There has been a lot of talk lately about the imminent World War 3 starting. Some are even saying that we are already in WW3 and it’s just a matter of time until the full momentum really starts.
Taking a rational and constructive approach, we have to look at past events to accurately determine if we are in fact in a world war, and if we are not, determine if we are on track for a world war.
While there have literally been hundreds of historically documented wars throughout the world that have involved many countries, there have only been two world wars in modern times.
I say modern times because previous to the 1600s, much of the world didn’t know what was on the other side of planet earth; let alone if earth was even round. Old world Europe thought that they were the only ones that existed, just as the Africans and Native Americans thought.
Starting in 1914, World War 1 ultimately involved a total of 44 countries with 24 remaining neutral. There were over 50 declarations of war that occurred during the 5 year span of the world event.
[These numbers are estimates because many of the involved countries were in flux during the war, as boundaries, allegiances and territorial status changed. Additionally, the country borders of the world today were much different at the time, resulting in a number of regions being counted as countries today, even though they were city-states, provinces or ethnic regions at the time.]
September 1st 1939 marked the beginning of WW2, when Germany invaded Poland. By the end of the war, there were only about five countries that had remained neutral throughout the war. Other than those five (Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland) every single other country in the world had either declared war on another or was directly brought into the war by battle.
WW2 was truly a world war in comparison to WW1 and other large scale historical wars.
In 2015, we are far from the level of involvement seen during the first half of the twentieth century.
However, the degree of involvement has greatly changed as the rules of engagement are no longer measured by the same statistics. Furthermore, actions that may not directly result in loss of life, but are sometimes just as devastating are in full fledged operation.
Sanctions that restrict the trade of goods can directly impact a countries ability to create wealth, produce products and even feed their people – which can have impacts similar to a traditional armed invasion.
Technologies and commutation methods that did not previously exist are also being exploited to make significant negative impacts to countries that are currently at odds with others.
In theory, with the use of these technological advances, there can be a large amount of damage done without involving any human risk or loss of life.
As an example, Iran was removed from the SWIFT system, which is an international method of exchanging payments for goods. Because Iran didn’t have the ability to pay or receive payment, a devastating trickle-down effect hindered the productivity and ability for Iranians to provide themselves with the necessities for everyday living.
Issues like the one above are difficult to quantify on a macro level because there are a variety of players at work and the influence of one nation may be executed by several others – an incredibly complex web of back door deals.
The Syrian conflict currently involves nearly fifty countries, with each acting on different levels of involvement. Some are selling weapons, some are blocking trade routes, some are providing financial support and some are providing humanitarian aid. Additionally, the conflict is made more complex by incorporating a religious component that has created an influx of rebel soldiers from around the world traveling to Syria to fight.
While the Syria issue is currently on the front page of the news, there is a significant amount of friction in the South China Sea as well. The dispute about many islands in the region has created tension by all countries surrounding the area as well as countries that support or oppose the dispute.
In Africa there are a variety of religious fueled conflicts with similar components to those is Syria. A variety of countries, including the UN and NATO, are involved all over the African continent.
Obviously, there are many extremely complex issues throughout the world right now. That said, WW3 is not currently taking place, but instead a variety of disagreements among countries and groups.
There is a chance that these conflicts could evolve into something larger and more interconnected. If a large event (an outrageous attack or rogue leader) does occur involving a major super power, I see a dominoes effect of countries picking sides and falling in order (similar to WW1 and WW2).
It’s a scary thought to think that we (the people who are somehow randomly placed into our ‘home’ countries) are at the mercy of a bunch of power-hungry irrational dictators. But, it’s the reality of what we are subject and it’s nothing new.
As a side note; one of the very interesting things that I found while researching all of this information was the terms used to identify the specific details of historical wars. Countries that were involved in the war were called ‘participants’, as if the war was a game and the participants were just a like a soccer team stepping onto the field. I’d hate to imagine what our leader call the civilians and soldiers subject to the actual boots-on-the-ground terrors. Pawns? Expendables? Subjects? Slaves?