Discuss the reasons for the failure of the League of Nations by 1938.


 From the May 2018 History paper 3 exam


Discuss the reasons for the failure of the League of Nations by 1938

Upon its emergence, the League of Nations (LoN) was a seemingly infallible organization. Officially beginning in 1920 with 42 initial countries joined, the LoN was founded by the Treaty of Versailles in attempts to mitigate issues among western European nations following the end of World War One (WWI). But, by 1938 it was apparent that the League had turned into a “...bourgeois sham...” (Taylor 32). The way in which the organization’s success changed drastically in the span of 18 years can be attributed to three main reasons. Thus, it can be said that the failure of the League of Nations by 1938 was due to its core structure, its members, and the Great Depression faced across the world. 

 To begin, the League’s core structure was one of the main causes of its downfall. When forming the LoN in 1919, France and Great Britain were in an extensive disagreement. France, “...wanted the League to develop into a system of security directed against Germany...”, while Britain, rather, saw the system as an opportunity to reconcile and rehabilitate Germany (Taylor 19). Despite both countries agreeing that Germany was to take a majority of the blame for WWI, they did not however concur on how the country was to be treated for the following years. Britain was much more forgiving towards Germany, with intentions of helping them reform and grow as a whole, while France felt they needed to be punished. This created an immediate negative connotation when thinking about the League, as both countries were never truly satisfied with how the organization handled Germany. In addition, once the League of Nations was operative, it became apparent that there was another internal flaw– the voting system. The LoN had three subsystems when voting: the council, the assembly, and a secretariat. As stated in Article 5 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, “...decisions at any meeting of theAssembly or Council, shall require the agreement of all members of the League represented at the meeting”, meaning a unanimous vote had to be achieved to pass any potential laws (Williams 475). Veto power was also given to permanent members in council, biasing the results of any vote toward those in higher power. This made the League inefficient and ineffective in passing any laws. This struggle had been seen as failing in history before, as it can be compared to the 1777 Articles of Confederation from the United States of America, which too required a unanimous vote of all states in order to pass any amendments. In both countries’ instances, the difficult unaniminit nature of the systems caused members within to bypass them, rather conducting business personally and excluding the establishments. This soon became an issue, as the LoN was no longer able to mitigate any interrelations between countries, defeating one of its main purposes of coming together. Thus, both the initial conflicts within members and the nearly impossible voting system caused the composition of the League to be doomed from the beginning. 

 

Additionally, the members within the League of Nations, or lack thereof, created another issue for the organization. First, despite the idea of the LoN coming from the country’s president at the time, the United States did not join the institution. As Historian Lord Charnwood himself states, during the forthcoming of the League, the United States Congress had many isolationists in office, meaning they felt that the US should avoid favoring affairs with western Europe following their casualties during WWI (Charnwood 12). Following the country’s denial to joining the League, not only did the members within but also the rest of the world looked down on the establishment. The United States was a growing power at the time, meaning that its exclusion from participation meant that the LoN lacked a major leader that Europe was looking for. It also made their sanctions less powerful, as the US continued business with most countries that the League put sanctions on. Furthermore, Germany too did not consistently stay in the League. Until 1926, Germany was banned from joining, with attempts to punish them for their actions before and during the First World War. Once they finally did join, it was only a mere 6 years later that they withdrew in 1933. This took place in October of that year, only nine months after Hitler was put into office as chancellor of Germany. Giving his point of view on the League, Hitler stated that it was, “...symbolizing the much criticized status quo established by the peace treaties”, and continuing to call the LoN a concept instead of the reality it was (Beck 176). This hatred gave his followers and other surrounding countries the belief that the League was a sham, which was further shown when Japan also left the League in 1933, and Italy followed after only 4 years later. When these powers pulled out, the League stumbled even further, having very few strong powers left within. With no main powers in the League, it was perceived as a squander among western Europe, meaning the remaining members were beginning to question their faith in it as well. Not only was the structure of the League a reason for its failure, the members within it were as well.

