Research Paper

Prior to the start of WWII, the countries in Europe who had participated in World War I had formed an organization to prevent another war as catastrophic as WWI. This League of Nations was determined to solve conflicts via peaceful resolutions and was entirely against conflicts of violence. However, when WWII broke out, it was clear that the League of Nations had not succeeded in its goal of preventing another world war. This failure and collapse of the League of Nations was a contributing factor towards the beginning of WWII, it was by far not the only cause of it, and in actuality, WWII could be considered the ultimate failure of the League of Nations.
The League of Nations came into existence shortly after the end of World War I when the three powers, France, England and the United States collaborated to write the Treaty of Versailles. Originally, the Treaty had not included the League of Nations to be founded, but the current president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, had insisted on implementing his 14 points, which included the League of Nations. However, the League itself wasn’t brought about on its own, instead the conference gave its members the impression that forming an organization to deal with global issues was of the “highest and most important purposes,”1 thus demonstrating that it was not only Wilson and his idealist policies that was the source of the League of Nations.
The League of Nations was founded in 1919, and was composed of nations who did not have much international power. Those who did, France and Britain, for the most part refused to utilize their power because they were still recovering from the catastrophe of World War I, which left them economically unsound and struggling to regain their former prowess. The countries who were initially part of the League were Canada, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, Australia, China, France, England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, India as well as some other countries who had relatively no influence in world politics or events2. These countries were unable to intervene in any way with world affairs and so when countries broke the rules and guidelines set by the League of Nations, the felonious countries were left to continue their wrong-doing because even though the League had written in its Covenant that “whenever any dispute shall arise between [any member of the League] they will submit the whole subject-matter to arbitration or judicial settlement”3 if they are unable to settle the dispute peacefully and civilly. Of course, this meant that the League could not interceded in any forceful manner whatsoever because they would then be going against what they have stipulated for themselves. Also, they did not have any country with a sizable army now that World War I had depleted the number of soldiers in both England's and France's armies. This lack of major powers was "catastrophic, both diplomatically and psychologically," especially the absence of the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world at the time and the nation most capable of intervening on the behalf of other countries to maintain peace4 (Cannon). The United States had been the country from which the idea of the League of Nations originated and with that country absent, the authority of the League was undermined.
The League of Nations was originally “intended to be a world wide peacekeeping organization”5 and prevent another war of any kind from commencing and also ensure collective security for all of the world. The League was speckled with successes between small countries, but utterly failed when it came to countries who had the power to oppose the League. Now, because the League of Nations had virtually no physical power, it being against intervention through violence, they were unable to do anything to stop countries who disobeyed the League and did not care whatsoever if they went against what the League told them to do. With this in mind, the successes were few and in reality obsolete. The League was riddled with failures. Three crises that prime examples of how the League failed at enforcing its international laws and were vital factors in the collapse of the League.
First there was the Ruhr Crisis. France was growing increasingly worried of German recovery and with German recovery, the return of a German threat, especially after the Anglo-American guarantee that Britain and the USA would come to France's rescue in the event of another German attack. France became increasingly paranoid as Germany attempted to make its recovery from World War I and after Germany signed the treaty of Rapallo with the USSR, France decided it was in its best interest to go into the Ruhr and take "the output of the mines and factories... and [ship] them to France"6 in order to expedite Germany's payment of reparations. The League of Nations was unable to intercede on behalf of Germany and prevent France, one of its major powers, to relinquish the Ruhr and give it back to Germany. The entire crisis had caused the Weimar government to almost collapse, had Gustav Stresemann and the United States, a non-League member, saved it7. This incident had an effect on the German population which displaced what little faith they had in a democratic government that would save them from the depression they were in and set them on the track for radical change in the governmental system.
However, that was just one event which demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations. There was also the Manchuria Crisis as well as the Abyssinia Crisis. The Manchuria incident occurred in 1931 when Japan invaded the Chinese province Manchuria after Chinese soldiers sabotaged a portion of Japanese railroad, thus giving the Japanese a reason to invade the entire area8. Japan solidified its hold on Manchuria and Chinese authorities then asked the League of Nations for help, but Japan, the most powerful nation in the East, was simply flexing its muscles and when the League told Japan to withdraw its troops, Japan refused to do so9. After this disregard of the League of Nations by Japan, there was nothing the League could do except send a diplomatic representative of the League to China to perform an investigation, which was ultimately a futile action. Not only was the League unable to pacify Japan, but because of the depression which was going on at the time, no countries wanted to risk Japan as trade partners and so Japan went with out being reprimanded, giving the impression to Germany and Italy that the League was unable to keep its promises of collective security and was unable to enforce any of their policies. The Abyssinia Crises compounded on the League's weaknesses by once more demonstrating that the League was unable to reprimand countries who disobeyed the League's laws and threatened the collective security of the world. Italy had invaded Ethiopia as a way to take vengeance and reagin their pride from the failed invasion 1896. When Italy successfully invaded Ethiopia and the League was unable to mediate the conflict peacefully and help Ethiopia, "the League and its concept of collective security were exposed as entirely hollow, the more so because the leading powers in the League were unwilling and unable to apply it10.
The League was theoretically a good idea, but in reality, it was an utter failure. "Technically... the 'failure of the League' is the failure of the plan of collective security"11 (Fenwick) and the League was unable to maintain collective security in any instance. The reasons behind the League failing was that it was completely incapable of enforcing any of their rules mentioned in the articles of the Covenant such as Articles 10, 11 and 16 each of which discussed that in any event of two countries going to war against each other, the League would do all in its power to prevent the conflict12. The League had no standing army and was virtually an institution which could only verbally address issues, and the countries it would address had no respect for the League whatsoever.
"If you look back upon the history of the world you will see how helpless peoples have too often been a prey to powers that had no conscience in the matter"13. The League wanted to prevent this from ever happening again, but they viewed the world in a different manner than how it actually operated and existed. Each nation was out to save and profit for itself, even if that was at the expense of other countries and because no countries would sacrifice their free will for the insecure chance at maintaining peace in the world which could burst into violence at any moment, the League ultimately collapsed, and World War II erupted when Germany, conscious that the League could do nothing about it, invaded Poland. So overall, the failure and collapse of the League was entirely relevant and contributed greatly to the to the cause of World War II.