World War IV started on January 7. 1978. Yes, I said four. For all the alarm clocks and fear mongering about World War III on the horizon, we must admit, with historical hindsight, that The Cold War was the last major war. It was far more scattered than its predecessors in its world-wide destruction, but it did impact everywhere, shook the faith of true believers, and transformed civilization into a far more frightening place with a New World Order.
Now I plan on attempting a bit of an ‘editorial history’ narrative here, trying to get at the roots and causes of such major catastrophes. It seems that nearly every generation, going much further back in time than the 20th century, has had to face some sort of world wide conflict on varying, and often necessary, scales. World War II was necessary. The American Revolution, French Revolution, The Great Revolution . . . even The Communist Revolution had its birth in urgent necessity, but I will justify that statement later.
Let us look at World War I, perhaps the most horrible of them all. Called “The Great War,” at the time, the expectation of politicians and soldiers, kings and queens, tyrants and dictators, was that this would be “The War to End All Wars.” Perhaps these titles, which have lost all meaning in the modern world, gives a hint to just how significant this event was.
The start of this endless and brutal massacre can be found in the petty squabbling between nations, between monarchies and the growing, revolutionary idea of Democracy, or at least Republicanism. Socialist groups were also growing, initiating a number of failed revolutions in the years before the war. The first violent event that finally lit the fuse for The Great War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the next-in-line to take over the Austro-Hungarian throne. The man who killed him, Gavrilo Princip, was a Bosnian-Serb-Yugoslav nationalist, a radical member of the terrorist cell The Black Hand. Bickering in coffee houses, and ranting over their loathing of Austria, Princip, and five other co-conspirators, fomented a plan to kill the archduke as an act of defiance, a let-my-people-go command from his radical cult.
Princip was 19 years old. On a parade route, only one of his five friends hurled a grenade at the Archduke’s car. Franz Ferdinand’s vehicle sped up, the grenade bounced harmlessly off the hood of the car, then landed underneath the car behind him. The timed detonator went off and injured at least 16 people.
World War I, ultimately, was about the end of monarchy as an organized form of government. There were radicals of all different stripes raging everywhere throughout the world. And the war itself . . . this war was absolutely terrible, one of the worst things that has ever happened in the history of the world.
Here are some numbers: 70 million soldiers (60 million throughout Europe); 9 million of these soldiers died, along with 7 million civilians. Near the end of the war, the deadly influenza epidemic spread around the shattered remains of the world, killing as many as 100 million more people. All of these deaths can be attributed to the war. If we wish to look at the pandemic, let us consider a few of the new innovations that the war brought into play:
Mustard Gas. This was the first weapon of mass destruction, and it was used over and over again. A truly virulent combination of sulfur and some cruel mixture, also known by the name of ‘mustard.’ What this weapon of chemical warfare unleashed is truly horrible to consider. Imagine that you are struggling in the rain, hiding within a mud-based shelter that is rapidly getting washed away. Visibility is nothing, with all the artillery smoke in the air and the endless gun shots, and all of your comrades blind defense of shooting randomly into the gray sky. Suddenly something you thought you’d never see before roars overhead–they did it! They have weaponized the airplane (the other major new addition to warfare). Something is dropping out of a hatch in the plane–is that a missile? It explodes with a concussive blast, rocking the earth, rattling the everyone near the battle zone. Then a thick yellow gas starts seeping out, being blown by the wind and mixed into the ground by the rain. Your eyes start experiencing pain and it is suddenly very hard to breathe, your lungs burning. You look at your hands and see blisters bubbling up and bursting. You feel them slick along your throat. You can feel them inside, on your tongue. You suspect that your lungs themselves are melting. Suddenly the pain in your eyes takes precedence over everything. Your vision blurs, and then eventually goes away entirely. Your eyes are literally melting out of your head, your nose is pouring blood, until finally your brain is impacted and you collapse in a liquefied heap, your bloody corpse seeping down into the earth, lost in the rain. This is the most severe effect of mustard gas. Do you think spreading shit like this all over the world might make a virus stronger, and our immunity far weaker?
The whole war was a farce, kings and queens desperate to hang onto whatever power remained. The US, up until 128 American citizens were killed with the sinking of the British ship Lusitania, stayed out of the war except as a munitions supplier to the Allied Powers. When they finally entered in 1917, the war was already winding down. Russia had finally been overthrown by Lenin and the Communists. This was one of the key factors that ultimately led to the German, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian defeat. Russia proved to be a serious distraction to everyone. An entirely new form of government was spreading, and it was specifically targeting both royalists and capitalists. They were radicals, and radicals create equal and opposite radicals to denounce them. Germany lost. They were severely punished. The world went on a spending spree while the Germans, broke, angry, out-of-work and increasingly debauched seethed, until the western spending spree broke the world economy.
This is one of the most important events that has formed history, the present day, and even the future: The Great Depression. Not only had too much money been put on credit–too much to ever be paid back–there were terrible storms and droughts. American crops were failing and jobs were going away. There was panic, but worse than the earlier historical panics the US sometimes went through, these days called recessions. But this panic was over the whole world collapsing. It was about fear, terror, bad luck, and doubt for the future. Revolutions were breaking out everywhere, everywhere, and none of them much resembled another.
