Great armies have taken to battlefield in human history innumerable times and wars have been fought over land and power. Epics have been written about the most vicious battles that changed history’s course. The Greek Iliad recounts the Trojan War while the Indian epic of the Mahabharata gives an account of the biggest war fought in ancient India. In the 20th century, two of the most destructive wars were fought that engulfed the whole world and killed tens of millions of soldiers and civilians. No matter where and when wars have been fought, the motives have remained rather unchanged – greed for power and wealth. And since the fundamental human nature of wanting more has not changed, if not increased, no one can rest assured that peace shall be enduring. I believe not only is the prospect of a Third World War not unthinkable, it seems to be imminent in the coming future.
As long as humans are egoistic, chauvinistic and there is the greed for power and wealth in their hearts, wars will take place. This is because interests will inevitably conflict as every party or group will seek to get the most and must, in the process, defeat others in confrontations. Also, since wealth and power are often gained at the expense of others, those in pursuit will have to compete and face each other. Fighting seems to be a human instinct that cannot be permanently laid to rest no matter how strong the suppression is. It has been inherited from our ancestors who had to fight and kill to survive. Similar views have been put forward by seminal philosophers and thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and Bertrand Russell. Hobbes even pointed out that humans are naturally in a state of war of “all against all”. Individuals then seek to form groups to make themselves a part of a more powerful entity and be more likely to be on the winning side. That is how basically wars arise.
The First World War was sparked by the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne by a terrorist and the Second World War started by the seemingly harmless remilitarization of a small region called the Rhineland by Nazi Germany which was followed by the German invasion of Poland. Soon after the respective events, full blown “World Wars” broke out. There are quite a few scenarios that could split up the nations of the world into belligerent factions even today.
The recent dramatic rise of China is being seen as a threat to the hegemony of the world superpower, the United States. From naval confrontations in the South China Sea to the trade tensions owing to the growing deficit of the USA against China, it seems that the time is not too far when China and the USA, the emerging and the incumbent, are at loggerheads. Another factor that makes the world order precarious is the fact that there is not only one emerging superpower but two. Although Indo-Chinese tensions may have eased after the war in 1962, there are border disputes as well as economic competition. Moreover, each potential superpower seeks to increase its sphere of influence in not only neighboring Asia but also in Africa. Recently, there was an article in the TIME magazine that highlighted how tactics to destabilize and weaken India are making heads turn in China. Then there is also the historic and seemingly everlasting Indo-Pak acrimony that raises its head every time tensions seem to thaw. Add to these the resurgent Russia that seeks to bring back its Cold War era glory and assertiveness and the rogue states of Iran and North Korea that are believed to have nuclear warheads in possession and one wonders how long the world can avert a conflict. And then to make matters worse, there is a conflict in the making that cannot be pinpointed to any specific country. Ever since 9/11, the emergence of Islamic radicals seems to threaten stability and peace in all regions of the world.
However though it may seem even inevitable, nations do have their self-interests in averting wars. Thanks to globalization, the fate of all nations is increasingly becoming intricately intertwined. Additionally, the United Nations may prove to have enough deterrence for an aggressor to think twice before waging wars. In today’s world order, most nations want to mutually reach a consensus through talks although there are several cases where talks have largely failed like the Indo-Pak conundrum, the Middle East crisis and the border tensions between India and China. The fear of mutual destruction and of a “nuclear winter” can deter countries from using nuclear weapons and escalating conflicts but whether all these factors are strong enough as compared to the lust for power and wealth is up to the world leaders to decide.
Today, there is a great onus on the leaders of the world to do everything they can to prevent WW III because given the modern capability of man to destroy; it will endanger human existence itself. Public opinion must be mobilized to force leaders of democratic nations to avoid wars at all costs. As Einstein once opined, “I do not know what World War 3 will be fought with but I do know that World War 4 will be fought with stones and sticks.”
[Image courtesy: http://thesituationist.files.wordpress.com/2007/06/iraq-war-life-magazine.jpg]