Middle East tensions run high as the United States appears ready to square off with Iran. For the past few days, an escalating cycle of tit-for-tat violence has dominated the headlines. It began in earnest when Iranian backed militiamen assaulted the American embassy in Baghdad in retaliation for US airstrikes. The United States hit back by killing the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, -the terrorist arm of said government and sent 750 troops. Iran shook their proverbial fist and made their threats in the hours and days that followed. America upped the game by promising to send thousands of soldiers to the Middle East. It now seems that it is Iran’s move on how to proceed. Their choice could send the region over the precipice.
Without a doubt, American-Iranian relations are strained to the breaking point. Without a doubt, the region is quite unstable. Without a doubt, there could be a state-on-state war. That being said, a spectacular hype has manifested one entirely out of proportion to the weight of the matter. Social media is abuzz with talk of another world war. Taking a look at what trended on the de-facto political social media network twitter is face palm inducing. Yesterday, the term “WWIII” was used hundreds of thousands of times. At one point the name of the long dead Austro-Hungarian nobleman whose assassination ignited the Great War trended on the same disappointing platform. Plenty of WWIII memes cropped up for the occasion as well.
This article may be more of a harangue than a news piece but the hype about globe bestriding strife is entirely irrelevant so it must be debunked as such. It cannot be overstated that there will not be another world war as a result of the unfortunate situation of America and Iran. A regional war does seem to be in the making but just that –a regional war. War is war and people will suffer and die if one breaks out but a sense of scale must be maintained. The suffering and death inflicted by the world wars is on a scale that cannot be comprehended. Any war which might erupt between America, her allies and Iran could never compare to either of the world wars and certainly would not expand to be another in its own right. The conditions of the world’s politics and militaries are nothing like they were in 1914 or 1939. These two points, the discrepancy in the levels of suffering in a possible American-Iranian war and the real world wars and the obvious differences between the situations on the eve of those two terrible conflicts and today are the focuses of this brief article.
To the point of the political and military conditions of the world now and on the eve of the world wars, one cannot find apt comparisons. The Great War will be the reference point for simplicity. In 1914 there were two international alliances, the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. These countries were major powers that were more balanced than not. Today, there is no parallel and there hasn’t been since the fall of the communist bloc. NATO is a globe bestriding western alliance that though it has enemies in Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and elsewhere does not have a great organized international body against it. Russia will not come to Iran’s aid and neither will China, North Korea or anyone else save a few jihadist terror groups. In 1914 there was a rough balance between the major powers. That is not the case today. Today, Iran cannot compare in defensive technology to that of the superpower United States and her major power western allies. Indeed the Iranian state could defy America; much in the way an ant would defy a boot. Their only hope would be to retreat to the mountains and avoid complete annihilation until the Americans get tired of the war and leave. This is the case since Iran hasn’t a prayer of holding the cities and other strategic locations or beating the United States and her allies in a conventional, state-on-state war. Nothing is comparable between the military and political situations of 1914 and 2020.
To the point of the discrepancy of suffering, as stated above the scope of the two sufferings does defy comparison. Scale in suffering is as important as scale in actual breadth to being a World War. The chapters on the two world wars are some of the most blood soaked in human history and this is the truest benchmark in defining what is a World War. Conceptualizing the suffering of World War is an exercise in trying to peer into the gates of Hell thrown open. World War is drowning in the mud at passendale while thousands of machine guns rake the land. World War is the damned-soul-shriek of air raid sirens sounding while the sky turns red from the firestorm engulfing Dresden. World War is freezing to death in Russian forests and plains and praying not to be mauled by wolves. World War is holding the ground against screaming Banzai charges in the dead of night at Iwo Jima. World War is entire divisions fed to the furnace in frontal assaults for a few miles of land. World War is tens of millions killed in ways that should not be fathomable. Almost nothing can generate that much suffering and if a war doesn’t come close to that scale of suffering which a regional Middle Eastern war simply wouldn’t, it should under no circumstances be conflated with World War.
It has been just over 100 years since the end of the Great War and history will not repeat 1914 in 2020.
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