – USA was never a member/ USSR not until 1934/ Germany not until 1926, and Hitler left the League in 1933.
  • Structure – its organisation [SCACHIRMS] was cumbersome so decisions were very slow.
  • Treaty of Versailles set up the League so it was hated because the Treaty was hateful.
  • Economic Depression – countries acted to save their own interests, and ignored the League.
  • Dictators – dictators like Mussolini and Hitler  would not compromise.
  • Unsuccessful – the League’s failures damaged its reputation, so members left/ ignored it.
  • Powerless:   moral condemnation was just ignored by powerful nations/ the League had no armies/ people found ways round sanctions.
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