The American Concept and Agenda Behind the Proposal for a League of Nations

The impetus behind the formation of the League of Nations at the conclusion of the First World War came from the United States, and in particular from President Woodrow Wilson.  Conceptually it spoke to the idealism that American politics has traditionally espoused, while the proposal nevertheless kept a watch on perceived American vested interests.  In the end, the political climate in the United States prevented President Wilson from getting the United States into the organisation he championed, and thus, it was the Imperial Powers of Europe who held the controlling hand, thus dooming it to irrelevancy or ultimate failure.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The utterances of its original spokesman, President Wilson, were marked by a magnificent nebulous idealism full of inspiring ideas and phrases, but not attended by a clear and specific application.  For the idea behind the head of the President we must look for light to the past history and the traditional temperament of the American people.  The United States were always pacific and non-imperialistic in sentiment and principle, yet with an undertone of nationalistic susceptibility which threatened recently to take an imperialistic turn and led the nation to make two or three wars ending in conquests whose results it had then to reconcile with its non-imperialistic pacifism.”

On the North American continent, the Americans first conducted an extensive campaign against the Native Americans, wiping out millions of people while driving the survivors onto reservations that were considered non-productive or non-essential to the American expansion.

“It annexed Mexican Texas by war and then turned it into a constituent State of the union, swamping it at the same time with American colonists.”  Other conquests, such as in Cuba and the Philippines were external to the continental USA and were eventually released, although Hawaii was subjugated and incorporated into the United States eventually.

“American idealism was always governed by a shrewd sense of American interests, and highest among these interests is reckoned the preservation of the American political idea and its constitution, to which all imperialism, foreign or American, has to be regarded as a mortal peril.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 29, The Idea of a League of Nations, pg. 261