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Is World War 3 already underway?

World War 3
World War 3

Some commentators have pointed to certain events as evidence that World War 3 is already under way or that such a conflagration is only round the corner. Is there any truth to this assertion?

To answer this, we look at some of the things that have been described as evidence of an ongoing global war or indicators that we are on our way to that all out war:

Similar to World War 1 and World War 2 when there were two power blocks against each other – the allies against the axis powers, we now have the US, Russia, and China facing up to each other militarily in Syria. The government of Syria is backed by Russia and the Syrian military is trained in China. However unlike the last two great wars, the face-off between the great powers this time is through proxies – Bashar al-Assad’s military against rebel groups supported by the US. Furthermore, it is significant that Russia and the US have reliable diplomatic channels that have been successful in managing and containing the conflict in order to prevent escalation and direct confrontation between the powers.

Syria conflict
Syria conflict

Wherre there is a potential for escalation is the fact that the conflict in Syria as well as in Iraq put Islam’s two main branches of Sunni and Shia in opposition. The mainly Shia Iran is in confrontation with Saudi Arabia which considers itself the leader of the Sunnis. Although this is the case, these regional powers are also client states to the main great or global powers like the US and Russia. Saudi Arabia relies on the US for its defence while Iran turns to Russia for military hardware albeit to a lesser degree. But the fact remains that the two world powers have leverage over their client states and recognize that a global conflagration is not in their interests.

South China Sea tensions
South China Sea tensions

Somne point to the tensions in the South China Sea as another potential trigger for a global conflict. China is claiming vast areas of the sea including some unihabited islands – claims which are in conflict with counter claims by US allies in the region like Japan and the Phillipines. It is believed that China is eyeing the incalculable underground oil reserves in the area. China has tried to create an exclusion zone around the area but the US has dimissed China’s claims and continues to send its warships through the area, which believes to be international waters.

ISIS Militants
ISIS Militants

The war against ISIS, however has really gone global as the terror group carries out attacks around the world, and more countries join the fight against the group. The reality is that this was the one group that had the capacity to produce a low level but sustained conflict that was truly global in nature – that is happening across the globe with the toxic issue of religion as a component. However, ISIS has miscalculated the extent of its support and ability to hold on to territory. The several atrocities committed by the group has galvanized nations and institutions to work towards the group’s demise.

The one key point, however that makes the prediction of World War 3 unlikely is the mutual recognition among the main global powers of the destructive potential of such an all out conflict. Although territory may sometimes seem like a source of conflict, the primary drive is for control of resources and economic reasons. The interconnected and interdependent economies of the major global powers make it less likely that any of them would do anything to jeopardize their economic development with a global conflagration. Furthermore, the major powers have over the years developed sophisticated and effective diplomatic channels and are more likely to explore diplomatic solutions than risk all out war.

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