For thousands of years, nations, when faced with major conflicts (frequently due to expansion ambition), would utilize their military power to try to settle the conflict, resulting in major wars between countries. There are literally hundreds of major wars throughout history, taking place in all parts of the world. Here are just samplings of such major wars : Wars of the Babylonian Empire (1770 BC – 1595 BC), Persian Wars (499 BC – 448 BC), Wars of Alexander the Great (334 BC – 323 BC), Roman Invasion of Britain (56 BC – 54 BC), many wars during the Roman Empire (27 BC – 470 AD), Battle of Talas River (between Imperial Tang China and the Abbasid Arabs, 751), various Crusades (1095-1291), Hundred Years’ War (between England and France: 1337-1453), Opium Wars (1839-1842, 1856-1860), First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), Spanish-American War (1898), Philippine-American War (1899-1902), Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), WWI (1914-1918), Second Sino-Japanese War (1931-1945), WWII (1939-1945), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam War (1955-1975), Iraq War (2003-2011).
War has been used to resolve not only major conflicts between nations, but also for major conflicts within a nation. Examples of major civil wars include : Various Roman Civil Wars (100 BC – 400 AD), French Wars of Religion (1562-1598), English Civil War (1642-1651), U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), Russian Civil War, (1917-1922), China’s Civil War (1927-1937, 1945-1949), Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
Almost without exceptions, these wars resulted in thousands or millions of human casualties and major destruction of the parties involved, especially the losers. This article discusses whether we can continue to use war to resolve major conflicts?
New Paradigm Is Needed to Resolve Major Conflicts: The answer to this question is actually very simple. With the availability of modern weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear bombs, biological and chemical weapons, and instant delivery systems that can come from the sky, under water, space, and missiles that can travel thousands of miles delivering multiple weapon systems, with everything controlled by computers, the destruction resulting from a major war becomes unimaginable and the resulting radiation will eventually kill or maim a large percentage of people all over the world, if not all of humanity. There will be no winners, but only losers.
If we don’t adopt a new paradigm to resolve major conflicts: A paradigm that not only rules out the use of war, but also to take concrete steps to disarm these weapons of mass destruction and strictly monitor and enforce their existence (or their non-existence). If we don’t adopt such a paradigm, sooner or later a war (even a large regional war, and not even a world war) will lead to the unimaginable scenario, destroying a large percentage of people all over the world, and perhaps even all of humanity as we know it today. What are the reasons that the unimaginable scenario will increase its probability of occurring? I think that there are at least three reasons.
Increasing Number of Countries/People Possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction: Currently we have only eight countries who have acknowledged that they have nuclear weapons: U.S., Russia, Great Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel has adopted a policy of opacity (or deliberate ambiguity) regarding her possession of nuclear weapons; in all likelihood, Israel already has nuclear weapons, or at least the ability to produce nuclear weapons extremely quickly. Since it is no longer so difficult to produce nuclear weapons, it is just a matter of time before more and more countries would develop this capability. Doesn’t the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) , forbid countries from developing such weapons? Yes, but that doesn’t stop North Korea which at one time had signed the treaty, but never complied to it and withdrew in 2003, from developing nuclear weapons. It also doesn’t stop countries, such as Israel, who never signed the treaty. from possessing or developing the ability to quickly produce nuclear weapons. When faced with an antagonistic neighbor who has nuclear weapons, there is great incentive for other countries to produce them also.
Besides nuclear weapons, it may be even easier for countries to develop biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, especially the former. Furthermore, its deployment may be even easier, e.g., polluting with deadly germ carriers a reservoir that supplies drinking water to a large population center, which was used by Japan in China more than once during the Second Sino-Japanese War (or WWII) with massive deadly results.
Increasing Number of Terrorists or Other People with Deadly Motives: The NPT forbids countries who have signed the treaty from developing nuclear weapons. But it doesn’t forbid individuals or groups of individuals from developing nuclear weapons. With the rapid increase of the number of terrorists, either as members of organized terrorist groups or as individuals, more and more of these people will be able to pick up the knowledge, skills, and technology to develop these weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, they can also hijack or buy such weapons of mass destruction. The likelihood of deploying such weapons will correspondingly increase with time, just like we have seen recently in the U.S. an increase of wanton mass killings of innocent people using firearms.
Increasing Probability of Accidental Usage: The leaders of these countries possessing these weapons of mass destruction know the risk to themselves, to the world at large, and perhaps even to all of humanity. But for various reasons, they may still not rule out their deployment. For example, they may use the possible deployment of these weapons as a threat to countries who do not possess these weapons, or they may use the possible deployment of these weapons as a bargaining chip to negotiate terms more favorable to themselves, or they may think that they are militarily stronger than their protagonist, and therefore may be able to destroy or mitigate their protagonist’s weapons of mass destruction or at least do more destruction to their protagonist than the destruction their protagonist can inflict on them.
Assessing Current Situation: The probability of any of the above scenarios occurring in the future will only increase with time unless we take active measures to prevent them. More and more countries can develop these weapons of mass destruction, as well as their delivery systems. The U.S. is currently the strongest country in the world in terms of military technology, but Russia is essentially at the same level, or only slightly behind. In 20-30 years, China will probably reach a comparable level. In 50-100 years, more and more countries could reach levels that cannot be ignored. As already mentioned, terrorist groups and individuals could even develop weapons of mass destruction, and they can hijack or purchase such weapons and delivery systems.
One cannot ignore that the threat of using weapons of mass destruction could easily be escalated to their actual deployment when the negotiation doesn’t go your way or when your protagonist is willing to call your hand (whether or not if it is just a bluff), especially if the protagonist has much less to lose than you.
An even more important factor is that accidents could occur leading to the deployment of weapons of mass destruction. Even though these weapons are designed with various fail/safe features, as they become more automated and more computer controlled, there will be more opportunities for human or computer errors with disastrous consequences. Furthermore, a terrorist group or a human with a wicked mind would care much less or even not care at all about fail/safe features.
Finally, it is important to point out that because major political leaders do realize the danger of major wars between powerful countries, to avoid engaging in a war with a competitor or protagonist, they like to adopt a strategy of fermenting divisions from within to split and weaken that competitor or protagonist, often at the disguise of spreading democracy and freedom. We have seen that this is a strategy that the U.S. government has used on several occasions in countries whose current government may not go along with the policies of the U.S. Unfortunately, for both the U.S. and especially for the people of those countries, the end result is that the targeted countries become weak and divided, resulting in economic, social, and political chaos and civil wars. Furthermore, the U.S. may also use this strategy to target a country who may be a major competitor, e.g., China. If it can weaken or divide that country, then the major competitor will be eliminated which is exactly the desired goal of the U.S. government.
Summary: The consequences of a new major war using weapons of mass destruction will have no winners, but only losers, and it could lead to the destruction of civilization as we know it today and perhaps even the end of all of humanity. Then it is paramount that we think seriously whether the world can still afford to do business as usual to resolve major conflicts. This is not scare tactics, but a realistic assessment of the world situation today. We must adopt a new paradigm to avoid and resolve major conflicts. The new paradigm refers to a different mind set that seeks ways that give rise to win-win situations, and not the traditional way of one country colonizing, dominating, or exploiting another country. The new paradigm is not so much a new organizational structure or a new procedure to implement the change. Once a new mind set is adopted, then a new or modifications of an existing organizational structure and new procedures can be worked on.
We recognize that adopting a new paradigm is not easy and can lead to new kinds of risks, our point is that we cannot afford not to pursue seriously a new paradigm.