How likely is the next major war?

Could this ‘war on terrorism’ expand into a major geopolitical conflict? How likely is the next 3rd world war? How much damage would it cause, what would Europes role be? Who would come out as a major power? Please give me you’re imput.

In My Opinion (heh heh), there’s no incentive for a truly global war. Most of the major powers are economically in each others back popcket now, more so than in the past. A conflict of the scale of WW1 or WW2 would only hurt business. Remember, our weapons are much more deadly now than they were then.
Most likely the big players will continue to do as we do now, get involved in regional disputes which threaten our interests. Or our way of life.
Pretty big wars? Probably. Global War? Nah. What for?

Well, there is virtually zero chance of a major war between the truly large powers (i.e. the U.S. vs Japan or Europe or Russia).

There is a greater but still small likelihood of a world war that would simply be a multi-front war between the coalition of great powers and a larger collection of smaller states. For example, it’s theoretically possible that the war could eventually encompass Iraq, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, etc.

Here’s the absolute nightmare scenario: The U.S. attacks Iraq. Iraq responds by attacking Israel with chemical weapons. Israel retaliates. A coalition of Arab states attack Israel in response. Iran gets into the game. In the meantime, this alignment of Arab muslims destabilizes Pakistan further (which isn’t Arab, but has a radical muslim population which largely aligns with them). Musharref is overthrown, and a radical theocracy rises in Pakistan.

Now India, which is a close ally of the U.S. but an enemy of Pakistan, becomes afraid of the Pakistani nukes in the hand of terrorists, and strikes pre-emptively (or is attacked by Pakistan). The U.S. supports India.

Now, China sees the U.S. totally engaged on multiple fronts, and uses this opportunity to attack Taiwan. North Korea uses the opportunity to try and take South Korea.

There you go - an honest-to-god ‘world war’, but it’s important to remember that all of these countries combined don’t have a military as strong as the U.S.'s. So it wouldn’t be a conflagration like WWII.

And this is really a very, very long shot. There are a lot of good reasons why this shouldn’t happen. For instance, it’s not at all clear that China could take Taiwan, even without U.S. intervention. China doesn’t have the landing capabilities, and Taiwan has a very modern, very effective defense force. That alone is probably enough deterrant to keep China at bay. And even muslim radicals in charge of Pakistan probably aren’t foolish enough to attack India, which could crush them like a grape if it had to.

All that said, I have to say that I think the world as a whole is moving in a fairly dangerous direction. I’m really disturbed by the increase of authoritarianism and racial violence in Europe. There are a number of demographic trends that are going to threaten some established powers (small example - Israel’s population is barely growing, while Palestinians have one of the highest birth rates in the world).

As Heinlein once pointed out - at the turn of the 20th century, it was hard to see the seeds of war anywhere. The British still had a huge empire, there were no Bolsheviks, and it looked like it was going to be a peaceful century. Instead, we got WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Stalin, and the middle east problem.

At the start of the 21st century, you can see serious problems bubbling under the surface all over the place. I would make no bets on peace in our time.

Sam Stone mentions imperialism in his excellent post. All the wars he talks about were, at least in part, fought to gain or maintain empires. A possible exception would be Vietnam, but even there the US was trying to maintain a strong presence in SE Asia.
There are no real empires left, are there? The USSR was the last to fall I think. Modern empires are likely to remain economic, not political IMO.
I agree that racial and religious intolerance are the biggest threats to peace.

One major change in the world is going to be the rise of China as a major power. China is seeking to build a blue-water navy, plans to put a man on the moon, etc.

Hopefully, China will evolve like Russia, without the intervening disaster of Stalinism. i.e. as it becomes wealthier it will transform into a capitalist state, albeit with its own flavor of government.

But it’s certainly possible that it could become a major rival, especially in the area of nuclear weapons.

In the medium term, there will also be dislocations as the world’s energy infrastructure slowly moves away from oil. That’s going to put even more pressure on the tottering Middle East thugocracies. So even if we avoid a war with them now, some form of crisis is certainly going to happen there in the next 50 years.

