Tuesday, June 30, 2015

warnings of World War III

Warriors, politicians, pundits, and novelists often ponder the possibilities of future wars. Sometimes these are merely thought experiments; often they are connected to budget fights. Last year we commemorated the start of the first world war, which offers compelling lessons about the dangers of miscalculation, miscommunication, rigid war plans, and naive assumptions about the unlikelihood of war. This year marks the centenary of the dramatic six weeks in that war when, in an effort to escape the deadly stalemate in the trenches, Germany began and its adversaries soon adopted new, more terrifying ways of killing: poison gas, aerial bombardment, and submarine attacks on passenger ships.

Today two different analysts have written warnings about the prospects and risks of a third world war. One discusses an American war with China, said to be neither imminent nor impossible. That's a judicious conclusion, for policymakers need to confront the possibility in order to reduce its likelihood. Both the United States and China are developing military capabilities that need to be kept under tight civilian control and wise conflict management.

Another analyst details the growing risks of a NATO war with Russia, pointing out the frightening parallels with 1914. I don't think Putin is a Hitler, but he may well be as stupid as the Kaiser -- and western allied leaders are far from unified in how to respond either to Russia's tactics or Ukraine's many problems.

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