Myself and others have been saying that World War III will consist of multiple theaters as regional issues spiral out of control and escalate. World tensions are high right now with Russia/Ukraine, China/Taiwan, and Israel/Iran taking center stage. Of course the United States has its fingers in all the situations, despite no real geographic or economic interest to be involved.
When world powers go around sticking themselves into things, small problems tend to get a lot larger. The two world wars didn't threaten the US until we inserted ourselves into the messes that began the chain of events. Through the eyes of history, future civilizations will wonder why the US got involved in European wars and an Asian war of conquest.
World War III, if it doesn't culminate in the end of the world as we know it, will be a combination of smaller, regional wars that have no business creating a worldwide conflict but for the meddling of other powers.
I'll probably be wrong about this, but since things seem to be progressing so fast these days we might now have to wait long to find out.
WWII consisted of multiple theaters and was really two wars; Europe's everyone-versus-the-Nazis and the Pacific's everyone-versus-Japan. Both wars happened about the same time but for different reasons. These were regional things that could have stayed that way but for the Axis powers.
WWII gets a little more interesting if you look at it through the perspective of history instead of our still-living experience of it. Germany would have stayed at peace for a while if it wasn't for Hitler making the European theater all about Hitler and his crazy ideas. But I want to look at this without through an eye of say 1000 years in the future where no one really cares about the fascists being evil and see them as we might see Rome.
Europe was part revenge and part land-grab. We start with the man who made trains run on time. Italy never really got to have colonies because it was ununified during the Scramble for Africa and was late to the party. In the '30s, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and created Italian Libya, hence the North African theater. This was a land grab.
We all know about Hitler but just to be honest the invasion of France was at its heart just another chapter in the eternal struggle between Germany and France. Remember kids, NATO exists partly to keep the French and Germans from having another war (there were like 10 since the 18th century). France coming to the defense of Poland was a happy accident.
Belgium got involved because Belgium is France's backdoor. While the UK was not fast enough to deploy to Poland, they sure hurried to France too late to help Belgium, just like the last war. Fun fact: the UK guaranteed the sovereignty of Belgium since like forever partly for politics and because the House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, I mean the House of Windsor, is related to the Belgian monarchy through Victoria & Albert.
Hitler invaded Russia about two years later due to his desire for lebensraum. Russian farmland would be good for Germans and he could make the Slavic people into slaves. Turns out Germany was just too small to take on Russia, as incompetent as it is/was, and fight in the West. I guess we won WWII in Europe because Hitler was an incompetent, micromanaging meddler.
So Germany's conquest of Poland and Russia (east, really) was territorial expansion and a resource grab, like Japan was doing. France was kind of an aberrance in that the frogs and krauts had a long-running gang war going on but if instead of Nazis normal Germans came inside France (wait, what?) probably would have spanked the French and eventually withdrew or left a demilitarized country like the Vichy Regime without the Nazi flair.
That was a long-winded way of saying Germany's two fronts were about revenge on France and taking land in the east for German expansion. A regional thing. The UK joined cuz defense treaties and Europeans just can't let another country win a major war without getting involved.
Prime Minister: "The Germans might kick France's ass."
George VI: "We ca-ca-can't let th-th-th-that happen. Let's say we def-defend the Poles but but but we'll be too late, so go to Fwance in-in-instead. How dare Germany wa-wa-win a war."
Japan wanted to expand and needed resources, so it looked to China, which made the US and the UK angry because the Japanese were bastards, so the West, mostly the US, embargoed Japan. The Japanese economy was battered, which lead Japan not into soul searching about what they were doing in China, but instead to conquering Asia to plunder it for resources. The East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere is very similar to what China wants to do today with its Belt and Road Initiative.
In 1941, Japan had to attack the US and UK to hopefully cripple our militaries, taken our Far East colonies, and knock us out of the war. We know how that gamble worked out. If Japan hadn't attacked the western navies and colonies, it might have stayed an Asian conflict.
Surprise! Turns out a lot of wars are about land grabs, or revenge. Now by the time WWII ended Russia was still smarting from Hitler going balls deep on the European side of their country. Stalin and the commies didn't want their cervix punched again so they decided to create buffer states AKA the Iron Curtain where the world learned that REAL COMMUNISM HAS NEVER BEEN TRIED.
