A Great Experiment The League of Nations


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A Great Experiment The League of Nations

  1. 1. A. Le Roy Bennett and James K. Oliver, International Organizations Chp. 2 A Great Experiment The League of Nations
  2. 2. The League of Nations World Wars I and II engendered two rather contradictory forces: -Nationalism and patriotism - A demand for international organization as a mechanism for cooperation to stop the war. -Heightened feelings of nationalism and a greater hatred of war was carried over into the newly created organizations for peace. -No leaders would surrender any important area of national sovereignity. The result was toothless international organization, dependent on the collective power of individual member states and on their desire to cooperate to avoid crises.
  3. 3. The League of Nations -Peace policy enforced by the victorious powers also prevented these organizations from becoming effective. The enemy states at first were refused membership into these postwar international organizations and then were admitted only by permission of the major Allied powers. -Also, the dominance of the allies was assured by assigning them permanent positions on the main enforcing arm of the international agency and by protecting them against enforcement penalties by the privilege of a veto. -Thus the great powers had a double guarantee that no effective action could be directed against them, and yet they were the ones directing enforcement action.
  4. 4. Founding of the League of Nations The war in Europe had scarcely begun when groups started to organize in several European countries and in the United States for the specific purpose of planning how to maintain peace in the postwar period. The initial efforts were private, organized official support came later. In the United States, the most important private group in postwar planning was the League to Enforce Peace, founded in Philadelphia in June 1915. Former president William Howard Taft was a major leader of this movement. Initially distant, President Woodrow Wilson eventually came to endorse many of the League’s principles. In 1918, Wilson presented his famous 14 points as the World I aims of the US government. The last of the points called for a League of Nations. The Fourteen points were adopted as the war aims of all the Allied powers. Allied powers committed to the establishment of a security organization as part of their plans for peace.
  5. 5. The League of Nations Although President Wilson was credited with being the main champion of this development, private and public groups and individuals in many countries deserve recognition for playing highly significant roles. On January 18, 1919, the peace conference convened in Paris. A week later a resolution was adopted that stated that the plans for a League of Nations would become an integral part of the peace treaties and that a commission should be created to work out the details of the League’s constitution.
  6. 6. The League of Nations The final draft of the Covenant was laid before a plenary session of the peace conference on April 28, 1919, and the Covenant and all the supporting agreements were approved unanimously. A week later Acting Secretary General Drummond received authority from the organizing committee to begin the recruitment of the Secreteriat staff and the preparatory work for the first sessions of League organs. He established temporary headquarters in London. Since the League Covenant was a part of the Treaty of Versailles, the official birthday of the organization was delayed for eight additional months until the treaty was ratified and took effect on January 10, 1920.
  7. 7. Essential Features of the League The original members of the League of Nations: In addition to the original members, other “fully selfgoverning States, Dominions or Colonies” could be admitted to membership by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly, provided that they gave “effective guarantees” of their willingness to accept the necessary international obligations. The right of withdrawal with two years’ notice was specifically provided, and a member could be expelled by unanimous vote of all other members of the Council for violation of Covenant obligations.
  8. 8. Essential Features of the League The United States was the only major state that never joined the League. The maximum number of members of the League turned out to be 60. Throughout the history of the League, the official attitude of the United States toward the League gradually changed from one of hostility (especially on the part of some members of the US senate) and aloofness to increasing cooperation in a variety of League activities. Germany was admitted to the League in 1926, and the Soviet Union was admitted in 1934. Both, immediately on admission, were given permanent seats on the Council in recognition of their importance.
  9. 9. Essential Features of the League The first withdrawals became effective in 1927 and 1928 when Costa Rica withdrew because of the financial burden of membership, followed by Brazil who left because of a refusal to grant it permanent membership on the Council. Germany and Japan announced their intention to withdraw in 1933, and in the late 1930s there was a rash of defections. The only case of expulsion was against the Soviet Union in late 1939 for its invasion of Finland. The most important set of goals of the League of Nations related to promoting peace and preventing wars. Although war was not totally outlawed by the Covenant, the intention was clear that through peaceful settlement of disputes wars should be prevented and that any agressor who resorted to war in violation of the Covenant should be dealt with promptly and effectively by the collective action of all other members.
