League of Nations

Formed in the wake of the First World War, the League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organization. The organization’s overarching objectives, as outlined in its covenant, included but were not limited to the amelioration of international disputes through negotiation and the prevention of wars through collective security and disarmament. 

The senseless carnage of World War I sparked widespread outrage towards the modi operandi of European geopolitics. The war’s belligerents were duly perceived to have blithely stumbled into war with no due consideration of the well-being and prosperity of man as a whole. The League of Nation’s emphasis on conflict resolution through procedural arbitration was significant in that it represented a progressive, paradigmatic shift away from the raison d'état mindset of 19th century geopolitics towards a more cooperative, humanitarian approach. The radical idea professed in Article 11 of the covenant, for instance, questions the absolute right of states to make war on one another, regarding any armed conflict as “a matter of concern to the whole League.”

The fatal flaw of the League of Nations lay in the flaws of its collective security measures. If and when the use of retaliatory force or economic sanctions became necessary, Executive Council members such as Britain and France were solely responsible for their implementation. This proved to be deeply problematic, as the British and French public were profoundly war-weary, and, following the onset of the Great Depression, reluctant to pursue sanctions that might come at their own expense. 

Ultimately, it was the Mukden Incident (1931) and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1935) that exposed the League of Nations as a defunct and ineffectual organization. The inaction of the League was especially egregious in the latter incident. Though staunch sanctions were initially levied on Italy for its illegal invasion of Ethiopia in October of 1935, the British and the French (to whom these sanctions were costly) conspired to appease Italy without the consultation of its fellow League members. The sanctions were dropped by the following July.