Europe is a wildcard. How many Le Pens or Milosovecs have to be elected before we’re facing another European crisis? How does the EU resolve the growing difficulty in managing a European conglomerate? How does Russia with its thousands of nukes fit into the ultimate equation?

All I know is, the guy who declared “the end of history” when the Soviet Union fell was a moron. The second half of my life is going to be pretty interesting, in the Chinese curse sense.

lol, what did that moron excatly say?

The (really interesting) book Jihad vs. McWorld by Ben Barber sketches out Sam’s scenario above, at least in terms of a polarization of Muslim states against the West. He meant it as more of a cultural exegesis, though.

As for “the end of history,” that was Francis Fukuyama heralding the triumph of Western market liberalism over all other ideologies. There’s an articulate (and critical) review of Fukuyama’s book in the 1993 Michigan Law Review; it’s entitled, “Post-Totalitarian Politics.” I recommend it.

I don’t think there is much question that any future “World War” would involve a conflict between the United States and China. It’s not so much that China has territorial aspirations, which it does or even that China believes itself entitled to be a superpower, which it does. It’s that China has a unique culture which it believes is naturally superior to that of the West.

Now it’s true that the West also believes many elements of its cultural are superior and ought to be emulated. China, however, has a several thousand year history of believing – literally – that China is the center of the cultural and political world and that foreign barbarians are inherently inferior, even if they are occasionally dangerous and must be propitiated.

Moreover, many Chinese are quite sceptical about the West. Famously, Chou en-Lai when asked what he thought about the French revolution replied, “It’s too soon to tell.”

All this suggests that a future China may well feel compelled to challenge the United States for the position of top dog. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. However, the prospect of a “messianic” China seeking to claim its “rightful place” as the military, political, cultural and economic center of the world is not a comforting one.

Fortunately, any serious conflict is probably at least fifty years down the road, if it ever happens at all. At the moment, the Chinese know perfectly well that the barbarians must be propitiated because any serious conflict with the West would destroy China’s economy (and possibly its political unity) and set it back at least twenty years.

What Fukuyama meant was that modern history was defined as a struggle for the hearts and minds of the world as to the proper structure of civilization. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, he saw that battle as largely being over. From here on in, there would be skirmishes, regional conflicts, and maybe even larger wars, but there would be no question that the ‘correct’ way to organize society was the way of modern western democracy.

I thought it was a silly comment at the time, and remarkably short-sighted. After all, even when he said it there was a majority of the world’s population that DIDN’T buy into that idea. China, Indonesia, the Middle East - that’s a LOT of people. And collectively a very large military force.

And today we are seeing a new struggle for the hearts and minds of the world - this one along religious and cultural lines.

*Originally posted by mangeorge *
In My Opinion (heh heh), there’s no incentive for a truly global war. Most of the major powers are economically in each others back popcket now, more so than in the past. A conflict of the scale of WW1 or WW2 would only hurt business.

Of course, the exact same argument was routinely made in the early 1900s. Shortly before a conflict on the exact scale of WW1…

You forgot to close your quote. :wink:
Anyway, the geopolitical situation now is much different than it was in the early 20th century. See the stuff above re empires.

I agree with **Truthseeker ** that the most likely scenario for true utter ugliness & destruction (which I think the OP is asking about) over the next decade or so is a Sino-U.S. war. I believe the following to be highly unlikely, but would offer this scenario as a possibility:

Crazy as a sh*thouse rat North Korea attacks S. Korea and maybe Japan, including using some non-conventional ordinance. Within a month the U.S. has pushed N.K. to the breaking point, maybe even retaliating non-conventionally, when Nationalist or just plain emotional war-crazy pressure builds in China to come to N. Korea’s aid … and China does …

Not REALLY WWIII, but Korea II has the potential to be deadlier and far, far uglier for all involved. If China were nutty enough to use its ICBMs against the USA it is possible that some political, military and/or economic re-ordering might be in the cards post-war.

Who knows what night result, tho one thing I’d be sure of : If China used ICBMs against the U.S. none of that re-odering would favor what had been the PRC.