Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXIV Part I

The Need of Military Unification

It might appear strange that a great apostle of spirituality like Sri Aurobindo, hailing from the same land as that of the apostle of peace, Mahatma Gandhi could write about the necessity of military unification and that too in 1917 at the aftermath of World War I. But India also represents the presence of the Lord, Sri Krishna in the battlefield and Sri Aurobindo draws from the light of the Gita the principle that an evil cannot be destroyed unless much that lives by the evil is destroyed (Evening Talks, pg 300).In this chapter of The Ideal of Human Unity, the ‘evil’ is however represented by the forces opposing global unity. Sri Aurobindo here is interested in the role of military in implementing global unity.

The classical utility of military serves two ends:

(a) ‘external for the defence of the nation against disruption or subjection from without, and

(b) ‘internal for its defence against civil disruption and disorder(The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 475).

Any nation and especially a great nation have to deal with centrifugal separatist tendencies that try to eulogize local, racial and clan instincts on the plea of self-determination. But a broader unity has to surpass such fissiparous trends in the greater interest. True such divisive forces have to be tackled by the central authority at the onset by ‘moral force and psychological suggestion’ (Ibid). A point may yet come when ‘these motives may at any moment fail when revolting interests or sentiments are strong and passions run high, the governing body must have always the greatest military force at its command so as to overawe the constituent elements and prevent the outbreak of a disruptive civil war. Or if the civil war or rebellion comes about, as can always happen…then it must have so great a predominance of force behind it as to be morally sure of victory in the conflict. This can only be secured to the best possible perfection, -- it cannot be done absolutely except by an effective disarmament, -- if the whole military authority is centred in the central body and the whole actual or potential military force of the society subjected to its undivided control’ (Ibid, pg 475-476).

So long we have been dealing with the importance of military in maintaining the unity, integrity and security of a single nation or State. If we project the need of military unification from the life of a single nation to a global or World-State or to a global federation of nations, then its scope and denouement changes. A globalized world-order necessities a voluntary fusion of cultures, a marginalization of local sectarian sentiments, a transcending of national egoisms. ‘The peoples of the world already possess a loose and chaotic unity of life in which none can any longer lead an isolated , independent and self-dependent existence. Each feels in his culture, political tendencies and economic existence the influence and repercussion of events and movements in other parts of the world. Each already feels subtly or directly its separate life overshadowed by the life of the whole. Science, international commerce and the political and cultural penetration of Asia and Africa by the dominant West have been the agents of this great change’ (Ibid, pg 476). Sri Aurobindo noted that the time had come for the chaotic subconscious unity of the peoples of the world to be transcended by a more ‘visible and consecrated unity’ for such a loose unity would be unable to prevent great wars. In fact, he practically prophesized the Second World War when he wrote in August 1917: ‘Even in this loose unacknowledged and underlying unity the occurrence or possibility of great wars has become a powerful element of disturbance to the whole fabric, a disturbance that may one day become mortal to the race’ (Ibid).

Sri Aurobindo also makes an interesting observation that there were some loose and feeble and practically blundering devices that were construed prior to the European imbroglio which if even had been ‘tolerably effective’ would have minimized the collision of World War I but the disadvantage was that ‘the world might long have remained content with its present very unideal conditions and the pressing need of a closer international organization would not have enforced itself on the general mind of the race’(Ibid). He then gave a hint of an international organization needed to prevent the repetition of a global strife: ‘A means of keeping international peace and of creating an authority which shall have the power to dispose of dangerous international questions and prevent what from the new point view of human unity we may call civil war between the peoples of mankind, had somehow or other to be found or created’. The League of Nations was subsequently created on 10th January, 1920 and though it was short-lived (ceased operations in 1946), it did actually prevent a number of severe conflicts of which the notables were

(a) The conflict between Finland and Sweden over the ownership of the Aaland Islands by adjudicating that the island would remain with Finland but no weapons should ever be stored there(1921);

(b) The conflict between the citizens of Upper Silesia over the issue of being part of either Germany or Poland was settled by splitting Upper Silesia between Germany and Poland (1921);

(c) The conflict over the ownership of the Mermel port was settled by giving the area surrounding Mermel to Lithuania in lieu of making the port itself an international zone(1923)

(d) The border dispute between Greece and Bulgaria was mitigated by ordering both armies to stop fighting each other and asking the Greeks to pull out of Bulgaria and imposing fine on them(1925);

(e) The League failed to stop a bloody war in Turkey but for the first time unprecedented relief was administered to 1,400,000 refugees majority of whom were women and children (1923).

Date of Update: 28-Jun-16

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu