In this article, I address in more detail the question: “Has a next systemic war – the Third World War – just started?”.
As I explain in my research and also discuss in an article published yesterday on this website, the System produces war-cycles since 1480; each cycle consisting of a relatively stable period (RSP), followed by a critical period when the System produces a systemic war to upgrade the State-System to a next level of organization.
During the period 1480-1945, the (European) State-System produced four accelerating war-cycles, resulting in the unification of Europe and an upscaling of the State-System to a global State-System.
Starting in 1945, the (global) State-System is producing a first global war-cycle, data-analysis shows.
The timing and duration of systemic wars – when the State-System is in a critical state – are highly predictable events, contrary to non-systemic (“smaller”) wars during RSP’s (which have chaotic characteristics). These non-systemic (smaller) wars are produced by the State-System to balance (maintain) the existing status-quo (international order).
Application of the model (based on the analysis of the war-dynamics during the European State-System, 1480-1945) and analysis of the war-data from 1945 onwards (until today), show that the (now global) State-System will become critical and produce a next systemic war in 2020 +/- 2 years.
Various “real-world” indicators substantiate this observation, including:
- The presence of a tipping point (in 2011 the analysis shows), that typically precedes a period of increasing political and social volatility.
- The rise of populism since 2011: the blaming of the establishment for increasing tensions (that are actually unavoidable) and uncertainty. Mr. D. Trump was un-electable in 2012 because of his erratic ideas and unpredictability, but became – could become – president in 2016, because of his behavior.
- A dramatic increase in terrorist activity, starting in 2011.
- Fragmentation of social structures (e.g. the European Union: Brexit, the Catalan declaration of independence) and of political arrangements (agreements and alliances), caused by the force generated on these structures through accumulated tensions.
- Increased dysfunctionality and irrelevance of the United Nations international order. Not only are existing arrangements increasingly challenged by for example Iran and North-Korea (e.g. the non-proliferation treaty (one of the privileges of the permanent members of the Security Council of the UN, they have themselves rewarded with), but also by Great Powers with a permanent seat in the Security Council – like the United States, Russia and China – who have (you could assume) the most to gain – the biggest advantage – from these favorable arrangements (privileges, like the right of veto). The United States now ignores international law and the UN Charter, as it sees fit; China does not hesitate to violate international law and claims the South China Sea; while Russia does not hesitate to invade another sovereign country (the Ukraine), employs chemical weapons to deal with “opponents” of Russia, and interferes in the elections of the United States (albeit with tacit consent of the US president). Furthermore, the current set-up of the Security Council (with France and Great Britain as permanent members), does no longer accurately (enough) reflect the actual power and influence of states in the global State-System: Why such a membership for Britain and France, but not for India, Brazil and Indonesia?
Typically, shortly before the System becomes critical and produces a systemic war (in response to the dysfunctionality of its order, and accumulation of tension), the average size of non-systemic (smaller) wars decreases to a minimum.
At that point the “network” of issues and tensions in the System – as is the case at this stage, – provides (paradoxically) a certain “stability” to the System: Because all issues have become (more or less) related, and escalation is a serious risk, states become consequently reluctant to respond to incidents and aggression; a response could cause an uncontrollable domino-effect is the reasoning; which is a correct assessment.
The absence of a response to Iranian aggression – when a Saudi oil production facility was seriously damaged by a missile attack – is indicative for stability caused by the interconnectedness of issues.
However, this “stability” has its limitations: Issues are not (and cannot) be resolved, tensions increase further, and at a certain point – it is jus a matter of time – the System is fully “charged” with tensions, and a (small) incident (unavoidably) triggers a systemic response: This incident then reverberates through the whole System.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 was such a trigger-event. The question now is, is the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, on 3 January 2020 in Iraq by the United States, the trigger event that starts a next systemic war, or is some additional “charging” of the System still required?
At this stage, a definite answer on this question is not yet possible: The impact of this assassination can only be established (exactly) in hindsight; but that does not have to take very long.
As I explained in a previous article, the third systemic war (the First World War, 1914-1918) started with a “big bang”: Start shot on 28 June 1914, full-scale systemic about two months later (August 1914).
The fourth systemic war (the Second World War, 1939-1945) on the other hand, unfolded somewhat more gradual: Start shot on 1 September 1939, with the German attack on Poland, full-scale systemic war (European State-System) in May 1940 with the German attack o France and the Low Countries and full-scale systemic war (global scale) on: 11 December 1941, with the German declaration of war on the US, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
These two examples illustrate that it can be somewhat problematic to pinpoint the exact start date of a systemic war when events are still unfolding.
The US acted – at least for now – with restraint to the revenge attack of Iran. But the current “stability” of the System is misleading: Criticality is a matter of time, analysis of war dynamics shows.
The title of an article in the Washington Post today captures the current situation accurately: U.S. and Iran back away from imminent conflict.