27 May 2024

C. Wright Mills: The Causes of War


"War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it."

George Orwell, Facing Unpleasant Facts

War is hugely profitable.  It creates so much money because it's so easy to spend money very fast.  There are huge fortunes to be made.  So there is always an encouragement to promote war and keep it going, to make sure that we identify people who are 'others' whom we can legitimately make war upon.

Roger Waters, Concept Tour, Rolling Stone, 23 February 2017

An expensive arms race, under cover of the military metaphysic, and in a paranoid atmosphere of fright, is an economically attractive business. To many utopian capitalists, it has become the Business Way of Life.

In crackpot realism, a high-flying moral rhetoric is joined with an opportunist crawling among a great scatter of unfocused fears and demands.  The expectation of war solves many problems of the crackpot realists; it also confronts them with many new problems.

Yet these, the problems of war, often seem easier to handle.  They are out in the open: to produce more, to plan how to kill more of the enemy, to move materials thousands of miles.  So instead of the unknown fear, the anxiety without end, some men of the higher circles prefer the simplification of known catastrophe.

They know of no solutions to the paradoxes of the Middle East and Europe, the Far East and Africa except the landing of Marines.  Being baffled, and also being very tired of being baffled, they have come to believe that there is no way out—except war—which would remove all the bewildering paradoxes of their tedious and now misguided attempts to construct peace. In place of these paradoxes they prefer the bright, clear problems of war—as they used to be.  For they still believe that 'winning' means something, although they never tell us what.

The immediate cause of World War III is the military preparation of it.

Some men want war for sordid, others for idealistic, reasons; some for personal gain, others for impersonal principle.  But most of those who consciously want war and accept it, and so help to create its 'inevitability,' want it in order to shift the locus of their problems.

C. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War III, 1960