Commentary Magazine


A Politics of Peace:
Reflections on C. Wright Mills's “The Causes of World War III

Is there an alternative to the bi-partisan foreign policy framed by Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles? H. Stuart Hughes, professor of history at Harvard, sketches one here.

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For the past decade C. Wright Mills has been a very special phenomenon on the American intellectual horizon. As the author of three probing and impassioned studies of our contemporary society—the series beginning with The New Men of Power and running through White Collar to The Power Elite—he has bulked too large to be dismissed out of hand. Yet no one—neither scholar nor publicist—seems to have known quite how to take him. Thus the reception of his books has always been unpredictable: it has oscillated wildly between academic boycott and succès de scandale, with little in between in the way of serious consideration of his ideas in their own terms. More than anything else it has been a reaction of embarrassment. For what chiefly distinguishes Mr. Mills is his talent for writing about embarrassing things in an embarrassing fashion.

A moralist who has chosen to put on the ill-fitting garment of the systematic theoretician of society, Mr. Mills is a sport and a deviant among American sociologists. His colleagues quite correctly belabor him for his imprecise research methods and his weakness for emotional language. And he has returned the compliment by taxing them for their failure to deal with really large social issues. “The poor man’s David Riesman,” he has sometimes been called, and the epithet, for all the injustice it does to both men, is substantially accurate. It suggests that both are concerned with assessing the new type of American society whose outlines have emerged in the past twenty or thirty years—a society variously characterized in terms of “mass,” “conformity,” “other-direction,” or “suburbia.” In the same fashion the comparison draws attention to the things that radically separate the two men: Riesman directs his attention primarily to the new middle class, his tone is urbane and humorous, and he finds positive possibilities for individual “autonomy” in the social changes he sees going on around him; Mills has an unfashionable concern for the urban poor, his tone is angry and explosive, and he is quite sure that the current course of events is both depressing and dangerous.

At the very least, Mr. Mills has had something important to say in every one of his books. It has frequently been spun out at unnecessary length, but as present standards of writing go, the net result has been an extraordinary achievement. His has been the role of the naughty little boy blurting out the truth about the emperor’s disarray, and he has played the part with gusto. Hence it is a considerable intellectual event when he comes at last to say his piece on the state of our country’s foreign relations.

Mr. Mills’s new book, The Causes of World War Three,1 is just as dishevelled as its predecessors. If anything, it is even more disorganized and repetitious. Once again we find the same old Mills weaknesses—a cumbersome style, cluttered with unnecessary sociological verbiage, a windy, hortatory tone, and an alternation between over-compactness and tedious elaboration in argument. Like his other works, this one gives the impression of having been written in a rush—although his friends know that Mr. Mills actually takes great pains with his writing. Basically the problem seems to lie in some irremediable difficulty of mental formation; the thought emerges in massive, indigestible blobs—it is constitutionally unable to flow clearly or evenly.

Yet once again, as in the past, in The Causes of World War Three Mr. Mills has something arresting and important to say. And once again it is something that no one else seems to be saying—or at least in so forthright and explicit a fashion. In a year that has seen the Lebanon intervention, the flareup over Quemoy, and the reopening of the Berlin question, a book of this sort deserves something more than the barely polite brush-off that it has been getting from some of the critics.

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Stripped of its digressions and the occasional theoretical disquisitions that adorn it, Mr. Mills’s argument runs as follows: within American society and government as they are now organized—just as in the Soviet system—there exist a “thrust” and a “drift” toward war that are all but irresistible. This thrust is clearly implied in the metaphysical assumptions underlying American public discourse. It is apparent in the “crackpot realism” that judges every issue in terms of military competition—and yet has “no image of what ‘victory’ might mean, and no idea of any road to victory.” It is condoned and excused with conventional phrases about “fate,” “good intentions,” and problems too big for the human mind to master. For this sort of justification of intellectual and moral mediocrity, Mr. Mills has nothing but outraged scorn. “Not ‘fate’ but doctrinaire incompetence,” he argues, “is leading mankind into the great trap.”

