The last two World Wars started in Europe. After World War II, political structures were put in place to reduce the danger of another. Are we seeing the increasing pace of events that could lead to WWIII? I wonder.
India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, and are perpetually on the brink of war. Korea and Iran are trying their damnedest to get nukes. China, Russia, Israel, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States all have the bomb. There may be others. The CIA might know who, but we don’t.
The events that led to the “Great War”, later renamed to World War I because we had to start numbering them, didn’t start in 1914. The catalyzing event, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, was merely the spark on a growing powder keg of social and political upheaval that was decades in development. The political decisions made at the end of this war set up the conditions for the next, which took less than 25 years to erupt, and led to the rise of the Nazi party and Adolph Hitler in Germany.
That spasm of war took another four years to end, with millions more dying. Europe was again devastated. Out of that war came such institutions as the UN, NATO, and later the European Union. Now, the latter has seen one of it’s major members vote to leave. The United Kingdom will leave the Union within two years. Stock markets around the world saw their shares plummet in value on that news, with trillions of dollars of wealth being wiped out. Money people know what has happened in the past is a good indicator of what will happen in the future, and they don’t like what they see.
By itself, the UK leaving would probably not lead to war. But other forces working in the world today might lead to that very outcome.
Europe is dealing with a refugee crisis like it hasn’t seen in more than half a century. The middle east is always in the midst of chaos, with the further destabilization that occurred after the United States barged into Iraq adding to the mess. Governments are having trouble maintaining order in some places, and in others they don’t even pretend to try. Religious fanatics (or those using religion for political goals) are using the mechanics of war to gain and hold entire regions. Weapons manufacturers are getting rich(er) arming all sides.
All of this, on it’s own, would probably have been manageable, even with the UK leaving the EU. Climate Change could be the wild card that leads to WWIII.
Billions of people live in areas destined to be severely impacted by global warming. From rising sea levels swamping coastal regions of Asia and India, where billions live, to the increased severity of cyclones, hurricanes, and storm surges, there is potential for severe disruption, both socially and politically. Hundreds of millions of people could be displaced, food production disrupted, and fresh water in short supply. This could cause mass migrations of desperate people, and the resulting undermining of governments.
Local wars could break out, and with the intertwined agreements tying countries to each other’s defense, we could see the battles spread like they did in the “War to End All Wars”. The one we had to start the numbering after because it didn’t stop anything.
If the United States were to elect Donald Trump as President, I think the risks of war would be advanced severely. His bluster, incompetence, and lack of any reasonable intelligence about world affairs would be a crisis that could hurtle the world into the next, perhaps final, catastrophe. I’m 99% sure we won’t put him in the White House. I think he is a bullet we will easily dodge, especially after he starts going toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton. That may not be enough, however, to insure we don’t add a “III” to the list. We may only delay what could be the inevitable.
I don’t think this will happen soon, probably not even in my lifetime. I’m concerned for the children of my nieces and nephews, and their children, however. The second half of the 21st Century will be the cauldron, and climate change could be the fire that brings it to a devastating boil.
I’m almost glad I (probably) won’t be around to see it.