Nominally most of these were ‘Communist revolutions,” like the ones that consumed half of Germany, Hungary and Bavaria (Turkey was still reeling from the 1915 genocide which saw at least 600,000 Armenians massacred–burned, raped, hanged, beaten to death, roasted and eaten, et cetera). Elsewhere, The Irish War of Independence broke out a few years after the Easter Uprising. This was another radical revolutionary movement, a hands-off demand against England, similar, in many ways, to the Scottish demands 300 years earlier. Famously this war led to the founding of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), who for the next seventy plus years would blow up buildings, assassinate enemies, poison wells, and create political havoc through inspirational speeches and hunger strikes.
Mexico fell into revolt, this one more a left-wing versus right-wing battle for supremacy. This was exaggerated both within Mexico and in the world press into a fight between Communists and Fascists–the first of its kind–and eventually, after the left started targeting Catholics, the outrage on the right allowed them to triumph.
Malta, Egypt, Sudan, the Netherlands, Finland, again and again throughout Germany, Brussels, Poland, Bulgaria, China, the Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Poland again, then again with increasing violence–all of these revolutions, and more, broke out between 1917 and 1923. And let us not forget the civil war in Russia, the white versus the red. Or, of course, the revolution in Italy that saw Benito Mussolini rise to power, and the fascist movement (which was a radical off-shoot of the Socialist movement, it is true, but based more upon notions of hierarchy and supremacy than the, on paper, ideology of the religion of Communism. Fascism was more about government as a corporation, all the profits going to the state, and the people working slave labor for the greater good. It was about money. It was about ego. It was about declaring one’s self not just the new king, but the new God.)
Even Canada suffered a large-scale labor strike, devised by open socialists, which caused a massive shutdown of industry. Canada had recently come into a great deal of money from manufacturing for the war. And the whole world was at each other’s throats.
The US also had Warren G. Harding to contend with, a seemingly charming man whose entire presidency was under the corporate command of Big Oil. Harding would do anything they told him to do. He did not seem to care about America at all. He was using the office to enrich himself. He was, at least to that time, undoubtedly the most crooked and corrupt person to ever serve the highest office. He abruptly died and all of his crimes were exposed. They kept piling on and on. Hearing about the criminal president became an after work past time for many people, sitting around the radio and listening to scandal after scandal. It was entertainment. It was the tabloid culture. This had a great deal to do with the collapse of the world economy.
By the time Adolph Hitler rose to power in 1933 on a “Make Germany Great Again” platform, the Communists and Fascists had each taken over large portions of Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, in many ways re-instituting slavery, and making money in any way possible. The corporations went to work digging up the earth in search of anything of value, chopping down trees to corner the wood market, slaughtering animals and holding crops hostage because now it was all about profit. Buy the wares at higher and higher prices, while fewer and fewer people have jobs, and more people are forced out of their homes and into the street. Crime reaches a new all time high.
Of course war was going to break out. Germany seemed to be the first nation to regain power, and Hitler was ambitious enough to try and conquer the world before anyone else was ready. The US was then getting back into business, while Great Britain was struggling with growing revolutionary movements in their colonies. France had grown sullen and pessimistic, wondering what the purpose of life was. Spain went fascist, leading to a larger war that saw liberals from all over the world come and join the battle against the trend they were the first to recognize was going to lead to disaster.
World War II was baffling. The whole world seemed to be sinking into a nationalistic stew, scalding at the bottom of the cauldron. Germany had the master race–no, Japan! The Chinese were sick of it all, and in Russia Joseph Stalin was starving anyone who disagreed with him in the frozen wastelands at the northern tip of Russia. In America, there were both growing Communist and Nazi movements, each seeking unity with one new philosophical power or the other. But the US, under FDR, was more directed towards the socialists than the Nazis, much to the disgust of numerous right-wing factions, both Republicans, and Democrats from his own party. FDR was so charming he even got Stalin to like him, a near impossibility. The war hawk Winston Churchill developed a ‘special relationship’ with Roosevelt and the USA. When America finally entered the war all hell had already broken loose.
We can talk about the holocaust, and the horrendous battles, and even the dropping of two atomic bombs (another environmental and virus-spreading concern), but those massive stories have been told time and time again. The only thing new I could try to provide is a limited perspective, and there is still a great deal more to say on this topic. I defer to the professional historians on World War Two: (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?cm_sp=SearchF-_-topnav-_-Results&kn=stephen%20ambrose&sts=t https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?cm_sp=SearchF-_-topnav-_-Results&kn=rick%20atkinson&sts=t https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?cm_sp=SearchF-_-topnav-_-Results&kn=cornelius%20ryan&sts=t among others).