Now we go to the present and our nascent third world war. Putin has openly said he wants a buffer state vis a vis Ukraine because NATO broke it's promise not to expand east and threaten Russian. Guess what, when hostile aligned countries show up on one's borders wars tend to happen.
America wanted to rear-end Russia so hard after the Cold War and that Russia was so weak in the '90s we had no problem running roughshod over them. This pissed off Putin who is threatened by the west on his border because there is no natural defensive line there and two massive invasions have occurred over western Russia in the last 200ish years (Napoleon & Hitler). Seems kinda reasonable, right?
But as things do, they fall into dichotomies and the west, AKA globohomo, had to dominate Russia so NATO expanded and Victoria Nuland threw Barak Obama's coup in Ukraine because the president or somebody was too close to Moscow.
Guess the joke is on the Soviets for letting all their "useful idiots" out because its the commies' useful idiots who have taken over the US government. A Ukrainian flag in your profile tends to correlate nicely with being a Biden voter.
In WWIII "classic" or the 1980s Tom Clancy edition, Russia invades west for reasons and NATO is on a defensive. In 2023, I don't see that happening. Russia will probably start making small strikes against the resupply efforts for Ukraine and in the process kill Americans or break stuff. I can't see anyone getting too worked up over dead Germans. Today's Germans seem about as cowardly as the jokes about the French. "Brand new H&K rifle, never shot, only dropped once."
Maybe the Poles will kick it all off. Say Russia blows up some supply dump in Poland. The Poles are pissed at Russia and probably want revenge because of all of history going back to time immemorial, 1945-1989 being just a small part. So Poland decides to go full-throttle on Russia, conveniently forgetting what happened the last time they went to war, knowing full well that they will get waffle stomped. But Poland is like the little brother that starts shit and expects his big brother to finish it so the Poles expect that Germany and NATO will roll in to smash Russia.
Russia: "Nice red balloons you got there."
Poland: "Oops, I let them go."
[If you didn't get the reference]
Also while I'm typing this novel Russia may have done some non-military stuff like blow up some pipelines or cut undersea cables. My bet is on the west escalating what they are sending to Ukraine to basically force Russia to interdict it (i.e. blow it up before it gets there) and starts the war. Russia sinking a US-flagged cargo ship or killing some western trainers would get things going.
As for the war itself, who knows what would happen? The war in Ukraine so far has been a bloodletting experience for the Russian army, killing men and breaking stuff. It is a war of attrition and NATO hasn't gotten its hands dirty (although we gave a bunch of stuff away to Ukraine, weakening our defensive posture). However, NATO and the US in particular is still lightyears better than anyone else and Russia stands a good chance of getting its ass kicked so hard that it is forced into a corner.
Russia in a corner is a Bad Thing because Putin is already afraid of being invaded/dominated by the West. While I doubt there would be any serious incursion into Russia, American airstrikes or even small-scale raids into Russia proper might push Putin over the edge. A desperate Putin facing a humiliating retreat with a bloodthirsty NATO army to its west might result in really bad stuff happening. What kind of really bad stuff? Like a Presidential Alert on your cell phone before the screen goes dark permanently 15-20 minutes later.
China's land grab is for defense. They feel unprotected to the east where the US can attack them from the Pacific. Taiwan would make a great platform for that. Now the US would never be dumb enough to invade China because we want cheaper iPhones or something, but in the past the West and Japan has done just that. They think long-term; we think two-election cycles ahead.
So seizing Taiwan secures a huge chunk of the eastern flank and it reunites the lost province. Can't have Chinese people living in freedom, you know. Uniting the whole country makes Winnie-the-Pooh, sorry Xi Jingping, look good to the Communist Party and a war distracts China from the COVID fuckery and the fact that the best days of the rising Asian tiger are behind them.
I will be that Joe Biden will probably puss-out and not reinforce Taiwan at the first hint the Chinese are about to re-enact Saving Private Ryan. But China can't trust that the corrupt old man they probably bought off through his crackhead son, or more accurately the military he putatively commands, won't fight back. So China has to take preemptive measures against the US.
