Chapter XXIV Part VI
The Need of Military Unification
A League of Peace
The League of Nations was formally proposed in the aftermath of the World War I at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 though the idea of a peaceful community of nations was in vogue for a long time. Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, a political thinker of Great Britain had coined the term ‘League of Nations’ in 1914 and in 1915 he wrote in a pamphlet titled ‘After the War’ about his concept of the ‘League of Peace’ which would be an umbrella organization of several nations for arbitration and conciliation. Sri Aurobindo who even amidst his intense mystical pursuit kept himself abreast of contemporary political events mused on ‘A League of Peace’ in 1917 as a means of establishing a military unification of the world despite the uncertainty of resolving conflicting national egoisms. He of course had the practical sense that such a league would merely prevent armed strife for a temporary period and the whole foundation could tumble under certain exigencies:
(a) Firstly, any system of enforced arbitration, ‘even with the threat of a large armed combination against the offender may minimise the chance of war and may absolutely forbid it to the smaller or weaker nations; but a great nation which sees a chance of making itself the centre of a strong combination of peoples interested in upsetting the settled order of things for their own benefit, might always choose to take the risks of the adventure in the hope of snatching advantages which in its estimation outweighed the risks’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 481)
(b) Secondly, ‘in times of great upheaval and movement when large ideas, enormous interests and inflamed passions divide the peoples of the world, the whole system would likely to break to pieces and the very elements of its efficacy would cease to exist’(Ibid) .
Sri Aurobindo speculated, ‘The creation of a real, efficient and powerful authority which would stand for the general sense and the general power of mankind in its collective life and spirit and would be something more than a bundle of vigorously separate States loosely tied together by the frail bond of a violable moral agreement is the only effective step possible on this path. Whether such an authority can really be created by agreement, whether it must not rather create itself partly by the growth of ideas, but still more by the shock of forces, is a question to which the future alone can answer (Ibid, pg 481-482).
Psychological assent and Moral authority
A league of nations to be successful needed to subsist on the psychological assent of the populace of the nations covered and this would in turn determine both the nature and power of the moral authority exercised on the peoples constituting the league. This moral authority over nations would be a smooth sailing affair if the socio-cultural milieu and political patronage was psychologically conducive for reconciliation of national egoisms. If such a conducive psychological build-up was not forthcoming, a League of Nations would have to maintain its viability and credibility by a twin programme of ‘greater concentration and show of military force at its back’ on one hand and on the other hand by increased activism aimed at the socio-cultural development of the masses akin to the type of intensive socio-cultural services rendered by Imperial Rome to its consenting subjects overriding the differences of myriad nations constituting the empire.
Thus constituted, a League of Peace would not only ‘be a symbol and a centre of the unity of the race, but make itself constantly serviceable to the world by assuring the effective maintenance and development of large common interests which would outweigh all separate national interests and satisfy entirely the sense of need that had brought it into existence. It must help more and more to fix the growing sense of a common humanity and a common life in which the sharp divisions which separate country from country, race from race, colour from colour, continent from continent would gradually lose their force and undergo a progressive effacement. Given these conditions, it would develop a moral authority which would enable it to pursue with less and less opposition and friction the unification of mankind’ (Ibid, pg 482).
The League of Nations and the Nobel Peace Prize
Subsequent events vindicated Sri Aurobindo’s musings and extensive efforts by President Woodrow Wilson of USA along with Lord Robert Cecil, lawyer and diplomat and Jan Smuts, a Commonwealth statesman contributed to the creation of the League of Nations which Sri Aurobindo had termed in consonance with Dickinson as the League of Peace. The final covenant of the League of Nations was signed by 44 states on the 28th of June, 1919.President Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts though the USA could not join the League due to opposition of the American Senate.( It is another unrelated but significant fact with unseen mystic implications that President Wilson’s eldest daughter Margaret later became a close associate of Sri Aurobindo and an inmate of his Ashram where she was re-named in Sanskrit as Nistha – the dedicated).
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu