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The Strength and Weaknesses of the League of Nations - an essay
The League of Nations
The League of Nations, founded in 1920, after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, as a result of the First World War, was the first international organization, which tried to create and consolidate a permanent world peace. The League had many strengths, such as its ability to impose economic sanctions. However it also possessed a great number of weakness, ranging from structural issues, to the absence of powerful nations. Ultimately the league failed to achieve its goals and was dissolved after World War Two in 1946.
One of the greatest strengths of the League of Nations was the fact that it enjoyed a genuine mood of cooperation and widespread support of its clearly-defined ideas and Covenant. This allowed the League to cooperate with nations to solve international disputes and issues without major setbacks. One of its first successes constituted the solution of the Bulgarian - Greek conflict in the 1920s. The well-structured and simple covenant allowed the work of the League to be public and easy to understand, consequently easing the completion of its tasks.
Despite the positive mood and ideas, the League had many weaknesses. Initially only the victors of WW1 and 13 neutral states were allowed to join and participate in its assemblies. This created a hostile Germany, which although also joined in 1926 quickly left after the rise of Hitler. Another damaging weakness was the absence of the USA and USSR. Despite America's initial support for the League, the USA parliament did not ratify the participation of the USA. This left out three very powerful and economically stable countries of that time out of major international affairs.
Despite the absence of the USA, the League of Nations originally contained 24 nations, including France and Great Britain. Although members being predominantly European and France's demise after the war, the participation of such strong nations lay down the path for the early successes of the League. Britain was the strongest colonial nation and the prime victor of the war, which let to its authority among the members. The United Kingdom also instigated one of the League's main strengths - the mandate commission. It allowed powerful nations to help former colonies be integrated into the international community as either independent nations ot non-permanent mandates, later to become independent.
However the lack of an armed force strongly weakened the Leagues ability to implement its ideas and plans. Although it was able to ask a country to supply troops to solve a conflict, it was not in charge of those military personnel. This absence of military power left the League of Nations with little authority. Ultimately this created the situation where many of the member nations were more powerful than the League itself.
The League, although truly lacking the means to safely enforce a resolution, it was able to create and support may humanitarian and economic activities of organizations, which still exist today. The International Labor Organization (ILO) was create to oversee issues with employment, such as common at the time practices, child and slave labor. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was constructed to oversee and decide upon international conflicts and their resolution. All members were obliged to fulfill the rulings of the Court. The League also supported the work of humanitarian agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Cross, which led to a success of the League in 1920, when it managed to contain epidemics of cholera and typhus, which ranged across Europe at the time.
Although the League created successful organizations, part of its internal structure limited its ability to act. Every nation possessed one vote and to pass a motion or resolution the assembly had to be unanimous in its power, equaling out the influence of strong and weak nations alike. This led to failure in implementing many ideas, as only one country has to vote against and not allow the resolution of the issue.
However the League did possess the ability to impose harsh and even devastating economic sanctions, for example embargoes, trade restrictions or economic barriers. These sanctions were imposed always on the aggressor of a conflict, severely damaging his economic stability and military power. The armed force could also be weakened by the League, as the nations promised to strive for disarmament of countries. For this purpose a Disarmament Commission was created to advise the assembly or the council on such military issues.
Ultimately the League of Nations failed to maintain the fragile peace. The historian Hugh Borgan wrote "The League of Nations was dependent of the goodwill of the nations to work, but it was the absence of goodwill that made it necessary!" (The History of America, 1985) This idea emphasizes the situation that the League relies solely on the enthusiasm and positivity of its members, but if only one should lose its goodwill, the League will fail. The weaknesses of the League overpowered its strengths and allowed the outbreak of war in 1939, which late became World War Two. The devastating conflict lead to the League's dissolution in 1946. Despite all its flaws, the League of Nations left a legacy and gave many ideas, which lead to the founding of the, still active and successful, United Nations shortly after.