This paper covers two topics: the fall of the League of Nations and the subsequent creation of the United Nations, and the development of the European Union. The first section of the paper explores the two main body of theories in international relations namely the realist and liberal theories.
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Realist theories advocate for the establishment of a world government while liberal theories claim that world peace can be secured through international institutions. The section also examines the factors that led to the fall of the League of Nations.
The second section of the paper explains two major theories of regionalism: neorealist and neoliberal theories. Neorealist theories hold that states pursue regional integration to reduce the lawlessness in international affairs.
In contrast, neoliberal theories argue that regional integration is meant to fulfil mutual inter-governmental goals. This section also explores motivations behind the establishment of the European Union.
The Realist Perspective of International Relations
Realism is a perspective on international relations that arose slowly out of the work of various theorists who took a distinctive attitude and perspective in the analysis of international affairs. The perspective puts emphasis on limitations on politics brought in by human nature and the lack of a world government. These two issues make international relations a subject concerning power and interests.
Although there is a divergence of views among realist theorists, all of them claim that egoistic desires and self-interest are the main forces behind international affairs.
They also claim that since international politics are a reflection of human nature, we should not have faith in international institutions and players (Jenkins 2003: 480). This perspective recommends the establishment of an international government to promote peace and equality in the world.
The Liberal Perspective of International Relations
The liberal perspective is based on the works of the Enlightement philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and John Locke. This perspective, unlike the realists’ view, takes an idealistic attitude towards human nature believing that humans have the capacity to develop morally (Jenkins 2003: 481).
The liberal perspective became popular after the end of the First World War. After this war, president Wilson of the US together with other like-minded idealists advocated for the establishment of the League of Nations in an effort to avert widespread political conflicts in the future.
The Fall of the League of Nations
The League of Nations was formed by American, Britain, and French politicians for preventing future war. This was after the First World War had come to an end. The League was established based on idealistic ideas and as a component of the Treaty of Versailles (Johnstone 2004: 820).
It was headquartered in Geneva Switzerland. The objective of the League was to secure world peace through a system known as collective security. The League was made up of eleven member states and its management was done through a council.
Decisions by the council were made unanimously. The eleven member states agreed to defend each other in case of attack by a non-member state.
Why the League Failed
There are several reasons that led to the failure of the League of Nations. First, the US which was expected to lead the league refused to join following an unfavorable decision regarding the same by the House of Senate (Burke & George 2012: 65).
Second, Britain and France which were the de facto leaders of the League did not always agree about how the league was to be operated. This undermined the management of the League greatly. Third, the idea of collective security became difficult to implement because of subjective interests of member countries.
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Lastly, the Great depression of the 1930s also undermined the organization greatly as most of the member countries were economically devastated. The United Nations was formed in 1945 to take up the responsibilities of the League.
The Rise of the United Nations
Following the end of the Second World War, world leaders strived to establish international organizations that would secure global peace (Johnstone 2004: 815).
Previously, the League of Nations had been viewed as the answer to anarchy in international affairs but it had failed to prevent the Second World War (Ayson 2012: 203). As a result, World leaders saw the need to create a more powerful organization to succeed the League.
Neorealists Explanation of the Fall of the League of Nations
According to neorealists, the League of Natioons was inherently bound to fall because it did not address the critical element that caused anarchy in international matters. Neorealists believe that world conflict is caused by humans desire for power and that this nature must be addressed if global peace is to be achieved.
Addressing this sort of human nature would take a world government which would ensure equitable distribution of global resources (Herring & Rangwala 2005: 640).. In such a case, there would be no rationale for countries waging war against each other.
However, the League of Nations did not address this critical human nature and it was meant for advancing the interests of a few countries that it consisted of (Jenkins 2003: 480). Thus, according to realists, the organization was destined for failure from its inception.
Realists also believe that the eventual rise of the United Nations which encompasses more nations reflects the need to establish a world government. The success of the UN will, therefore, depend on whether or not it will be equitable to all world nations both member and non-member countries (Burke & George 2012: 68).
In practice, however, the organization’s leadership has tended to be in the hands of a few nations like the US and its decisions tend to favor the powerful nations while undermining the weaker ones. Realists, thus, believe that the UN may not live to achieve its mandate.
Neoliberalists Explanation of the Fall of the League of Nations
According to neoliberalists, the League of Nations failed o succeed because of poor management and the fact that the de facto leaders of the organization tended to advance their individual interests.
The advocates of this perspective believed that a more powerful and focused organization would be able to achieve the mission of bringing global peace (Burke & George 2012: 70). This was the mind-set that informed the formation of the United Nations in 1945. The aim of the organization is to stop conflict between countries and also to help those nations afflicted by civil wars to resolve their internal conflicts.
Collective security is a form of treaty whereby several nations come into an agreement not to wage war against each other and to defend one another in case any of these countries is invaded by another non-member country.
The principle underlying this form of coalition is that an attack against one of the member states is an invasion of all the member states (Johnstone 2004: 830). Classic examples of the execution of the collective security concept are the creation of the NATO and the Warsaw Agreement.
Balance of Power
The concept of balance of power became prominent during the Cold War which pitted the West against the East. The concept is based on the idea that one nation should not be left to dominate the world (Herring & Rangwala 2005: 645). However, after the end of the Cold War, the concept has not seen much application and the dominance of the US is unlikely to end any time soon.
Ayson R 2012, ‘The Changing Character of Warfare’ pp.199-217 in R. Devetak, A. Burke and J. George (eds) 2012, An Introduction to International Relations, 2nd edn, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Herring E and Rangwala G 2005, ‘Iraq, Imperialism and Global Governance’, Third World Quarterly, 26(4-5), pp.667-638
Jenkins T 2003, ‘Exhuming a UN for ‘We the Peoples’, Peace Review 15(4), pp.479-482
Johnstone I 2004, ‘US-UN Relations After Iraq: The End of the World (Order) As We Know It?’, European Journal of International Law, 15(4), pp.813-838