 

 Finally, the Great Depression had a major impact on the outcome of the LoN. In 1931, following the beginning of the depression, the League was challenged with its first quarrel between countries. Japan was occupying Manchuria, China’s land at the time, but had superficially good justification. Japan knew that China was not in full authority of all action in Manchuria, and that Japan’s trade was greatly suffering, so they felt enabled to invade. Rather, China, on the other hand, thought that their land was within their own rule, and that Japan should be punished for her violent actions. The League did not know how to take any action against Japan, as their only defense method was economic sanctions. But, as AJP Taylor himself states, “No country, at the height of the economic crisis, welcomed the idea of cutting off its remaining fragment of international trade with Japan” (Taylor 26). The League’s first substantiated case was not moderated in a strong and powerful way, as the countries inside were not willing to place sanctions that would also potentially harm their economy. Without any real force such as an army, the League was helpless in situations where members were not willing to step up. Additionally, without the economic burden that sanctions were meant to impose, countries such as Japan and Italy continued to annex other countries during the depression. Japan, for example, continued to invade Manchuria, then China, and even French Indochina. Hopeless, the League’s only option was to condemn this behavior and tell members to place more economic sanctions. When this did not achieve its goal, countries such as Italy began to see the weakness in the democratic nature of the League. Soon after Japan’s invasions, Italy too would invade Abyssinia in 1935, knowing that the LoN was defenseless against Italy’s cruel actions. The Great Depression not only made economic sanctions increasingly difficult to place, but also revealed that these were the League’s only method of resistance against forbidden behavior, enabling other countries to lash out with no reparations. 

 

In conclusion, the League of Nations failure in 1938 was due to its structure, its members, and the economic Great Depression suffered globally. Starting in 1920 and progressively worsening up until 1938, the League never lived up to its global expectations and responsibility. 1938 was a vital year for the League, as this was the point at which Hitler was actively conquering land surrounding Germany, such as Austria and Czechoslovakia. The League was powerless against his growing force in western Europe, revealing them to truly be a sham and failure only one year prior to the beginning of the Second World War. Its structure regarding Germany’s admittance following WWI caused arguments among the LoN’s strongest members, and its voting methods made it strenuous to pass any laws and conduct business. Its members, or more so its lack thereof, caused doubt within the organization, especially following United States’ decline to join from the beginning, and Germany’s parting from the League in 1933. The LoN needed strong forces to make itself powerful, which it lacked from the very beginning. The Great Depression also uncovered the weak basis that the League was begun upon, disclosing that their only defense was economic sanctions. All reasons combined and intertwined created the unstable and powerless foundation that the League turned out to be.


EXAMPLE 3


Ever since the end of the Second World War, the causes and reasons through which the world found itself in such a situation were analyzed through countless perspectives. However, a perspective that rarely gets much attention is the failure of the League of Nations to do its main job. Peacekeeping. Was the League simply doomed by factors outside of its control such as economic recession or was it as AJP Taylor himself puts it ‘a sham and a failure’? It was clear to many historians and Taylor that even by 1935 the League was nothing more than a flop constantly trying to keep its image. By 1938, it was completely thrown out of peace talk negotiations between conflicting countries, continuously failed to uphold the Treaty of Versailles and in the end fail to stop war from breaking out on a global scale. The reaons for its abrupt collapse are hotly debated in historical circles to this day, however we could look at the causes through the economic and nationalistic perspectives as well as fundemental problems and vague nature found in its Covenant.


In times of crisis, people turn to the extremes. This trend has been evident throughout history and so was the case with the Great Depression of 1929 and the 1930s. With the economies of countries plummeting and unemployment rising to millions, people looked for extremists to solve the dire situation they found themselves in. Mostly evident in Germany, which saw the Nazi Party in 1928, prior to the Wall Street Crash, gain only 2.6% of the votes. 2 years later in 1930 the Nazis got 18% of the votes and in 1932 with 6 million unemployed that number would rise all the way up to 33%. It would naturally go down in % once the rate of the depression decreased. With that trend identified, you might be asking yourself how this is in any way related to the functionality of the League of Nations. The answer to this lies in the effect that the Depression had on the world's most important powers. The economic crisis led to extremist right-wing governments to take power in Japan under Emperor Hirohito and in Germany under Adolf Hitler. Together with Fascist Italy under Mussolini, the three powers would defy international laws and treaties by taking hostile action which would ultimately result in the weaknesses of the League being made evidently clear to the whole world. (“Election results in Germany 1924-1935”)


