League of Nations


The League of Nations was an international organization created after the First World War. The Covenant establishing the League was part of the Treaty of Versailles. The aims of the League were to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security. The League of Nations was an association of states which had pledged themselves, through signing the Covenant not to go to war before submitting their disputes with each other, or states not members of the League, to arbitration or enquiry. The League of Nations formally came into existence on January 10, 1920. The two official languages of the League were English and French. The headquarters of the League was Geneva, Switzerland. The organization of the League of Nations included the Council, the Assembly and the Secretariat. Separate but connected to the League of Nations were the Permanent Court of International Justice and the International Labour Organization. The League also established subsidiary bodies to promote co-operation on economic, social, health, and intellectual matters


The founding of the League of Nations in 1919 marked a radical departure from previous methods of diplomacy. Prior to August 1914, traditional diplomacy, or, as it was often called after the First World War, "Old Diplomacy," was a system of intercourse between the governments of sovereign states. This system relied exclusively on the exchange of ambassadors or ministers charged by their respective governments with the twin tasks of acting as both informants and intermediaries. As an informant, the ambassador or minister acted as the "man on the spot," keeping his government apprised of the internal conditions of the country in which he was stationed. As an intermediary, the ambassador or minister acted to present the views and interests of his own government to that of his hosts, as well as to encourage amicable relations between the host government and his own. A good ambassador or minister was one who, aided by his embassy staff, discharged both of these tasks with a high degree of success.


The old diplomatic system had both its merits and its failings. For each state, it was clearly advantageous to have diplomatic representatives in as many foreign capitals as possible in order to have as broad an understanding of the countries with which one interacted.


The failings of the old system were manifestations of its conservative nature. In the prewar period, governments still drew diplomats from the aristocratic elite, despite the rather dramatic changes in the form of many governments over the course of the nineteenth century, i.e., the development of modern democracy. If the task at hand was to foster understanding between different peoples, then the continued reliance on diplomats selected not on the basis of merit, but rather on status at birth, tended to skew that understanding and produce undesirable results. Even as the issues confronting diplomats became increasingly complex and specialized, their training, either formal, or, as was more often the case, informal, did not keep pace. Most diplomats were probably well-read, but they were probably also unlikely to have a firm understanding of the complexities of international economics or other global issues of a multifarious character. Another drawback of traditional diplomacy's conservative nature was that it made the pursuit of a country's short-term national interests paramount over global interests, even when concern for the global community could be of demonstrable benefit for the individual nation, but perhaps only in the long-term. Finally, two other elements of traditional diplomacy made its conduct hazardous: its secrecy, which often left countries not privy to those secrets dangerously unclear as to the intentions of their neighbors, and the use of war as a form of persuasion, an option realistically available only to the most powerful countries, i.e., the great powers.[1]


The horror of the Great War led some to reevaluate, and, indeed, openly criticize, the conduct of the Old Diplomacy, especially its secrecy, the threat and use of war for national gain, and its ineffectiveness in dealing with issues of more than a bilateral nature. The First World War became, in essence, the matrix of a "New Diplomacy." As a system, the New Diplomacy promoted arbitration and collective security as the surest means of avoiding future armed conflict. It emphasized open cooperation between nations to resolve global political, economic, social,