  10. 10. Essential Features of the League Two basic principles underlay the League system: 1- Members agreed to respect and preserve the territorial integrity and political independence of other states 2- Any war or threat of war was a matter of concern to the whole League. If states were unable to settle their disputes by negotiation, they agreed to submit them to arbitration, judicial settlement, or consideration by the League Council. The disputants agreed not to go to war under any circumstances at least three months following a decision of the body hearing the dispute. To faciliate judicial settlement, Article 14 of the Covenant charged the League Council with responsibility for establishing a court, duty that was promptly carried out. If in hearing a dispute the Council made a unanimous set of recommendations, excepting any disputing parties, all League members agreed not to go to war with any state that complied with the recommendations. If unanimity could not be achieved, the members were free to take individual action.
  11. 11. The League of Nations Article 16 of the Covenant provided the teeth for enforcement action against a state that broke its agreements to keep the peace. A violation of Covenant obligations was to be interpreted as an act of war against all other members. The offending state was to be subjected to immediate and total economic and indirect costs shared equitably by all Members. Supposedly such measures were automatic and obligatory. The Council was empowered to recommend military sanctions, including the allocation of national contributions to a joint military force composed of land, sea or air contingents. No offending state could withstand such pressures if all other members cooperated in appyling maximum available measures against it. The League’s program of war prevention also included provisions for disarmament “to the lowest point consistent with national safety”. The success of these provisions depended upon Council initiative and member acceptance of general disarmament plans.
  12. 12. The League of Nations Although the major emphasis in the Covenant was upon peace maintenance, some recognition was given to the desirability of international economic and social cooperation. The Covenant provided no special machinery for carrying on, supervising, or coordinating these efforts, although a commitment was included for the establishment of one or more organizations to secure “fair and humane condition of labour for men, women and children” and an autonomous Intenational Labour Organization was established as part of the Treaty of Versailles.
  13. 13. The League of Nations In addition to a concern for labor conditions, the Covenant included references to several specific economic and social problems. These were: 1)Just treatment of non self-governing peoples 2)Supervision of traffic in women and children 3) Supervision of traffic in dangerous drugs 4) Supervision of the arms trade etc 5) Freedom of communications and transit 6)Equitable treatment of international trade for all states 7) Prevention and control of disease.
  14. 14. The League of Nations As a substitute for outright annexation of the colonies taken from the Central Powers at the end of the war, a mandate system was İnstituted. The Mandatories who took over this supervision were Britain, France, Japan, Belgium, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, with Britain and France assuming a lion’s share of responsibility for multiple territories. Three categories of mandates were described in the Covenant: A, B and C. A:recognized as nearing statehood, C: the least able to achieve statehood within the foreseeable futute. The Mandatories of the C group were authorized to administer them as integral parts of their own territory.
  15. 15. The League of Nations The League machinery was centered around three major organs: Assembly, the Council and the Secratariat. The first two were delegate bodies in which each member state had one vote, the Secretariat was composed of international civil servants whose role included impartial service to the organisation as a whole. All members of the League were automaticaally members of the Assembly, they could be represented by 3 representatives but cast a single vote. Annual meetings that went for a month’s duration became the essential pattern for meetings. The Assembly accomplished most of its work through six main Committees that dealt with legal questions, budget and finance, political and social and humanitarian questions. Each member was entitled to be represented on all committees.
  16. 16. The League of Nations Committee decisions could be taken by a majority vote, but final approval on most issues had to face the requirement of unanimity in a plenary session of the Assembly. Yet, matters of procedure required only a majority vote. Other important matters such as admission of members and election of members to the Council were exempted from the unanimity rule. Members exercised restraint in the use of their liberium veto and unless a matter was of vital concern to one or more states, they generally abstained rather than choosing to block a resolution supported by a substantial majority of states.
  17. 17. The League of Nations Although the original size of the League of Nations was intended to be five permanent and four elected members, the defection of the United States produced an equal balance between the two categories. The Covenant permitted the Council and Assembly to prescribe changes in both categories of membership. The permanent members were originally designated as the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan. Germany was given permanent Council status upon its admission to the League in 1926, and the Soviet Union was treated identically in 1934.The withdrawals of Germany, Japan and Italy from the League membership in the 1930s decreased the proportion of permanent to Nonpermanent Council members.