If things go wrong with us—as they do most of the time—then someone should be held accountable. In place of the “dead-beat notion of ‘tragic responsibility’ ”—a theologian’s trick for shifting the blame from individuals to vaguer collectivities—we need a clear view of who our leaders are and what it is that they are up to. Thus Mr. Mills is led right back to the major themes of his Power Elite. Our rulers, he reminds us, are no longer the sort of people that the American political tradition presupposes—small-town lawyers and such-like local “notables.” Today they are much more likely to be military figures or large corporation executives. Indeed, it is an informal coalition of these two groups that currently dominates American government and public life. And the two other elements that logically should limit and control this power concentration are both lacking—a “professional senior civil service” and an alert, well-informed public. In place of the former, we have routine administrators without the social status and the sense of corporate solidarity essential to their job; where the latter should be, we have a vast realm of indifference sporadically mobilized to advance a few “entrenched and provincial demands.” “More and more, fundamental crises never come to any point of decision before the Congress, much less before the electorate in party campaigns.”

The political parties have defaulted. They no longer perform their function of “representing and clarifying alternative policies.” The press and the other mass media are even more obviously in default. Hence a greater responsibility than ever has fallen on the independent intellectuals. But when we come to look at these, we find that they too are shirking their job. Most of them are no longer truly independent: an enormous proportion of the natural scientists are tending the government-financed “science machine” that exists primarily for war purposes; their colleagues in the social and humanistic disciplines perform as amateur Machiavellis, skilled at clothing the realities of power in the rhetoric of liberalism. And the clergy are even more shockingly unequal to their task: they seem to have become incapable of strong moral reaction to the assumptions of mass obliteration underlying American military policy—witness the almost total absence of protest against American pilots’ napalm bomb tactics, the “petroleum-jelly broiling of children and women and men” during the Korean war.

But for all the fault he finds in them, it is to the intellectuals and the clergy that Mr. Mills directs his appeal. They alone, he argues, can restore the radical spirit to American public life—can replace the flabby accommodations of present-day liberalism with something that has bite and character. They alone can begin to return what is partisan and divisive (the italics are Mr. Mills’s own) to the center of the public stage from which the politics of national consensus has for so long barred it. The intellectuals’ influence, Mr. Mills grants, is not very great. But he finds it considerably greater than most intellectuals imagine. And this influence, he asserts, will automatically increase if the professors and writers themselves begin to act as though their voices might carry to a wide public. “Each of us,” he pleads, “ought to act as if he were a political party.” Each should “act on the assumption” that he is “called upon to state issues, to judge men and events, to formulate policies” on all major public questions.

Hence the program with which Mr. Mills concludes his book is one of spiritual demobilization on the part of the intellectuals. It is a call for each of them to make his “own separate peace” with his opposite numbers in Communist-dominated or neutralist lands. It includes a whole series of novel and imaginative measures for promoting cultural exchange, for lifting ideological barriers, and for developing technical and educational facilities in formerly colonial areas. Underlying it all, and sometimes only implied in the argument, is a demand for progressive unilateral disarmament on the part of the United States.

It is here that the average reader will doubtless throw up his hands. And it is here that I personally find myself at a sticking point. Thus this is the logical place for a shift from recapitulation to analysis, for an attempt to separate the good sense from the fantasy in Mr. Mills’s compelling argument.

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Most of Mr. Mills’s dissection of our current situation I find quite unexceptionable. Take out the note of anger and of outrage (and perhaps it is impossible to write of such desperately serious matters without an undercurrent of emotion stealing in) and you have a chillingly accurate diagnosis of our present ills. Our country is indeed “an overdeveloped society full of ugly waste and the deadening of human sensibility, honoring ignorance and the cheerful robot, pronouncing the barren doctrine and submitting gladly, even with eagerness, to the uneasy fun of a leisureless and emptying existence.” It is true that “in structural trend and in official action” the United States and the Soviet Union are becoming “increasingly alike.” It is true that nearly all our present leaders are smug incompetents. It is true that an effective public opinion has almost ceased to exist. It is true that most of our intellectuals are timid specialists without the imagination to give warning of the abyss toward which we are heading.

I do not know whether it is actually the case that an interlocking directorate of generals and large business executives wields the decisive influence in most of our public concerns. But nothing that I have observed in the past half decade would lead me to argue the contrary. Nowhere have I found a convincing refutation of the underlying thesis of Mr. Mills’s The Power Elite. By this I do not mean to suggest that there has been any sort of concerted conspiracy on the part of the military and the leadership of the major industrial corporations—and I do not believe that Mr. Mills means to suggest anything of the sort. I think that this process has been a hit-or-miss affair, arising from a fortuitous similarity of view on the part of the two groups in question and from a vast default on the part of nearly everybody else. But however unplanned this take-over of authority may have been, it is undeniable that the net result is a situation in which the overwhelming majority of our leaders accept (and indeed have a kind of vested interest in) the metaphysic of the arms race and of the permanent cold war.

