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In January 1919 thirty-two states adjourned in Paris in order to address the outcome of the world’s largest and most intrinsically diplomatic war to date. The Paris Peace Conference, piloted by the “big three” (President of the United States Woodrow Wilson, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Prime Minister of France George Clemenceau), acquired a specific aim at the heart of International Relations’ theories on world order and had ‘the dual task of making a settlement of victor over vanquished and of establishing a functioning international system after the disturbances created by a world war’. Thus the League of Nations, an international organization which ab initio consisted in just forty-two states, was erected from the brutalities of world war one.
Its main functions were to avoid war at all costs, promote international co-operation and guarantee peace and security by supporting debates in a forum for all member nations. The concept of global co-operation proved not to be an innovative one. In fact back in 1795 Emmanuel Kant proposed in his work ‘Perpetual Peace: a Philosophical Sketch’ a vision to obtain world order and international peace which finds many congruencies with the League of Nation’s fundamental appeals. Some agree that, in terms of the structure of the League of Nations, it was founded on the assets of previous attempts of international forums, particularly its forerunner the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The journal of the League of Nations pointed out that diplomats had witnessed ‘the beginning, we hope and believe, of a new world era’ (Williams 1998, 59), yet some realists, such as E.H Carr (2001), suggest that the League was doomed to fail a priori.
The main executive committee (The League Council) and the League Assembly were limited to making unanimous recommendations and the fine line of difference between the two organs was deeply confusing. The entire structure of the League was ambiguous due to its strong dependence on previous organizations and it became to be seen as strictly un-Wilsonian, having been converted into the ultimate alliance rather than a global forum for co-operation, ‘Thus the way is left open for a continuation of the old political system based on force, with all its resentments and rivalries!’ (Osiander 1994, 298-299). The League of Nations existed simply to provide recommendations, a point which the UN has attempted to amend.
Indeed some political scientists dare to refer to the League as a ‘dead letter regime’, a concept outlined by Richard Littlein which there are set rules yet the organizations fail to even attempt their implementation. Some continue the discourse of international organizations by supposing that the United Nations does not represent a betterment compared to previous organizations and is nothing more than a mere continuation of ancient political moves, the League’s heir. Hence according to these political scientists the UN carries no new advancements for the elaborate web of interstate communication which is now a binding, part of the global society. Whether the League of Nations was a complete failure or a partial saviour, it was the first big step towards an era of long-lasting peace.
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