In 1931, without declaration of war, the Empire of Japan launched an offensive against China, invading the region of Manchuria. The event would later become known as the Mukden incident in which a few Japanese army officers committed a staging incident in order to justify their Empire’s invasion. The Chinese, being surprised and caught off-guard by the swift and decisive military operations undertaken by the Japanese, turned to the League for help. With the economic crisis in full effect, there was little the League could do to stop the invasion as the powers of Britain and France could not afford to apply a trade embargo, let alone any decisive military sanctions. The League instead did the only thing they could, condemned Japanese actions which were rejected by Japan and assigned a commission under Lord Lytton to carry out an investigation as a neutral party between the two conflicting nations. The Lytton Commissions attitude towards the Manchurian incident acknowledged that there were indiscretions on both sides and ordered the Japanese to withdraw from the region and let the League, being the mediator in the conflict, take control of the province of Manchuria and govern it. By the time the League and the Commission could come up with a verdict one year after the incident, Japan had already beaten the Chinese armies and completely occupied Manchuria. It rejected the League’s resolution and completely withdrew from it in March of 1933. Japan became the first country to successfully defy the League of Nations and significantly damage its credibility. Japan, seeing how Britain and France would not go to war over China because of economic problems and lack of American support, was now fully confident in its ability to increase its sphere of influence without any external interference in Asia and the Pacific throughout the 1930s and so it did. It renamed the Chinese province of Manchuria, into Manchukuo and appointed the last Chinese emperor Pu Yi as the ruler of the Japanese protectorate state. In addition to that it carried out an increase in the Imperial Army forces stationed in Manchuria as well as the establishment of naval facilities in the region. On top of that in 1933 the Japanese army underwent further occupation of Manchuria and the Chinese province of Jehol. By 1936 Japan had renounced the previously signed Washington (1922) and London (1930) Naval agreements which were specifically made to prevent an arms race between world powers by limiting naval construction. Finally, in 1937 under the disguise of the Marco Polo bridge ‘incident’, yet again Japan had found a reason to start an invasion of China which led to the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in July of 1937. The League truly had failed its member state China and just watched and did nothing while the Japanese committed atrocity after atrocity in their pursuit of complete domination over China. Being reluctant to apply economic sanctions and with military intervention being firmly out of the question, Britain and France choose to sit back and ‘leave it to the others’. British and French public opinion was firmly pacifist and it was widely accepted that any sort of armed intervention as an instrument of policy in international relations should be avoided. The two powers were fully aware that they were ill-equipped to win the war against Japan and did not even raise the question of applying economic sanctions in the form of a trade boycott with fear it would lead to war. The situation is beautifully depicted in the David Low cartoon of 1933, The Doormat. British foreign secretary John Simon is seen applying make-up to the League and is regarded as a face-saving outfit which goes to show that the League, being unable to stop the Japanese and come up with an ultimate solution for the tensions between Japan and China, has decided to turn to a solution that will save their image in the progress and not show them as a weak organization that just ‘’bowed down’’ in the wake of Japanese aggression towards one of its member states. This was very much the theme that would follow the League of Nations throughout the 1930s as their credibility and prestige would constantly be put to the test by the other fascist powers as well, not just Japan. In the eyes of the Chinese, the League had failed them and was a racist anglo-saxon organization, not the peacekeeper of the world that would provide the collective security that they were promised. (Lowe #), (“Invasion of Manchuria | Harry S. Truman”)
 

