Dive deeper into the history of human culture and you are bound to find that wars have always been an inevitable and inescapable aspect of human existence. As civilizations have evolved, the "struggle of wills" amongst nations has caused treacherous bloodshed and loss of lives. We need not look at civilizations dating back to thousands of years for studying wars. The past 20th century is itself a classic example of an era wherein the world witnessed two World Wars in just a span of only 20 years. The two World Wars in the 20th century are still like nightmares for the world, that was reduced to rubble in the political fight that devastated a large number of nations and its citizens. Almost every century of human existence, in all corners of the world has experienced some or the other war amongst a specific group of allies and their opponents. So if the 20th century witnessed two World Wars, how can the possibility of World War 3 be ruled out in this era, when advanced warfare has become an integral aspect of armies all across the globe? So is World War 3 possible? The future is not known to any of us but as critics we can analyze where the world is heading to, in the near future.
Is World War 3 Impending?
Since the end of second World War, World War 3 has evolved as a "concept" and popular "theme" debated in international media. Hundreds of movies, dramas, fictional novels and sci-fi thrillers have been written and directed predicting the possibility of World War 3. Though not everyone may be an ardent believer in the prophecies of the 15th century physician and astrologer, Nostradamus, numerous predictions about the World War 3 by him are very popular when it comes to deciphering the probable year of next World War.
Immediately after the World War II ended, it is said that some unresolved conflicts between several nations could have led to secret attacks by some allies on their enemies leading to another World War; however, fortunately, nothing of that sort happened. When we are trying to understand is World War 3 possible, we have to consider the role of post second World War scenario.
The Doom That has Passed, Fortunately (1950 - 2000)
The end of the second World War was marked by the most influential, barbaric and politically decisive nuclear attacks by the US on the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It is by far the single war that used nuclear weapons breaking the backbone of Japan and forcing them to surrender. After the WWII ended, major powers of the world were involved in what we call as the "arms race". The US nuclear attacks warned countries like the then Soviet Union (Russia) to develop their nuclear weapons and so began the rat race of arms production. Since all countries were laced with sophisticated weapons, nobody dared to enter in wars owing to the fear of monumental losses it could cause to both the parties. The era between 1950 - 2000 witnessed some major wars and conflicts that have always been related to the possible precursor to World War 3, but fortunately, they never assumed the role of triggering the World War III. Some of these incidents included the Operation Unthinkable in 1945 (by the British forces), Suez crisis in 1956 (between Soviet Union & Britain), Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the incident of false alarms in 1983, which historians believe had the ability to trigger a close call for the World War 3. Call it a sheer fate of humanity or wise decisions by the policy makers and military generals that these incidents did not lead to another World War disaster. So how has the scenario turned now? Is World War possible in today's era? Let's know more about the same.
A Turbulent Decade (2000 - 2010)
Let's focus on the political situation that has prevailed in the world in the last 20 years. In the last twenty years or so, the crisis in the Middle Eastern countries has deepened to dangerous levels. The western super powers, namely the US, UK, former Soviet Union and France started taking deep interest in the Arab world or the Middle East since a few decades back. The Middle East that had experienced instability due to religious wars prior to discovery of oil, was sought to be in control by the western powers due to the oil that mattered to the economy of the western countries. In the last couple of decades, oil has been the determiner of mainstream Middle East geopolitics. It has been the major cause of unrest in the Arab countries and it is possibly perceived to be one of the main reasons why international politics is all focused on oil energy. Is World War possible due to the conditions that have prevailed in the last decades in Middle East countries? Let us have a look at some perspectives on possible reasons for the next World War.
Possible Causes of World War 3
The world has seen tremendous transformations in the last decade. Asian countries have evolved as major players in the global economy. It is no more about USA, Britain or Russia, it is about every country. Japan recovered from the disastrous US attacks decades before and it has developed itself into one of the finest countries in the world; in terms of every measurable human growth index. Similarly, China and India have evolved as the global economic houses. The world has witnessed growth, prosperity and development. But with increasing population, depleting energy resources and the threat of terrorism, all nations are worried about sustaining lives of their citizens. Following things are the greatest concerns for causing unrest amongst several nations all across the globe. These are the reasons that have the potential to trigger World War 3.
#1: Terrorist Organizations Vs. the World Alliance
It all gained serious momentum when in the year 2001, the US soil was traumatized by the worst ever terrorist attacks in US history on the twin towers of the World Trade Center that stood as a symbol of American dreams and prosperity. What followed later was a chaotic decade of attacks and several operations to punish the notorious terrorist organizations namely, the Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden. Barely a year or two after the 9/11 attacks in US, there were attacks on Iraq under the leadership of the then President George W. Bush Jr. who gave orders for Iraq invasion. The real motive behind Iraq invasion still remains a subject of debate amongst historians; however, as per President Bush, he aimed to capture the chemical and nuclear weapons that the dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, would have otherwise smuggled to the Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, for attacks on the mighty USA.
While there was not much evidence regarding the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was killed by the US attacks and the US sought more control over the oil rich territories in Iraq. Similarly, the attack on Afghanistan or 'War in Afghanistan', labeled as 'Operation Enduring Freedom' was launched by George Bush Jr. in October 2001 to eliminate the presence of terrorist outfits like the Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, which was believed to be their main operating center. The attacks in Afghanistan proved to be a great setback for terrorist organizations.
