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What Ideas About World Peace Were Behind The Formation Of The League Of Nations, And Can They Ever Hope To Be Fulfilled?

1987 words - 8 pages

The League of Nations Union (the League) was established in 1918 to "promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security" and operated until 1945. The unprecedented slaughter of the 'war to end all wars' was the impetus for a diversion from the realist approach to relations between states towards an idealist conception, which applies liberal theory to international relations. The League worked towards collective security, multilateral disarmament, recognised and respected international law, and world government as means of attaining world peace. This paper will discuss these ideas and examine their feasibility and will show that although realism provides an ...view middle of the document...

Realists mocked the idea of collective security as unnatural and hopeless because states should and would always act in their own interests translated as power, even at the expense of their alliances and moral standpoints. While "the principle of mutual protection upon which the League is based" was its main defence against war, realist assumptions of self-interest were proved correct in the history of the League. During its time of influence assaults were launched against Manchuria, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), China, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Albania and Finland, and no action was taken except for reserved censure and limited sanctions for Italy in 1935-36. Diplomatic pressure was mounted against the Soviet Union in its expulsion from the League for invading Finland, however Morgenthau attributes action such as this as being in the power interests of England and France. Territorial integrity was repeatedly compromised but international will to apply remedies did not exist. This is not to say that collective security could never be successful in creating world peace by enforcing the peaceful conduct of nations. The Gulf War, intervention in Kosovo and recent acts to counter terrorism shows that collective security is an effective means of enforcing peace. The "impotence of the League in effectively organising the mutual protection of its Members" was due to the ultimate lack of interest and consent of the members. Times and conditions have changed and in the age of a 'global village' and a growing perception of interconnectedness, collective security is likely to provide an effective deterrent to aggression and war and could lead to a far more peaceful world.While collective security would provide a deterrent to war, idealists believed that "the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety." Human history has seen disarmament in various forms such as imposed disarmament of victims by victors, mutual agreements between warring states, proposals for simultaneous reduction of armed forces and conventions on disarmament and non-proliferation. Disarmament was advanced by idealists such as Bertrand Russell as "the hope of producing greater sanity in the world... doing the best for not only our own country... but the future of mankind" but was a topic "fraught with emotional overtones." It would involve multi-lateral restrictions on the size and composition of armed forces as a process of doing away with them altogether. Disarmament in the inter-war period was fraught with difficulties both domestic and international. Pacifism was criticised as naïve and dangerous, and in Britain disarmament was a national policy while at the same time ignored in the increase of the British armed forces. The proposed arms treaties could not be agreed to by any nation because of divergence in security requirements and the national self interest.Although the assumptions of realism are beyond the scope...

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