F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
January 30, 2000
League Critique Applies Double to U.N.

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

The United States was right to reject membership in the League of Nations, and it should have stayed out of the UN as well.

In an address to the U.S. Senate on August 12, 1919, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge explained his opposition to U.S. membership in the incipient League of Nations, the short-lived precursor to the UN. "We should not have our country's vigor exhausted or her moral force abated by everlasting meddling and muddling in every quarrel, great and small, which afflicts the world," Lodge declared. "Our ideal is to make her ever stronger and better and finer, because in that way alone . . . can she be of the greatest service to the world's peace and to the welfare of mankind." He warned his colleagues that, "if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her power for good and endanger her very existence."

The charge that opponents of League membership wanted "to isolate the United States or make it a hermit nation" Lodge dismissed as "sheer absurdity. But there is a wide difference," he emphasized, "between taking a suitable part and bearing a due responsibility in world affairs and plunging the United States into every controversy and conflict on the face of the globe."

Lodge objected "in the strongest possible way to having the United States agree, directly or indirectly, to be controlled by a league which may at any time . . . be drawn in to deal with internal conflicts in other countries, no matter what these conflicts may be. We should never permit the United States to be involved in any internal conflict in another country," he asserted, "except by the will of her people expressed through the Congress which represents them."

Lodge understood the sovereignty-sapping implications of League membership, recognizing that "American troops and American ships may be ordered to any part of the world by nations other than the United States, and that," he asserted, "is a proposition to which I for one can never assent."

Lodge anticipated the criticism that his opposition to the League would provoke, insisting, nevertheless, that "the first step to world service is the maintenance of the United States. You may call me selfish if you will, conservative or reactionary, or use any harsh adjective you see fit to apply," he advised his fellow senators, "but an American I was born, an American I have remained all my life. I can never be anything else but an American, and I must think of the United States first. And when I think of the United States first in an arrangement like this," Lodge affirmed, "I am thinking of what is best for the world; for if the United States fails," he warned, "the best hopes of mankind fail with it. I have never had but one allegiance -- I cannot divide it now," Lodge declared. "I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league."

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