The Third World War

The third world war has not yet been declared, but actually, unwillingly, we have been pushed into another world war. What is the definition of a world war? A war which involves numerous countries from all around the world, which is a catalyst to change the existing global order, political borders, and the demographic makeup of various areas. World war results in high numbers of casualties and refugees, and changes the structure of societies. Indeed, today’s reality is defined by all of these parameters. People no longer feel safe in their homeland and do not accept the legitimacy of their rulers. The current war did not only change borders but also gave legitimacy to massacre significant populations, including the Yazidis, the Kurds, and Christians in the Middle East. The use of unconventional weapons is part of this war, which is different from all previous wars.

Before the First World War, wars never had more that a few hundred thousand casualties. The First World War exposed the horrid face of war, as 20 million were killed. The depth of this tragic situation brought about a need to establish laws of warfare, which would protect POWs, civilians, and refugees. Unfortunately, these laws of war could not prevent the Second World War from occurring. The results of the Second World War were even more devastating than the previous war. Not only were there more casualties, but there were even more grievous war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, some of which were performed by the states who had written the laws of war.

Following the Second World War, new conventions were drafted for the laws of war, and new borders were drawn. However, none of this could prevent a deterioration of the situation into a Cold War between East and West. The world did not reach the goal of peace.

The fall of the Soviet Union brought about a new promise to the world – the hope for a spread of democracy and world peace. However, these hopes were dashed by a difficult reality. The world became more divided and more dangerous. Indeed, the laws of warfare which were written following the two world wars could not succeed in bringing about world peace. International law could not deal with the evil we are witness to today.

Today, various rulers threaten one another and attempt to gain and utilize weapons of mass destruction. Millions of refugees wander the world, who have little hope for a better reality. This is the character of the Third World War. There is no strategy for dealing with a war based on religious fundamentalism, racism, tribalism, and bigotry. There is a need for a new ethical codex to deal with the new war. The soldiers of the new war are different than in the past.

For example, in the past, the global powers knew how to deal with the issue of sea piracy. However, in our period, this phenomena has returned. The world has yet to find a response to piracy, or other types of terrorism. The world is looking for a solutions for issues that are less controversial; however, it has no strategy to deal with this new type of war.

There is an urgent need to to establish new international laws of warfare, relevant to the new type of war. There must be an attempt to define and understand terrorism, refugees, and the global responsibility prevent the refugee crisis, which also poses a threat to host communities. The laws must define the difference between soldiers and terrorist. There is a need to define a population that supports terrorism, and to set rules for war between an army and a terrorist organization.

The new type of war has created great fear around the world, which has resulted in an inability to act. However, just as with any epidemic, ignoring this illness will not make it go away.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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