Can be predicted WWIII
I will try to cope in the following pages with the question, is any possibility to predict WWIII. “Luckily” I do not have to cope with the obvious, like what will be after WWIII.
So, let us take as an anchor or the starting point of our historical, prediction the obvious result of such a war and ask, who could sincerely think about a WWIII, without to be afraid of the annihilation of the human civilization? Only those with tendency for suicide, or those who act out of ignorance and instinct, without to be able to think about consequences of their acts.
War is a common act of a community of people, who have an emotional glue strong enough, to persuade every individual in the community to endanger its life in the sake of preserving the community as whole. What are these glues? An obvious case is family or tribe, very similarly as it happens in the nature with certain highly skilled animals that live in communities.
But the humans have an additional glue, the cultural bond. This makes us, us and those others different. Yet culture is a very wide phenomena, and I have to ask does all cultural phenomena have potentiality to cause a conflict or alienation of one group from the other? Take for example the most simple one, the food you eat or don’t eat. I am sure, a religious Muslim or Jew is annoyed by seeing a non Muslim non Jew eating pork. The same is with the clothing. The hijab or yarmulke as well as too exposed women clothing may cause fury and anger among those out of the community. If so simple and apparently neutral cultural phenomena have potential to create need for segregation and animosity what about more basic and fundamental cultural differences like cultural epic story strongly believed, religious faith, code of rules, ethical behaviors, etc.? All these cultural uniqueness phenomena, if connected, arise in the individual humans negative emotions towards the other, the different. If we add to it lingual and facial and body feature differences, even if the slightest ones, it can bring animosity that may result war.
There are many reasons for wars in history, but roughly they can be divide to two. The wars between separated political entities and civil wars happening within the borders of one political entity.
The well known examples of civil wars are the Russian and French revolutions, which are wars within the society, where people who were left out of political influence fought to change the ruling elites and the whole political system they represent. On the other hand the Spanish civil war, even if also fought within the borders of the same political entity, was different. It started as a military coup, where the army, that was part of the political elite, supported by certain part of the society, used its military force to replace the existing political system. The Spanish civil war started when big parts of the society decided to oppose this act of their army. Then we can take as a different example, the civil war in Rome following the murder of Julius Cesar, this was a war among the ruling elites. So if to categorize the wars called revolutions, the question is who fought it. Was it one segment of society against other segment of society, or segment of society against the ruling elites, or one ruling elite against the other one.
And what about the wars between the separate political entities? For example what kind of war was WWI. A war among different nations? Did really the Germans hated the French or the Russians more than they hated their own neighbors? Hard to believe. Maybe for a moment. And still they were enthusiastic to enter the war.
On one hand WWI was caused because of competition of the ruling elites, who fought each other for dominance, on the other hand it seemed as if whole nations were recruited in this effort to achieve dominance. National wars are relatively new phenomena that started in Europe with Napoleon and the redefinition of the European political entities from dynastic monarchies, kingdoms, oligarchic city states to national entities. The most common joint feature of national state was a common language (or what they were told that is a common language in spite of wide range of dialects), religion and race. The definition of nation is not so clear as it may sound. For example the Jews mother tongue in Germany, Hungary France etc., was German, Hungarian or French, still they were excluded from the definition of the nation. Probably the best definition for the nation would be one language and one national epic that we all believe or suppose to believe.
Before Napoleon the wars in Europe were;
a. religious – Crusaders, 30 years war, Muslim wars, Protestants against Catholics, etc. ,
b. socio-economic -Barbarian take over of Roman empire, the Viking invasions,
c. wars for dominance of one cultural empire upon the other, -the Romans against Cartago, the Greeks and later the Romans-Byzantines against the Persians),
d. wars for achieving imperial dominance with tolerance to the different culture – The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and so we can go on in whole line of the history,
e. battles among different fractions of the same ruling elite -the very best example is the 100 years war between the English and the French, but many other conflicts were of this kind.