 Nazi Germany solemnly affirmed by the actions taken by the League, or lack thereof, with the Manchurian incident in particular, set their sights on dismanting the Treaty of Versailles which in their eyes was completely unjust. It would be the second time a facist power defied the League and ‘got away with it’, truly damaging the League’s image and reputation beyond repair. The previously mentioned Treaty of Versailles left historians feeling like there was a lot of room for its improvement. It was immediately clear that by punishing Germany so severely, that they would sooner or later come rushing back for revenge and so was the case. What particularly caused problems was the territorial losses to Poland and Czechoslovakia, as well as the restriction of an Anschluss with Austria that in the end meant that Germans would have to be included in the previously mentioned countries and not in Germany itself. The extremely harsh war reparations and the downsized military, along with the restriction of an airforce or navy also added to the storm that was brewing amongst the German people. Once the Nazis and Adolf Hitler established unlimited control over the goverment, they began repairing the collapsing economy and defying the Treaty of Versailles in every possible way. Being reassured that the League would not do anything and just watch like they did with Japan's invasion of Manchuria, Germany was finally ready and confident enough to begin reclaiming what they had lost in the First World War. After the embarrassing failure of the Disarmament conference 1932-1933, Hitler now had a justified excuse, being French attitude towards equal armaments between the two neighboring powers, to pull Germany out of the conference and in 1933 from the League entirely. Completely disregarding the Versailles treaty, which the League was created to uphold, Nazi Germany in 1934 attempted a failed anschluss with Austria. It involved staging a coup with the aid of Austrian Nazis and the assasination of the Austrian chancellor, Angelbert Dolfuss. If not for the Italian fear of the disappearance of the buffer state between Italy and Germany and the territorial dispute in South Tyrol which led to the Italians sending troops to the Brenner Pass, Germany would have most likely grown in size by a third already in 1934. In 1935 instead of enforcing the Treaty of Versailles, Britain signed the Anglo-German Naval agreement which gave the German Kriegsmarine permission to have up to 35% of the ships the Royal Navy had as well as the construction of submarine squadrons. Along with that Hitler, in March of 1935, furthermore encouraged by the weakness the League had shown in the Abyssinian situation, introduced conscription and increased the size of the Wehrmacht six times that it was originally allowed in the Versailles Treaty (100000 men to 600000 men). Furthermore in complete violation of the treaty, first Luftwaffe squadrons were set up which would be first used and tested in the Spanish civil war, completely obliterating the opposing communist forces. With the justification of increasing Germany’s armed forces for defensive purposes, the League did not oppose or challenge any of the previously mentioned violations of the very Treaty it was created to enforce, mainly out of fear that any decision against Germany would be rejected by Hitler. In March of 1936 Hitler would order about 22000 troops of the Wehrmacht to march into the demilitarized zone, Rhineland. With the League being a complete shell of its former self, the buffer zone between France and Germany was now annexed and there was nothing separating the two countries except the Low countries and the Maginot Line. Before he would invade France however, Hitler had to re-include all the Germans from the territories lost in the Treaty of Versailles and he would start with a 2nd attempt at an Anschluss with Austria. With Italy as its close ally, there was nothing stopping Germany from annexing Austria and in 1938 the dream of
 a GrossDeutschland seemed more close now than ever before. The strategy of Appeasement by the western powers of France and Britain reached an all time high following the Austrian anschluss, once Nazi Germany made demands on the Chekoslovakian teritory of Sudetenland, which included many ethnic Germans. The powers that had just 20 years before won the Great war and were carving up the German territories in the Versallies palace now had to come to Munich and practically beg Hitler not to go to war over Czechoslovakia. Instead of holding their ground and enforcing the Treaty, the West had crumbled in the wake of pressure that Hitler had put on them and they continued to appease the Nazis, granting them the Sudetenland which would prove to be a massive mistake as Hitler would later on use this as a basis for invading the country as a whole. At any point throughout the 1930s, the League with Britain and France at its throne could have stopped Hitler and his Nazis but rather choose to appease them hoping that they would stop at that demand. This would catastrophically backfire as making Germany stronger and more confident would lead to their encouragement to continue disregarding international laws, mainly the Versailles treaty, which resulted in war on a global scale in 1939, following the invasion of Poland. However long before that, the League of Nations had become a failure and a joke in the eyes of the world. (“The road to war”)


