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March 21, 2011

World War III

I wasn't here for the beginning of World War Two, so I'd like say that (1) it wasn't my fault, and (2) I'd like to suggest that in the buildup to WWII, probably nobody looked around and said, "Whoa, this is beginning to look like a nascent global conflict, maybe even (gasp) another Great War".

Look at the complexity of events leading up to World War Two:


And look at the Axis-Allies distribution in July 1943:


Are current conditions much different?

Let's talk about World War III

I'm thinking that Mohamed Bouazizi might be 2011's version of 1914's Archduke Ferdinand. Similarly, Saudi Arabia's recent excursion into Bahrain might be seen (in retrospect) as a repetition of Germany entering Poland.

How many wars does the United States have to be engaged in before we recategorize it as a global war?
(oops, somebody already used GWOT).

Could the world be in the first stages of WWIII?

  • Japan is in an economic, food, and energy crisis.
  • China is feeling its muscle in Asia and its influence globally.
  • Don't even ask about Taiwan.
  • Recession/ Depression in the First World.
  • Global monetary conflict.
  • Israel and Iraq would like the other to disappear, and they're both currying proxies.
  • Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear weapons. Iran is working on it.
  • Russia is in the tank.
  • From the Straights of Gibraltar, across Africa and Asia to Indonesia, a new flavor of Islam is preaching holy war.
  • Simultaneously, France, Britain, and the United States are restaging the Crusades.


Just to assert some small rationality on my part, I'm not going anywhere near the Mayan 2012 concept.

To be sure, other timeframes could have been seen as early WW3 and they weren't. Korea, Hungary in '56, Suez, Cuban Missile Crisis, the Pristina incident, etc. It would be okay if this was not the start of WW3. The possibility cannot be excluded.

It might be an interesting time. I'd like to ask: Why won't it end up as World War Three?

10 comments:

MH said...

Not to be overly argumentative, because I agree a bigger conflict is a concern, but quite a few people were expecting WWII well before it happened. Even if you exclude the people who were trying to start it (or trying to grab as much as they could without starting it), it was a fear that drop much political maneuvering.

Bram Reichbaum said...

One can't even allude to the turning of the ancient Mayan calendar without sacrificing a share of rationality.

There seems to be a multitude of elements. If not WWIII then perhaps the preamble (I suppose of necessity. How's that for a hedge?).

Bram Reichbaum said...

More importantly. It's been 66 years since the end of WWII. Mightn't the next one get its own name? The Great Energy War or some such? I think the Betting Window has closed on prognosticators of a WWIII.

MH said...

How can you mock the Mayan calendar? It was so advanced that it had Lincoln's Birthday. (I stole that from Dave Barry.)

MH said...

On the question at the end of the post ("Why won't it end up as World War Three?"), I'd guess that we are safe from a really big war as long as the U.S. is responsible for half of global military spending. There are only a few countries that could spend enough on weapons to make that possible and only one of them has shown any indication that it wants to and it is more concerned with other problems. Lots of bad things can happen, but I suspect we are safe from global war until Michael Cera looks old enough that he doesn't get carded at a bar.

Ken said...

Bou'azizi is more like Gavrilo Princip than the Archduke, I think. And if you're drawing parallels, today looks much more like 1914 than 1939: (1) economically, our new Gilded Age and the original; (2) culturally, today's digerati and the Modernists; (3) technologically, waves of sudden, rapid innovation; (4) demographically, massive regional population shifts and the explosive growth of cities.

Bram Reichbaum said...

MH 12:09 - On being safer from global war because we are responsible for half of global military spending: but what if we START said war? It could be that our global predominance mitigates the usual deterrent of the possibility of losing. Defense spending or no, it doesn't cost much to do some damage if you have the home field advantage and the home crowd behind you.

MH said...

Bram, I agree that lots of damage could happen, but I don't think it would be a global war. There are many ways to define it, but you'd need two sides in kind of the same ball park, capability-wise, for a "global war" as most people use the term.

I agree with Ken that today is more like 1914 than 1939, but it probably more like 1890 or so than 1914. We are coming to the end of relatively long "peace" (in the sense of no global war) and it is perfectly obvious that the structure for maintaining that peace (British naval power in 1890, U.S. overall power now) has been eroded.

Except that nuclear weapons mean it is probably fundamentally different from any time before 1945.

Anonymous said...

The current situation is extremely dire. The American hegemony is challenged mostly from WITHIN - her citizens do NOT want to conceive of their country as global hegemon. America wants all nations to be democratic republics like her so she can maintain her economic prosperity via a global trading emporium. Any other approach would see global nuclear conflagration and America has NEVER wanted to risk that. When the situation gets to the point of deciding between eternal economic and military attrition or risking escalation into nuclear war, the USA will pull out every time. Did it in Vietnam; will do in Afghanistan. SSDD.
Therefore, this extremely short-lived unchallenged American Ascendency (since 1991) will end soon.
China is rising. Russia is resurgent. The Muslim states - currently experimenting with democratic republics - will lapse back into anarchy, only to unite as a pan-Arabic/Islamic colossus. Iran & Pakistan will stand as their (nuclear) allies. Europe will languish economically, only to resurge under a revived dictatorship in everything but name.
Within the next decade the Muslim population in Europe will approach critical demographic mass – about 15%. America will be broke... or close to it... or just too preoccupied fixing herself up to care anymore. The Arab Spring will have lapsed into a winter of discontent with never a summer nor an autumn in between ... Remember what happened to the USSR when it tried experimenting with democracy? You don’t get a democracy when the people have known only tyranny for generations. (Russia does NOT have a democracy – Putin is the new Tsar, and if you don’t know that, you’re utterly naive!) China won’t know what to do with all its money – nor with its 1.4+ billion people who need to be placated with continuing consumer prosperity or else threatening societal meltdown. And as surely as Nature abhors a Vacuum, so too does Power. All 4 of NON-American major blocs will want to step into the space left by the exiting USA.
Global dominion currently depends on who controls the oil. It is a limited resource, and no single Bloc has made sufficient efforts to wean itself away from oil.

You want a recipe for a Total Disaster...?

Mix the following ingredients:

Start with a USA too weak to exert her authority over anything or anyone....
Combine with an Iran stupid enough to continue spewing its vitriol, funding mayhem and rattling its (nuclear) sabre at Israel...
add a pan-Arabic bloc vainglorious enough to ally itself with Iran...
add one Russia desperate or corrupt enough to do deals with both...
add one China addicted to oil as America ever was...
add a European Union grasping at straws to balance her economy, placate her Muslim citizens whilst simultaneously stupid enough to poke her nose into the Middle East...

Combine all into the Middle Eastern Bowl...

Blend in generous handfuls of: hostility, stupidity, arrogance, greed, pride, feeble excuses, rabid propaganda, mindless hatreds, age-old feuds..

... and bake the whole thing in an oven set at Nuclear Exchange Temperature.

Robert Gill said...

Where can I get a copy of the Timeline chart you show for WW2?

Many thanks.

Robert Gill

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