Yunlong Li November 11, 2012 C. Wright Mills and His Understanding of the Cold War/WWIII Authors and historians have attempted to understand what caused and perpetuated the Cold War for decades. Although it is not a simple answer with simple component reasons, this brief essay will seek to explain to the reader a few of the main reasons why the Cold War transpired as it did and what mechanisms kept it going. As a means of understanding the Cold War, the author of the essay has reviewed the writings of C.
Wright Mill with relation to this topic as well as various other authors who have been cited and referenced in the below analysis. Before delving into the subject matter and trying to understand what caused and perpetuated the Cold War, it is worth first pointing out some of the factually incorrect information that surrounds many common approaches to the Cold War. The first, and perhaps most prominent of these faulty points of view, is that the Cold War was thrust upon the United States by a dangerous and overly aggressive Soviet Union after the conclusion of World War II.
This view is faulty due to the fact that both superpowers that emerged after the Second World War were inherently distrustful of the other. Furthermore, it can be seen that the power structure that emerged put both actors on a collision course with respect to the fact that the economic systems championed by both the United States and the Soviet Union were inherently against one another.
As such, it can be understood as a self-fulfilling prophecy that both sides would come into conflict with each other (Goertzel 243). In this way, it can be understood that it was not either necessarily the fact that the United States or the Soviet Union was actively aggressive that ensured that the two powers would come at odds with one another; rather it was their inherent differences in political systems, ideology, economics, and the fact that they were both superpowers intent on dominating the world system.
Perhaps the most interesting idea that Mills put forward was the idea of what ultimately kept the peace between the United States and the Soviet Union during periods of extreme pressure and stress that occurred during the Cold War. Mills claimed that a hierarchy of power elite were the true actors behind the scenes that worked to ensure a full confrontation between the two superpowers would never translate into an actuality (Marino 29). These power elite”, as Mills called them, were the executive branch (president of the United States), top Pentagon military leaders, and the corporate rich. Although this view definitely bears some truth, the fact of the matter is that such an oversimplification does not factor in to account the key players in the Soviet Union that also sought to keep the conflict from coming to a head to head confrontation. Mills goes on to state that one of the largest reasons that would precipitate World War III would be the fact that both sides were in such a dire state of preparedness for such a conflict.
This particular view is interesting due to the fact that many authors have listed this preparation as one of the reasons that the two sides did not actually come to blows (Warner 174). Although hindsight is of course perfect, Mills seemed to believe that the process of preparing for such a conflict would mean that the two sides would be left with a type of self-fulfilling prophecy as well as a broad range of advanced weaponry which would guarantee that the two would come to blows in the form of a Third World War.
More specifically, Mills saw the advent of new weapons systems and the way in which the military industrial complex continued to push for an escalation in the conflict as proof positive that the momentum for all out war was definitely evident. Many authors claim that Mills particular view of the way in which the Soviet Union and the United States would come into conflict as a result of the tensions created by the factors that have been listed was not the result of the fact that he truly believed this to be true but due to the fact that he was attempting to agitate political change within the United States.
Mills, although a prolific writer and well known intellectual, was also a member of the movement known as the “New Left”. This particular movement subscribed to the view that the military and key elements of the power elite had entirely too much power over the way in which policy decisions were being made and the common man/electorate was less and less important in determining the future of the nation.
Accordingly, authors have attempted to show that rather than showing his true position on the Cold War and what might occur as a result of the political actions that were taking place at the time, Mills instead sought to create a movement for change within the current political structure by engaging academics and intellectuals in realizing that the current course could only lead to conflict and destruction of all systems equally.
Yet another alternate view states that the true allure and appeal of the Cold War was a solidifying effect for American and Soviet leaders. As they were able to present to their people and electorates that an existential threat existed outside of their own system, they were able to elicit levels of patriotism, belief, and economic efficiency/utility that would not have otherwise been able to be realized (Saull 1124).
As a result of the fact that the leadership of both systems recognized and valued the importance that such a bi-polar view of the world effected on their populations, both sides were no doubt at least partially interested in keeping up the appearance of sudden confrontation as a means to manage their people and direct the overall efficiency of their economies. All of the guess work and alternate theories deserve their place; however, just because the theories of MAD and the deterrence that other strategic decisions that were made by both sides encouraged more level heads to prevail during this chilled conflict.
Merely due to the fact that a theory is old and has been tested and measured thousands of times does not require that a new theory should be put in its place (Roberts 1476). Accordingly, although many of Mills points bear analysis, it would be premature and reckless to put these theories in place of the time-tested and proven theories that have for so long helped to define the logic of why the United States and Soviet Union were able to keep the peace between themselves during the turbulent years surrounding the Cold War.
What is important to understand from the preceding analysis is not whether C Wright Mills or any other theorists were correct; rather, understanding the different ways that these theorists and philosophers/political intellectuals saw the interplay between these superpowers and the subsequent conflict or lack of conflict it predicted helps the researcher to both understand and appreciate the differing levels of thought that helped to nuance and develop our current understanding of the conflict surrounding the Cold War.
In this way, trying to prove or disprove C Wright Mill’s views with relation to whether or not he was ultimately correct in the way he categorized and defined unique developments between these two superpowers becomes of secondary importance to attempting to understanding the causal historical factors that helped to develop the world view he works to give to the reader. Works Cited Goertzel, Ted G. "The Causes Of World War III: Thirty Years Later. " Sociological Forum 4. 2 (1989): 241. Academic Search Complete.
Web. 7 Nov. 2012. Marino, Noel. The arms trade. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Roberts, Geoffrey. "The Cold War As History. " International Affairs 87. 6 (2011): 1475-1484. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. Saull, Richard. "Social Conflict And The Global Cold War. " International Affairs 87. 5 (2011): 1123-1140. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. Warner, Geoffrey. "The Cold War In Retrospect. " International Affairs 87. 1 (2011): 173-184. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.