The flood cometh
Are we on the brink of another world war? Or are we already in the midst of one? Looking at the conflict map of the world and viewing the headlines make one ponder the question. For more than 60 years we have been free of external aggression, but the threat of war is once more at our doorstep. Just as reports from friends in Mindanao months ago (“Isis is here”) have been proven true by the continuing violence in Marawi City, we are confronted with the two faces of a new world disorder: rising
external and internal security threats.
That the world has never been completely at peace is a fact of life. The continuity of the various world wars up to the present is apparent. World War I set the stage. The first modern war that saw the use of tanks, fighter aircraft and machine guns made the world experience conflict on an immense scale that cost millions of combatant and civilian lives. Two decades later the world convulsed with round two—World War II—on an even bigger scale, with the involvement of Japan and other Pacific countries.
The atom bomb ended World War II, and that game-changing weapon was the specter that limned the decades of the Cold War—what some call World War III—between the West and the Soviet Union that ended with the latter’s collapse in 1991.
Various developments have given warfare a distinct character. These include information technology (such as killer drones controlled from halfway across the world) and the appeal of militant extremism. Climate change and the problems attendant to population pressures (resource conflicts) have added to the mix of exacerbating factors. Thus, the theaters of war now have both hard and soft dimensions. Considering that information technology permeates daily life, the impact of cyberwarfare is immeasurable.
Continuity and expansion characterize conflicts, lasting decades and even centuries. While alliances wax and wane, the antagonisms remain. Just as the humiliation of Germany in World War I led to World War II, so does the humiliation suffered by China at the hands of America and the European powers in the 19th century and at the hands of Japan in the 20th century, strengthen China’s resolve not to back down on its territorial ambitions.
Militant extremism has taken full advantage of information technology and the borderless world created by IT for the propagation of its ideas, leading to its internationalization and indigenization at the same time, as shown by the phenomenon of self-radicalization among the world’s disaffected youth. Just as the United States is a world power, the Islamic State also has a worldwide following that can launch attacks at times and places of its own choosing, such as in Marawi.
With enemies from without and within, is there hope? Yes. Just as fear of mutually assured destruction kept fingers off the nuclear launch buttons during the Cold War and led to the nonproliferation agreement and international monitoring, a similar realization that we cannot afford the loss of the global economic and cultural community engendered by the worldwide web will help keep us from even more widespread conflict. This, even as world bodies such as the United Nations now find themselves less effective with the rise of nationalism and isolationism and in fact are attacked, as in the case of President Duterte’s blustering; US President Donald Trump withdrawing America from the Paris climate accord; Britain leaving the European Union; and our very own Asean choosing to keep silent over China’s aggressive expansion in the West Philippine Sea.
Whether or not we are on the brink or in the midst of another world war may not even matter in the face of accelerated environmental degradation. Either the flood of war or the flood of climate change, or both, could catch up with us. Whichever flood it may be, it might finally wash away our
appetite for conflict and make us fully realize that we need one another to survive.
Roderick Toledo is a freelance communication projects manager.
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