Yufei Wang / Sun Contributor

March 15, 2024

GLASGOW | World War III Has Already Begun

Print More

American treasure Lana Del Rey said it best: “When the world was at war before, we just kept dancing.” World War III has already begun, and not much can stop it. The coming years will change the face of the earth: We need to wake up to the changes and mentally prepare for a time that puts to question our place in the world.

It does not have to feel like there is a global conflict for there to be one. Some nutcase nationalist shot Austrian archduke Ferdinand in 1914 and started the First World War. In our American understanding, World War II had begun after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but the marks of tension had been there all along. The difference between this war and the previous ones is a shift to proxy-wars fought by the global hegemony, like what we’re seeing in Ukraine. Rather than world powers directly engaging in old-fashioned interstate tank war, most conflict is thrown onto the shoulders of the third-world. The already struggling Global South has to face a new type of colonialism in the unstoppable competition for influence — echoes of the Cold War.

Hamas and Iran are practically best friends, and have been in an allyship for decades. Iran sends hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia. Many missiles in Ukraine come from North Korea. North Korea, earning billions from these missile sales, also works with Pakistan and Hamas. Terrorist groups around the world support Hamas, like Lebanon’s Hezbollah — which collaborates with organized-crime cartels across Latin America. How can someone look at a full circle like that and deny the existence of a global conflict?

The power of words should never be underestimated: There is intense accountability that comes with throwing around the term ‘World War.’ A World War, however, need not mean a nuclear war. 

Kim Jong un has been threatening to “deal a deadly blow to thoroughly annihilate” us for a while now. Putin reminding us of Russia’s nuclear capabilities by yelling “Don’t they get that,” is ominous but not shocking since the nation that sheltered Osama bin Laden also has nukes. What’s most alarming is the lack of a direct flight from Russia to the U.S. and the departure of American businesses from Russia in 2022, effectively ushering in a new Cold War and weakening the dollar. Communication and understanding are required to avoid conflict.

The elephant in the room is China (and to that extent, Taiwan). China is undoubtedly the most important, competitive and strategically complicated relationship that the United States is facing today. Xi Jinping put it best when he said that US-China relations impact the “destiny of mankind.”

You can literally see Taiwan from mainland China; the Chief Economist of the World Bank from 2008 to 2012 swam from Taiwan to mainland China and yet Biden is dangerously promising American intervention. The People’s Republic of China has repeatedly emphasized, without a shred of a doubt, that they intend to ‘reunify’ Taiwan. It’s undisputed that the strategic window to annex Taiwan would be before 2030 and the U.S. Department of Defense agrees, citing everything from internal Chinese politics to Chinese demographics after the one-child-policy. China’s Navy is the largest in the world, and the U.S will catch up by that 2030 deadline so timing really is critical. Ukraine and Israel were the first two dominos, and they alone have changed everything. If we reach a point of recognition, where we can openly declare that we’ve dawned upon a new world war, the pivot point in mentality will be related to Taiwan. If the United States and China worked together more, we could do anything; instead, we’ve trapped ourselves in a self-fulfilling spiral of battle marked by lack of cultural understanding. 

I write with a plea to my generation to open their eyes to what I sincerely believe is inevitable. There are always those who thrive in hard times. It’s just like climate change: People are already dying and Jarkata is sinking by the second, but many people will live unfazed. The same college students that consistently protest the inequality in our world will inevitably take advantage of it if the idea of a draft becomes mainstream in America again. 

So what if this article is scary? The world is a scary place; it’s a privilege to be calm at a time like this. Fear only comes when trouble is felt; that’s why we sat dormant as the cancer of Nazism choked Europe until Japan attacked our own shores. Again, the tension had been there long before. If Americans feared conflict more, then we’d be more likely to pressure our government into avoiding it.  

As a young American man growing up in the world today, I doubt the ability of the fellow men around me to engage in the same battles as our forefathers. The tragedy of Ukraine can’t be replicated in America. I can hardly sit on the john without my phone, let alone get into a tank and carry a picture of my momma. But therein lies the open secret! If a difference in 20 years between the first two World Wars was enough to radically change the meaning of war, then a difference of 80 years would be all the more apparent.

Let me paint a picture. We’ve already got domestic extremists that want to target our vulnerable power grid; it wouldn’t be hard for our enemies to take advantage of our overreliance on technology. Some geniuses decided that we all need automatic sinks, and we all ran with it. If the power went out for just a day, we would not even be able to wash our hands, forget about hospitals and modern education. 

Why does nobody talk about how North Korea hacked Hollywood over a stupid movie in 2014? We were weak and couldn’t even show it in our own theaters. Just imagine the capabilities that they’re hiding together with the New Axis of Evil. If U.S officials have expressed concerns about our power and water supply being hacked, then it’s very easy to imagine all of the elevators stopping in Manhattan and airplanes not being able to function.

Last summer, some fool in Canada started 14 wildfires. It’s gotten me questioning the bigger wildfires that affected us; from New York City, to Philadelphia, to our nation’s capital, so much of our country was blanketed by smog in 2023. My eyelashes could feel the dust back home in Queens and the sky was red like hellfire; for four days there was a mini recession, and my clothing smelled like brimstone — not to mention the health effects. So I was thinking, how hard could it be for a spy to light a few matches up north? If a gender reveal party can make it happen, then so can a government during conflict. This is the meaning of a 21st century war, plus the proxies in modern colonies.

Wildfire smoke envelops the Brooklyn Bridge on June 7, 2023. ( Dave Sanders / The New York Times )

Maybe the scariest idea of all is a type of poison that cannot be traced. An app so addicting that I have it open right this very moment, seriously. An algorithm is capable of rewiring the minds of toddlers and turning America upside down. Early conversations concerning tech platforms and  misinformation fueling polarization have been especially felt in the wake of the protests surrounding the Israel-Hamas war. Conscious of my Blackness, I’m worried about rising racial tensions in light of this national polarization and an increasingly divided world.

In his farewell address, George Washington famously said that Americans should set aside their “violent likes and dislikes of foreign nations,” adding that it would let our passions control us and make us slaves. Washington was totally correct, but we’re too deep in the woods to get back home. I can’t begin to relay the nuance and entirety of my thoughts on this matter in one article. I believe that left and right wing American politics are a perfect mirror for the US-China relationship, and any amount of fighting doesn’t erase the dependence of both on each other. I remember my great grandfather, Lieutenant Ivan Scherbina and my great grandmother, Nurse Nina Scherbina who fought against Hitler in the Second World War. Above all, I think about the future of my home and the people that I love. There are powerful forces wanting to flip the world order. We are under attack in the realm of resources, our currency, our dominance and our influence. It’s fun to invent a villain, or an axis of evil, but no elected President or mass movement can stop the greater network of interrelated forces that has put us in the current situation. We’re playing a game that humans have always played, and the obvious lesson of equality and love is repeatedly forgotten and remembered again. There’s so much more and nothing more to say, love is the best way to finish. 

Leo Glasgow is a second year student in the College of Arts and Sciences. His fortnightly column Can We Talk focuses on student life, domestic and international politics and social issues. He can be reached at [email protected]

The Cornell Daily Sun is interested in publishing a broad and diverse set of content from the Cornell and greater Ithaca community. We want to hear what you have to say about this topic or any of our pieces. Here are some guidelines on how to submit. And here’s our email: [email protected].