Where I begin to differ from Mr. Mills is in finding “thrust” (in his own sense of “explicit decisions”) far less important than “drift” in the current course of our foreign relations. Here the lessons of last September’s crisis over Quemoy are extremely instructive. It was “drift” rather than anything consciously planned that got us into the dangerous position in which we found ourselves at the end of the past summer. We drifted—or defaulted—into a situation in which Chiang Kai-shek was in effect making our policy for us. And the way we got out of this mess was equally unplanned. After three weeks of apathy, the more articulate segment of the American public was suddenly brought up short by a visceral reaction of fear. And the resulting cry of alarm was sharp enough to awake even the drowsy sachems of the Democratic party, whose daydreams were fixed on electoral triumph in November and who did not want these prospects disturbed by any inconvenient foreign crisis. The danger of war passed—but without benefit of much conscious choice on the part either of government or of opposition.

Among other things, the events of last September suggest that the American public is not quite so invertebrate and impotent as Mr. Mills has described it. These events also suggest that the drift toward war is still capable of being stopped. But the manner in which it was stopped on this last occasion arouses questions of a quite different sort from those to which Mr. Mills has directed his attention. A reaction of fear is not particularly reassuring as the best that the American public can muster. It suggests a national temper of incompatible extremes—of apathy alternating with near-hysteria—of sudden and violent shifts from rally-round-the-flag to peace-at-any-price. Such a state of mind is scarcely conducive to balanced judgments in the realm of foreign relations. It means that all of us—both leaders and led—are finding it nearly impossible to reach a cleareyed assessment of where we stand. An alternation between truculence and panic is just about the worst possible position from which to make the crucial choices that currently confront us.

Why have we allowed ourselves to drift into so dangerous a pass? I think it is because we have become the prisoners of our own propaganda. We have come to believe what the public relations experts have told us—to believe it, that is, until all of a sudden a brutal revelation of the truth has plunged us from euphoria into despair. I doubt whether there has ever been in the history of modern democracy so yawning a gap between the official story and the reality—between public rhetoric and private knowledge. Take once again the crisis over Quemoy. The official talk was of “holding the line” for the West in Asia: we were handed the well-worn tale of the domino blocks that would all come tumbling down if a single little one were pulled away. The truth of the matter was that there was scarcely any Western line to be held: our European allies were against us; among the Asian nations that backed us there was only the Philippines that really counted; we were exposed “naked to our enemies” as a rich, pampered country, hated and envied, isolated by our doctrinaire devotion to capitalism in a world of poverty and over-population in which single-party, more or less socialist states were rapidly becoming the norm.

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Obviously what we need more than anything else is an alternative view of international reality to set against the one handed down by official spokesmen and by most of the press. Mr. Mills presents the elements of such a view, but it comes out in fragments scattered among his central observations about the “drift” and “thrust” toward war. I should like to piece together these comments, adding to them a few of my own, in an effort to present a coherent summary of where we stand today.

Let us start with Europe. Here the basic fact that is not being made clear to the American public is that Communism no longer presents the danger that it did ten years ago. Since the coup d’état of February 1948 in Czechoslovakia, international Communism has made no advances in Europe. Indeed, it has retreated in one form or another in at least three places—Yugoslavia, Austria, and Poland. The two great Communist parties of France and Italy—the only two parties of any importance outside the Communist-dominated countries themselves—are both in a state of decrepitude. They have kept their massive voting strength and their ability to insulate their following from the main course of the national life. But they have proved themselves unable to mobilize this following for any active purposes of their own choosing: it has become a frozen, inert mass—little more. It has lost its head and its heart—nearly all its leading intellectuals and the moral force that once inspired it to devotion and sacrifice. Of these changed circumstances the Soviet leaders themselves seem to be well aware: their passivity toward the advent of de Gaulle suggests a kind of weary defeatism. And in East Germany also, ever since the outbreaks of June 1953 revealed the shakiness of Communist control, they have apparently been casting around for some face-saving device for divesting themselves of an almost worthless satellite.

