World War 3 – Experts Are Predicting Conflict And Debt
By TruePublica Editor: Speculation about the onset of World War 3 seems melodramatic. It’s been nearly 80 years since the last global calamity. But, an article in The Times last week warns of just that. Leaving aside Elon Musk and his recent musings on the same subject, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Times of India and many others are now publishing pieces about the impending threat of another world war. Even the FT has run half a dozen opinion pieces recently about what lessons we should have learned from the First and Second World Wars.
One of the gravest warnings comes from Niall Ferguson, a Senior Fellow at the American Hoover Institution. He specialises in international, financial and economic history, and the history of the British Empire and American imperialism.
Ferguson reminds us in a short paragraph of a long read that the West is merely repeating history and that we are indeed sleepwalking, as we did just before WW1 and WW2, into very dangerous waters.
“The irony is, of course, that it was appeasement and the failure of deterrence that led the West into the Second World War. Today, I increasingly fear we may be re-running the 1930s. If Israel finds it cannot contend with a three-front war in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon and turns to the United States for military help against Iran, we shall have reached one of history’s hinges. The future of the world will turn on it.“
We all know what is happening around the world, but we should be reminded again of what is happening all at the same time. The former US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, wrote in Foreign Affairs before the onslaught on Israel the following – “The United States now confronts graver threats to its security than it has in decades, perhaps ever. Never before has it faced four allied antagonists at the same time — Russia, China, North Korea and Iran — whose collective nuclear arsenal could within a few years be nearly double the size of its own.”
Then there are the competing interests over resources. Climate change is driving not just domestic policy but aggressive international competition for natural resources just as oil did during the World Wars. For instance, six months before Russia (which derives nearly 20 per cent of GDP from fossil fuels) attacked its neighbour, the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, located in the UK – published the results of their latest studies, which announced that – “Ukraine has great opportunities to become one of the world’s leading lithium producers. This would put Ukraine’s deposit of Lithium in the years ahead somewhere in the $trillions, not billions.”
Then there are global financial markets. All year, red flashing lights over the bond markets are saying the same as they did just before WW1. The three-decade era of zero interest rates, in effect – free money for governments, companies and consumers is now in the rearview mirror. And because debt is going to cost us all more, governments included, there is less to spend on the threats that are looming. It is here where many see the Western weakness.
The West is not in the same position against its adversaries as it once was. In the USA in 1940, debt to GDP was about 50 per cent, today it is closer to 130 per cent. And investors are getting jittery. The yield on US bonds (called treasuries) has risen above 5 per cent. That’s back in financial crisis territory. Here in Britain, thanks to the banks and the financial crisis they caused, our national debt has risen from less than £700 billion in 2007 to £2.5 trillion today. Average Debt to GDP in OECD countries in 2022 was 121 per cent. In 2019, it was 90 per cent.
In both the USA and the UK, like many Western countries – general spending on the impact of the pandemic was one thing (because of its temporary nature) but spending on an ageing population is another. Then add long drawn-out (and expensive) conflicts in multiple theatres of war – and what it feels like is a deliberate attempt to unseat the West as it becomes less capable of defending itself and its allies.
As The Times reported just yesterday – ‘What’s worrying is that the US and much of the West is maxed out on spending and debt even before a potential clash with the autocracies who seem determined to take on, oppress or defeat the democracies. In this context, it is worrying that there is so little understanding of how perilous the geopolitical and economic situation is, or the scale of the sacrifice and economic reorganisation that is going to be required by the democracies if what’s happening now turns into a regional war or something even worse. To deter the West’s enemies successfully and to prevent further conflict will require more of our nations’ spending to go on security.’ And by security, we don’t mean some spotty teenage geeks working for GCHQ defending us from hackers. An entire 360-degree architecture of defence spending will be required. And who is going to vote for that?
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The evidence of these more dangerous global events are already becoming crystal clear. Iran, Russia, China and North Korea – supported by an ever-increasing group of anti-Western state actors are making their moves. Each month we see more action on the front line of these geopolitical skirmishes. If it’s not China bullying the Philippines, or threatening the Taiwanese, it’s North Korea sending hundreds of containers of munitions to Putin’s war machine. Iran is currently weighing up whether to order its allies to attack Israel from the north.
Last week, The Intercept published a story that said – ‘the U.S. has waged another “secret war” in Lebanon against Sunni terror groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, according to a former four-star commander who oversaw the effort and declassified documents reveal. Attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East have already ramped up with drone strikes on American troops in multiple locations across Iraq and Syria, and drone and missile attacks from Yemen on a U.S. Navy destroyer in the northern Red Sea. Experts say that secrecy surrounding the 127e program in Lebanon, known as Lion Hunter, whose existence The Intercept revealed last year, could embroil the U.S. in a wider war in the Middle East and pose an additional threat to U.S. troops.’
Whilst all this is going on, the question has to be asked – is Europe ready for this war era and does America have the stomach for it?
In the meantime, the latest economic data from just about every angle tells a troubling story, with business activity arrows mostly heading in a southerly direction.
Britain is completely lost at sea on this. Not only are we not anchored to our nearest neighbours, or have a ‘special relationship’ that means anything – but we also have little diplomatic influence any more. As The Times stated clearly in its article, “the risks of all-out war are growing … we still appear to be living in the last days of a collective delusion and don’t seem ready for what’s coming.” And as Niall Furguson points out – “the war in Ukraine is roughly equivalent to the Korean War during the first Cold War, revealing an ideological as well as geopolitical division between the countries of the “Rimland” (the Anglosphere, western Europe and Japan) and those of the Eurasian “Heartland” (China, Russia and Iran plus North Korea). A war in the Middle East might be the next crisis in a cascade of conflict that has the potential to escalate to a Third World War, especially if China seizes the moment — perhaps as early as next year.”
There have been warnings of a renewed global conflict from many sources over the last twenty years. The difference between then and now is that our adversaries have caught up, especially from a technology standpoint and have done so at a time when debt threatens the West’s ability to respond – both politically and in practice.
Back in February, fifteen esteemed professors of economics from the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Italy, France and others, penned and signed a letter (published in the FT) warning that the current economic conditions around the world are much more likely to lead to war. “One of the worst faults of the present system is the imbalance in economic relations inherited from the era of free-market globalisation. We refer to international net positions, where the US, the UK and various other western countries have large external debts, while China, other eastern countries, and to some extent Russia are in an external credit position.”
These experts warn that a new international economic policy initiative is therefore required to head off the threat of global conflict.
The Hill, an American newspaper and online news outlet has grown to become the second most-viewed US political news website and the third-most tweeted U.S. news source. Yesterday, it published an interesting piece that said – “Oct. 7 was Israel’s 9/11 and Yom Kippur War rolled into one tragic day. It was also, in effect, another Pearl Harbor for the U.S. But that reality is still not fully dawning on many in Washington. Russia, China and Iran are all on war footing, as is North Korea, both vis-à-vis Japan and South Korea and as Putin’s latest junior partner in his faltering war in Ukraine.
There is no doubt that a global war has started. It is already being fought on multiple fronts in different regions – and all are driven by the ideologies of the East versus the West. Now it’s started, it is highly unlikely to end quietly, and as many experts are now warning, this could be the beginning of World War 3.
We should not forget that, as Robert Gates stated – no one alive can remember a time when an adversary had as much economic, scientific, technological, and military power as China does today. We have to wonder if China is empowering their allies with these new capabilities because not even the American security system, with its multi-billion dollar annual budget, saw what was coming on October 7th when Hamas attacked Israel.