Understanding American Foreign Policy
Political Science 128 and 221
Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Appeasement in International Relations: The Case of Ethiopia
Peace in International Relations, under the Collective Security doctrine of the League of Nations was to be achieved through voluntary, joint action by all great powers to stop aggressors.
A Timeline (below) about how the League applied its doctrine in Ethiopia reveals a key weakness in Collective Security as a route to peace: states often find it in their interest to appease aggressors rather than to forcefully oppose them.
Background: 1896 Ethiopian army massacred Italian army at Adowa; 1922 Mussolini came to power in Italy; 1928 Italian-Ethiopian Friendship Treaty.
December 1934: Italians and Ethiopians clashed at Wal Wal oasis in the Ogaden (disputed region on Somalia-Ethiopia frontier; this region remains under disputed status to the present day). Conflict began.
Jan. 1935: Ethiopia's Haile Selassie requested League intervention under Article 11 to safeguard peace; and under Article 15 to avoid a rupture (in March).
The League's states then prevaricated while the organization's bureaucrats quietly took sides. Secretary-Gen. Avenol confided in Italians on secretariat staff, counseling them to tell their government in Italy to make its case to the other states in the League. The UK and French Governments continued to pursue appeasement of Italy at the Stresa meeting, and subsequently. Meanwhile, Italy mobilized for war in Horn of Africa. Only the USSR supported Ethiopia within League.
Mussolini also threatened the League: To military sanctions, we shall reply with military measures. Full scale invasion was begun Oct. 3, 1935. Poisoned gas used by IT in 1936.
The League ultimately declared IT in violation of League Covenant; and sanctions were passed that would bar shipments of arms to IT. An oil boycott to IT and to the war area might actually have stopped the conflict; but the League refused an oil boycott. USA enacted unilateral sanctions on both IT and Ethiopia.
In May-June 1936, when Haile Selassie finally spoke to the League, the IT delegation walked out; and IT delegates disrupted a later speech by the Ethiopian.
1936: IT defeats Ethiopia militarily; League votes to end all sanctions on IT; UK and 43 others support; only Ethiopia opposed.
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