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Old 08-02-2011, 04:13 PM
 
Location: .....
956 posts, read 553,402 times
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Default Why didn't the US join the League of Nations?

I'll forewarn that I haven't studied the topic extensively, but from what I gathered, the general public was firmly opposed to joining the organization. Thus, it would have meant possible political suicide for President Wilson, and any other congressmen who went against the isolationist tide. But why was the public so opposed to joining the organization given the bloodshed of WWI? Also, how strong was the opposition in the Senate to joining the League and what was the justification for the opposition? And lastly, do you think that had the US joined the organization (assuming that option was viable), that WWII could have been averted or that the period of detente in between the wars could have been prolonged?
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Old 08-02-2011, 04:57 PM
 
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The 1918 version of the Tea Party.
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Old 08-03-2011, 09:04 AM
 
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The isolationist attitude certainly held back U.S. entry, but there were other practical issues as well:

1. The League's primary method of enforcement was economic sanctions. The United States long held a neutral stance in conflicts and insisted on its right to trade with whomever they pleased. Being a League member would mean the possibility of hurting American economic interests.

2. The League did have the ability to intervene militarily and the United States as a whole was very much opposed to being pulled into foreign wars that did not directly impact the interests of the United States.

3. The U.S. representatives at the League would have had no real power to make decisions on the behalf of the executive branch unless the legislative branch had also approved the action. The legislative branch viewed this as a preempting of their powers in terms of treaties and declarations of war. The executive did not have near the authority at this time that they do today. Additionally, the wording of the treaty bound the United States to action even if Congress did not approve of such action.

The treaty did have a chance to pass, but would have only done so if it had been amended to make it clear that the United States was not obligated to engage in any action that was not in the interests of the United States as determined by Congress. On this part the Sentate splintered into 3 groups: one supported the Treaty as written, one supported it as long as it was amended, the third was against it all together.

The vote needed 2/3rds approval and it when the bill for the amendments came up, the "supporters" banded together with the "anti-League" faction to defeat the amended bill. The Treaty as written was then brought up for a vote and the "amenders" banded together with the "anti-League" faction and defeated it.
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Old 08-07-2011, 07:56 AM
 
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The US refused to join the League of Nations because of a philosophy that had long existed in America that is known as "Isolationism". The concept of Isolationism gradually evolved from the beginnings of the United States of America. Here are some of its historical underpinnings:

1. Washington's Farewell Address upon leaving the Presidency in which he warned his countrymen to avoid "long term foreign entanglements".

2. The Monroe Doctrine. Some might see that as a willingness of the USA to engage in international affairs. However, what the Monroe Doctrine really was all about was an attempt to keep Europe out of the affairs of countries in Western Hemisphere. The idea was "let us worry about what goes in our part of the world, you European countries worry about what goes on in your part of the World".

3. Some ramifications from the Civil War. Many in the north were concerned that Great Britain would take the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War and Britain did at one time lean close to giving diplomatic recognition to Jeff Davis's government. Than after the South was forced to withdraw from Maryland after the Battle of Antietam, the British gradually lost interest. However, there was considerable resentment in the north that Britain had even contemplated involving herself in our affairs.

4. Many immigrants came to this country angry at a European nation. The best example of this is probably the Irish. The Irish were justifiably angry at Britain over its actions during the "Potato Famine" and its treatment of the Irish people.

In any event, it was very difficult for the United States to enter World War I. The war began in August 1914 and the USA did not enter the conflict until April of 1917. When we did enter it was only because the Germans declared an intention to use unrestricted submarine warfare against our merchant ships and because of an attempt by Germany to persuade Mexico to join with it in a war against the USA (Zimmerman Affair).

When World War I ended, there were some widely held beliefs in the USA that we had gotten nothing out of the war, but a lot of casualties. Some believed arms manufacturers had started the war simply to make a profit. Others believed the war was a result of an outdated system of European monarchies clashing with one another over feuds that had gone on for centuries that had nothing to do with American interests.

It was against this background that President Woodrow Wilson lobbied the US Senate to ratify a treaty that called for the USA to join the League of Nations. Many in Washington wanted to ratify the treaty, but were concerned that it would somehow reduce the sovereignty of the United States to act on its own. Others wanted to avoid all foreign entanglements after the painful experience of World War I. Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was an extremely influential senator and was active on the Foreign Relations Committee. Deep down, he wanted to avoid membership in the League of Nations and he sought to kill the treaty by adding many reservations to our ratification of it. Finally, President Wilson instructed the democrats in the Senate to vote against treaty ratification because Lodge's reservations had effectively destroyed it. Thus, the treaty died and America did not ratify it.

