The treaties that ended World War I established the mandate system. Under this arrangement, the League of Nations required the winners of World War I to manage former German and Ottoman lands. The charter for the League mandated it to promote peace by helping countries work out their differences peacefully and through arbitration if necessary. However, the United States never joined the league.
This method of settling international disputes without resorting to war had its roots in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The mandates were divided up among the major powers based on their contributions to the war effort. France was given control of most of Germany while the United States got Canada and Mexico. The British gained control of Palestine. They gave independence to India but retained control of Kashmir until it reverted to Indian rule in 1947.
The mandate system worked well until the end of World War II. At that time, the only remaining mandate was Iraq which had been given to Britain after it defeated Turkey in the war. President Truman decided not to annex Iraq because he believed this would hurt American interests in the Middle East. Instead, he issued a presidential directive authorizing the government to administer affairs in Iraq until a permanent solution could be found for the country's status. This authority expired in 1948 when the Iraqi people voted to become a republic.
The mandate system was an arrangement under which German possessions in Africa and Asia were proclaimed mandates and administered by the League of Nations. People in the mandates felt deceived because they desired independence, which the Allies rejected. This issue became particularly sensitive when India demanded its independence. The refusal of Britain and France to give up their interests caused the two countries to lose credibility.
Allied promises not to interfere with self-determination movements within the empires were never kept. Even after the wars had ended, the leaders of the three powers continued to meet in secret to discuss ways to divide up Europe's remaining colonies.
In 1948, the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the dissolution of all colonial empires. However, this did not come into effect until five years later. During this time, many countries maintained that they were not bound by what was decided at the UN meeting and continued to claim their own rights to independence.
The Soviet Union supported efforts to create independent states in Eastern Europe, but only if they could be done peacefully. If violence was used, then Moscow would intervene on the side of any nation seeking independence. In 1953, Russia took over Iran's former territory of Central Asia because so many people there wanted to join the USSR. This action was not considered illegal at the time because no one had asked Iran's permission first.
Creating the Mandatory System The Mandate System attempted to break the cycle of war and fighting over conquered country by taking the land of the defunct Ottoman Empire and German possessions. France got Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine (the latter two being part of Iraq today). Germany received Tunisia. The mandate system was designed to allow both countries to learn how to run their own governments before they became independent.
The system worked like this: When France or Germany won a war against an enemy country, that country's ruler would be given a "mandate" to rule over his or her subject people. The mandate holder was required to establish a government system based on democracy and free enterprise within one year of receiving it. If he or she failed to do so, then the country could return to its original ruler or be taken back under French or German control. The goal was for these new countries to develop economically while also remaining stable politically.
France and Germany used their positions as masters of the world to get other countries to join them in this scheme. Both wanted the best possible terms in any future peace negotiations with each other so they could avoid getting into another war. Also, because most wars at that time were fought between European powers, joining the mandate system meant that nations would not be able to reject the rules set out by France or Germany.