Surprisingly, hope of a better country dawned in Afghanistan when it witnessed its first ever democratic elections in 2004 and Hamid Karzai was sworn in as the President of the country. With the dawn of democracy, it is hoped that Afghanistan will one day become a full-fledged glowing economy in the world. Groups and individuals who opposed the American attacks on Afghanistan cite it to be another measure to gain better control over the oil rich nations in the central Asia. These two wars not only forced Osama Bin Laden into hiding, it also caused serious blows to the terrorist outfits all across the globe. Finally, in the latest happenings, Osama Bin laden was killed in Pakistan after a decade of hide and seek from the American intelligence agencies. The death of Osama is cited to be the greatest achievement of the US forces. Retaliation from terrorist organizations is expected and all nations are on alert to safeguard their citizens from any sort of attacks by terrorists. So is the next World War going to be between the alliance of several terrorists organizations and the world nations? There is no denying to the fact that terrorists are becoming powerful due to advanced use of technology and weapons. Similarly, the threats of bio-terrorism are also the major concern for policy makers. If the world unites to fight against terrorism head on, it is certainly going to be the battle of two different ideologies, one of the growth and the other of hate, violence and religious extremism.
#2. China Vs. India: The Water Battle
The two super powers of Asia and probably of the world, with main membership in the UN, have a deep problem to solve for their future generations. China with its huge population is facing threats of water shortage and food crisis in North China. The last two decades of stupendous growth in this country has made it a global power house but at the cost of monumental depletion in its natural resources. China's policies regarding diversion of water from most of the rivers originating in Tibet may have disastrous affects on its neighboring countries. It can affect one-fifth of the world's population residing in Asian countries. Indian PM Manmohan Singh has time and again raised concerns of water dispute during his visits to Beijing since 2008; however, it doesn't seem to have any effect on the Chinese PM. Most of the rivers be it the Indus, Brahmaputra, Mahakali, Gandaki, and Kosi, all originate in Tibet, giving China the geographical advantage of utilizing the waters to avert the impending water crisis.
Barring China, India has water treatise with other neighboring countries. The weak stance of New Delhi over the water dispute has further bolstered the mega dam projects in China alongside Brahmaputra river. It is said that the South-to-North Water Diversion Project of China is very ambitious in its planning and will be completed by 2050. So what if China and India don't come up with a possible solution for this dispute? For both these countries, water is vital for their survival. Both will resort to UN and international vote for support. The UN will be in a great fix if it comes to choosing either of the main world powers. Both countries can't even think of raging a war as both are nuclear powers and any disastrous step would lead to some heavy losses of men and material. But in case, no negotiations are reached, won't China attack India? And there will be no end of allies in this war. The drying dragon will have a large number of major powers coming to its rescue, chief being the US. The water politics in the South Asian region can trigger a World War, quite possibly.
#3. Global Population Explosion: The Food Battle
It has been time and again estimated that by the year 2050, the world population will increase to an extent that it will lead to hunger and acute food shortage in many parts of the world. Owing to climate changes and tremendous population explosion, there will be shortage of water and world food supply. While the developed countries will fight tooth and nail to ensure their food stores are ready for emergencies, the third world countries may face civil wars and violence due to food shortage. In the above paragraphs, we have already discussed that water dispute may sour the future relationship of China and India. Besides these two countries, water crisis can prove to be the nemesis for following countries also - Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, and Pakistan. Most of these countries import a large portion of their food grains from world market. Increasing prices and extreme energy crisis will further lead to decline in food supply. So the big question that will arise is: How to feed the population that exists on the planet? Owing to high food prices and lack of water in the decades to come, the question will be about survival. And when it comes to survival, history has been a witness that survival has never been achieved without violence and treachery. The darkest and worst case scenario will be that nations will form allies to loot and plunder food from other countries. The huge difference between demand and supply of global food in the coming decades can be the biggest reason for another World War.
#4. Hunger for Energy: The Arctic Ocean War
We have depleted everything that came in our way and now we won't leave the major sources of ecology. Officially North Pole, surrounded by the mighty Arctic Ocean is not owned by any country as per the international law. But the realpolitiks shows us different pictures. Countries neighboring the North Pole that include Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and the United States are only allowed to have access to some limited area in the North Pole. Surveys and researches have established the fact that the Arctic Ocean has 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and energy resources. Moreover, the melting of Arctic ice has caused a global competition amongst the territorial countries to claim a certain portion of the North Pole. It is scary to note that melting of glaciers in Arctic can cause the drastic rise in sea levels all across the globe leading to end of several coastal cities. Moreover, if countries start aggressively mining and drilling in Arctic Ocean, it needn't be stated that the world will head towards its doom. But to meet the demands of energy, countries like Russia, Canada, US, UK and Norway are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that they're able to get the maximum chunk of the North Pole. So the deadly silence of -50 degree Celsius Arctic region will end with noises from mega machines and oil drillers ready to find the treasure in this ecology wonder. Arctic region has become the next hunt for the geologists. International dispute for control over North Pole can for sure lead to a tragic battle for this piece of land which is strategically important for all the territorial countries surrounding it.
These are just some of the random yet significant reasons that may trigger World War 3, but it doesn't mean that World War 3 (if fought) will be only due to the above reasons. There can be altogether new conflicts amongst nations that we may not be even remotely aware of. After reading these factors, you must have been able to understand that the coming decades will pose extreme challenges for humanity. It is a magnificent time to be born in this era when there is so much growth, prosperity and opportunities to live a better life. But at the same time, it is a period in humanity, when blindness and ignorance for nature will prove to be the doom for us. It is in the hand of policy makers all across the globe to have a vision for future so that the impending challenges are best handled with peaceful talks and negotiations. World War 3 is certainly possible but it is our duty to learn from the past wars and try to go against any form of violence. After all, we must remember what Einstein has said to us, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones". Let's say no to tragic wars. Let's make the world a better place to live in!