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Signs of the Third World War’s Beginning in “The Power Elite” by W.Mills Essay


Mills points out in the article that there are signs of the beginning of the Third World War in case things are not changed within the society in the nearest future. He further notes that the accumulation of firearms and the establishment of the military industry would cause tension in the international system.

He believed that other countries would develop strategies to counter the influence of the US in the global economy. One of the strategies would consist in attacking the US using nuclear weapons (Mills 17). Economic interests of the US would lead to a number of conflicts in the international system. In fact, he argued that the US would not be in the delivering end, but instead in the receiving end.

According to Mills, the Third World War would spark off because of the failure of the United States to resolve the nuclear crisis. The dominance of the military forces in the economic and political lives of people would cause a number of problems. In this regard, Goertzel observes that there is no tool that can be used in measuring the power of a group, meaning that the military cannot be strong as compared to other organs of the country, such as the executive ones.

The only way to determine the success of a group is to evaluate its ability in controlling the economy. On the other hand, groups have different interests, not limiting themselves to economic interests. Therefore, the two scholars’ views differ in a number of ways, which are analyzed in this article.

Mills discussed a number of issues in his work “The Power Elite,” which highlight the relationships of various social classes in the sphere of politics and economics. In the article, Mills observes that the political and economic elites in the society are unanimous about the fact that power and authority should be centralized. This would perhaps help the elites in controlling the affairs of the society.

For the power to be centralized within the country, there should be strong military, whereby the military would be recognized as the most powerful organ in the society. Three arms of government, including the executive, legislature, and judiciary ones should respect the military.

In other words, the three arms of government must be in formal terms with the military for all of them to develop consistently. However, elites are concerned with self-interest, but not the interests of the society as such. The elites would maintain a permanent economy with a focus on war; they use the military to maintain a capitalistic economy. The media is also a tool of the capitalists, which is used for spreading propaganda.

Mills highlights that elites within the society control the political and economic aspects of life. In this case, they ensure that the military is strong enough. When the military is strong, the elites can use it to obtain anything they want. For instance, the military is used to achieve the interests of the elites in oversees countries.

The author provides an example of how the military was used to achieve the interests of the elites in Vietnam. The elites realized that communism was taking roots in other parts of the world. This was a threat since capitalism would lose its position within the global society. Therefore, the military was used to safeguard the interests of the ruling class in the global society. American capitalists have various investments in various countires, including Vietnam (Wolfe 29).

Even though Mills supports his ideas with examples, Goertzel notes that a group cannot have just a single interest. The interests of the elites cannot be simply economic; they must also noneconomic interests, such as spreading the American culture and their ideals. The military’s main objective is to increase the income of the country, which can only be accomplished when enemies are kept at bay. Moreover, the formation of military complexes cannot be interpreted to mean that the military is the supreme organ of the country.

The military has been receiving a diminutive funding in the last thirty years as compared to other country agencies. In the last thirty years, Goertzel emphasizes that military spending has gone down by a huge percentage. During the Korean War, the military spending amounted to thirteen percent of the gross national product (GNP). At the time when Mills published his works, military spending had gone down by ten percent.

During the Vietnam War, the government allocated nine percent to the military. Mills pinpoints that the Third World War is inevitable because the military is fully prepared. War is an expensive issue that demands billions of dollars from the government. The government has always funded military operations whenever the findings of experts suggest that the American population is in danger.

The budget shows that the US military has never prepared for any war. Each year, the budget suggests that the government is committed to improving the living standards of the poor by funding social programs, such as education and social welfare programs. The government allocates over forty percent of its funds to social programs such as caring for the elderly and supporting the educational needs of the disadvantaged students (Schwartz and Derber 42).

Mills observes the idea of accumulation of weapons mainly belongs to the elites. The elites want to use the weapons to further their interests. However, Goertzel opposes this view by noting that the development in the international system necessitated the creating of the military empire (Goertzel 243).

During the Vietnam War, the American voters noted that it was the role of the government to ensure that Americans were protected internally and externally. The citizens petitioned the government to come up with strategies that would guarantee security.

The government adopted one of the strategies; it was the strategy of weapon manufacturing. The military officials claimed that Lyndon Johnson was the one who instructed the American troops to invade Vietnam, but not the military generals. The US invaded Vietnam mainly because of political and ideological reasons. However, Mills stands firm by claiming that the US troops could not be deployed to Vietnam if it were not for the interests of the ruling class.

Realists would argue that the US could not intervene in the international crisis if its national interests were not achieved. After the war, the ruling class benefited because it established industries and other businesses in the conquered state. During Reagan’s regime, the military engaged in the armament process after the committee on security noted that America was in danger of being attacked.

Mills could employ the realism theory to defend his view. According to the theory, the international system is characterized by anarchy and tension. Countries do not trust each other, which in turn leads to constant tension and conflict among them. Realists observe that the only actor in the international system is a country.

The public cannot control foreign policy because the process is considered as high politics. On the other hand, the country is the property of the ruling class. Marx noted that the country is a committee of the ruling class. This proves that the ruling class controls the affairs of the state, both domestically and internationally. In the formulation of the foreign policy, public opinion is always ruled out meaning that foreign policy formulators do not consider ethics.

The American elites have always influenced the foreign policy formulation process as suggested by Mills. The strength of the military is extremely beneficial as far as the interests of the elites are concerned. The ruling class cannot claim to be strong yet the military of its country is extremely weak (Howe 192). Therefore, the representatives of the ruling class have to ensure that the military is strengthened forever.

Even though the budget does not reflect the government’s commitment towards strengthening the military, other means could be used to strengthen the military. For instance, the government invested heavily in the information technology sector after the Second World War. In fact, the role of strengthening the sector was allocated to the defense department. In other words, the funds allocated to the technology sector belonged to the military.

Mills observes that the Third World War would break out due to the accumulation of arms. His statement is true to some extent because accumulation of arms led to proxy wars during the Cold War. The US supported various groups in various countries.

The US could not engage in war because the international system could not allow it. The UN Security Council was keen on ensuring that a large-scale war does not happen. The council resolved many conflicts that could have led to a large-scale war similar to the First and the Second World Wars.

Works Cited

Goertzel, Ted. “The Causes of World War III: Thirty Years Later.” Sociological Forum 4.2 (1989): 241-246. Print.

Howe, Irving. “Review of the Causes of World War III.” Dissent 6.1 (1959):191-196. Print.

Mills, Wright. The Power Elite. New York: Oxford, 1956. Print.

Schwartz, William, and C. Derber. “Arms control: Misplaced focus.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 42.3 (1986):39-44. Print.

Wolfe, Alan. The Rise and fall of the Soviet Threat: Domestic Sauces of the Cold War Consensus. Boston: South End Press, 1984. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, May 7). Signs of the Third World War's Beginning in “The Power Elite” by W.Mills. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/world-war-iii/

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"Signs of the Third World War's Beginning in “The Power Elite” by W.Mills." IvyPanda, 7 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/world-war-iii/.

1. IvyPanda. "Signs of the Third World War's Beginning in “The Power Elite” by W.Mills." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/world-war-iii/.


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IvyPanda. "Signs of the Third World War's Beginning in “The Power Elite” by W.Mills." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/world-war-iii/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Signs of the Third World War's Beginning in “The Power Elite” by W.Mills." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/world-war-iii/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Signs of the Third World War's Beginning in “The Power Elite” by W.Mills'. 7 May.

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