Issues in the Management and Resolution of Disputes Between Nations

Humanity has tested the idea of controlling armaments and armies as a means to control warfare and the destruction attendant on it.  These tests, however, have failed.  After the First World War, a strict control was placed on Germany as to its weaponry and its military force; yet this did not prevent Adolf Hitler, when he came to power, from building up the air force, army and navy and developing, training and fielding an incredibly powerful military might that became the effective instrument of his attempt to conquer through warfare in Europe.

Sri Aurobindo explains the cause of this type of failure:  “Even if there could be found an effective international means of control, it would cease to operate as soon as the clash of war actually came.  The European conflict has shown that, in the course of a war, a country can be turned into a huge factory of arms and a nation convert its whole peaceful manhood into an army.”  What was true for World War I was equally true for World War II.  “This object-lesson is sufficient to show that the limitation of armies and armaments can only lighten the national burden in peace, leaving it by that very fact more resources for the conflict, but cannot prevent or even minimise the disastrous intensity and extension of war.”

He turns then to the idea that, just as the nation develops laws to manage the relations internally of its citizens, there could be some kind of international protocol set up analogously to manage the disputes and relations between nations.  “Nor will the construction of a stronger international law with a more effective sanction behind it be an indubitable or a perfect remedy.  it is often asserted that this is what is needed; just as in the nation Law has replaced and suppressed the old barbaric method of settling disputes between individuals, families or clans by the arbitration of Might, a similar development ought to be possible in the life of nations.  Perhaps in the end; but to expect it to operate successfully at once is to ignore both the real basis of the effective authority of Law and the difference between the constituents of a developed nation and the constituents of that ill-developed international comity which it is proposed to initiate.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 14, The Possibility of a First Step towards International Unity – Its Enormous Difficulties, pg. 121