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Thus the first corollary to this view of the decay of Communism in Western and Central Europe is a new look at the German problem. Currently we are stuck fast on the old Adenauer line—the insistence that unification can come only through unfettered elections, with the resulting all-German state free to choose a foreign policy of military alliance with the West. We refuse even to discuss the Soviet proposal for a federation of the two Germanies and the subsequent neutralization of the country. But in this uncompromising attitude we are becoming more and more isolated, even among our friends. Aside from the old Chancellor himself—whose tenure of power cannot be eternal, although it has already extended far longer than anyone believed possible—few Germans are left who are totally unwilling to entertain the Soviet proposals. And the same is true of the British: while Labor is vehement about it, and the Conservatives more discreet, both parties agree on the necessity for a major revision of Western policy toward Germany.

Under these circumstances, it is worth-while—indeed imperative—to see if the Russian project is really the trap for Western innocents that it is conventionally supposed to be. Here once again, it seems to me, we are falling into a line of reasoning that has done us much harm in the past—the notion that our Communist adversaries are infinitely cleverer than we are and that it is always they who will be the gainers in a solution of compromise. Isn’t this a game that two can play? And don’t we in this particular case hold the stronger cards? Certainly a federation between the two German states would mean for the immediate future the retention of Communist domination and Communist institutions in the Eastern part. But would this arrangement necessarily be permanent? I do not think so, and I do not believe that the Soviet leaders think so either. In any federation the stronger partner is almost bound to achieve an eventual predominance. And in Germany as it is now constituted the Western part has two-thirds of the area, three-quarters of the population, and the bulk of the industrial resources. Eventually such a preponderance could scarcely fail to make itself felt: the pressure of neighboring example would become irresistible. The economic structure in the East might remain socialized, but the political institutions and practices would sooner or later begin to evolve in a liberal direction.

The same considerations apply in the military sphere. Surely the American position in Europe today is such as to make us wonder whether a unified and neutralized Germany might not be a worthwhile exchange for the military ally we now have in its western part. NATO is barely holding together; most Germans are more than doubtful whether they want to be armed (or defended by others) with nuclear warheads and guided missiles; and the American-manned bases in Germany present the sorest point in our task of convincing the Russians that we have no aggressive intentions toward them. The whole situation is far from promising: indeed it may be on the verge of collapse. With the German military contribution to the Western alliance looking more and more problematical, the virtues of neutralization are becoming increasingly evident—at the very least a relaxation of international tension and a face-saving fashion of getting ourselves off the hook. In military terms, our own position vis-à-vis our part of Germany offers some sobering comparisons with the obvious embarrassment of the Soviet leaders in theirs.

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This brings us to the second corollary to the view that Communist expansion no longer offers a clear and present danger in Europe. For more than five years now—ever since the death of Stalin—such a view has been gaining among well-informed Europeans. And they have been drawing the conclusion from it that their military arrangements with the United States no longer make much sense. Quite obviously, they reason, the really vulnerable and tempting regions for the expansion of Communist influence currently lie outside Europe and are likely to remain extra-European for a long time to come: from 1948 to 1953 the prime target was East Asia; today it is the Near East; already the future areas of ideological exploitation are beginning to open up in Africa and Latin America. Most of the time Europe is simply being by-passed. Except for the issue of Germany—where, as we have seen, there exist real possibilities for a solution satisfactory to both sides—the great decisions in the struggle of the superpowers are being taken elsewhere in the world. The prospect is a novel one for Europeans: it involves a thorough refocusing of their traditional view of their own continent as the center of the universe. Yet once this psychological adjustment is made, the vista it opens up is intoxicating in the extreme—that is, an outside chance for immunity from the major power struggle. And in this perspective, the presence of American troops in Central Europe looks less like a welcome defense than like an egregious provocation to Soviet attack.

It is no wonder, then, that “neutralism” of all varieties has gained so many adherents in the past half-decade. Soon it may be the dominant mentality on the European continent, and even, in a modified, Commonwealth-oriented form, in Britain also. Conventionally, such a prospect fills American policy-makers with dread: it conjures up the specter of a nation without friends. But this is to take a superficial and narrowly military view of the matter. In a neutralized Europe—as with the more immediate prospect of an uncommitted Germany—the decision to remain detached from the cold warfare of the super-powers would be no more than formal. It would constitute an undertaking on the part of the Europeans to do nothing that might deepen the present international cleavage, and perhaps from time to time a more positive effort to reduce Soviet-American hostility. But it would not imply any commitment to refrain from expressions of sympathy or solidarity with one side or the other. Obviously this latter would be impossible: it was the great illusion of President Wilson that he could enjoin such a course on his countrymen in the opening years of the First World War. In the cultural and ideological sense, the vast majority of Europeans naturally feel closer links with the United States than with the Soviet Union. Indeed in many cases it has been only the unpopularity of the military tie with our country that has held back this pro-American feeling from heartfelt expression.

