A TIME FOR ANGELS: The Tragi-Comic History of the League of Nations by Elmer Bendiner

A TIME FOR ANGELS: The Tragi-Comic History of the League of Nations

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This animated study of the League of Nations begins with a Wilson brain trust edict in 1917 to make blueprints for beating out the British and French in the postwar world. After threatening those countries with a U.S. negotiated separate peace if they didn't accept the new order, the Americans used channels other than the League to consolidate their ends in the inter-war period. Bendiner spares us another run-through of the whole League fight in the U.S., but, less fortunately, he never really clarifies what the aims of the various contesting plans for restructuring Europe were. The League itself was pretty static until the rise of the fascist rulers, when it became part of the scenario for appeasement; and Bendiner, though he tends to take such British figures as Eden and Hoare at face value, gives an ironic sense of the intrigues over Danzig and the Saar, and of the centerpiece, Ethiopia. While actively abetting Mussolini's designs (partly, says Bendiner, because they meant business orders during the Depression), the British and French refused to venture hard-hitting sanctions on the grounds ""that the League could survive only if it were ineffective."" The other excuse, that Hitler, not Mussolini, was the real enemy, fell away as Germany was allowed to militarize the Rhineland. After that, the aggressions of Franco and the Japanese proceeded as the League decorously died (in December 1939, the only item on its agenda was the Russo-Finnish war). The book is full of press gleanings, profiles and other well-assembled particulars. All it lacks is the impetus of a thesis beyond well-it-could-never-have-worked. Certainly more substantive than most of the recent nostalgic surveys of the World War I and postwar period, it also has something of the same glossy detachment. In some ways it is easier to get at the League through focusing on the crises, not the League itself, and to the degree that Bendiner achieves this, his book makes its contribution.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1975
Publisher: Knopr