  18. 18. The League of Nations The Covenant’s allocation of powers and duties between the Assembly and the Council indicates the greater importance attached to the Council by all the framers of the document. It was indicated in the Covenant that the Assembly shall meet only at three or four-year intervals but Council sessions shall be more frequent.
  19. 19. The list of powers and duties assigned to the Assembly was brief, although some of the Assembly’s roles were basic and significant: The admission of members to the League. The control of the budget The selection of nonpermanent members of the Council The formulation of rules concerning the selection and terms of Council members The consideration of matters referred to it by the Council The instigation of plans for the revision of treaties.
  20. 20. The League of Nations The List of Council responsibilities was more formidable than that of the Assembly. The Council was assigned: 1- the conciliation of disputes 2-the expulsion of League members who violated the Covenant 3-the supervision of the mandates 4-the approval of staff appointments to the Secreteriat 5-the authority to move the League headquarters 6-the formulation of plans for disarmament 7-the recommendations of methods for carrying out the provisions of the Covenant for the peaceful settlement of disputes and for the application of sanctions 8- the obligation to meet at the request of any League member to consider any threat to international peace.
  21. 21. The League of Nations A few powers were shared by the Council and the Assembly. Instead of sharply delineating the spheres of responsibility for the most basic functions of the League, a broad mandate in identical terms was given to each. Both the Council and the Assembly were authorized to “deal at their meetings with any matter within the sphere of action of the League or affecting the peace of the world”. Both were also authorized to seek advisory opinions from the Permanent Court of International Justice. Three other responsibilities required joint action of the Council and the Assembly. These were: 1) the appointment of the SecretariatGeneral , 2) the election of members of the Permanent Court of International Justice and 3) the approval of changes in the allocation of permanent and nonpermanent seats on the Council.
  22. 22. The League of Nations Even though the Covenant laid greater stress on the Council than on the Assembly, in practice the Assembly became the main focus of attention within the League. The Assembly, at its first session in 1920, seized the initiative and Established precedents that enhanced its prestige vis-a-vis the Council.The practice of general debate involving speeches by the heads of delegations of small as well as large states provided the first, albeit incomplete, world forum. The report of the Council was treated as a basis for broad debate, analysis and criticism so that the Council was assumed to be responsible to the Assembly through an annual review of its activities. The Assembly also called for an annual report by the Secretary-General, the review of which brought the entire range of League activities within its purview.
  23. 23. The League of Nations The Assembly was not hesitant to invade spheres of influence assigned in the Covenant to the Council and regularly and extensively dealt with such areas as disarmament and mandates. The Assembly set up committees to consider important matters in the interim between its own annual sessions and expected these committees to report back to the parent body. The members of the League regularly sent their most able and responsible spokespeople to represent them in Assembly as well as in Council sessions. Finally, the first Assembly adopted the policy of annual rather than less frequent meetings as its permanent pattern. Thus in a single session, the Assembly had definitely constituted itself as the central organ of the League.
  24. 24. The League of Nations Like the Assembly, the Secretariat, had to establish most of its own Precedents. There was an almost total absence of guidelines in the Covenant. Most of the responsibility and credit for the success of the work of the Secretariat was due to the iniative of the first SecrataryGeneral, Sir Eric Drummond (served from 1919 to 1933). Members of the Secretariat were responsible to the SecretaryGeneral and to the organization as a whole and were not answerable to their own governments. Sir Eric Drummond’s function was that of impartial civil servant and as such, he gained the confidence of the representatives of all members of the organization. The Covenant granted him no broad discretionary powers except in the selection of staff and the direction of the work and he chose to interpret his mandate modestly.
  25. 25. The League of Nations Although the Permanent International Justice was theoretically a separate organization from the League of Nations, it was in several respects closely affiliated with the League. A previous reference was made to the Covenant’s provision that the Council was responsible for formulating plans to establish the Court. The Court was an integral part of the League’s formulas for peaceful settlement of disputes, and both the Council and the Assembly could seek advisory opinions from the Court.
