There’s a question being bandied about in more recent days as to whether the world is involved in a world war. Good question!
On the surface it would not appear to be so. Historically, we have imagined a cataclysmic clash between two equally potent armies who are in a colossal struggle for potential world dominance. In the 20th Century we had our first ever identified World Wars. The year was 1914 in what was to become the first of our world wars. This conflict came about over disputed land in the Balkans. Because of past European colonization, alliances were made to protect their territories or to grab more from neighbors. What is often thought to have been a war fought in Europe, this conflict literally spread around the world. Valiantly attempting to remain neutral, the United States did not enter this war until 1917. It was over a year later.
German and Russian forces were fighting throughout Eastern Europe in a see-saw rhythm of battle. Early in the conflict, British, Australian and New Zealander forces were fighting a losing effort against the Turks. Eventually prevailing, the British managed to capture Baghdad and Jerusalem. This sounded the death knell for the Ottoman Turks. The cost in human life is enormous. Britain alone lost 19,240 killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, arguably the bloodiest battle in history.
What made the First World War so unique was the development of what would be 20th Century technology, using 18th-19th Century battle tactics. For the first time the recently invented airplane was used in war. This provided a clear advantage to nations that could fund such expensive weapons of war. Add to this the cost of training and you have the makings of an expensive war machine. Compounding the horrors of modern-day warfare was the introduction of what would be known as “Mustard Gas.” This chemical agent in its pure form is odorless and colorless. When used in warfare, the agent is given a yellow-brown coloring, and the smell is that of a mustard plant (or garlic, or horseradish), thus gaining its name. The German Army first used it in 1917. Other war machines developed for modern warfare were the tank and the submarine. Though these weapons were tried in earlier conflicts, the Germans improved upon them, making them a part of their overall war arsenal. We also saw the use of parachutes by those in observation balloons; flamethrowers were brought into the mix; and the machine gun was modernized to be used by a single individual instead of the cumbersome Gatling Guns of only a few decades earlier.
In World War Two there was the two-front war for the United States. This created new challenges for us as a nation. We had always relied on the two large bodies of water, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to buffer us from foreign aggression. Now, the enemy we faced was in both directions. In both the Pacific and European Theaters of Operation, we developed “expeditionary forces.” An expeditionary force is one that is very mobile, and can travel quickly to a “hot spot” in another part of the world. The Marines had been working on this idea for some time. The Army was catching on to this military strategy as well. The Marines learned many valuable, yet costly lessons during their island campaigns of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, to name some of the more notable expeditionary battles. The Army is best remembered for its expeditionary campaign in the June 1944 D-Day Invasion on the beaches of Normandy, Omaha, and Utah. General Douglas MacArthur used expeditionary soldiers in various battles in the Pacific.
World War Two introduced us to the aircraft carrier, a novel idea that transformed the way we’ve conducted war ever since. The use of remote control for exploding bombs or mines was added to our weaponry. And of course, what became the ultimate WWII-ending weapon, the atomic bomb.
So where does all this leave us when it comes to a World War Three? Will our current War on Terrorism become the much dreaded WWIII? Certainly this war is being fought at a number of geographic locations around the world. Many nations are involved in this battle. The enemy we face is intent on destroying western democracy and apparently will only be stopped when: a) they have succeeded in destroying the west and our freedoms, or b) they have been soundly defeated by a determined, resolute west.
We are not watching two behemoth nations slinging arrows at each other on the field of battle as has historically been the scenario for war. This is, instead, a clash of world ideologies. We fight to remain a free people. The enemy seeks to dominate and remove our freedoms. Today we are battling an illusive, mercenary enemy who hides in the populace, inflicting damage on their enemy through IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombings, caring little for the people they supposedly are fighting for. What is frightening to consider is the “what if” scenario we might be faced with should this enemy obtain one or more nuclear weapons and the capability of delivering them to their intended targets.
Iran is working toward developing nuclear weapons, as has North Korea. The thought that these two countries, who care little for human life, is chilling. What would future generations say about us if we allowed nuclear weapons to wind up in the hands of despotic world leaders, who make no bones about using such weapons against their enemies? Is it possible to avoid a WWIII? Yes, I believe it is. But it will require a president who has the unflinching character and resolve of a Harry Truman.
Think about that as you consider who you will vote for in this year’s presidential race. Our freedoms won’t mean a thing if we do not fight for them – again – just as our forefathers have done, and this generation is doing now.