My research shows that during the period 1480-1945, the System (with Europe at its core) produced four systemic wars as part of four accelerating war-cycles.
The fourth and last systemic war was the Second World War (1939-1945), which had two major effects: (1) thermodynamic equilibrium in Europe (full integration, albeit with a delay until 1989), and (2) globalization of the System.
Since 1989, the 2nd dissipative structure is fully operational, chaotic non-systemic wars resumed and we are currently in the end-stage of the first global war-cycle. Typically, tensions accumulate during the end-stage of a war-cycle, which explains also the present social and political volatility in the System.
A model based on the 1st dissipative structure and available war-date suggest that the System could become critical around 2020 +/- two years. In case of criticality, a small incident can trigger a massive (global) kinetic response: A systemic war.
However, a closer look at the start-up of the last two systemic wars shows that these types of wars not necessarily start with a Big Bang, meaning that all Great Powers immediately “step-in”. A systemic war needs a start-up, it seems.
During the operation of the 1st dissipative structure, the System experienced four systemic wars and start-ups, in: 1618, 1792, 1914 and in 1939. Despite similarities, there are also some differences. The third systemic war (the First World War, 1914-1918) started differently compared to the fourth systemic war (the Second World War (1939-1945)). While the First World War started with a big bang, so to speak, the Second World War, started more gradual.
The four systemic wars (“world Wars) the System produced until now, have certain very specific characteristics. These characteristics include: (1) systemic wars follow an exact pattern (time-schedule), (2) develop remarkably regular, (3) involve by definition all Great Powers in the System, (4) Great Powers (also) fight each other, and (5) result in an upgraded (international) order and a (new) period of relative stability.
Also typically during a systemic war, Great Powers typically group into two clusters (alliances, like the Allied and Axis Powers, during the Second World War); this subject – and what clusters/alliances could form during a next systemic war – I discuss in a next article.
In below figures, I show the “start-up” and (phased) involvement of Great Powers in the First and Second World Wars. There are some interesting differences. The Great Powers I use in the analysis are the Great Powers that made up the System, at the time (based on Levy, War in the Modern Great Power System, 1495-1975).
What is the relevance of this analysis:
- In case we recognize the typical start-up “symptoms” there is more time for prevention and preparation.
- By studying these characteristics – and the factors and conditions that impact on these characteristics – we can improve forecasting.
Another factor that impacts on the start-up – and needs also more research – is how the next war will be fought, and what technologies will dominate (and determine) war-fighting. My analysis also suggests that a next systemic war is probably less kinetic than its predecessors. Information and cyber space will have their impact.