Considering the current world situation, some of the gloomier predictions have suggested that a World War 3 scenario is possible. In many ways, those of us born in the Western world in the second half of the 20th century, and particularly the baby boomer generation, can consider ourselves to be extremely fortunate. While baby boomers have never had to deal with the prospect of a major conflict on their doorstep, those that were brought up in the first half of the 20th century naturally had to deal with two major world wars. And the loss of life incurred by these two major conflicts was almost incalculable.
World War 3 and technological advancement
However, any notion of being fortunate would be completely eliminated by a World War 3 scenario. The spectacular technological advancement in weaponry during this period has ensured that any global conflict of the future would probably threaten the very existence of the human race. If there is ever to be a World War 3, it is certainly often presumed that there would definitely be no World War 4.
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While many hoped, and even naively believed, that the end of the Cold War would see the looming prospect of a nuclear war or World War 3 scenario eliminated, the early years of the 21st century have unfortunately raised the prospect once more. The strained diplomatic situation involving the United States, Russia and China at present unfortunately threatens to deteriorate into a possible situation of conflict.
This scenario had in fact been predicted many years ago. Geopolitical analysts had long since expected the United States and China to be natural rivals in the 21st-century, and as such the distinct tension between the two superpowers has come as little surprise to these soothsayers.
How World War 3 will be fought
Recently, Time Magazine printed an article written by the authors of Ghost Fleet; a novel of the next World War which assesses the types of technologies and scenarios that could play out in a World War 3 scenario. The two writers in question are named P.W. Singer and August Cole. Singer is Strategist at New America and Cole is a Nonresident Fellow at the Atlantic Council.
The writers suggest that World War 3 would involve a multitude of science-fiction-like technologies making their appearance on the world stage. Despite the multipolar world in which we reside today, it nonetheless seems a certainty that any conflict of a World War 3 magnitude would involve the United States, Russia and China. Thus, Ghost Fleet examines some scenarios in which these three great powers could come to blows, and analyses what techniques could be utilized.
Singer and Cole imagine a scenario where US and Chinese warships have the capability to battle via a wide variety of different implements. They also suggest that not only would will warships be capable of firing cannons in the future, but cruise missiles and even lasers could be common technologies as well.
Stealth would also become incredibly important in a World War 3 scenario. This is particularly true of air assault, with fighters from both Russia and the United States capable of engaging in incredibly sophisticated dogfights in mid-air. With stealth aircraft also becoming an increasingly prominent technology, Singer and Cole also suggest that robotic drones would play a major part in any World War 3 assault strategy.
Barely a day goes by in the media without an extremely sophisticated hacking strategy being widely discussed. And thus it is natural that the authors of Ghost Fleet fully expect this to play a central role in any World War 3-style conflict. Cole and Singer envisage that hackers in both Shanghai and Silicon Valley could play a significant role in the war effort of the two sides.
And possibly the most science-fiction-based notion that the two writers have perceive is the idea of fighting in outer space determining the war below on earth. A World War 3 in outer space certainly sounds like something from fiction. But with space technology being developed at a commercial level quite widely now, it is possible that the military efforts of participants in a World War 3 conflict could enlist these developing technologies to assist with the fight.
The World War 3 context
These predictions must be seen in the context of the last few decades. China and the United States have engaged in a massive arms race since the 1980s, and both Russia and the United States possess thousands of nuclear weapons. China has constructed more warships and warplanes than any other nation over the last few years, while the Pentatgon has also announced its strategy to counteract this productivity.
Both China and the United States have been involved in alleged cyber activity against one another. China’s alleged hacking of federal records at the Office of Personnel Management underlined this tendency, with the crime generally thought to be strategic in nature.
As the traditional world order led by the United States comes into increasing conflict with the China and Russia-lead BRICS power bloc, the latter becomes more bullish about its place in the world. Both China and Russia have indicated that they wish to play a more central role in global economic institutions, and have furthermore suggested setting up their own central bank to rivals that of the existing global financial infrastructure.
This ensures that the dollar-dominated world that the United States has relied on is to some degree coming to an end. There have already been predictions that the dollar will lose its position as world reserve currency, and with it will disappear the advantages that are bestowed on the United States as a result. Although many commentators negate this possibility, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, indicated just a few years ago that the United States would lose is “exorbitant privilege” in the foreseeable future.
What this means is that World War 3 is very much a physical manifestation of an underlying economic battle. As the BRICS nations accumulate resources and allies, so the existing Anglo-American / EU-NATO power structure engages in activity intended to dampen down the influence of this Eastern-based threat to its supremacy.
Avoiding World War 3
Should World War 3 ever come to fruition we can be absolutely certain that it would be significantly different to the relatively small-scale campaigns that the United States has fought recently, or even previous global conflicts. While nuclear weapons dictate this by their very nature, a multitude of other factors would influence the nature of World War 3, should it ever take place.
Military communications are now space-based, ensuring the first battle for the heavens to ever be witnessed on the planet Earth. Cyberwar would also unquestionably be a central part of this conflict. A United States government, military and public which is accustomed to being the unchallenged superpower on the face of the planet would have to change this perception, and deal with a new paradigm in which the US can no longer automatically rely on dominating its rivals technologically.
With China spending vast amounts of money on state-of-the-art technology projects, and with the potential to purchase off-the-shelf technologies as well, the world’s most populous nation now has the potential to rival even the most advanced US military hardware.
The only thing that can be said in certain is that we would all benefit from World War 3 scenario remaining solely the topic of books.