By Viviana González Vargas - International Relations student
It’s not a secret that we’re now experiencing a new reality. COVID-19 has changed the way we live and the way we view the world. In this new perspective, we have taken into account aspects like public health and economy. But there’s an aspect that we have ignored. War. Now, I know that some people will think that a war right now is not even on the table due to the pandemic, but an influenza pandemic didn’t stop countries from fighting in World War I and, certainly, humankind has proved that wars can come even if the most inconvenient times to make things even worse. So, it’s important to acknowledge that if war was a possibility before 2020, the virus could contribute to the start of a new war. But personally, even though I agree that after this crisis violence between countries could transform into something bigger, I don’t think that World War III will happen after the COVID-19 reaches its peak worldwide.
I think it’s important to start looking at this possibility economically. Right now, countries are using their funds to face the damage that the virus is causing. They are investing in health programs, scientific investigations and, basically, any way to stop this situation, so war isn’t a point in state’s political agendas. Second, even though war is sometimes used as a way to improve economy because it helps generate employment, I don’t think this is the case. According to Walt (2020), “leaders will not go to war unless they think they can do so quickly, cheaply, and with a reasonable probability of success”. In our current scenario, war wouldn’t be cheap or quick, and we could never describe it as a success. So, economically speaking, a war wouldn’t improve the financial situation, despite the jobs that it brings with it, because there are more cons than pros if a nation considers starting war. Another point is that right now, some countries that are in civil war in the Middle East have declared a temporary ceasefire to avoid contagion, so this virus could represent a way of changing the position of armed conflicts in some state’s list of priorities, rather than a way to create more violence.
It’s important to clarify that geopolitical realignment is a huge possibility (Colyer, 2020) and heightened competition between dominant economies is certain, especially between countries like USA and China. But the competition between world powers did not arise because of this new coronavirus. This race has been on the works since many world conflicts ago and, as I mentioned, right now, if a country wants to recover economically, war is not the right choice. Conflict-free strategies to have more influence worldwide should be states’ go-to option. Also, I want to acknowledge that there are similarities of exalted nationalism and xenophobia between our current situation and world wars, but I also believe that even though society is far from being inclusive, new generations are more likely to recognize that we need to work together instead of against in each other, like they have done with environmental and social causes, for example.
As a conclusion, I will insist on the fact that war is not likely, and it shouldn’t be considered as an option for any country. To this day 469,399 have died of COVID-19, I don’t think that we want to see a world where a statistic of how many people have died in World War III exists, not now and not ever. This virus is a fight and we’re losing it, and the result of armed conflict would be the same. Like Brock Chisholm said: “No one wins a war. It is true, there are degrees of loss, but no one wins”.