The Roosevelt Administration and the United Nations: Re-Creation or Rejection of the League Experience?

By Schild, George | World Affairs, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview

The Roosevelt Administration and the United Nations: Re-Creation or Rejection of the League Experience?


Schild, George, World Affairs


I had . . . read carefully all of Woodrow Wilson's writings and speeches on the League of Nations. I followed closely the debates in the Senate on the Versailles treaty and saw how a small group of what Woodrow Wilson called "willful men" . . . had managed to prevent American participation in the League of Nations.(1)

This statement from the 1955 memoirs of President Harry S. Truman captures one of the problems American policy planners of the 1940s focused on in their analyses of the successes and failures of the League of Nations after World War I. Truman went on to say:

Roosevelt had shared with me his determination to avoid the experience of Woodrow Wilson by getting in advance the participation and consent of the leaders of both parties. . . . We did not want to run the risk of another League of Nations tragedy, with the United States standing in isolation on the side lines.

Those comments reveal two views policy planners of the 1940s had about Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations: On the positive side, President Wilson's idea of establishing an international collective security organization was on the minds of politicians of the 1940s and was considered sound in principle. Throughout World War II, the Roosevelt administration developed and revised plans for a successor organization to the League that would come into being after the war. However, the way in which Wilson proceeded with his treaty fight in 1919 and 1920 was believed to be flawed. The president had failed to achieve a broad domestic consensus about an internationalist foreign policy and about American commitments abroad. As a result, he failed to marshal the two-thirds majority in the United States Senate necessary to approve the Treaty of Versailles and U.S. membership in the League.

There were additional, more complex problems than ensuring domestic support for an international security organization. Central to a discussion about the transition from the League to the United Nations are the retrospective views politicians of the 1940s had about the League and its shortcomings.

Truman's statements about the League's activities of the 1920s and 1930s are much less specific than his discussions about Wilson's domestic mistakes. In his memoirs, he writes merely that he had great respect for Henry Stimson, who "as Secretary of State had once tried to keep Japan out of Manchuria with the machinery then at hand. The machinery - the League of Nations - had been ineffective."(2) To Truman and to his contemporaries, the activities of the League of Nations in the 1930s appeared to be a string of failures. The organization was unable to prevent aggressions in China and Ethiopia and allowed Nazi Germany to rearm and to conquer. Why did collective security fail in the 1930s, and what had to be done to allow a more determined reaction to international aggressions? Could a League-like institution ever provide security or should a successor organization be established under different rules? This article highlights some of the discussions in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s concerning a new postwar international security organization.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's thoughts about the League - about the decision of the United States Senate in 1920 not to join the organization, about the League's failure to maintain peace in the 1930s, and his own views on collective security - were extraordinarily complex and are still subject to a controversial historical debate. In his book, Roosevelt and World War II, historian Robert A. Divine rejects the notion of Roosevelt as a Wilsonian. While it was true that both presidents "believed in collective security as the ultimate guarantee of national safety," Roosevelt's security concept, Divine wrote, "differed radically and deliberately" from Wilsonian collective security. Other historians disagree and stress the elements of continuity between Wilson and Roosevelt. In his study on Roosevelt and the Isolationists, historian Wayne S. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Roosevelt Administration and the United Nations: Re-Creation or Rejection of the League Experience?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.