As quoted before, AJP Taylor proclaimed that the League of Nations was ‘a sham and a failure’ already in 1935, and he had good reason to. The most significant calamity to the League’s image and integrity came in 1935 during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in October of that year. Following the appeal by the Abyssinians, the League had condemned the Italians and put economic sanctions, unfortunately not on the exports of coal, oil and steel which were the most instrumental in producing Duce’s war machine. The speech made by the Abyssinian Emperor Haille Sellasi in June of 1936 would prove to be terrifyingly accurate, when in the League of Nations Security council meeting he proclaimed that ‘It is us today. It will be you tomorrow’. The quote foreshadows the deplorable actions that will be committed in the name of nationalism during the Second World War and is truly frightening in its accuracy. By the May of the next year, Italy had completed the invasion and completely annexed Abyssinia without much problems thanks to the lackluster sanctions. Britain and France abandoned the sanctions a few weeks after their implementation and the League had failed yet again. Mussolini and the Italians had successfully repudiated the League and from this point onwards, the League would never be taken seriously again. The reasons for the blunder by the French and the British was the need to keep Mussolini on their side against a much more dangerous enemy, Hitler and the Nazis. However, as has been the case throughout history with sanctions, they do more harm than good by allianting the country they are being applied to and hardening their cause. So was the case with Italy and the League in 1935 as the allianted [sic] Duce had grown closer ties to Hitler and his Nazi Germany which was the exact thing the League was hoping to avoid. Moreover, smaller and weaker states had at this point completely lost faith in the League and there was not much that could be done to reverse this. It also increased the growing sentiment among the Facist powers that the League, Britain and France were weak and would not undertake any significant action in stopping the fascists in the pursuit of their goals. This was mostly evident in the German example, with the aforementioned introduction of conscription (March 1935) which saw the increase in armed forces by six times as well as the annexation of the demilitarized zone of Rhineland (March 1936). The League had now failed  countless times to uphold peace in the world and would never recover from the decisive blow to its reputation given to them by Mussolini and the Italians. (Lowe #), (“Italo-Ethiopian War | Causes, Summary, & Facts”)


While such an argument overestimates the expectations for what the League could realistically achieve, it is important for historians studying the reasons for its failure to understand why it would have never been a massive success in the first place. After all, wasn't the entire world foolish to expect the League to stop aggressive states from starting conflict when it had no army (‘lacking teeth’) and could not mobilize its member states to provide troops for expeditionary forces serving as arbitrators? The reasons for this were mainly extreme failure and weakness of the League’s Covenant. The decision whether to partake in taking decisive military action against the aggressor which were discussed in Article 16, went back to member states after a passed resolution in 1923. With that the idea of collective security was practically abandoned and ensuring that any decisive action would be taken was difficult. The attempts made to overturn this resolution were continuously rejected as it required unanimous decision, which was never achieved. Much like with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict today, the vague and unclear nature of NATO’s Article 5 of Collective defense makes it difficult for any decisive action to be taken against the aggressor. Instead of upholding the commitment to the security system whose success solely relied on the determination of its member states, many League members and among them Britain and France held a strongly pacifist stance and felt like any armed intervention should be avoided at all cost, due to their severe military weakness compared to the aggressor powers. The determination needed by the League’s members to uphold collective security was significantly lacking during the 1930s which showcased the League’s weakness as well as the failure of its Covenant. (Lowe #), (“The Covenant of the League of Nations”)


In conclusion, the reasons for the failure of the League of Nations by 1938 are quite simple. Once the aggressive facist states of Japan, Germany and Italy built up their strength and decided to embark on their military conquests, defying the League in the process, its member states were nowhere near ready to introduce economic sanctions or military action in order to uphold what the League had stood for. The League was only as strong as its leading members, of Britain and France, were ready to stand up to aggression and during the implementation of economic sanctions in the Italian-Abyssinian war, it would only be strong as its weakest link. The determination of the League’s member states necessary to stand up to aggressor states in their military conquests was nowhere to be found during the 1930s and was the main reason for the League, never being taken seriously again after 1935. However, instead of being overly critical, we should acknowledge that the expectations for the League were set way to high and that realistically, it was never going to be able to stand up to a determined aggressor, much for the reasons of it ‘lacking teeth’ and having no way of mobilizing troops from its member states. Instead, historians should take the valuable lessons the League’s history has taught us and use it to improve our world today. After all, isn't the same history of China, Abyssinia, Austria and Czechoslovakia being repeated in Ukraine today?