If all the foregoing is true, then one further element needs to be added. For the past five years—again, since the death of Stalin and the settlement of the Korean and Indochinese wars—the Communist camp has made its spectacular (and extra-European) gains not through military action but through economic and cultural penetration. And such appears to be the prospect for the future, despite the alarms aroused over Quemoy and Berlin. When the chances for peaceful penetration are so enticing, it is fantastic to suppose that the leaders of China and the Soviet Union would imperil them by a reckless resort to armed attack. A continuation of the trend of the last half-decade seems the most likely—that is, an international ideological competition in which trade missions, technical experts, and artists on tour offer more persuasive weapons than shipments of tanks and planes. And in competition of this sort, a generalized sympathy on the part of peoples and governments is far more to be desired than a military alliance resting on sullen acceptance.

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So much for Europe. Yet if a drastic reduction in the military emphasis of American policy makes sense here, how much more is this the case in the underdeveloped areas of Asia and Africa. If NATO is rickety, surely SEATO and the Baghdad Pact are just about worthless. When we ask ourselves why our country has failed so notably in these latter parts of the world, the simple answer is that we have done the wrong things most of the time and explained these things in the wrong terms nearly all the time.

I have said earlier that in Asia and Africa single-party, more or less socialist states are rapidly becoming the norm. Toward societies of this kind the Soviet Union finds itself in a much more favorable position than do we in the competitive proffering of aid and advice. The Russians can exploit the undeniable attraction of their own planned economy, and with it their ability to channel foreign aid in directions of their own choosing—that is, in most cases, where the propaganda effect will be greatest. For our part, we are stuck with the rhetoric of “free enterprise”—a slogan to which we cling far more dogmatically in the foreign field than in our current practice at home. It is in this respect in particular that we have shown the most devastating lack of imagination in our dealings with Asian and African nations: to Americans “free enterprise” has a ring of generosity and sturdy individualism—to newly liberated colonials it strikes a hollow note of exploitation, economic waste, and solidarity with native profiteers.

In the same fashion a Soviet engineer or agronomist who is used to rough living and is not reluctant to get his hands dirty in the back country makes a better impression than his American opposite number who is dependent on his luxuries and spends most of his time in urban centers. And in this connection there has arisen one of the most baffling of the paradoxes in which our economic relations abroad have become entangled. We think of ourselves as an idealistic people, and of the Russians as godless materialists. But at the same time the image of ourselves we project overseas is of a goods-oriented society wallowing in luxury. In contrast, the Russians present the picture of a certain Spartan virtue, and of a society whose economic level is sufficiently above that of its impoverished neighbors to serve as a guide-line, but not (like our own) so far removed as to seem alien and impossible of attainment. To a people like the Indians, committed by philosophical tradition to the “non-material,” Soviet society, for all its despotism and cruelty, has attractions that American society cannot match. And not the least of these is the visible demonstration it offers of how an agrarian economy can industrialize itself by its unaided efforts in a matter of two generations.

Does this mean that there is nothing we can do, that the Soviet Union has all the advantages in competing for the friendship of the newly liberated, the uncommitted, and the underdeveloped nations of the earth? Certainly it means just that if our present policy—or better, lack of policy—is to continue unchanged. But if we begin to put forward our true ideological assets, rather than persisting in hiding them from foreign view, there is a good chance that we can reverse the present trend before it is too late.

On this subject Mr. Mills is forthright and uncompromising—and I agree totally with him. American capitalism, he declares, is not “an exportable system.” Until we put this new conviction in the very center of our foreign dealings, our policy will continue to be what it is today—timid, halting, and unattractive. Once we make this basic shift, however, all sorts of now unexpected possibilities will open up. For then we can begin to project abroad the more appealing features of our own society, the things that we are well aware of at home but fail to talk about overseas. We can begin to demonstrate the vast changes in our practices and attitudes that have come about in the past generation—the discrediting of the philosophy of relentless acquisition, the acceptance of the welfare state, the cult of gentleness and tolerance in personal and intergroup relations. We can begin to suggest that as a hardworking, non-competitive society we have newly acquired virtues of our own whose very existence most foreigners scarcely suspect. In brief, we can offer the image of a nation steering its patient, expert, pragmatic way between the completely planned and the ruthlessly competitive, and ready to judge the practices of its potential friends with similar open-mindedness.

