At the beginning of 2021, a year that all of us hope shall be better than 2020, although I would not bet on that, I wanted to write this article on the overall situation in the world, based on a number of observations and interesting discussions.
Let's start with my provocative title. Yes, I believe we are already in WW3, but may be without noticing, as this one is extremely different from the previous world wars or previous wars in general, and we shall discuss that in more details in the article.
Looking back at the history of Europe over the past 2,000 years, we see a succession of wars with indeed only short periods of peace between them. Of course the type of war evolved radically over the period, and the tribal wars of the past have not much to do with WW2. But what is interesting is to understand why such wars started on regular basis, and how they were run by the leaders along the centuries. A detailed analysis would require years of study and a few books. In fact such studies have been done by a crowd of historians and the information is available, but from a multiple number of sources.
I guess nobody ever read all the books written on medieval and modern wars, but even a few analysis make it clear that wars were always started because of a set of human character features, all related to either love for power or love for money.
Early in history, wars were started by the local lords or by the kings, in general to gain new territories, and new groups of population, allowing them to collect more taxes. More taxes that made them richer and made it possible to start new wars, and it always ended very badly after they overstretched their money and human resources. Interestingly all such early wars were solely decided by the ruling king or lord, and the human resources mostly came from the nobility around him, peasants being generally left out of war activities, unless the situation became too critical and more human resource were needed. Peasants somehow played a role on the battle field, not as top level warriers, but as supporting staff to serve the people in arms. Peasants and their families however paid a big price in case of lost war, while in many cases the local elite lost all their property, and often their life or freedom.
At those times, the lords did not need the peasants or the nobility to be "motivated" and there was no need for propaganda. Peasants were slave or close to slaves, did not know how to read and there was no place for questions. They went and served, and died to serve the lord. If some doubts started to raise, the final argument was that the lord was acting in the name of God, so any discussion was inconceivable.
Along centuries, and with the beginning of what we often call "modernity", things changed very fast. Modernity meant that simple people started to learn reading, and therefore thinking - if not by themselves, at least thinking like the author of the books! - and technical developments allowed for more efficient fighting tools and tactics, allowing Europeans kings to go to war far from home, with the involvement of a much larger number of fighters. Clearly, the populations needed to be much more involved in the wars and a large number of young men had to be enrolled and trained
to fight the young men of the opponent. In fact the Napoleon wars were the first large example of such new type of war, both for their size and the size of the territory invaded, and because of the dismantlement of the pre-revolution army infrastructure. Spreading the values of the French revolution was a motivation for many.
This is also the period when we see the first efforts by the leaders to motivate the population, making the young men and their families believe that they were not going to war just for the leaders to get more power or money, but for a noble cause that would serve the people and the country. This is during that period, with a culmination in the middle of the 20th century that a combination of propaganda tools were created and used to motivate the crowds and make them proud to be part of the fight against something terrible and/or for something fantastically good, like:
- between 1870 and 1914 young French men learned from school books how horrible the Germans were. They took away Alsace and Lorraine from France, and so had to be punished. Additionally journals and school books massively spread terrible information about German soldiers cutting hands of French kids, and other similar stories
- the Nazis invested heavily in communicating how evil Communism was and how Jews were the ultimate enemy of the Aryan race
- anti-communist campaigns were organized in the US to justify the wars in Korea and Vietnam
- religion is used by Muslim extremists to motivate Jihad troops, just recalling the infamous legend of the virgins awaiting martyrs in paradise
But the evolution in the way wars were driven and justified still continues and a 3rd World War was logically to be expected. Greed and desire for more and more power is not something that shall go away soon and today's elites are not much different from the elites of the past. However, two fundamental changes happened after WW2, radically changing the situation and the options available to satisfy that greed .
The first fundamental change is the invention of nuclear weapons and the perspective of mutual destruction in case of world conflict. Hiroshima was only a "demo version" of mutual annihilation, as it was just the first step of development of the nuclear arsenal, with a killing power not much greater than traditional bombs (the US killed at least 25,000 people in Dresden with incendiary bombs - a number still not completely proven, some claiming 200,000 victims). What really changes the rules of the game is the number and power of those bombs, and the emergence of inter-continental missiles, as well as nuclear submarines. As global war and the massive use of missiles would lead to nuclear winter and the extermination not only of the population, but also of the elites. Even if some rich people build bunkers, the result for them shall be death as well, but a slow and miserable one.
The US have made attempts to go out of that logic, trying to build the famous "anti-missiles shield", but without success, especially after Russia responded with more evasive missiles and the suggestion to use underwater explosions that would create a huge tsunami destroying everything close to the ocean coast. I am pretty confident that without such risk of nuclear escalation, WW3 would already have taken place, probably around the Crimea story in 2014, or in Syria a couple of years ago.
Secondly, a major change happened in the structure of the leadership in many parts of the world. Large business corporations have gained a growing control over the traditional political leadership, making economical interests even more central in any decision in favor or against a new war.
Were do we stand now? As a matter of fact, a full blown WW3 is almost impossible unless somebody presses the button by mistake. The need for growth, money and power is however still present, and a frustration can be felt within the present global leadership, irritated by the failure of most attempts to control new parts of the world. The Middle-East is a typical example, but Venezuela, China or Russia are also a major object of discontent and frustration, as all those regions do not cooperate to increase the power and wealth of the western elite.
Within the population, it is also stunning to see the growing level of frustration and aggressiveness. Where is exactly coming that aggressiveness is a question that we shall not discuss today, but a growing level of material comfort now perceived as unquestionable and eternal, confronted to growing uncertainties probably plays a key role. The perspective to lose their "due" comfort transforms most of western population into childish pampered individuals, ready to accept anything to keep their life standard, and anyone suspected to argue against that becomes a mortal enemy.
The generalized use of social networks may also play a role. Anyway everybody (I am sure you do) now understand that we do not live through a period of dialog, compromises or common sense. Many people have a black and white perception of society. People either love or hate. You are pro-Trump or anti-Trump, pro-LGBT or anti-LGBT, and the list is long. The situation created by the COVID virus has contributed to exacerbate the trend, with now pro-mask and anti-mask, pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine, all insulting each other on social networks, and also in real life.
One of the theory is that the elite has started a war against the population. I am not buying that, as it is too simplistic. The elite is like the population, it is not a single body moving in one only direction. What both population and elites achieve is the result of complex interactions between beliefs, opinions, desires and fears.
What I believe is that WW3 already started, but not as a conventional war between nations or groups of people, but inside each community, each group of friends, each family and to some extend inside each of us as individual. Best friends get into conflict about the need to wear a mask against COVID. Brothers fight about the legitimacy of Biden's election, cousins split because one of them said Putin is the best President in the world today. You as an individual may hate Trump as a person, but at the same time love his international policy.
WW3 is typical of our times: virtual, based on trends and modes, individual, without compromises.
WW3 is a war where soldiers are not killed by the enemy like in the past wars, both acting as instruments of two conflicting elite groups. Now we are all soldiers, not belonging to any fatherland, and we "kill" each other for futile reasons, while the global elite is watching, eager to increase its control and its profit.
Shall WW3 be the first war to last forever?