How We May End Up Sliding Into The Real "War To End All Wars"
Considering that our "final war" may be arriving isn't so far-fetched when states like Iran, Russia and North Korea are courting confrontation and taking "crazy" risks, a little like the European powers of 1914. But let's proceed with caution.
Updated Nov. 1, 2023 at 6:50 p.m.
BOGOTÁ — Imagining the arrival of the "final war" could be a hopeful prediction, if we were referring to how humanity may finally be ready to close its long history of bloody conflicts. It would mean that peace has at last come to stay, and we could all live carefree lives in a way the world has never known.
Unfortunately I mean it very differently, in the apocalyptic sense, that the next big war could be the last one, with the losers being the whole human race. Yes, in that scenario, the world would become uninhabitable, and we would die off: all of us, down to the last child in the deepest forests of the Amazon.
I must admit I have a dreadful feeling that, unbeknownst to ourselves, we are sliding toward World War III. I hope I am mistaken, and this turns out to be mere pessimism, the result of the fears that come with age. If I believed in God, I'd ask Him to make time and reality prove me wrong.
The "great" war
It is not strictly accurate to say that the 1914 murders of the heir to the Austrian throne and his wife by a Serbian nationalist sparked World War I — there were numerous socio-economic, dynastic, religious and political circumstances that provoked the calamitous conflagration that came to be known as "the war to end all wars."
The gravest factor, and most similar to what is happening in our time, was the fact that a great power, Austria-Hungary, thought it could punish and flatten a small but troublesome neighbor, Serbia, in a swift campaign. It failed miserably.
War is the muddied river or smoke-filled setting where massacres are unseen.
But possibly without realizing what they were doing, the other powers let themselves be dragged into the pit of conflict with a cascade of declarations, threats, mobilizations and attacks: first the European monarchies, then France, the UK, Russia and then, in 1917, the U.S.
Chaos provided an opportunity for all sides to vent old grudges. War is the muddied river or smoke-filled setting where massacres are unseen, and horrors and barbarism blur with the excuse of the violence itself. It is a prelude to murder with impunity and, like an auto-da-fé, there is no stopping it once the bonfire is lit.
Ian Bremmer on avoiding World War III
Awaiting a trigger
Anything — the slightest spark — can unleash hell.
Imagine a country that has failed to keep up with its despised twin brother's lifestyle and society. Its citizens have no freedom, and intermittently starve. The only thing it has is arms. This Cain of a country sees now as the time to act on its hatred and kill its Abel.
This country exists: North Korea, hellbent on attacking the South. Someone must then step in to defend that liberal democracy.
Or, imagine a member of the UN Security Council invading another little neighbor, which it thinks it owns — that is: China and Taiwan. Or what if Israel attacks Iran, or vice-versa — or Putin decides Russia will move to recover the European lebensraum it enjoyed under the Soviet Union, which included not just Ukraine but the Baltic states, Poland and even Romania?
These all seem such improbable scenarios — as implausible as a gang of desperate terrorists entering Israel, a high-security country if ever there was one, and murdering civilians at will for hours.
We've had the invasion of Ukraine, backed by Iran and North Korea, and now a strike on Israel, which has responded with the Biblical fury of an eye-for-an-eye, and your entire jawbone for a tooth.
Hamas and Iran knew Israel would respond this way, yet they proceeded with their attack. Russia knew its invasion would have consequences. So, two or three more brazen tricks like these, and we can expect another world war. And that, in the worst sense of the term, really would be the war to end all wars.
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