The Cold War is at lot more tactically relevant to the sort of wars we continue to have today. I call this World War III because it couldn’t be anything but. The whole world was impacted. Fear and paranoia kept spreading. There were shouting matches between the US and England and Russia, and in the divided Germany about economics and business deals, and terms of treaties, and the rights to nuclear weapons. Israel had been born, and the Muslim and Jewish communities were rapidly developing an intense, religious hatred of one another. There was constant saber-rattling, for years, threats of annihilation. There was a panicking race into outer space, and the fact that the Soviet Union got there first, gave birth to a new science-fiction/horror genre about a desperate technological future where hope has been all but lost.
The Cold War had temporary skirmishes, some of them rather drastic, from the 1940s through the 1980s–China, Korea, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Cuba, Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, Congo, battles over the Suez canal, and the erection of the Berlin Wall, dividing Germany vividly into sides, armed guards separating each faction from the other, sometimes dividing families. Of course there were tense moments, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the later spread of Communist conspiracy all throughout Central America.
The real decline of the Soviet Union started in 1979 when they invaded Afghanistan. Margaret Thatcher had already taken office, Ronald Reagan was about to, and Pope John Paul II was busy crusading against the his former oppressors. Afghanistan at this time was increasingly filled with radical Islamic fundamentalists, inspired by the Iranian Revolution of the year before (the beginning of World War IV). The very idea of Communism, of an atheistic state controlled government (as opposed to their desired theocracy) was more offensive than anything they could imagine. It did not matter that Iran did not trust the United States. No one did. Even the Sunni/Shia conflict could momentarily take a back seat to fighting the invading agents of Satan.
Thatcher and Reagan saw an opportunity to destroy the Communists. All they needed to do was ship powerful weapons to the middle east, provide solid technical and military training to the Arab fighters, and then watch the battle from the sidelines, laughing at how easy it turned out to be.
Once Russia pulled out in 1982, convinced that radical Islam and insanity were the same thing, the collapse of Soviet Communism was inevitable. They were out of money. They could no longer support their military. It was time to give up. With great speeches from Reagan, and a moderating government taking over the Soviet Union, it was only a matter of time before the cursed wall came down, freedom a true concept once again, the people both east and west dancing on the cinders of the Communist Empire.
But all was not right with the world, which brings us all the way up to today, to the slowly building horror of World War IV. After training them, and giving them advanced weapons, the fundamentalists throughout the greater middle east began forming radical political parties, all with the goal of the restoration of a mythical caliphate that might have existed a thousand years before. The intention was to destroy every relic of modernity, and restore civilization, in order to save humanity, to the age old ways when people lived together in peace and harmony (forgetting, I suppose, about the endless holy wars of the early days of Islam, Christianity and Judaism).
The revolutionary tactics of the Soviets, the guerrilla warfare of numerous terrorist groups spreading and growing throughout the world, and the military bluster of the United States combined to make terrorists willing to die for their cause. People would blow themselves up on buses, hijack airplanes with the goal of kidnapping, then converting their prisoners. Israelis were attacked, causing Israel to build up a formidable military might, as well as more and more hard line, angry radicals in their own right, who would bulldoze into the quiet Palestinian neighborhoods on the other side of increasingly narrowing borders, shooting all the terrified people trying to fight tanks off with rocks. They took the land. They radicalized their enemy.
9/11 is an obvious highlight of the growth of such absolutism, along with the numerous attacks in England and France, and the continuing debasement of the value of life. And this idea brings us right up to Donald Trump, who is repeating numerous mistakes of the past, stealing ideas from every side of these dramatic, ideological battles.
Here is how you build a dictatorship: You rile the people up and radicalize a movement. They are a movement fueled exclusively by rage and resentment. You tend to recruit the losers of society, those already pissed off at everything, and looking for anything to blame other than themselves for their misery. You tell them they should arm themselves, and fight off anyone who disagrees with them. You make enemies of your rivals, scapegoat them for everything going wrong in the wider world, and now you have a cult following, people willing to do anything for their leader.
Then you manipulate the economy. You try to make it look strong and powerful by refusing to pay your bills, and spending spending spending whatever is left on vanity projects and things that will make the people enraged or forced to absurdly justify admiring your greatness. It is at this point that the enraged become the central focus of the tyrannical mission. You attack and attack and attack them, humiliate them, say unforgivable things about even their most noble leaders, and then ferret out from within all those who disagree with your absolute control.
When the world economy collapses people get scared. That brief interlude of apparent prosperity is gone, causing the people to feel even more a sense of loss. What happened? Who’s to blame? How can we get out of this hole?
A strongman. A tyrant. Someone who promises to make the nation (or the world) great again. They emerge even stronger, the only radical left to offer hope. And suddenly you have a top villain, overtaking the entire structure of a nation’s identity, changing its laws at a whim, and inspiring civil war where sides are drawn and the revolution is accomplished.
A tyrant takes over. A dictator. And the fight radicalizes. The war will no longer be about freedom or salvation. It is only about what the great leader can get for themselves. And this is today, World War IV needing just one more major attack on anything to finally explode into every corner of civilization. And, eventually, with our modern capacity for devastation, I suspect this war will end with a battle for whatever remains of drinkable water.