US Navy ships in the area are sunk. Guam is hit. Maybe even bases in Japan. To keep us occupied in Korea and to prevent the rapid response of troops already in-theater, North Korea starts causing trouble. At the far, but quite probable, end of the spectrum, China launches cruise missile strikes on the US West Coast and engages in clandestine or special forces raids on homeland military bases.
China may also seize on the moment, or in the wider war (remember, these things can take months or years) to seize islands/waters claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines. The former has fought China and owned them while the later would fold like a fat man trying to sit on a cardboard box. If things get really wild, Japan throws down, the Koreas go to war, and then anything can happen.
North Korea will probably be engaged by China to cause trouble as a distraction as I explained above. But the fat pantload Kim Jong Un and his band of generals decide to seize the moment and take South Korea. I doubt this, but my bet is if anything happens, it's a planned escalation that is miscalculated and leads to a real war. Imagine a vicious, barking dog on a chain barking at another dog on a chain. One of the chains breaks and the free dog suddenly has to attack the other dog, even though he doesn't want to, or he loses some serious face.
India and China contest territory in the Himalayas basically over water rights or something. To stop things from escalating, they have banned firearms and fight small clashes with sticks and clubs. Let's say that in a world war situation, one sides chooses to use the moment that the other or the world is distracted to gain an advantage on the other.
I'm gonna go with India attacking China because China is busy in Taiwan. Somehow what would be a short, regional thing, perhaps like the brief war in 1962, turns into a Much Bigger Deal. China couldn't afford to show weakness if it's fighting a war with the US over Taiwan. Probably doesn't go nuclear but it could turn into a much bigger thing if the US pressures India to go after China or India wants to lick China now to make sure they don't come after them once the Taiwan situation is done.
India and Pakistan have been at war many times since the partition after the British got out. They both have nukes, a lot of people, and have gotten quite close to using them in anger (versus accident). According to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the two call centers, sorry, countries, almost nuked each other in 2019.
So let's say that the Middle Eastern sphere had destabilized for reasons. Maybe Muslim terrorists are attack in India because of global jihad or Pakistan sides with China in a Indian/Chinese war. Whatever the story is, these two countries are on very short nuclear fuses and are probably likely to be even more irresponsible with them than North Korea or Iran.
While I don't see global thermonuclear war happening nuclear war is a BAD THING. Lots of nasty fallout travels the globe, a nuclear war will lower the bar for someone else to use nukes next time, and the American economy will be affected. A nuclear war in India will harm the offshored business done there, many pharmaceuticals are made in India, and there will probably be a lot of workers in Silicon Valley leaving the country or distracted from work. Not that any of that is necessarily bad for the US, but it will affect the economy negatively aside from the stock market freaking out.
This scenario is easy: Israel attacks Iran's nuclear program. This has been in the news recently and the US & Israel will probably hit Iran in 2023. If Iran has nukes, they will probably use them, even if crude. Regardless if they do or don't Iran will probably still unleash hell on the Israelis and the US.
The US is likely to provide refueling aircraft, electronic warfare/reconnaissance support, and might even use the stealth bombers. A warning sign I'd look for is maybe two aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea. Also it is believed that Saudi Arabia and other sunni Persian Gulf nations might join an anti-Iran coalition since a nuclear Iran threatens them all. That could create a pan-Arabian war.
As for the US, there will probably be Iranian hacking attacks on businesses and infrastructure. Prepare for utilities to go down and major business disruptions. I'm not sure they have the cyber capabilities of Russia or China, but they can cause problems. Iran will also probably activate terrorist sleeper cells in the US and start a whole bunch of terrorist attacks.
Having US malls get shot up or substations disabled, blacking out major cities, will really piss off Americans. Terror attacks by Iranians will get most Americans on-board with waffle stomping Iran into the dirt.
The Persian Gulf will close as Iran sinks ships, blows up oil platforms, and attacks anyone who had anything to do with the Jews and the Great Satan. Oil will hit all-time record highs. Remember that Oil Storm documentary? Yeah, that bad. Hope you like paying $10 a gallon.
