league

The common belief in our history is that President Woodrow Wilson championed the concept of the League of Nations and it failed at the hands of his Republican adversaries who leaned toward isolationism.  Historian Paul Johnson in his history of the 20th century, Modern Times,  adds depth and maybe accuracy to the controversy.

The League was the brain child of two eccentric Brits; a religious Walter Phillimore and Lord Robert Cecil, a pacifist.  The British military and diplomatic experts disliked the idea believing it would create a false sense of security and be used to disarm in the face of growing dangers. Such a treaty would still require military force to assure its compliance.

The French wanted something like NATO, a regional defensive alliance, and like the British were tepid toward the league.  They considered a universal alliance in which all power belonged regardless of their record, and which guaranteed all frontiers regardless of their merits to be nonsense.

Senator Cabot Lodge, the Republican adversary to Wilson’s push for the League, shared this skepticism.  Not an isolationist he shared the concern for mutual security, and felt that the nations were unlikely to go to war to enforce the League’s decisions.  Cabot supported the Treaty but held reservations about the League and Wilson who pushed the League with a messianic religious zeal refused to compromise on the project, dooming it irreparably.

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