In July 1914, the First World War started. World War I, as it is popularly called, lasted for about 4 years ending in November 1918. This was the first time the world suffered such devastation which directly led to the death of 7 million civilians and 9 million soldiers. As if that wasn’t enough, in 1918, the genocide which was the fallout of the war led to the Spanish Influenza that cost over 100 million lives globally. Fast forward to 1939, the Second World War started and lasted until 1945. During this war, more than 100 million people were mobilized across 30 different countries including world leaders. The exact number of deaths caused by World War II was never confirmed but it ranged from 70 to 85 million people. This war also involved the use of nuclear weapons, genocides and even the holocaust happened during the war.
The Threat Of A Third World War – World War III
Fast forward again to 2020, a new threat of another world war started leading people to ask; “will there be a third world war”? In the middle of this threat was the president of the United States, Donald Trump and the late Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani of Iran. Three days into the new year, Trump approved a drone strike on a site believed to be the base of Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Trump made this move in the best interest of the Iranians who had allegedly suffered terrorist attacks from the Quds Force. However, a lot of people, including Iranians, saw the drone strike as an act of war at the time.
Keep in mind that Soleimani used to be the second most powerful person in his country. Also, he wasn’t the only one who was killed during the strike. Nine other people died with him but they were all considered terrorists as well. Following the drone strike the search term “World War III” started to trend on social media and Google. Everyone was expecting that Iran would make a counter attack and Trump would retaliate again. Days after the strike, tensions continued to grow between both countries.
Officials from the United States said that Soleimani had it coming because their intelligence agencies alerted them of an upcoming attack against American interests. Also, they noted that Soleimani already had significant blood of Americans on his hands including the servicemen who died during the 2003 U.S invasion of Iraq. However, a lot of neutral advocates stated that the drone strike was an assassination and that it cannot be justified with the “self-defense” excuse.
A few days before Soleimani was killed, there was a series of American airstrikes targeted at the Iranian militia. In response to this, several protesters matched to the United States Embassy in Baghdad to express their anger about the airstrikes. The conflict was already heated up before Trump gave the order for a drone strike against Soleimani. So, this only made things worse. A lot of people were certain that this would lead to World War III. Thankfully, the crisis was averted. Before this happened, it gave a lot of people an excuse to justify Trump’s Impeachment due to the legal questions the killing of Soleimani brought to light.
The tensions between the United States and Iraq indeed subsided but does this mean there is no longer a threat of World War III? Not at all. Soleimani’s killing may have attracted the most traffic this year but it isn’t the only threat the world is facing. Since after the end of World War II, there has been anticipation across the globe of another World War. Another thing that can lead to World War III is the development and deployment of nuclear weapons. If no one is planning to engage in another large scale war, why are countries eager to pursue a nuclear program? If there is global peace as they claim, why is every country taking measures to prepare for a third world war?
So far, nine countries have detonated their nuclear weapons publicly. However, only five out of this number are regarded as nuclear states under the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons treaty (NPT). These five countries signed a treaty that allows them to own nuclear arsenals as long as they are regulated. The five nuclear states are the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom. The United States and Russia are said to own more than 90% of the total nuclear weapons in the world. This nuclear treaty act was formed in 1980 with just three states. Only two nations have been able to join the group since then. The NPT allows member states to use nuclear weapons only for a defensive attack or in the event of an invasion. In no condition is an NPT member state allowed to carry out an offensive nuclear attack.
Even though only the states that are part of the NPT are officially allowed to own nuclear weapons, other non-member states have conducted nuclear tests. This includes North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, and India. In 2003, however, some of these countries allegedly withdrew their application to join the NPT and stopped nuclear testing. Note that North Korea is still suspected to be running a nuclear program even if they have denied this several times. The same thing can be said about Israel although they have never admitted having nuclear weapons in a bid to minimize political backlash.
The United States Vs. North Korea
Between 2017 and 2018, there was significant tension between the United States and North Korea and the bone of contention was nuclear weapons. It all started after the North Korean government, which is not a part of NPT, launched a nuclear testing program without following due process. This was an issue because NPT could not regulate North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons. The United States tried to force North Korea to stop its nuclear program.
At the time, it was believed that North Korea might make a move against South Korea, it’s sister country that has an alliance with the United States. You might be wondering; if the tension was between North and South Korea why was there a risk of another world war? Well, the answer is simple. If North Korea attacked South Korea, the United States would have no choice but to retaliate due to its alliance. Other countries would have taken sides and before you know, the entire world safe for a few places would have been involved in the war. Also, it is vital to note that as tensions grew between North Korea and the United States, North Korea threatened to attack Australia with its nuclear weapons. Their reason was that Australia was a strong supporter of the United States and they didn’t bother to get the facts straight before they blindly took sides.
Thankfully, in 2018, both countries started reducing the threats and working towards a peaceful compromise. North Korea agreed to resume its socio-cultural talks with South Korea paving a way for diplomatic progress. Talks between all parties involved continued throughout 2018. However, things became a little heated within the year and North Korea stopped communicating with the United States. Again, people became scared that World War III was on the horizon. In February 2019, Mr. Trump became the first President of the United States to ever set foot in North Korea. While his decision to stop by and share and handshake with the leader of North Korea ignited a backlash from his opponents, the visit paid off. In June 2019, both countries agreed to resume what they tagged as “working-level” nuclear discussions. There are rumors that North Korea is still secretly working on its nuclear program while publicly claiming to have kept it on hold.
The Verdict – Will There Be a World War III?
No one can see the future. So, it is difficult to predict a Third World War. However, several trends around the globe make another World War a possibility. Even if the recent tension between North Korea, Iran, and the United States was diffused before things escalated, there is no way to determine what will happen the next time the President of a country with a nuclear arsenal is pissed off. The number of declared nuclear weapons has reduced significantly from 70,300 in 1986 to 13,890. Out of these 3,750 warheads were allegedly active in 2019. This is still a significant number.
There is an existing conspiracy theory that the United States, Russia and the other members of NPT have more active nuclear weapons than they claim. The lack of transparency when it comes to nuclear weapons is due to the political scandal and ethical concerns that the use of nuclear weapons has caused in the past. However, most of the weapons that were meant to be destroyed were simply partially dismantled making them viable options for destruction if a war should start. If global leaders continue to work together in cooperation, the chances of another World War will reduce significantly. However, if there is even a slight act of aggression from one country to a nuclear state, the aftermath will be catastrophic.