Works Cited
 “The Covenant of the League of Nations.” UN GENEVA, https://www.ungeneva.org/en/covenant-lon. Accessed 16 October 2022.
“Election results in Germany 1924-1935.” Election Results in Germany 1924-1933, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/elect.htm. Accessed 16 October 2022.
“Invasion of Manchuria | Harry S. Truman.” Truman Library, https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/education/presidential-inquiries/invasion-manchuria. Accessed 16 October 2022.
“Italo-Ethiopian War | Causes, Summary, & Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/event/Italo-Ethiopian-War-1935-1936. Accessed 16 October 2022.
Lowe, Norman. Mastering Modern World History. Macmillan, 1997. Accessed 16 October 2022. “The road to war.” Alpha History, 2 September 2015,
https://alphahistory.com/nazigermany/the-road-to-war/. Accessed 16 October 2022. David Low cartoon, 1933, The Doormat


EXAMPLE 4

 Discuss the reasons for the failure of the League of Nations by 1938. 

 

The League of Nations, first and foremost, aims “to achieve international peace and security by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war” (covenant of the LON). Therein lies one of its major flaws. The LON is inherently a peaceful organization, and as such, does not possess its own army or direct means to enforce the decisions it makes. Furthermore, the powers it does have (as outlined in covenants 12-16) are arbitration and imposing sanctions, both of which are often ineffective in practice. Germany's annexation of Austria and its gain of the Sudetenland in 1938 through the Munich agreement are, in hindsight, indisputable failures of the League and its members that led to the eventual declaration of World War Two. However, the failure of the League can be seen in various instances earlier, including in Corfu, Manchuria and Abyssinia. The hostility of the major aggressor powers, being Germany, Italy and Japan, tested the League time and time again, eventually leading to its ultimate demise by 1938 (though arguably even earlier). The LON inability to effectively curb the aggression of the major (soon to be) axis powers can be linked to the inherent weaknesses in its policies and structure. 

 

Just three years after the founding of the League, the Corfu Incident of 1923 was the first instance in which it had to directly address one of the major aggressors. As such, it was the first case to demonstrate the League's inability to refute a powerful and aggressive nation. Italian troops led by general Tellini were sent to the Greek-Albanian border to patrol and maintain order. However, Tellini and some of his soldiers were murdered on Greek soil. Mussolini retaliated with a set of demands, including a formal apology, payment equivalent to over €500,000, and a funeral service with the “presence of all the members of the Greek government” (Hon. Mussolini’s Note to Greece demands on behalf of Italy). Greece did not accept his ultimatum, which then pushed Mussolini to invade the island of Corfu, leading Greece to appeal to the League of Nations. The League proceeded to side with Greece at first, but when Mussolini did not accept this decision the League eventually had to make a compromise and while Italy had to leave Corfu, the Greeks were forced to pay Italy (as was in Mussolini’s note). On the outside, it looked as though the League was at least somewhat successful. It had stopped major conflict and had come to a conclusion, which was one of the main points in its covenants. On the other hand, the incident sheds light on failures that set patterns for the future of the League and how it will handle major aggressors. The League allowed itself to be manipulated by the Italians and had to bow down to their demands if there was to be a peaceful decision reached. This shows weakness internally because Mussolini was able to achieve his demands simply by not yielding to the League, which he would continue to use to his advantage (as would Germany and Japan) if the League did not enforce its decisions. Merely three years after its conception, the League was beginning to prove itself incapable of enforcing its original covenants, and instead, succumbed to the wishes of major aggressors such as Italy in Corfu. 

