The League's Aims
The League of Nations was set up because President Wilson wanted this more than anything else.
He wanted the League to be a kind of ‘world parliament’, where nations would sort out their arguments. He hoped this would stop wars. But Wilson wanted to do more than just stop war; he wanted to make the world a better place. He wanted the League to do things to improve people’s lives and jobs. He wanted to improve public health, and to end slavery.
Wilson also hoped that the League would persuade the nations to agree to disarmament – to put down their weapons. That would make war impossible.
Finally, Wilson thought that the League of Nations could enforce the Treaty of Versailles, and persuade countries to keep the promises they had made
Strengths and Weaknesses
The main strength of the League was that it had been set up by the Treaty of Versailles, and agreed by everybody at the conference. When, later, many people started to criticise and attack the Treaty, this was also a major weakness.
One of the biggest weaknesses was that the Organisation of the League was a muddle. The different parts of the League were supposed to act together; but in a crisis, no-one could agree.
Forty-two countries joined the League at the start. In the 1930sabout 60 countries were members . This made the League seem strong.
Britain and France were the main members, helped by Italy and Japan; they were quite powerful countries.
A critical weakness was that the most powerful countries in the world were not members. The USA did not want to join. The Russians refused to join – they were Communists and hated Britain and France. Germany was not allowed to join. Without these three big powers, the League was weak.
3. How the League kept peace
The League hoped that it could influence countries to 'do the right thing' by:
The 'moral power' of the League lay in the League's Covenant, especially Articles 10-17, 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 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.