World War III? Not likely

By Anthony Antonidis

AnthonyThe Turkish military accidentally shoots down a Russian jet…war. A Russian warship fires warning shots at a Turkish naval vessel…war. President Vladimir Putin whispers the possibility of using nuclear weapons in the Middle East…nuclear war. This is what the American populace has come to expect from their media, and it is also not going to happen. How can I say that with any degree of confidence? The answer is simple, the world has moved beyond conventional warfare between rationally acting states.

I make sure to state that the actors in question are rational, that they are nation-states, and that the type of conflict that is irrelevant is conventional army against army warfare. Those that advocate this line of thought justify themselves using several theoretical approaches.

One such approach uses Game Theory, which is exactly as it sounds. Picture the United States (or NATO) and Russia as two players, seated at a table with two choices: cheat or cooperate. The argument is that over time the game horizon (or end point) has been extended. This has been achieved by the formation and maturation of international institutions and the increase in global trade. Both make the likelihood of ‘cheating,’ or in this case explicit militaristic moves by one or the other, little.

President Putin has achieved what he sought out to, which is relevance in international affairs. The annexation of Crimea is now basically ignored, if not accepted. The fight against ISIS and the resolution of the Syrian Civil War now hinge upon Russian cooperation. Once you add to the equation the lack of will amongst the American public for extended entanglement and you get the current malaise. It seems that there are situations that pop up every day that could be preludes to war. Yet instead of Article 5 of the NATO treaty being invoked or calls for war being made, nations have only doubled down on efforts to find diplomatic solutions.

I predict that in the coming months we will see increased negotiation and possibly even an agreement about a unified strategy in Syria. Bashar Al ‘Assad is done, and the Russians will recognize this. The Middle East cannot be reshaped into an American ideal of democracy, and we have already begun to recognize this. Following the Paris attacks the French government did not invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty (the founding treaty of NATO), but instead called for European solidarity.

Each on its own is not exactly mind blowing. When put together, and in the context of the situation, however they tell a story of a world that has evolved beyond settling differences with armies. Again it must be stressed that this only applies when discussing nation-states and when the rulers of the nations in question are rational. It cannot be applied to ISIS or organizations like it, for the simple reason that they are neither rational nor legitimate.

There is no doubt in my mind that if no holds barred war is ever applicable, it is against these guys. If a coalition can be formed by the great military powers, including Russia, then I also believe that we could crush them in no time.

That is another issue, and one that will be interesting to watch in coming weeks. However we should all sleep a little more peacefully knowing that war between the two former Cold War enemies is all but impossible.

Audience Analysis: I decided to write for my home town newspaper, the Houston Chronicle. While the readership can be considered on the face of it conservative, you must also understand that this doesn’t actually mean what it used to.

The conservative reader no longer has to be plied with warmongering, and in fact has shown an increasing distrust of extended involvement which would cost lives and more importantly tax dollars. The Middle East and war with Russia are extremely relevant to the region, given the heavy dependence on petroleum and natural gas and the extreme volatility this entails.

Sources for Claims: While I do not directly cite or mention any author or theorist I do draw upon the work of people like Robert Keohane (After Hegemony), Robert Axelrod, and even Francis Fukuyama. As for the events mentioned, the sources range from the New York Times (which I get daily on my phone), to Al Jazeera (the new American edition).

Anthony Antonidis is a Texas A&M graduate student. He’s a Meadows Place native who graduated from Dulles High.

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