Conditions developing for a Third World War by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Almost 150 days after the inauguration of President Trump one thing is now clear that era of American hegemony in international relations is now over. America is uncertain about many key foreign policy decisions & sending ambiguous message to allies; Trump administration is burdened with investigation into collusion with Russia to win elections; State Department is on back foot while soldiers are warming foreign policy decisions by sabre rattling; and American market that was used as a diplomatic tool is now increasingly closed to others. The removal of a major power from world stage almost always result in jostling for power by other aspiring powers that create friction and if it is coupled with some other political conditions is a recipe for a major conflict on the horizon. In my view, barring any major development, the world is now slowly but surely moving towards a Third World War of conventional forces. Let us first exam these conditions and then also engage in a discussion where would the major theater be.

Apart from American decline, there are some other social and political conditions that are contributing towards the breakup of global order. First is the emergence of nationalist, autocratic, and inexperienced leaders in major world capitals. This has contributed towards jingoism and saber rattling to inspire national audiences and drawing up of unnecessary red lines that have to be either met or the leader losing their credibility among their base. President Trump, PM Modi, President Putin, President Erdogan, President Rouhani, and President XI Jinping are all nationalist leaders that rely on making their nations first or above others rather than try to accommodate the other as an equal and important partner. British PM May is too weak politically to have any clout in the world arena. President Macron of France is too young, inexperienced and unproven to be relied upon to have a strong voice in the global arena. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is probably the only leader that has a global view. But she is also distracted by an extreme right breathing down her neck to change her global views. The margin of her victory in September election will decide how much political capital she has to spend on global issues.

Almost every world capital is experiencing either terrorism or protests against their own government in which fingers are pointed at foreign hand. In response to these events, politicians are threatening to send armies or fighter planes to deal with it rather than try to understand the root cause and make a more holistic solution to the crisis at hand. In other words, root causes that are foreign intervention in Middle East and conflicts in Palestine and Kashmir remain unresolved. Thoughtless drone and air raids on populations to kill unknown terrorists are creating collateral damage and refugees that are breeding grounds for terrorist outfits. Every government is blaming the other government for sponsoring non-state actors which could mean everyone is involved in it to some extent.

People are losing faith in politicians and democracy as a means to solve their economic and social issues. Marginal electorate on the extreme right and left are setting the political agenda. They are more vocal and passionate to push for it with politicians rather than the passive majority in the middle that believe casting vote is all they are required to do. This is forcing politicians to seek the support of the extreme to win elections. Once elected this base is demanding fulfillment of promises rather than allow politicians to rule from the middle. To get these demands off their backs the politicians are taking their burden abroad by drawing red lines in the international arena. Just this week Russia drew a red line that any flying object West of the Euphrates in Syria will be considered an enemy object and dealt with. Iran fired missiles into Eastern Syria. And Saudi Arabia announced young and aggressive Prince Mohammad bin Salman to be the Crown Prince effectively making him a king as his father is old and frail. Prince Salman is also the defense minister that initiated a campaign in Yemen and taking an aggressive position against Iran. Pakistani and Afghan Ambassadors engaged in a war of words during a seminar organized by an American think tank each blaming the other for rising tensions. PM Modi almost daily issue a red line against Pakistan interference in occupied Kashmir.

Long established alliances are breaking and new alliances are formed creating tensions of its own. India-Russia security alliance is now almost over and being replaced by US-Indian alliance. USA-Europe is going through an ugly divorce and the future of NATO is uncertain. Iran-Russia alliance is growing stronger. Saudi-Israeli marriage is being arranged by the Americans. Turkey has turned its back towards Europe and looking towards Eurasia and the Middle East. The first batch of Turkish soldiers landed in Qatar this week. China is claiming complete hegemony in South, Central and East Asia which has forced America to issue threats of military intervention. Cooperation among China-Pakistan-Russia growing while America is seeking a place by announcing troop surge in Afghanistan. Africa is experiencing a rising influence of China to replace America and to some extent Europe. All these new formulations are in transitionary stage and creating anxieties of its own.

Multilateral organization especially United Nations were developed to ensure a peaceful transition in global relations. But it has become increasingly irrelevant as more and more issues are either discussed bilaterally or through Adhoc arrangements like P5+1 negotiations with Iran. Or Quadrilateral Consultation Group (QCG) in Afghanistan. But these are not proving effective as America has refused to lift sanctions after the agreement was signed with Iran. And QCG process was derailed when Afghans revealed the death of Mullah Omar and subsequently, American drones killed his successor Mullah Mansoor. So there is no effective method of resolving the crisis diplomatically and honored by all those being part of it.

In the presence of all these factors and worldwide deployment of conventional forces, it is only a matter of time before we embark on a Third World War. In my view, we are still 5 to 7 years away from it if the current trends continue. Where would be major theater? In the First World War major theater was Europe and Second World War the major theaters were Eurasia, Europe, and South East Asia. The Third World War major theaters seem to be Eurasia, Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe, and South Asia.

What can be done to prevent devastation of a Third World War? There are many steps that can be taken to stop this eventuality but it will require the strong will of few statesmen. Angela Merkel and President XI can play that role if supported by President Putin, Erdogan, and Trump. They have to develop a roadmap to return the world to a balance of power and better understanding. These could include withdrawal of foreign forces from all international theaters including Middle East, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. Respect for the sovereignty of each nation. Eventual withdrawal of American forces from South Korea with a roadmap developed for the unification of the two Koreas. Restructuring of United Nations to be more representative of new world realities. Reformation of UN Security Council to include all major world civilizations as representative. Resolution of Kashmir and Palestine crisis to allow peoples in these regions to have a chance for a dignified and free life. A pledge by all nations to stop support of non-state actors through a world body that coordinate and monitor these efforts. Formulation of an economic order where developing nations are protected from the onslaught of multinational organizations to ensure employment to local populations and respect for local culture.

It will not be an easy path to reduce tensions that have slowly built up. But we can’t prevent a major conflict if corrective measures are not initiated now.

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