Now for Israel. Iran will arrange for Hezbollah to launch massive rocket and missile attacks to overwhelm Iron Dome. It wouldn't surprise me if Iron Dome goes dry and missile attacks start landing. The rocket fest from 2021 will look like nothing. Israel will probably invade Gaza, the West Bank, and into Lebanon. The damage will likely be so horrendous that the Jews will want blood.
Remember the reason the US was so desperate to hunt down SCUD missiles in 1991 is that Saddam was trying to being Israel into the war to fracture the Arab coalition against him. Israel said that if Saddam used chemical warheads on the SCUDs he fired on Israel that they might have nuked Baghdad. While I doubt the Jews will go nuclear unless one is used on them, they are not a country that will take shit.
Iran will probably cease to be an effective Islamic theocracy and sponsor of Shia terrorism by the time the war is over. Attacking the US particularly through terrorism is a great way to get Regime Change™. This will make Turkey the key Islamic power in the world and the Middle East, something which Turkish president Erdogan wants very much.
Once the dust settles, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Israel signs a pan-Islamic peace treaty, say for a trial period of seven years. If they do, then the Book of Revelation just started and things are gonna get a whole lot worse.
In a war with China, I bet they launch cruise missile attacks on US West Coast military bases (plus Guam and Hawaii). This is to its advantage as much of the war would be fought from the Pacific.
These bases have no defenses against cruise missiles unless a destroyer is in port and has its missiles/radar ready. A missile strike would sink the Navy at the docks, blow up aircraft all across CA, OR, and WA, and damage ammo/supplies on the West Coast. Imagine the Japanese's WWII strategy about dealing a killer blow at the beginning of the thing but it actually happens.
A new Pearl Harbor will galvanize Americans against China, but China might actually do some pretty bad damage that we are a country aren't prepared to accept. Two aircraft carriers sunk means 10,000 dead Americans.
I already mentioned attacks on American military bases and infrastructure by special forces. This will, like the missile attacks, be calculated to demoralize and scare the American people. Look up the Battle of Los Angeles if you want to see how much people can freak out about this stuff, except this time it will be real. I would expect the government to go full-retard with emergency wartime restrictions that cause friction with civilians.
On the economic front, expect attacks to come on the financial markets against the US dollar and treasury assets. Major hacking attacks will come on every sort of business and infrastructure. I wrote an article that goes into detail on how cyberwarfare can really mess with the home front. Internal political strife will also be stoke and magnified for foreign intelligence services to distract us with anti-Vietnam like protests or another George Floyd riot season. This last paragraph goes for Russia too.
The US is on the verge of an internal civil war. Not the second war of independence that the South tried to wage in the 1860s but an ugly inter-ethnic political kind of war all over the country. Think Northern Ireland's Troubles or the breakup of Yugoslavia writ very large.
I'm not going into detail of this one a world war will cause the US to fall apart internally. Political dissent and issues with a possible draft will cause rifts like the anti-Vietnam protests in the '60s. The economic crisis we're trying to defer will either start because of the war or get worse. This one will probably be more terrible than the Great Depression.
Left/Right violence will escalate and I'd be that if government control slips, inter-political violence will occur like something out of Germany after WWI. Right-leaning states will defy Washington which will have their own consequences. These red states will probably become de facto independent while conservatives loose all faith in government, so they stop caring, and the Left can launch a revolution.
Somehow, civil order in America breaks down. We start killing each other over race, politics, or food. Skipping a lot of it, I predict that we will see a massive genocide of African-Americans, the domination of immigrant Hispanic America by narco-cartels, and a functional bifurcation of Republican leaning and Democratic leaning areas of the country. The United States may still exist on paper, and we might even have our military left, but we will be a rump state.
So this went on a lot longer than I expected. My point is that things can fracture all across the world at relatively the same point in history because fault lines have appeared elsewhere. Some of it may be coincidental or it may be as a result of other actions.
All I can say is that when stuff begins to happen in the world, anything can happen. Multipolar conflicts have happened in the past and World War II was just the most recent and best example of it.
Do me a favor, please buy my books and help support my work. I have books that will help you survive a civil war, the end of the world, or a nuclear war.
Author Don Shift
Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and avid fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film who has pushed a black and white for a mile or two. He is a student of disasters, history, and current events.