The Great Powers and Their Relations With Smaller Nations and the World-Order

Humanity has not evolved sufficiently to set up a system of inter-relationships based on ideals rather than on the exercise of power, whether overt or covert.  Even with the rise of organisations such as the United Nations, and the general assembly of almost 200 nations, it is obvious to any disinterested observer that a few great Powers exercise full control over the body, if not individually, then at least in their collective influence.  At any point in time, one or more of these great Powers may be the focus of various objections or resolutions, but in fact nothing can be done to them, first, because of the veto power they wield, and second, because of the outsize influence of their money, military power and economic influence which keeps allies or dependents from straying too far from the direction taken by the Power to whom they are beholden.  The ideal of a democratic assemblage of co-equal national partners deliberating on world issues and reaching harmonious and disinterested solutions is not in evidence at this point in time.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “Undoubtedly, the right of small nations to exit and assert their interests against imperialistic aggression is still a force… But the assertion of this right against the aggression of a single ambitious Power is one thing; its assertion as against any arrangement for the common interest of the nations decided upon by a majority of the great Powers would very likely in the near future be regarded in quite another light…. In any international system, the self-assertion of these smaller liberties would probably be viewed as a petty egoism and intolerable obstacle to great common interests, or, it may be, to the decision of conflicts between great world-wide interests.  It is probable indeed that in any constitution of international unity the great Powers would see to it that their voice was equal to their force and influence; but even if the constitution were outwardly democratic, yet in effect it would become an oligarchy of the great Powers.  Constitutions can only disguise facts, they cannot abrogate them: for whatever ideas the form of the constitution may embody, its working is always that of the actually realised forces which can use it with effect.  Most governments either have now or have passed through a democratic form, but nowhere yet has there been a real democracy; it has been everywhere the propertied and professional classes and the bourgeoisie who governed in the name of the people.  So too in any international council or control it would be a few great empires that would govern in the name of humanity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 15, Some Lines of Fulfilment, pg. 130