 

The Manchurian incident of 1931 was another failure of the LON, and demonstrated its weakness against the empire of Japan. Japanese forces invaded the territory of Manchuria in 1931 and made it a puppet state under the Chinese emperor Pu-Yi. While, at first, the League expressed disdain over the actions of Japan through internal arbitration, simply stating this point of view was not enough for Japan to leave and it continued to invade. Moreover, economic sanctions would be ineffective in this case as America was not even part of the League (which is a major weakness to the League in itself) but was one of Japan's major trade partners. With two of its major sources of power already ineffective, the League sent a commission to Japan to uncover the true perpetrators. The Lytton Commision found Japan guilty of resorting to force prematurely, which was a significant factor to Japan’s abrupt leave of the LON a year later. In all, the League was left smaller and with less power than it had before, and once again, had been overpowered by a major aggressor. Furthermore, in the words of AJP Taylor: “In later years the Manchurian affair assumed a mythical importance. It was treated as a milestone on the road to war, the first decisive “betrayal” of the League, especially by the British government. In reality, the League, under British leadership, had done what the British thought it was designed to do: it had limited a conflict and brought it, however unsatisfactorily, to an end.” (Origins of the Second World War). Taylor eloquently points out different perspectives; While the benefit of hindsight allows historians to more easily make conclusions about events such as his one, leaders at the time may not have expected the weight of its consequences. After all, the distance of the European powers in the League from the Manchurian territory made it difficult for effective and timely action to be taken at all, therefore even an unsatisfactory ending may have not been viewed as a complete failure. However, despite varying viewpoints, the Manchurian crisis was a failure for the League of Nations in that it had bowed down to Japan and had been unable to stop the attack on Chinese territory, defying its covenants once again. 

 

According to AJP Taylor himself, the Abyssinian crisis and the subsequent leak of the Hoare-Laval pact led to the true demise of the League of Nations as early as 1935. Italy invaded the African territory for a variety of political and ideological reasons; Italy's defeat at Adowa nearly 40 years prior was humiliating and Mussolini wanted to prove his country's strength, he wanted to motivate and inspire his people, and wanted more land and resources. The League began to discuss sanctions to condemn Italy, but was unable to make them as effective as they could be because voting bases were divided in Britain and public support was necessary. In short, “The government had done enough to satisfy the supporters of the League; not enough to alarm those who disliked the thought of war.“ (Origins of the Second World War). Therefore in the opinion of the British and French, the only way to solve the conflict was to create a compromise with Mussolini behind the back of the LON. This agreement, the Hoare-Laval pact, was to give Italy approximately two thirds of its land to finally bring an end to the war. However, the document was somehow leaked before it got to the LON and caused a massive outcry, particularly from the British, who felt betrayed. The fact that major players from two key members in the LON went behind the back of their own organization showcase how there were massive flaws in its structure: That countries were able to simply discuss and create solutions on their own if they wished, and how genuine belief in the League's power to stop aggression was lacking. Oil sanctions were also later discussed, but due to imminent threats from Italy and internal economic reasons they were never truly put in place, showing how one of the biggest direct powers the LON had was simply ineffective in practice. This severe moment of weakness was a failure for the League, as, in summary: “This was the deathblow to the League as well as to Abyssinia. Fifty-two nations had combined to resist aggression; all they accomplished was that Haile Selassie lost all his country instead of only half.”(Origins of the Second World War). Furthermore, Haile Selasse (the Emperor of Abyssinia) went to Geneva to plead for help in 1936. He raised the point in his speech that this was a question “of the very existence of the League; of the trust placed by states in international treaties; if the value of promises made to small states that their integrity and independence shall be respected and assured...” and further prophetically announced that "It is us today, it will be you tomorrow..." (30 June, 1936 Geneva Speech). Selassie's speech highlights the way that this event in particular paved the way for other aggressors (mainly Germany) to follow in the footsteps of Italy and take land without fear of the League condemning it. In practice, the LON had little to no effect on the Italian goal to aggressively invade a smaller, independent nation's land. 

 

A range of events that dealt with the major aggressive powers, including Corfu, Manchuria and Abyssinia, proved beyond doubt that the League was unable to protect independent nations from the attack of violent powers such as Japan, Italy and Germany. Hitler watched and learned from the LON weak, ineffective reactions to crises involving aggressive powers and implemented these reactions to acquire more land and disrupt “international peace and security”, the very foundation of the League itself. The strengths and powers of the League, mainly arbitration and economic sanctions, were unsuccessful in the cases dealing with the powers mentioned above. The League of Nations had failed by 1938, if not earlier, due to inherent weaknesses in its policies and structure.