Limitations and Possible Directions for a League of Nations

The League of Nations concept was mixed with both idealism and vested interest playing a role; however, with the United States, the key proponent of the more idealistic democratic unification, not participating, the victors in the First World War, who remained imperial powers as well, were able to color the direction of the organization to meet their immediate goals, thus ensuring that the League of Nations would fail.

Had the League of Nations been able to implement the ideal solutions implied by the American idea of a union of free and independent nations, and incorporate the Russian ideal of the freedom of each grouping of humanity to choose its own independent form of governance, then an approach to a more ideal solution might have been possible.

The formation of the United Nations after the Second World War did not solve the inherent problems that brought down the League of Nations, due to the undue power and influence wielded by the permanent members of the Security Council and the lack of any true executive, legislative or judicial powers to enforce the will of the world-community.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The opportunist element was bound to take in its first form the legalisation of the map and political formation of the world as it emerged from the convulsion of the war.  Its idealistic side, if supported by the use of the influence of America in the League, could favour the increasing application of the democratic principle in its working and its result might be the final emergence of a United States of the world with a democratic Congress of the nations as its governing agency.”

“The legalisation might have the good effect of minimising the chances of war, if a real League of Nations proved practicable and succeeded, — even under the best conditions by no means a foregone conclusion.  But it would have the bad effect of tending to stereotype a state of things which must be in part artificial, irregular, anomalous and only temporarily useful.  Law is necessary for order and stability, but it becomes a conservative and hampering force unless it provides itself with an effective machinery for changing the laws as soon as circumstances and new needs make that desirable.  This can only happen if a true Parliament, Congress or free Council of the nations becomes an accomplished thing.”

“Meanwhile, how is the added force for the conservation of old principles to be counteracted and an evolution assured which will lead to the consummation desired by the democratic American ideal?  America’s presence and influence in such a League would not be sufficient for that purpose; for it would have at its side other influences interested in preserving the status quo and some interested in developing the imperialist solution.  Another force, another influence would be needed.  Here the Russian ideal, if truly applied and made a force, could intervene and find its justification.  For our purpose, it would be the most interesting and important of the three anti-imperialistic influences which Nature might throw as elements into her great crucible to reshape the human earth-mass for a yet unforeseen purpose.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 29, The Idea of a League of Nations, pp. 261-262