War and Militarism: A Sociological Perspective

As the sole remaining superpower, the United States has based a foundation off of the necessity to act on any strategy or tactic that will keep it at the top.  War is a conflict between nations often aimed at pursuing a political message; despite its massive costs on individuals, property and society, war remains a common way to execute political objectives. The act of war and militarism is an extremely controversial subject, often subject to bias and strict opinion by differing social groups. While an order theorist would claim that war provides jobs, enhances the economy, and protects our country, a conflict theorist would argue that war does nothing but reinforces inequalities, both domestic and international, and promote the power elite.

            War can have grave effects on both human society and the environment, and the consequences of such militarism could be catastrophic. The United States maintains the worlds top superpower position, unparalleled in human history; this power makes us a momentous threat to smaller and less developed countries. Wartime efforts could ultimately affect the individual by segregating minority classes internally, while blatantly and unnecessarily overpowering the less prepared countries internationally. Conflict theorists posit that war is nothing more than a way of reinforcing inequalities and stereotypes among the class system; they believe that war is an effort made by the rich to control and dominate groups of minorities while maintaining their power both nationally and internationally. In concurrence with this view, a feminist theory would allege the inequalities women face through war and militarism. Women are often looked down upon and reviled by their male peers in the military; male soldiers ordinarily abuse and assault their fellow female soldiers, reinforcing male dominance in war and the military. War and militarism also trigger environmental consequences; small towns, cities, and entire countries are being demolished through the devastating effects of war. The military is the largest institutional source of pollution in the world; war will often destroy eco-systems and terminate entire species in times of war. While the reinforcement of inequalities and endangerment of the natural environment may only be two examples of consequences brought upon by war and militarism, many more devastating effects take place all around the world as the United States, and other powerful nations, continue to fortify their ultimate power.

            The substructure of war spurs from economics and politics. Terrorism by war and international acts of violence are both expedients of attempting to accomplish political objectives. Order theorists contend that the economy increases during periods of war; this theory is supported by the evidence that has shown an increase in the economy prompting advancements in technology, consequently resulting in more government money spent and more lives lost. Summarized by order theorists, sustaining war means an increase in the economy. Politics are also executed in times of war. Politicians benefit from war and militarism because society perceives them as tough on nationalism and serious against our conflict with the “enemy.” This is an example of class inequalities in terms of who benefits from war and who does not; those with more money attain higher positions in the military where they are more likely to see benefits, while those in lower classes of society are placed on the battle front and will seldom see any benefits. Politics are the most crucial catalyst to war. While the economy stimulates the level of progression and success of war, such war would not be eminent in the first place without the effects of international political conflict.

            Not much can be done on the individual level to aid the process of war moderation. However, on the global scale, by forming alliances and treaties among neighboring and friendly countries, peace is not completely unimaginable. In 2002, the G-8, a group of allied countries that coordinate their actions so they are able to preserve their global dominance, was formed. The G-8 is currently our strongest force for peace – if allied countries were able to agree on world markets and trade barriers, it would provide a deterrence from going to war in the first place. Alliances like these show the many societies that span our globe working together to become a functioning society. The functionalist perspective of peace efforts and alliances extends the importance of cooperation and group effort in achieving world peace.

            Trends representing our future exemplify the deterioration of national borders – they are becoming less and less significant. Allied groups such as the North American Free-Trade-Association (NAFTA), and the European Union (EU), among many others have bestowed hope for international relief through allied forces, eliminating the need for war and militarism. Regardless of the obstacles we might face on the path to obtaining worldwide unity, the overall trend shows unity through the elimination of national boarders and increasing cross-national confederate groups. If this effort for peaceful globalization were to become a reality, the modernization view of order theory, in which counties pass through different stages and ultimately become integrated into the top tier global capitalist society, would be irrelevant – while there would still be more powerful and more developed countries, we would not have to focus on the dangers or conflicts regarding the hierarchy of global power.