Democratic Government Does Not Prevent Militaristic Adventurism

People tend to assume that a democratic government, as opposed to a monarchical or autocratic government, will naturally embrace peace rather than war in its relationship with other nations.  While the internal affairs of a democratic nation may be responsive to the perceived needs of the populace, the external affairs seem to follow the historical patterns of the earlier monarchical rulers.  The relations of nations has remained tied to the desire or need to exercise control over neighboring countries, to have access to and control sources of raw materials and natural resources, and to create and maintain income through either taxation or, at the very least, through creation of markets for the goods and services of the conquering country.  Of course, the need to ensure one’s own borders and protect from invasion also has played a strong historical role.  Where  differences may crop up between the monarchy and the democracy is in the primary focus and goal sought in the process of using military might, and in the ability to marshal the development of military hardware and technology.   England provides a good case in point.  The development of a parliamentary system of representation, rather than control by the monarchy did not deter the development of the British Empire and its attempt to maintain military control over vast portions of the world to ensure its economic ascendancy.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “What are called democracies  are bourgeois States in the form either of a constitutional monarchy or a middle-class republic.  But everywhere the middle class has taken over with certain modifications the diplomatic habits, foreign policies and international ideas of the monarchical or aristocratic governments which preceded them.  This continuity seems to have been a natural law of the ruling class.”

“The monarchical or aristocratic State is political in its mentality and seeks first of all territorial aggrandisement and political predominance or hegemony among the nations, commercial aims are only a secondary preoccupation attendant on the other.  In the bourgeois State there is a reverse order; for it has its eye chiefly on the possession of markets, the command of new fields of wealth, the formation or conquest of colonies or dependencies which can be commercially and industrially exploited and on political aggrandisement only as a means for this more cherished object.  Moreover, the monarchical or aristocratic statesman turned to war as almost his first expedient.  As soon as he was dissatisfied with the response to his diplomacy, he grasped at the sword or the rifle.  The bourgeois statesman hesitates, calculates, gives a longer rope to diplomacy, tries to gain his ends by bargainings, arrangements, peaceful pressure, demonstrations of power.  In the end he is ready to resort to war, but only when these expedients have failed him and only if the end seems commensurate with the means and the great speculation of war promises a very strong chance of success and solid profit.  But on the other hand, the bourgeois-democratic State has developed a stupendous military organisation of which the most powerful monarchs and aristocracies could not dream.  And if this tends to delay the outbreak of large wars, it tends too to make their final advent sure and their proportions enormous and nowadays incalculable and immeasurable.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 24, The Need of Military Unification, pp  208-210