Could World War II have been avoided if America had joined the League? Its possible. However, like the United Nations of today, the League had limited power. Its principal means of enforcing its resolutions was by imposing economic sanctions on nations that violated international law. Economic sanctions can be effective, but they usually only work in the long term. They might not work at all against nations like Germany and Japan who would respond to such sanctions by invading countries which possessed the raw materials and resources that they needed. The main problem that any international organization must deal with is it only has as much power as its member nations are willing to give it. Power is surrendered by any institution (or person) reluctantly and usually only when there is a belief that there is no other alternative.

Whether or not joining the League of Nations would have prevented World War II is a great unknown question. I think Woodrow Wilson was very prescient in his attempt to get America to join this body. However, I'm inclined to think it would not have prevented World War II.
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Old 08-10-2011, 10:47 AM
 
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Europe was still a very long way from North America in 1919,few outside the international business community had any idea how quickly the two continents were coming together.
United States companies had made a fortune bankrolling and supplying the Allies from 1914 to 1916,during a period of neutrality.
Therefore,it would appear to have been in the best interests of both the farmer and the financier to stay away from the League,the former for self preservation,the other,more cynically,to "keep their options open".JMHO
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Old 08-18-2011, 02:19 AM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
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[quote=africanboy;20289957]I'll forewarn that I haven't studied the topic extensively, but from what I gathered, the general public was firmly opposed to joining the organization. Thus, it would have meant possible political suicide for President Wilson, and any other congressmen who went against the isolationist tide. But why was thepublic so opposed to joining the organization given the bloodshed of WWI? [Al/quote]

Basically, after the sacrifices of WW1 Americans were fed up to their back teeth with Woodrow Wilson and everything he stood for. The idea that they might be required to do it again by decree of the League of Nations was utterly repugnant. They might have swallowed it with the Lodge Reservations, but Wilson, very much a "my way or the highway" type, would not hear of this.


Quote:
so, how strong was the opposition in the Senate to joining the League and what was the justification for the opposition?
As above.

Quote:
And lastly, do you think that had the US joined the organisation (assuming that option was viable), that WWII could have been averted or that the period of detente in between the wars could have been prolonged?
Nar. GB and France were in the League, but that didn't prevent appeasement; and a US delegate in Geneva wouldn't make American opinion any less isolationist.
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:55 PM
 
Location: Northwest Indiana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by africanboy View Post
I'll forewarn that I haven't studied the topic extensively, but from what I gathered, the general public was firmly opposed to joining the organization. Thus, it would have meant possible political suicide for President Wilson, and any other congressmen who went against the isolationist tide. But why was the public so opposed to joining the organization given the bloodshed of WWI? Also, how strong was the opposition in the Senate to joining the League and what was the justification for the opposition? And lastly, do you think that had the US joined the organization (assuming that option was viable), that WWII could have been averted or that the period of detente in between the wars could have been prolonged?
The general public was indeed opposed to the League of Nations. Just like if it was put up for a vote today, the public would oppose staying in the UN. Both in the minds of most then and today are that organizations like LON and the UN are generally useless for anything. The UN is just as much of a failure as the LON was. My guess is the UN would collapse shortly after the US withdrawing (since we pay most of the bills, and supply the military forces 99% of the time).

No, WWII wouldn't have been prevented had the US joined. The LON would have had no way to prevent a war anymore then the UN can. The UN has never prevented a war either, so its main goal is a failure. Why, has it failed at that goal. How would it prevent a war?

The answer, it can't. And there is no way it could.
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:25 PM
 
Location: .....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richb View Post
The general public was indeed opposed to the League of Nations. Just like if it was put up for a vote today, the public would oppose staying in the UN. Both in the minds of most then and today are that organizations like LON and the UN are generally useless for anything. The UN is just as much of a failure as the LON was. My guess is the UN would collapse shortly after the US withdrawing (since we pay most of the bills, and supply the military forces 99% of the time).

No, WWII wouldn't have been prevented had the US joined. The LON would have had no way to prevent a war anymore then the UN can. The UN has never prevented a war either, so its main goal is a failure. Why, has it failed at that goal. How would it prevent a war?

The answer, it can't. And there is no way it could.
While what you state may be true, I was under the impression that a perceived sense of guilt for not having done more to prevent WWII was what hastened the process of establishing the UN.

Also, while I agree that both organizations had/have been largely inefficient, they are not given as much credit as they should be. For example, the League was the first organization of its kind that sought to create, through the coordination of member states, a global community which would uphold international law. Having established this precedent, the footprints for a more integrated and efficient method of dealing with international conflict was borne. That is an important milestone in the timeline of international relations, is it not?
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