“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” -Albert Einstein
World War III. This conflict is something that everyone knows would be catastrophic, even apocalyptic, but no one seems to think it will happen in their lifetime. But what if this war was not really as far away as it seems? Right now the United States is experiencing some very strenuous tensions with some very major world powers, most prominently with Russia, China, and North Korea.
KEY PLAYERS AND TENSIONS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The United States of America is currently the most powerful country in the world and possesses the most technologically advanced and effective military in history. It is a world leader in many areas and a founding member of NATO. The current US president is Donald J. Trump. With the new presidency, other countries will be bound to test his limits. An example of such testing was on April 18th and 19th, Russian military aircraft flew dangerously close to the US, which was met with US fighters to turn them around. But this emphasizes a reality that the Eastern nations typically aren’t as fond of America as the West is. This is no surprise as it has been this way for decades, even involving numerous proxy wars such as the Vietnam War and the current Syrian Civil War. The US, however, has not given up ground in the face of a potential war, and neither has the East. The US proved this with the launching of 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase housing chemical weapons. Tensions are only rising with the US and the East, and it might not be long before someone snaps and the world is thrown into chaos once again.
The US Military is by far the most experienced fighting force out of these four countries. The US has constantly been in and out of conflicts for almost the past century. This means America has an edge in experienced war-fighters and has been able to master its military effectiveness in live combat. US Special Operations Forces (SOFs) are extremely effective and have successfully completed numerous missions throughout the world. From the capture of Saddam Hussein, to the assassination of Osama bin Laden, American SOFs have continually proven themselves on a global scale.
The United States also has hundreds of military bases around the world, which means they have many forces able to respond quickly at their disposal. Already the military is starting to reinforce certain areas under its protection. For instance, the US just deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems to South Korea. This was clearly in response to the rash nuclear warhead development that is happening in North Korea.
The US and Russia have had a very shaky relationship throughout history, and although these two nations have never formally been at war with each other, they have been engaged in proxy wars with each other. America has a lot of anti-Russia sentiment and Russia has a lot of anti-west sentiment. Currently, Russia would be a very bad country to get into a war with, not so much because of their conventional military force, which will be discussed later, but because of their nuclear stockpile, as it is the largest in the world. The US and Russia are being kept from warring with each other by a very dismal policy, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Mutually Assured Destruction is the concept where if one country deploys nuclear weapons against another, then by the time those Weapons of Mass Destruction(WMD) reach their target the other nation will have its own WMDs already on the way, and both countries will be obliterated.
So for example, if Russia launches its nuclear warheads at the US, then by the time those warheads detonate over American cities, American warheads will be on the way to destroy Russia’s cities. This is a very unfortunate and rather risky foreign policy, but at this point it is the only practical solution. For now, though, this will hold both nations at bay.
Unlike the US, the Russian Federation still drafts personnel for their military, meaning that once able-bodied men reach a certain age, they are required to join the military for a certain amount of time. Although they have a smaller number of active duty personnel, they make up for it with nearly 2.5 million reserves. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the Russian military is not nearly the global force it used to be; however, they are currently performing major reforms and significantly improving its effectiveness.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
The United States and China also currently have a pretty rocky relationship. New issues have arisen especially concerning China’s territorial claims in the East China Sea. In this seemingly out-of-line lunge for territory, China has declared that any aircraft passing through its airspace must identify itself or face a possible military response.
China has also directed its anger towards the US as a result of American missile defense systems being deployed to South Korea. The Chinese military possesses the second largest amount of overall military personnel, with nearly 5 million in total. However, the Council on Foreign Relations says that China is still currently two decades behind America in terms of military capabilities and technology. That being said, they are still a mighty force to be reckoned with, and it wouldn’t be wise to face them without a decent plan. One thing to be taken into account though, is that the US is in a lot of debt to China, so if America was destroyed, China would be losing a significant amount of money, which would hurt them.
Out of all three of these countries, North Korea is the real danger. This is not because of its military might, which is actually quite pathetic compared to nation
s such as the US or Russia, but because of its leader, Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un, a brutal Communist dictator, is best described as rather mentally unstable and unpredictable. In any other circumstance this might not be that much of a problem, but in this case, North Korea is developing nuclear weapons. Obviously, WMDs and impulsiveness are two things that should never go together, especially in the modern world, but North Korea might have both in the near future. However, some believe that these tensions and risks in the Korean Peninsula are actually drawing the US and China closer together, despite their differences.
