The US entered WWI in 1917, and the public was horrified by the killing in what was supposed to be a civilized area of the world. A world peace, or at least European peace, was the only option to avert another World War, in the opinion of many of the countries that took part. This international organization became the League of Nations, backed by all nations as a defining feature in world peace. However, the US chose isolationism over involvement in global politics, therefore declining the opportunity to join the League of Nations. In this essay, I will examine why the United States opted not to join the League of Nations and whether or not this was the right decision.
This speech, which Woodrow Wilson considered the sole feasible basis for permanent global peace and the notion of the League of Nations, was given before Congress. Wilson called for the abolition of secret treaties, the settlement of colonial claims, a decrease in weapons, and the freedom of the seas in his speech. Wilson promised to create an international organization that would guarantee political independence to reduce economic obstacles between states, eventually known as the League of Nations.
The speech was based on Woodrow Wilson's diplomatic principles and Inquiry general secretary Walter Lippmann's territorial ideas. Taking the secret treaties, he was tasked with "evaluating the bits we tolerated, separating them from those we considered as unpleasant, and construct a posture that yielded as much to the Allied as possible but eliminated the poison." The secret accords were the key." One of the important topics was the territorial difficulties caused by military movements during the conflict. Most notably, the occupied French territory was mentioned:
It is in the interests of everybody to free all French territory, recover conquered areas, and make amends for the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the case of Alsace-Lorraine.
Isolationism is a foreign policy practiced by leaders that prioritize their own country's interests over those of others. During its brief history, the USA regularly adopted isolationism. While some historians, like Robert J. Art, think the US has a history of isolation, others argue that the US has a history of unilateralism or non-interventionism. According to Bear F. Braumoeller, even in the most outstanding example of isolationism, the interwar era between WWI and II, the concept of isolationism "has been largely misinterpreted. Americans demonstrated an eagerness to fight as soon as they thought a true threat existed." While the US did maintain meaningful commercial and diplomatic relationships overseas during this period, it did so to preserve its freshly earned independence.
Following WWI, non-interventionist US policy gained significant momentum in the country. In the closing months of Woodrow Wilson's administration, the US Senate rejected America's membership in the League of Nations due to worries about the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations. Among the numerous reasons why the United States objected to the League of States was the article requiring it to protect other nations in case they were attacked. While part of the feeling was founded in constitutional ideas, some of it was nativist and inward-looking. One of the reasons the US refused to join the League of Nations was that the Republicans who controlled the Senate were concerned about being obliged to fulfill the commitments that came with membership.
A paper titled "The Lodge Reservations" was produced by Republican Majority Leader and Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Henry Cabot. Many of the objections would have given the US more control over its role within the League of Nations and when it had to obey League decisions regarding the US. That America did not want to contribute soldiers to the League of Nations or be pulled into a war they did not want to fight is confirmed by Reservation Two:
Unless the Congress, which has the sole power to declare war under the Constitution, declares war, the United States assumes no obligation to protect the territorial integrity or political independence of any other country, interfere in disputes between nations — whether members of the League or not — or use its military or naval forces for any purpose.
Overall, the answer to the question "Why did the United States declined to join the League of Nations?" may be found in the reactions of vital American officials during the debate. Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points laid a solid framework for the future United Nations and the League of Nations. Still, the extreme multilateralism demanded by the League made the United States wary of any prospective agreement. During the Treaty of Versailles and the creation of the League of Nations, the United States preferred to focus on its growth as a country rather than being pulled into additional combat that presented no threat to its own. This is why many US Senators liked Lodge Reservations when it came time to vote on joining the League of Nations.
These objections were significant because they presented the United States' worries of being obliged to protect, attack, or limit imports and exports to or from a particular country. To maintain its territory and independence and restore its government, the United States did not require the assistance of other nations, unlike France and Britain, which were financially and morally decimated by the war. If the US had suffered as much as the other countries who joined the UN, I believe they would have joined the League of Nations and maybe become a worldwide powerhouse, as the UN did after WWII. Sadly, this was not the case, and the US declined to join the League of Nations, severely damaging its authority and image.
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