Since Napoleon it became clear that national identity is a very strong tool to create cohesion within the political entity that gives military advantage, almost invincibility, when used against political entity that doesn’t have it. For example, the weakness of Austrians in WWI was the absence of such a cohesion, after Catholicism, that gave to them cohesion since the thirty years war, lost its attractiveness among the secularized elites. On the other hand this Austrian weakness became one of the reasons for the Austrian leadership support of war before WWI, while hoping that a war will mold such a cohesion within the borders of the Austrian Monarchy. Unsurprisingly the result of the WWI was liquidation of the Austrian Monarchy in spite of their relatively long history, if compared to the short time the German state existed. And still Germany survived the defeat in WWI with even stronger national identity than before the war, while Austria has not, and their identity become unclear. This became obvious with the Austrians support for the German Anschluss. By the way the German Anschluss paved the road to the Munich agreement, etc.
So if we look more deeply into this rather lingual division between wars and revolution, we will hardly find a clear cut between wars among different political entities or revolutions happening within the same political entity. At the end of the day, all the wars are about competition for dominance of one group of leading elites against other group of leading elite and the difference is rather the pretext used to mobilize the masses by these elites. Of course many leaders among the leading elites don’t have the sophistication to understand this reality, and have honest faith in their cause. But their illusion based on faith is always short lived, while the reality is very, very prolonging. I do believe in Robespierre’s honesty, but who survived after him? Fouche, Talleyrand, Napoleon and then the Bourbons. The same can be said about Lenin, who was followed by Stalin. I could bring up many politically successful idealists, who against all the odds successfully changed the political system according to their ideas, but very soon the cruel reality overcame their best intentions.
Here I would like to start with a new perspective of categorization of the wars. I would divide the wars to those to be the totalitarian wars, their aim is destruction and annihilation of certain segment of human community, and wars with limited destructive aim. The Punic war of Romans against Carthage was this kind of war.
In twenties centuries we could find many wars, their aim was destruction and annihilation of certain human society segment, be it a national, racial, religious, economic or social segment. The German intentions to start WWII aimed from the very beginning to annihilate subordinate races. In Nazi Germany they started with homosexuals and mentally ills, then it went to Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and probably all the “ non Aryans” would follow, if Nazi Germany would win the war. An other totalitarian war was the “Big October revolution”, that at the beginning aimed to annihilated the ruling elites of the Russian society, then the bourgeois and the kulaks followed them, and then the Ukrainians, the Generals, the intellectuals and who could say where it would end if not the WWII, that eventually saved Russia from ever more crazy plans to annihilate new and new segments of the society. To these examples we could add, all the genocide type of conflicts, like in Cambodian, Ruanda, but also the Chinese cultural revolution, that aimed and was quite successful to diminish the Chinese cultural identity. It seems, in these days in Syria a new rampant totalitarian war fulminates, while the Sunnis try to annihilate the Shia and the opposite, and both sides try to annihilate the Christians, the Druze and all the others.
All this leads me to the thought, that we should be rather focused on the potential totalitarian war than the political war. These are the wars with potential to start a WWIII.
Let us remain to ourselves;
a. The modernity did not secure the humanity from the totalitarian wars.
b. The cultural belonging is still a very strong biding force among people.
c. People are strong in their readiness to kill and to be killed for all the non-rational reasons that the human fantasy can imagine. The major and most persuasive substance behind the conflicts is the “Our Story”, as contrary to “Their Story”.
If to look for the next potential conflict, we shouldn’t look for the economical problems, since these have become more and more marginal, unless there will be some total collapse of the economic system, as it almost happened at 2008.
We also should not look for the national conflicts, even if some of the world powers, like Russia and China, tend to behave nationalistically. But both these countries adopted the rational modernity as the only way how to manage and solve political problems.
To my opinion, the conflict that appears to have potential to become a pretext to start WWIII is conflict between societies, who look for salvation for their problems in modernity, science, technology, or in other words the future, and those, who oppose all this, and are looking for truth and legitimacy in the stories of the past. While doing it, they deny the modernity as legitimate way of life, but still are ready to use the tools the modern technology creates as legitimate to achieve their aim.