The North Korean military, with over 5 million personnel, is definitely the biggest. Even so, they are pitifully weak and incapable given their size and demeanor. According to Global Firepower they are ranked as the 25th strongest military in the world, which is laughable compared to the three other countries. Interestingly enough, the United States is still technically at war with North Korea, as peace has never been officially declared. These two countries have an armistice, instead of a peace treaty, meaning that military operations could start again at any time. This wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, though. North Korea, due to its actions, has somewhat alienated Russia and China, its most powerful potential allies.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an alliance tasked with maintaining peace. According to www.nato.int, “NATO’s essential purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.”
There are currently 28 Member Nations in NATO, these are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, The United Kingdom, and The United States. This provides a large number of allies and resources to the United States, if war did erupt.
The SCO, or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, can basically be described as a counter-balance to NATO. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization composed of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan founded in Shanghai in 2001.” This isn’t nearly as large of an alliance as NATO, but it definitely is not to be ignored. The SCO would definitely be called into action if a war erupted, and nations would be held to their word.
No one really knows how this would turn out, but it is very likely that a third world war would play out very similar to the second world war. Russia would probably be engaged in Europe while China/North Korea would be fought in the Pacific Ocean. However, one major difference is the mass number of nuclear warheads, the deployment of which are only held at bay by mutually assured destruction. That means that countries with WMDs are basically holding a gun to the other nation’s head, and vice versa.
Even if the nuclear warheads are taken out of the equation and the war was fought conventionally, it would still be the bloodiest conflict to ever occur. Tens, possibly hundreds of millions of military personnel would be involved, and there would be casualties unlike anything ever seen before. It will greatly effect everyone in the world, regardless of what side they are on. Whether they are a civilian, soldier, politician, or child, their lives would change forever. No one would be safe, and no one would be unaffected.
What would happen when this war ends? What would the world gain and what would it lose?
War has always been extremely controversial, but for a war to be productive, the good coming from it needs to be greater than the evil it has caused. Many wars have wrought positive contribution to society and some have wrought negative consequences. This war could produce two types of overall effects, an extreme pro/con or a stalemate. Granted, the pros and cons are subjective to the country itself. However, in general, the pros could possibly be long-lasting and beneficial to the greater good of mankind. Such a pro would be the defeat of the opposing country, which would either result in a disintegration/occupation or a regime change. This could be very good depending on the goals in mind. Another would be a temporary relief of the tight-strung tensions that are currently present. It would mean a sudden advancement in many technologies and sciences, as each nation would strive to outdo the other in such fields.
The cons in this scenario are typically going to be more universal. Things such as mass death, destruction, and suffering are the more obvious ones. However, other things could have massive effects as a result of a third world war. It is likely that many governments could be destabilized, causing more chaos through rebel factions, cartels, riots, and criminal activity. Economies around the world would also be destroyed through the amount of spending that would go towards the war cause. Ultimately, if nuclear weapons are used, earth would look less like it does now and more like a manifestation of hell itself.
Probably the worst outcome, though, would be a stalemate. In this situation, it would mean that no progress would have been built on the sacrifices of millions of dead. WWI saw this on a smaller scale when engaged in trench warfare. This outcome would be severely frustrating and devastating. It would mean that all of these countries have taken so many casualties and have received so much damage that it would be more beneficial to end the war and accomplish almost nothing than to continue.
Regardless of the outcome, the end of a war like this would come at a very high cost. Everyone would suffer and the world would be changed forever. A century ago, people experienced a conflict unlike any other, the first modern war. Artillery, machine-guns and chemical weapons filled the muddy battlefields with bodies, and the world was faced with the grim reality of warfare. Only 21 years later, another war on the same scale broke out that altered war forever. Civilians in countless numbers were rounded up and executed, cities were bombed regardless of the level of innocent deaths, and with the development of the nuclear bomb, nations controlled the capability to wipe out hundreds of millions at a time. This all happened in a span of 31 years, imagine what would happen if the globe was thrown into another one of these conflicts. That’s not saying that there is no time for military action or a violent response, because there comes a point where people need to defend themselves and their nation. However, this would be a war that, if its full potential is unleashed, would scar the world beyond any comparison.