The United Nations had many forerunners, which, although different,
still strove to unite the states of the world. Some of the forerunners were the
International Peace Conference (1899) held in the Hague to determine how to
settle crises peacefully, how to prevent wars, and the rules for warfare. Other
forerunners were actual organizations, including the Convention for the Pacific
Settlement of International Disputes (1902), the Permanent Court of Arbitration
(1902), the International Telegraph Union (1865), the Universal Postal Union
(1874), and the League of Nations (1919). Some of these organizations (the
International Telegraph Union and the Universal Postal Union) became
subdivisions of the United Nations (the International Telegraph Union becoming
the International Telecommunication Union).
League of Nations:
well-known forerunner of the United Nations was the League of Nations. United
States President Woodrow Wilson first proposed an international organization in
his fourteenth point, saying, “A general association of nations should be formed
on the basis of covenants designed to create mutual guarantees of the political
independence and territorial integrity of States, large and small equally.” As a
result, the League of Nations was established by the Treaty of Versailles after
World War I “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and
security.” Although United States president Woodrow Wilson originated the idea
of the League of Nations, the United States did not participate in it. The
League operated under a tight infrastructure that included bodies like the
Council, the Assembly, and the Secretariat, not far from the organization of the
United Nations today. The League’s several commission boards included the
Disarmament, Health, Mandates, International Labor, and Permanent Central Opium,
Commission for Refugees, and Slavery Organizations. General, unavoidable
weaknesses changed this democratic dream into an international disaster,
howbeit, its basic principles and life span settled reputable issues of
diplomacy through resolution and paradigms. (To see a chart showing the
organizational structure of the League of nations see
Prevention: War of the Stray Dog:
When a Greek soldier ran after his loose dog in 1925, a Bulgarian bullet ended
his life, yet initiated a Greek invasion into Bulgaria. Using the League as a
peaceful, negotiating cushion, Bulgaria put up minimal resistance until the
League would further settle the Stray Dog dispute. The League pushed for the
withdrawal of Greek soldiers from Bulgaria and reasonable compensation.
War Prevention: Silesia:
Similar border disputes kept the League busy—the Silesian uprisings of the early
1920s, for example, put the League on a six-week investigation over the land of
Upper Silesia. Apparently, the Treaty of Versailles had not wholly brought peace
to this area, as Germany and Poland continued to struggle over territorial
claims in that area. The League finally decided, which both countries and the
majority of Silesians agreed on, to split the territory.
Prevention: Corfu incident:
In 1923 Greece and Albania were quarrelling over their boundary. When the League
of Nations appointed a commission to determine the boundary, four of the
Italians on the commission were murdered by Greeks while they were determining
the boundary. In response, the Italian dictator Mussolini bombarded and occupied
the Greek island of Corfu. Mussolini demanded that Greece pay recompense for the
damage done, but Greece refused and took the case to the League of Nations. The
League of Nations ruled in favor of Italy and ordered Greece to pay reparations.
True Challenges and Outlined Failures
Were it not for the influx of pacifist governments, the League could
have increased its life span, but such is not the case, as a coalition of
British Conservatives often did not treat the League as a major diplomacy
organization. France gave the League the same challenge when they, too,
leaned toward pacifist formations. Looking at it comprehensively, it seems
as though pacifist formation also left the League without concrete
representation, as Germany and Bolshevik Soviet Union withdrew
membership in the mid-1930s.
punishment the League could enforce—an
economic sanction—often meant nothing to the targeted nations
as they could just as easily trade with a nation outside of the League.
Since the League did not use military action to end a border problem, it was
often ineffective. It was also ineffective because Assembly members often
neglected any ordinance or action besides that of a sanction.
When the League did not intervene in the Spanish Civil War, Hitler and
Mussolini — including Franco’s other supporters in the Roman Catholic
Church—could continuously fund the French General Franco’s fascist
rebellion. Because of the League’s absence, a Civil War could continue the
spread of dangerous world coalitions between Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco.
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