By Abdulla Figueroa Chantall - International Relations degree student
First, it is important to understand the concept of war. War is usually known as an armed conflict in the international system. Therefore, international law actually doesn’t really define this concept. However, the famous Prussian general Clausewitz defines war or has a formula: war as the continuation of policy by other means - has been replaced by its opposite: policy is the continuation of war by other means.
That said, after both World Wars in the 20th Century, there has been a lot of speculation about the third WW. In the past century, both WW devastated humanity and created a sense of international cooperation and a new wave of dealing in several aspects as for political reasons, trade and social. As we can see, as the outcome of several international organizations and treaties, also globalization and social media (well, in general media) are part of this.
But now, which is the linkage between all these and a third world war?
Popularly talking, the concept of third world war has been used in a contemporary way to describe events with mayor social impacts, for example the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is also known as the Cold War. The ideological tension between the liberal US and the conservative URSS after both WW were the cause of it most likely. Anyways, it didn’t end up in a humanitarian crisis, but it marked a new age of liberalism associated with development and conservatism being “outdated”.
Besides this event, there were other significant events regarded as third world war, for example the Indo-Pakistani War in 1971, the Petro Save Incident in 1983 and, nowadays, in the 21st Century, it is used for the War on Terror, which started after the September 11 Attacks, and lately also for the War on ISIL declared in 2015. It is important to take into consideration that all these events, which have been called or referred as “third world war”, always include a military act. Therefore, it could end up in a global humanitarian crisis, however, it hadn’t end up that way, it ends up in humanitarian crisis in those specific regions, which also causes the human involuntary migration, and impacts other States which were not directly involved, for example the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The crucial point would be that, through the decades, the definition of war has remained with the same sense of destruction, violence and military, but maybe we should reconsider this taking into consideration the 4.0 Revolution which comes with artificial intelligence, data, technology and innovation. The future III WW won’t be necessarily a military or nuclear war, probably it would be an intellectual war regarding the power over data and specific technical knowledge which could go by hand with military acts. But, probably there won’t be a military reinforcement accompanied by a global humanitarian crisis.
Based on cyclical uniqueness policy makers and those in power have acknowledge that violence may not be the solution and, therefore, the international system, ideologies and laws have to be reinvented in order to be prepared for this future intellectual crisis. They have to nurture and adapt to new era and cannot rule with laws made in the past where this phenomenon wasn’t even in the scope. In this context, yes, a third world war will be imminent.