The Third World War
When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, believe me, everything becomes a strategic challenge. The techniques learned in my field appear to transfer easily to others – including geo-political history, past, present and future. Which makes for some interesting speculation as to the future of our own existence – and it’s not as bleak as the media might think.
Of course, it does involve a minor World War.
The book that started me thinking is Tom Reiss’s The Orientalist, which centers around regions such as Azerbaijan, Russia, Germany, Turkey and France around the turn of the twentieth century. Among other things, it's a fascinating account of how and why the world changed so radically and why each faction rose up the way it did, resulting in two world wars. For me, it’s the first work to put all the missing pieces together, linking the decline of end-of-century monarchies with the rapid rise of popular – often mob-ruled - republics that grew wildly out of control, way too fast.
Russia replaced its Czar with Bolsheviks, Germany converted to nationalism, the Ottoman Empire essentially evaporated. Entire nations imploded, taking their cultures down with them. It was, for the most part, a social vacuum. A political wild west with no real leadership structure – and no real strategic planning at all, which led to roughly 30 years of progressively antic Euro-Asian chaos.
It was an important transition then, and if you understand it, puts a lot into perspective when you look at what's happening around the world right now:
See this map? Click on it. Get to know it. Because this, by some account, could be the map of World War Three. All of the countries surrounding the main focal point are at just about the same political point that they were a century ago: Lots of political unrest, aggravated by religious fervor, because so many of them have no political voice. There’s your political leadership vacuum. But there’s more:
A few things to keep in mind when it comes to international volatility:
1. Nationalist strategy ALWAYS requires a "common enemy" to unite its forces into militarism. Bolsheviks had the Czar; radical Islam has the West. One look at the region tells you there’s no shortage of social differences capable of motivating entire countries to war.
2. The region contains the city of Baku, which a century ago was the #1 oil producer in the world -- just slightly north and west of the central convergence point of this map. There’s your commercial motivation.
The fuse is probably Kashmir or somewhere in that region, a traditional flashpoint between India and its unstable nuclear neighbor, Pakistan, but actual ignition could happen anywhere nearby. With that stage set, here’s how one scenario unfolds:
After the initial shots are exchanged between two nuclear-capable nations (likely India and Pakistan), Russia, China and India immediately mobilize their forces in the name of “national security.” From the north, Russia patiently waits for the region to collapse, then rushes in to capture oil facilities and ports. From the east, China moves west, justifying its occupation and finally crushing Tibet. From the south, India rolls into Pakistan, virtually wiping the Pakistani state off the map.
And while this is happening, nobody in the west will say a word, for very simple reasons:
1. Russia will have done the dirty work of “regional stabilization” in exchange for oil and ports.
2. China will gain more land and unquestioned borders in return for being the world’s banker.
3. The USA will finally have found its only way out of dealing with its tenuous, often duplicitous relationship with Pakistan, finding many of its cultural relationship issues solved without ever having commit one troop to active duty. In fact, this could be the impetus for removing American troops from the region even faster.
4. The rest of the Middle East will quickly run to Western allies for fear or Russian domination. Iran will fall back into western hands, as well, as the Russian threat becomes all too real for them. And all you Israel fans, take heart: the real world threats aren’t on the coast of the Mediterranean. They’re firmly embedded in Central Asia, far to the east.
So much for the potentially bad news. Now here’s the potentially good news:
Both Russia and China have joined the USA by accepting the world as a market-driven economy. The days of centrally planned failure are over. But the big dividend for the USA -- and the world economy -- is the end of religiously-driven terrorism. The unwritten agenda of World War Three is the elimination of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, which currently undermines the security of a free market system and provides the common enemy which unites all three factions.
I know. It’s not politically correct. But then, history rarely concerns itself with that sort of thing.
This scenario plays out much like the finale of World War Two, which was essentially a land grab, but this time is a much easier to sell to the public. In this scenario, instead of the defeat of evil Nazis, the threat of terrorism is removed for good. People get on airplanes without being patted down. It’s all good, because the “peace dividend” allows less time and money to be spent on security and more on productivity.
It’s just like the old days - except that everything gets divided BEFORE the first shot is fired. And great news for western economies, because let’s face it: someone has to get into those war torn regions to rebuild them after the shooting has stopped. Usually, those are contractors from the west, looking for projects to pump their balance sheets - and resolve the world's economic recessions.
Think it can’t happen? You could be right. After all, this is just one strategic scenario. There are bound to be hundreds.
Then again, you may want to avoid any vacation plans you may have had for Central Asia over the next few years.