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Collective Security - Essay Example

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It was to be an organization that would use peaceful negotiation to maintain international peace and security. Moreover, it would be an organization where all member states would be bound by the belief that all acts of "aggression and war are crimes against humanity" (Harney), and nations would therefore consider it their duty to desist from and prevent aggression. After any major conflict, prevention of future conflicts is always high on the agenda. To this end, the "favorite technique is to institute measures of co-operation and consultationwith a view to preventing war by moderating and restraining the free-for-all operation of the international anarchy" (Buzan, 163). Thus the setting up of the League of Nations, [and later the United Nations] was a paradigm shift from a policy of national defence to one of collective security. However, the League of Nations failed to achieve its goal of securing international peace and security, amply proven by the fact that the world was at war again within twenty years of its formation. Nevertheless, the failure of League of Nations cannot be called a failure of the idea of collective security. It was more a failure of political will amongst nations to look beyond their own short-term gains in order to make collective security a workable proposition.
According to Meg Harney, "While an excellent idea in theory, the League met with repeated problems simply because the nations had not adapted their foreign policy to change to look after, instead of looking after the interests of the League as a whole working unit". The lack of political will among the bigger nations to implement collective security is evident in the stand taken by the big powers vis--vis the League of Nations. The rejection of the Treaty of Versailles by the US and by extension to the League was almost a 'death blow' to the fledging organization. As a result of domestic political compulsions, US President Woodrow Wilson failed to garner the support of the Senate, which according to the US Constitution is the body responsible for ratification of any treaty. The Senate voted against the Treaty and as a result the US did not become a member of the League of Nations. This left Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan as the main powers in the League of Nations. According to Karl Schmidt, "The majority of the British public supported the ideals of the League, but the British government viewed the League largely with indifference". This was largely due to the fact that men like Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin and Curzon who dominated the government of the day believed in the 'old diplomacy'. Lloyd George preferred, as per Karl Schmidt, "Diplomacy by conference - where the great powers would meet in a less formal setting to discuss problems - to any such system as the League". Apart from this, the British were also affected by the US defection, as they did not want to shoulder the responsibility of single handedly securing the peace in Europe.
France supported the League of Nations less for its idealism and more as a tool for securing its own protection. Ever fearful of an attack from Germany, the French leaders saw no difference between its own national security concerns and the League's collective security elements. Italy on the other hand, viewed the League with a certain amount of skepticism, which turned to dislike once Mussolini came to power, ...Show more


The League of Nations was set up in 1919 at the end of World War I. The Covenant of the League of Nations was incorporated in the Treaty of Versailles on the insistence of US President Woodrow Wilson who tabled the covenant at the Paris Peace Conference with the words "A living thing is born" (Harney)…
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Collective Security Essay essay example
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