Commercial Competitive Interests in the Absence of True Unity Inevitably Bring About War

The economic interdependence of nations has one effect of helping bring people together and help them realize their inter-relationships.  However, as long as people identify with separate nations, separate economic system, and cultural and religious backgrounds, the economic fusion cannot be sufficient to maintain peace.   Successful world trade requires a certain economic stability and operates best in an environment free from the disruption of war.  At the same time, if one nation or bloc feels that it is being ill-served by the trade relationships, or if it sees that it has military power sufficient to gain ascendancy over materials and markets, it has then an incentive to start a war, if necessary, to attain its objectives.  The warfare may begin on the economic level, with tariff barriers, restrictive trade rules and obstacles set up, and then matched by the other nations, but eventually, any stalemate on the economic level generally brings about the later employment of military force.  The history of the colonial empires and the wars fought to maintain and expand them is an example of this principle.  Even in today’s world, we see headlines about trade imbalances, exchange rate manipulation, trade embargoes and retaliatory tariffs being enacted.  Should negotiations fail to resolve these increasingly harsh measures, military conflict becomes highly probable.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…because the organised units were politically separate and rival nations, their commercial interrelations became relations of rivalry and strife or rather a confused tangle of exchange and interdependence and hostile separatism.  Self-defense against each other by a wall of tariffs, a race for closed markets and fields of exploitation, a struggle for place or predominance in markets and fields which could not be monopolised and an attempt at mutual interpenetration in spite of tariff walls have been the chief features of this hostility and this separatism.  The outbreak of war under such conditions was only a matter of time; it was bound to come as soon as one nation or else one group of nations felt itself either unable to proceed farther by pacific means or threatened with the definite limitation of its expansion by the growing combination of its rivals.”

“War is no longer the legitimate child of earth-hunger, but the bastard offspring of wealth-hunger or commercialism with political ambition as its putative father.”

The rise of the multi-national corporation, no longer bound to one nation, has allowed corporate manipulation of nation against nation with respect to agricultural and trade goods and markets, and thus allowed tensions to be exacerbated as farmers, workers or businessmen in one nation are subject to new competitive pressures incited by the efforts of multi-national corporations, which leads to political pressure being exerted for action.  The concentration of wealth in a very few hands globally further accentuates the kind of manipulation that can play off one nation against another.  During the 1950’s American President Eisenhower gave a grave warning about the perils of the rise of what he termed the “military-industrial complex”.  We see this “complex” at work in the world today and the entire world is now under tremendous pressure and on the brink of full-scale economic or military warfare if cooler heads do not prevail.  Already proxy wars are being fought in various corners of the world and many millions of refugees have been created which put pressure on nations throughout the world on top of the economic and political pressures they are already facing.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 219-220