league of Nations
“Either we should enter the League fearlessly, accepting the responsibility and not fearing the role of
leadership, which we now enjoy, contributing our efforts toward establishing a just and permanent peace, or
we should retire as gracefully as possible from the great concert of powers by which the world was saved.
Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the Members of the League or not, is hereby
declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed
wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations.”
- Woodrow Wilson in a letter to Senator Gilbert Hitchcock, March 8, 1920.
Collapse of the League
“The aim to associate nations to prevent war, preserve peace, and promote civilization our people most
cordially applauded. We yearned for this new instrument of justice, but we can have no part in a committal to an
agency of force in unknown contingencies; we can recognize no super authority.”
- Warren Harding: Return to Normalcy speech (1921).
“Manifestly, the highest purpose of the League of Nations was defeated in linking it with the treaty of peace
and making it the enforcing agency of the victors of the war. International association for permanent peace must be
conceived solely as an instrumentality of justice, unassociated with the passions of yesterday, and not so
constituted as to attempt the dual functions of a political instrument of the conquerors and of an agency of
peace. There can be no prosperity for the fundamental purposes sought to be achieved by any such association
so long as it is an organ of any particular treaty or committed to the attainment of the special aims of any nation
or group of nations.”
- Warren Harding: Return to Normalcy speech (1921)
During WWI U.S. wasn’t isolationism, but after the war ended, their intention was to return to isolationism. Congress and public refused to join the league although U.S. president established it. The keystone of international peacekeeping organizations was missing, so the league lost its power to play a part in the outbreak of WWII. The failure of the league rested upon its inability to send military forces.
“The real death of the league was in 1935. One day it was a powerful body imposing sanctions, the next day it
was an empty sham, everyone scuttling from it as quickly as possible... Hitler watched.”
- AJP Taylor in 1966