The causes of the First World War

National egoism remaining, the means of strife remaining,
its causes, opportunities, excuses will never be wanting. The
present war came because all the leading nations had long been
so acting as to make it inevitable; it came because there was a
Balkan imbroglio and a Near-Eastern hope and commercial and
colonial rivalries in Northern Africa over which the dominant
nations had been battling in peace long before one or more of
them grasped at the rifle and the shell. Sarajevo and Belgium
were mere determining circumstances; to get to the root causes
we have to go back as far at least as Agadir and Algeciras. From
Morocco to Tripoli, from Tripoli to Thrace and Macedonia,
from Macedonia to Herzegovina the electric chain ran with that
inevitable logic of causes and results, actions and their fruits
which we call Karma, creating minor detonations on its way
till it found the inflammable point and created that vast explosion
which has filled Europe with blood and ruins. Possibly
the Balkan question may be definitively settled, though that is
far from certain; possibly the definitive expulsion of Germany
from Africa may ease the situation by leaving that continent in
the possession of three or four nations who are for the present
allies. But even if Germany were expunged from the map and
its resentments and ambitions deleted as a European factor,
the root causes of strife would remain. There will still be an
Asiatic question of the Near and the Far East which may take
on new conditions and appearances and regroup its constituent
elements, but must remain so fraught with danger that if it is
stupidly settled or does not settle itself, it would be fairly safe to
predict the next great human collision with Asia as either its first
field or its origin. Even if that difficulty is settled, new causes
of strife must necessarily develop where the spirit of national
A First Step towards International Unity 391
egoism and cupidity seeks for satisfaction; and so long as it lives,
satisfaction it must seek and repletion can never permanently
satisfy it. The tree must bear its own proper fruit, and Nature is
always a diligent gardener.
Complete works of Sri Aurobindo Vol 25 p 390-391


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