War weariness is a common phenomenon, more so when the gains from such wars are intangible and far removed from domestic affairs. In the aftermath of prolonged periods of conflict, "war prevention assumes a high priority[and]the favoured technique is to institute measures of cooperation and consultationwith a view to preventing war"(Buzan 1983, 163). The League of Nations established in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I, was one such attempt to change the focus of war prevention from individual to collective security.
For such an organization to be effective, it had perforce to have the backing of the major powers. Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and later Germany and Russia - all great powers in their own right - joined the League of Nations. The United Sates on the other hand, was the only major power not to join the League in spite of having been instrumental in creating it in the first place. According to Meg Harney, "While an excellent idea in theory, the League met with repeated problemssimply because nations had not adapted their foreign policy to change". The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was one such institution that could neither envision nor endorse this shift from a, 'balance of power' diplomacy to a new diplomacy giving greater weightage to collective security. This dichotomy i.e. ...
onal requirements was highlighted by Robert Putnam in his 'two-level game' theory, and the failure of the United States to join the League of Nations could be analyzed in this context. To this end a brief overview of the theory would not be out of place to place in perspective the salient aspects of the theory, against the backdrop of the events leading to the formation of the League of Nations.
The clash between President Wilson and the Senate over the formation of the League of Nations has been analyzed form many viewpoints. While some analysts see it as nothing more than the outcome of partisan politics, others view it as a clash of ideas between the 'internationalists' and the 'isolationists'. Though formally articulated only in 1988, the US failure to join the League of Nations can also be viewed through the lens of Putnam's 'two-level game' theory. It is a well-known fact that national leaders are simultaneously discharging their duties at two levels - the international level and the national level - with a dynamic interplay between the two.
National leaders do not conceive of foreign policy in a domestic vacuum, nor domestic policies without considering the international ramifications. As far as foreign policy is concerned, they have to consider the interests of their domestic constituencies, balancing the 'costs' of implementing foreign policy initiatives against domestic imperatives such as national economy and social welfare. Thus, the right moves at one level (of the game) can affect the other level, ultimately impacting upon the deliberations at that level. An analogy could be that of a magnet held below a sheet of paper controlling the movement of a metallic token placed above the sheet. Keeping this in mind, Robert Putnam summarized the connections