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BronxLens's avatar

Why did the United States not ratify the treaty of Versailles and waived all claims on reparations?

Asked by BronxLens (1539points) July 8th, 2008

Curious per another discussion on a related subject

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9 Answers

Allie's avatar

“The Treaty of Versailles also created the League of Nations, which was to enforce the treaty and encourage the peaceful resolution of international conflicts. Many Americans were opposed to joining the League of Nations, however, and despite Wilson’s efforts, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the treaty. Hence, instead of signing the Treaty of Versailles, the United States signed a separate peace treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Berlin, on July 2, 1921. This treaty conformed to the Versailles agreement except for the omission of the League of Nations provisions.”
One of the reasons Americans opposed the LoN was because it stated that if another country was attacked then troops would be automatically sent in order to protect territory. A large part of the US was still in isolation mode, just wanted to be done with the war, and didn’t like this point in the LoN.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Those were the days

gimmedat's avatar

Because we kicked ass.

lefteh's avatar

It’s also worth mentioning that it was Congress that did not ratify the treaty, as Allie said, even though it was Wilson that did the negotiating to create the treaty. This was a very embarrassing moment for President Wilson. He created what he thought was a great idea, and his own country would not support him.

Michael's avatar

Allie is generally correct, but I have one or two modifications and addendums. Modification first: the League of Nations did not have a an “automatic defense” clause. In fact, one of the (many) reasons why the League eventually failed was because it had no mechanisms whatsoever to induce member nations to come to the aid of other member nations.

Now the addendum: when the Treaty of Versailles, along with the League, was first announced publicly, there was vast public support for it in the United States. Wilson was very popular, and the idea that the League could prevent future wars like the US and the world had just experienced had great appeal. When the treaty first went to the Senate for ratification, most thought it would sail through. But the treaty was referred to the Senate Foreign relations committee first, chaired by Henry Cabot lodge, a fierce opponent of the treaty and a man who truly hated President Wilson (the feeling was very much mutual). There the committee deliberately stalled by having months of hearings on the treaty. This gave isolationist Senators time to travel the country, conducting a widespread “campaign” against the treaty. Slowly, public opinion shifted away from the treaty, and by the time it was finally reported out of committee (with a recommendation that the treaty not be ratified), the public mind was much more mixed. The treaty’s opponents in the Senate did offer Wilson certain compromises (the so called “Lodge Reservations” so named because they were offered by Senator Lodge) but Wilson insisted the treaty be considered as it was presented – partly because he simply refused to give in to Lodge. In the end, the Senate rejected the treaty.

Allie's avatar

Michael: Thanks for the amazing answer. I have a question though. What about this: “Collective security

Another important weakness grew from the contradiction between the idea of collective security, that formed the basis of the League, and international relations between individual states. The collective security system the League used meant that nations were required to act against states they considered friends, and in a way that might endanger their national interests, to support states that they had no normal affinity with. This weakness was exposed during the Abyssinia Crisis when Britain and France had to balance attempts to maintain the security they had attempted to create for themselves in Europe “in order to defend against the enemies of internal order”, in which Italy’s support played a pivotal role, with their obligations to Abyssinia as a member of the League.

On 23 June 1936, in the wake of the collapse of League efforts to restrain Italy’s war of conquest against Abyssinia, British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin told the House of Commons that collective security had

“failed ultimately because of the reluctance of nearly all the nations in Europe to proceed to what I might call military sanctions… [T]he real reason, or the main reason, was that we discovered in the process of weeks that there was no country except the aggressor country which was ready for war… [I]f collective action is to be a reality and not merely a thing to be talked about, it means not only that every country is to be ready for war; but must be ready to go to war at once. That is a terrible thing, but it is an essential part of collective security.”

Doesn’t that mean that each member of the LoN had to be ready to defend other members of the LoN? I could be misunderstanding this. If so, could you elaborate?

Michael's avatar

@Allie, you’re totally right that the idea of collective security was supposed to be part of the League (and you’re also right that this idea contributed greatly to turning of public tide against the treaty in the United States). However, the principle was never actually put into practice because the League included no formal or institutional mechanism to enforce such a principle. As a result, though the League members should have, theoretically, jumped to the defense of “Abyssinia” (now called Ethiopia), they had no actual incentive to do so (more accurately, they had no disincentive to not do so).

So, I really probably should have been a bit less blunt in saying, “the League had no ‘automatic defense’ clause,” because, in principle, League members were indeed supposed to stand with each other. But in comparison to, say, NATO today, which does have an automatic defense clause, the League’s version was so weak and unenforceable as to be practically non-existent (which it proved to be, when actually put to the test).

Allie's avatar

Michael: Ok, I get it now. Thank you! =)

Jimmyoll1's avatar

@ Michael: i know this is a really old thread but where did you get your information for your addendum?

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