July 26, 2023

Why liberal idealism failed to construct a stable world order after the end of the WWI?

Why liberal idealism failed to construct a stable world order after the end of the WWI? A theoretical mistake or bad political conditions?

The first and the most influential great theory which emerged after the end of the First World War, was the liberal idealism.Liberal idealism was defined by its critiques as Utopianism.The basic idea was to liberate the individual, to make more economic interdependence.


The first liberals in the twentieth Century, the liberal idealists believed that after such a great tragedy like WWI, states can reflect upon themselves, and can deliberately change their politics, can deliberately and intentionally become less egoistic, and more cooperative with regard to the others.


But due some reason liberalism idealism was failed to construct a stable world after WWI.It was for bad political conditions rather than theoretical mistake I say.


Woodrow Wilson, the founder of liberal idealism was the president of the United States during WWI.He thought where all nations, regardless of their power, regardless of their size, should be equally represented. And this was one of the greatest achievements of the liberal political theory and Liberal paradigm in international relations science.


In 1918, Woodrow Wilson articulated his famous 14 points. His own project which became a U.S Project actually, to reconstruct the post-war international order.


These 14 points included the most essential practical ideas derived from their liberal idealist approach to the international relations, as following.


  • First, the establishment a new international organization, the League of Nations, which should have strengthened international peace and security.
  • Second, assure the principle of collective security, a system where each state considers security of a neighbor as its own concern, and agrees to take part in collective response to aggressive actions.
  • The next group of the 14 points, was about the disarmament, as a tool to weaken tensions between states, and possibility of the new war.
  • Next important part of his 14 points, was about the self-determination of nations.
  • And the other important part of these 14 points, was the refuse from so-called secret diplomacy. Secret diplomacy was very very common the European Empires and nations before the First World War. Woodrow Wilson believed, if people know about the diplomatic relationships, if people know what their governments are talking about between them, the people would never allow them to go for war.


Liberal idealism theory influenced international relations during WWI very much.Though the liberal idealist approach to the international relations proposed an ideal solution for the international community. But most unfortunately, these bright ideas faced the very very harsh reality of international politics.


States, by that time, have never been so idealistic as something else. Statesman of France, Britain, some other nations, have not been thinking about their humanity or making peace permanent, they have been thinking about how to maximize the achievements and the gains against Germany and its allies.


However, the Treaty of Versailles was considered to become liberal triumph. Formally, it was based on the 14 points. It has encouraged the independence of new nations. It has endorsed the establishment of the League of Nations and many many other very good things.


But, however, during the negotiations in Paris, most of Wilson’s proposals were hugely revised or even rejected.


European powers, first of all France and Britain, were less interested in establishing of an ideal international order rather focused on their national interests and security considerations. Primarily they have been thinking about territories and money.


Moreover, in the end, Wilson was defeated even at home, in his native United States of America, the Congress, American Parliament, refused to ratify the treaty.As a result, the United States, the,victorious party of the war did not become a member of League of Nations, nor of the post war European order.


The final agreement went far away from the idealist program, combining interests of great power with some liberal minor adjustments.


First of all, German army was reduced to 100,000 of personnel. German navy was allowed to have only six ships, and no submarines.It was decided to demilitarize Rhineland, the territory between France and Germany, and the major economic and industrial part of Germany.


These war compensations amounted to about 30 billion of U.S Dollars. The other territorial transfers primarily in eastern Europe, were also supported by the Versailles order and by the Versailles treaty.


The several new countries emerged like Czechoslovakia, New Yugoslavia, Poland, Finland, on the ruins of Austria-Hungary ,German Empire, and the Russian Empire.


The other point was the distribution of colonial possessions. France and Britain have taken over all colonial possessions from Turkey, Germany Austria-Hungary.


In other cases, they declared the sort of the independence dominance of states under their protection. But of course, everybody understood, that it means nothing. It means that the winners take what belonged to the losers.


The decline of Versailles order had started very soon. Decline of the Versailles order or on the other hand we can say liberalism idealism consisted the several very important characteristics


First weak point, mis-balance of power. Some countries, first of all France and Britain, have been very very powerful.


They managed to keep, and they increased their military strength after WWI, as some countries were terribly deprived, like Germany, but also communist Russia and Italy, which was the winner of the First World War, but still did not receive what it has been thinking it’s due to receive.


Defeated Germany was not integrated into the new international order.Germany was robbed, put under huge reparations and left aside, but at the same time, Germany was not fully eliminated and Germany kept all potential for the rise and one of the results, was the rise of the German Nazism during 1920’s who desire to reconsider the results of the First World War, also the natural consequence of the unfair decisions of Versailles treaty.And Germany emerged again in even more brutal and dangerous form in next 20 years.


Two major powers, USSR and United States of America were not involved in the newly established international order.Because first of fall, the Western European countries did not recognize USSR for a long time, and the United States just wanted to join it for their own benifit 


But the US Congress did not vote to join the League of Nations as a result, League of Nations, this presumably ideal international body has been paralysed.And ineffectiveness of idealist approach towards post WWI security order, was in many respects proved by inability of political leaders or political conditions.


The end of 1930s, as a consequence, was marked by a number of diplomatic maneuvers made by both sides, and which in many aspects, triggered the beginning of the new terrible conflict, WWII the most terrible conflict so far in the human history.


So from the discussion above we can say that the decline of liberalism idealism after WWI was no theoretical mistake but political conditions back then made it inevitable.


Sources : Most of the part of this writings has been inspired from a lecture of coursera online course.Rest of the data are collected from various online sources. And i just collaborated and edited the

IR Insightss

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