  26. 26. Successes and Failures of the League of Nations The success of League of Nations and United Nations is most often judged on the basis of their handling of disputes and their utility in avoiding war. This is the case because of the destructiveness of modern warfare and because of the central role assigned to peace maintenance in establishing these organizations. During the early years of League experience, there were high hopes that the organization could ameliorate tense situations that exhibited the potentiality for erupting into major conflict. The League machinery heard at least thirty disputes during the first decade of its existence, and a majority of these were resolved satisfactorily. This succesful record was in part due to the involvement of small or middle powers in most of the situations and to the resulting ability and willingness of the large powers to bring sufficient pressure to assure a settlement without recourse to war.
  27. 27. Successes and Failures of the League of Nations The greatest challenge to the League’s political effectiveness (because it involved a major power) was Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia. By December 1934 an armed clash took place between Italy and Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government requested that the matter be placed before the League Council. The British and the French, fearful of Hitler and courting the support of Mussolini in Europe, gave to the Italian dictator tacit assurances that they would not unduly interfere with his African ambitions and aided in delaying Council consideration of the Ethiopian complaints. In August, representatives of the British and French governments met with Italian representatives to try to negotiate an African territorial settlement, but the suggested concessions to Italy were rejected by Mussolini as unacceptable.
  28. 28. Successes and Failures of the League of Nations On October 3, 1935, a full scale invasion of Ethiopia was launched by the Italian forces in Eritrea. The response of the League was prompt. Within four days of the initial invasion, the Council voted unanimously, except for Italy, that the Italian government was an agressor in violation of the Covenant, and that Article 16 (that demanded the application of economic sanctions), providing for economic and possibly military sanctions, should be applied against Italy. On October 11, 50 of the 54 League members endorsed cooperative action against Italian agression. The members agreed to stop the sale of arms to Italy but not to Ethiopia, to cut off credit to the Italian Government and to Italian businesses, to prohibit imports from Italy, and to embargo the sale of Italy of strategic war materials.
  29. 29. The League of Nations These measures struck a severe blow to the Italian economy but were insufficient to prevent the conquest of Ethiopia. Additional effective sanctions that could undoubtedly have stopped the military action, were rejected. In July 1936, sanctions against Italy were abandoned, just two months after Mussolini’s announcement of victory and his assumption of the title Emperor of Ethiopia. The initiative for the conciliation of Italy came from the British, who feared the resurgence of a German threat. Following the failure to take effective action against Italian agression, the League processes for the collective control of political conflict degenerated.The faltering will for dynamic response to crises was now dead.
  30. 30. The League of Nations Germany met no League opposition in taking over Austria and Czechoslovakia. The League failed to intervene in the Spanish Civil war, in spite of the internationalization of the war through Italian, German and Soviet involvement. China was rejected in its pleas for League action against Japan when Japan invaded China in 1937. In September 1938, the Council approved the application of sanctions against Japan by individual League members, but this was a hollow gesture and no appreciable change of policy by any state resulted. In spite of scant attention paid to economic and social matters in the Covenant, a vast amount of valuable work was carried on in these areas and in the 1930s these activities became the most succesful contributions of the League to the attempted solution of world problems. One of the valuable services in the economic and social sphere was the gathering and dissemination of knowledge and the Secretariat furnished much of the necessary effort in research – published reports, archived information etc.
  31. 31. General assesment of the League of Nations The experiment was both radical and conservative. It was radical because it dared to encompass within a single organization the means for dealing with a wide range of problems on which international action was desirable if not imperative. It was also conservative because it was based on an existing international order, and no attempt was made to redirect the sources of authority and power. The sovereignity of national states remained undisturbed in an organization based primarily on the principle of voluntary cooperation. Because of its lack of independent power and authority, the League was destined to reflect the general state of international relations, rather than to represent a positive force for redirecting the course of international affairs.
  32. 32. The League of Nations As long as all members realized mutual advantages through cooperation, the League provided them with a useful avenue for achieving their common goals. When Germany, Italy and Japan began to challenge the status quo and when each nation was prompted by economic distress to resort to measures that increased economic rivalry, the League mirrored the lack of cooperative will among its members. The absence from membership of major states such as the US and during shorter periods, the Soviet Union and Germany was a handicap to concerted action. The Covenant suffered from some gaps and technical weaknesses, but in the critical tests it was the lack of will of the members rather than available devices that accounted for ineffective measures.
  33. 33. The League of Nations
  34. 34. The League of Nations