With the end of World War One in sight, the leaders of all the major world powers prepared for the first major peace conference; a forum to discuss ways to build lasting peace. President Wilson had prepared what he thought would become the foundation for a lasting reign of world peace. He called this plan his Fourteen Points, and believed them to be foolproof. Others however, were more skeptical. “God gave us Ten Commandments and we broke them. Wilson gave us his fourteen points, and we shall see.” (Georges Clemenceau, the representative of France in the Paris Peace Conference.) In fact, many of these fourteen points were not ever put into action. Wilson conceded many in order to push through what in his eyes was the world’s best hope for peace: the fourteenth point, or the League of Nations. The League of Nations was an association of nations created to promote international cooperation and peace. It was meant to be an international discussion forum designed to address diplomatic crises like the ones that had started the war. At the time, the League of Nations was the best option for preventing war and setting the foundation for lasting world peace. It was imperative that the US join the League upon its creation in 1920.

            The whole underlying idea supporting the creation of the League of Nations was that countries should convene and solve major issues through discussion rather than warfare.             Its purpose was to strengthen international relations and improve cooperation among foreign powers, ultimately creating an atmosphere fostering world peace. This system would help prevent wars before they started without any lives lost or money wasted. Had there been such a system in place before the start of WWI, It would have greatly helped in preventing conflict, and war.

            Before the onset of WWI, many different countries were fighting over the Balkland Peninsula. Russia wanted access to the Mediterranean sea, Germany wanted access for a proposed railroad, while Austria Hungary had taken control of Bosnia in 1878 accusing Serbia of subverting its rule over the Bosnians. Finally, with the assassination of the heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne,  by a radical group of Serbian Nationalists,   the ‘Powder Keg’ of Europe exploded sparking the start of WWI. (Elson, 1976)  At that time, the League of Nations would have provided the European powers a place to discuss their claims over Serbia, and come to a peaceful decision. This world wide symposium could very well have been a key factor in he prevention of this war.

            The creation of a League of Nations would not only have promoted peace, but strengthened collective security so much so that were any of the nations in the League threatened, the entire League would have been ready to respond. Although this “joint military and economic action against aggression” was a voluntary action, it remained one of the key objections to the League voiced by the US Congress. But had the US joined the league in 1920, this joint action could have greatly diminished the devastating effect of WWII. (Trueman) By the time every major world power was actually involved in the war, too many lives had been lost. Instead of joining the League of nations, the US signed a separate treaty with Germany in 1921, which as history shows, had no real lasting effect.

            One of the main objections that congress had to the idea of the League of Nations was the fact that it threatened the US foreign policy of isolationism. They believed that the League would threaten sovereignty and pull the US into foreign wars. US senators Henry Cabot Lodge and William Borah were two of the most adamant opposers of the league. Borah was adamant that by becoming a part of the League, our foreign policy would be destroyed.  Henry Cabot Lodge however, took issue with the joint military and economic action against aggression. He wanted the congressional right to declare war at any time included in the treaty. This joint action against aggression was in fact voluntary.

            However, the major concern, and fear of the US government, was that the League of Nations would nullify the Monroe doctrine, or the policy of US opposition to any European interference in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere (1823). They thought that it would limit “the right of our people to govern themselves free from all restraint, legal or moral, of foreign powers,. Wilson assures congress that the League would hold no such power of restraint, and argued that the League was “not a straightjacket, but a vehicle of life.”. However, congress remained unmoved, and despite Wilson's best efforts, failed to ratify the League of Nations.

            The League of Nations was the world’s best option for forging the foundation of a lasting peace. Unfortunately, the US Congress did not see it as such, but rather as a threat to our nations policies. They even took it as far as stating that the League would repeal the Declaration of Independence. Had the US joined the League of nations, they, along with the rest of the major world powers, could have prevented war, and created a both peaceful and cooperative society. Instead, the US created (in the words of Wilson) “A punitive peace that left a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which the terms of peace would not rest, not permanently, but as upon quicksand.”

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