Some would say that World War III is overdue. If one looks at the basic reasons for the first two world wars, one might get pretty worried about the present situation.
There have been wars as long as one organization of people has had something worth stealing by another organization. Even some of our classically peaceful, nature loving Native Americans raided one another from time to time.
Capitalism Changed Everything
But capitalism and the modern capitalist nation changed everything, including the nature of war. By 1914, war wasn’t about one-upping another nation, exacting revenge, or even acquiring territory. The first world war came about because the industrialized nations had economically taken over the entire world. The only way any of them could continue to expand was at the expense of the others.
And capitalist economies have to expand. The simple way to explain that may not be theoretically correct, but it’s easy to understand: To make a profit, the capitalist has to sell his product for more than it cost to make it. The workers within his own economy only have what he paid them, which was less than his necessary selling/buying price. So his economy has to grow, somewhere, somehow.
For a better, more exact explanation of imperialism under capitalism, read Marx or, even better, Lenin.
World War II may seem more complicated because of the way they maneuvered to destroy the Soviet Union, but it had essentially the same cause. What did Hitler want? More “room,” Liebensraum!
Americans Have Had It Easy
Most Americans alive today grew up in a very strange period of history. The United States came out of World War II with almost the only productive power on the planet. American capitalists literally dominated everything. Here at home, it seemed like a natural state of affairs, but it wasn’t. It was a weird period, and it distorted our point of view.
By the early 1970s, the world economic situation was different. American cars no longer dominated the streets of the world. Volkswagens and Hondas appeared in our home towns. People laughed at first.
But President Nixon’s administration re-organized the world monetary system to deal with the new situation. The United States continued to dominate and continues today. But when the U.S. capitalists lost their war in Vietnam, a trend of change was apparent to more people.
Where Will They Expand To Now?
Today, the U.S. continues to dominate economically and militarily. But, on the economic side, others are approaching. The Chinese have the second largest economy. The combined Europeans and the Japanese are in competition, too. Where will any of those big capitalist economies expand?
The U.S. is bombing like crazy to hang onto their oil-rich countries. The Chinese are actually building new islands in the South China sea. There are no answers to the questions there. Each of the three major capitalist centers are building trade associations to try to improve their economic clout in opposition to the others.
So, Why No Third World War?
So far, the competing capitalists have only attacked their own workers. In driving down production costs and raising profits, they have slammed us with austerity programs and hit themselves with generous tax giveaways. In theory, they can only go so far with that. Once they have reduced their working class to slavery and starvation, no further profits can be made.
Sane people will never start a Third World War. The first and second world wars took place before the capitalist governments had the ability to destroy the world. Even if the economic conditions that underlay the first and second world wars were met, no rational system would start a third.
The problem is, capitalism isn’t a rational system.