Collective Security and American Foreign Policy: From the League of Nations to NATO

By Roland N. Stromberg | Go to book overview

XI. Concluding Analysis

"COLLECTIVE SECURITY" has never been precisely defined,* and it has meant several different things, some of them nearly opposites. We have certainly noted at least three meanings: (a) the original, pristine, and idealistic "universal alliance" aiming to abolish war, a messianic hope launched amid the apocalypse of World War I; (b) the big-power dictatorship foreshadowed in the structure of the League of Nations and definitely intended by the Big Three architects of the United Nations; and (c) the intimate alliance systems of a divided world after 1945. We are not including the last meaning in this analysis.

It may be worth-while to review and sum up the flaws exposed in collective security. First of all, the major states had not been willing to make binding commitments for future action, as the theory demanded. What an American delegate to the United Nations referred to as "making commitments in disregard of future military, strategic, and political realities" was too much of a risk.1 It was this fact that underlay the somewhat confused debate of 1919 in the United States and that continued to plague the League and the United Nations. Based as it was on recognition of the sovereignty of the member states, the collective-security organization could not bind its members, and they would not bind themselves. In fact, there was no point in insisting upon a promise that clearly would not be honored in all circumstances. Democratic and constitutional governments, the natural bulwark of antiwar idealism in most respects, were peculiarly unfitted to undertake agreements that might involve future war, for they were bound to consult their peoples and their parliaments at the time of

____________________
*
Collective security is not a conception, much less a technical term of international law; it has never been defined by treaty, or by the supreme international tribunal which has been functioning at The Hague since 1922. The conception is political, the words vague and ambiguous." Andrew Martin, Collective Security: A Progress Report ( Paris: UNESCO, 1952), p. 14.

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Collective Security and American Foreign Policy: From the League of Nations to NATO
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • I - Peace by Force? 3
  • II - Wilson and the League of Nations 22
  • III - America and World Peace in the 1920's 46
  • IV - The United States and the "Rape of Manchuria" 66
  • V - The Collapse of European Security: 1933-36 87
  • VI - Neutrality, Collective Security, and War: 1937-40 109
  • VII - American Entrance into the War 137
  • VIII - The Four Policemen 156
  • IX - The Second Failure 186
  • X - Collective Security in the Nuclear Age 213
  • XI - Concluding Analysis 230
  • Postscript 249
  • Notes 253
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 293
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