Thus if what the newly liberated nations usually want is the underwriting of their state development plans with money and technical help, then there is no earthly reason aside from doctrinaire devotion to “free enterprise” why we should not do just that. Indeed the whole thing is almost ridiculously simple. We should not expect, however, that our reward for such generosity will be a military alliance or a pledge of undying friendship. That is not at all what the leaders of the formerly colonial peoples and of those about to attain independence have in mind. For them freedom from commitment in the struggle of the super-powers ranks as a first necessity. They refuse to choose sides—indeed, they are not interested in all-or-nothing choices of any sort. They are groping in a highly tentative fashion to define what comes next after the attainment of national independence. And in this search they are thoroughly eclectic about adopting apparently incompatible practices from both of the major ideological contestants.

At the same time their policy follows a quite coherent logic of its own. And it is in our failure to realize it that we have made our fundamental error in dealing with the underdeveloped areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. We have insisted on regarding their problems merely as a function of our own struggle with Communism and the Soviet Union—witness the official explanation of Vice-President Nixon’s hostile reception in South America last year as due solely to Communist machinations. A moment’s reflection will suggest how wrong this sort of reasoning has been. The problems of the former European colonies—of “backward” peoples newly raised to nationhood—have only a peripheral connection with Communism and Soviet expansion. They would have existed in any case, even if no Bolshevik Revolution had occurred and no Communist International been launched. The process of liberation might have been less precipitate, but sooner or later it would have come about just the same. And after liberation the problems of economic development, of markets for staple crops, of literacy and hygiene, would have appeared exactly as they are manifest today—and far overshadowing the doctrinal question of ideological choice. The convergence of Communism with colonial liberation has given the latter process its explosive force—but it has not changed its long-range fundamentals.

And so we reach the end point of the present analysis: in respect to what most of the world’s people care most about, the ideological and great power struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States is supremely irrelevant.

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This conclusion is not quite the same as Mr. Mills’s, but it is certainly implicit in his argument. For the implication of his whole line of thought is that in our almost exclusively military emphasis overseas we have neglected what is really important and gotten ourselves into all sorts of impossible dilemmas where no conceivable advantage is to be obtained. We have fallen into the opposite extreme from the isolationist mentality that was once our undoing. Where formerly we did too little in the foreign sphere, we are now doing too much. A secretary of state like Dulles has become a kind of general busybody, always ready to set forth on his Sisyphean labors of propping up and plastering over. It never seems to occur to him that some of the ills toward which he rushes off to apply his questionable nostrums are by their very nature incurable. The idea has apparently never dawned on him that certain situations simply have to be let alone—that there are some places where no visible American interest is at stake, and where the only sensible policy is to “sit this one out.” More and more, it seems to me, an attitude of benevolent detachment, always alert to help where help is needed and asked for, but never importunate or intruding, should be the guiding principle of American policy toward the fast-growing segment of mankind that chooses to remain neutral in the power struggle.

And so, what about unilateral disarmament? We have come back almost to the original sticking-point, to Mr. Mills’s contention that a drastic reduction of our current emphasis on armed might implies a progressive dismantling of our military establishment. Almost back—but not quite. For in this final case, I think, Mr. Mills tries to persuade us of something that is beyond the limits of possibility. It is unthinkable that any American statesman today could assume so awful a responsibility. For everything Mr. Mills proposes short of this final step there is both possibility and crying need—for a liquidation of untenable alliances, more particularly in Asia; for a withdrawal from some of the advanced bases that give the Soviet Union a legitimate grievance; for a halt in the testing of nuclear weapons and in the competitive scramble for propaganda advantage in outer space; for ceaseless effort, undaunted by rebuffs, to reach an agreement for general disarmament. Willful self-exposure, however, is another matter, and here Mr. Mills has overstepped the necessities even of his own argument.

I trust that this final reservation has in no way obscured the force of the argument as a whole. Its logical and moral power is quite overwhelming. Mr. Mills is unassailable in his contention that what passes for political realism today is simply “crackpot”—“a high-flying moral rhetoric . . . joined with an opportunist crawling among a great scatter of unfocused fears and demands.” And he is equally impressive when he calls for a revival of radical, Utopian thinking from the paralysis which has settled over it during the past decade. “We are at a curious juncture in the history of human insanity; in the name of realism, men are quite mad, and precisely what they call Utopian is now the condition of human survival.”

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Footnotes

1 Simon and Schuster, 172 pp., $3.50.

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