The political situation between America, Russia and China continues to deteriorate in this fictional scenario. The United Nations tries to broker a peace deal as warships from the three navies close on one another in the Pacific. Russian bombers test European air defenses and the news flashes updates 24 hours a day. The world holds its breath. is this the start of World War III?
The people of Los Angeles are watching the television, and the sky. There’s fear of a nuclear war. All three countries have their nuclear arsenals on high alert. A first strike could hit without warning.
Suddenly, the power goes off. The city goes silent. Residents step outside expecting to see a mushroom cloud, but the sky is clear. Traffic grinds to a halt and an eerie quiet descends upon the city 4 million people.
For an hour, nobody can figure out what is going on, but it’s clear the power is out across the city. Thirty minutes later, the water stops flowing. Toilets don’t flush and taps don’t work. It’s a warm summer day, so people become thirsty and empty the contents of their refrigerators.
Within two days, the refugees start moving. A lack of water and electricity has turned Los Angeles into a third world country overnight. Looting has begun and fires spread.
Within three days, the city descends into anarchy. The National Guard is called but they cannot get into the city past the stalled cars, the refugees and the looters. Within a week, disease has broken out sickening those who managed to remain.
Within a month, Los Angeles has destroyed itself, the first target of World War III.
The greatest threat to your life was never a bomb. It was your neighbor, a fire, disease, thirst, starvation, or even a mere accident. A lack of medicine and basic medical attention will kill thousands. Perhaps a marauding thug, made evil by hunger and desperation took your life. There are many threats, who needs high explosives?
We know about these dangers because we’ve seen what happens to modern cities under siege in Syria. These are cities with tens of thousands of people. What happens when it’s a city of millions?
Decades of Hollywood exposure have conditioned Americans to believe that World War III will be a swift conflict, decided by nuclear weapons within the span of 30 minutes to an hour. Following a single, all-out nuclear exchange, the world will descend into Mad Max style chaos. Humanity will struggle to rebuild itself in the centuries to come, forever avoiding the all-too common radiation zones.
But this is Hollywood fiction at work. The reality is, the era of clashing armies and nuclear missiles is at an end. Why launch a nuclear missile or risk a bomber when a few lines of computer code can do better work? Why bomb a city yourself when you can shut off water and power from halfway around the globe? Let the people destroy the city for you.
Why not preserve the land and the natural resources for later conquest? It’s pointless to destroy that which you covet.
Experts are warning officials in the government that World War III may contain a lot of new surprises. It is a common mistake of nations to prepare to fight the last war they were in. This explains why World War I was so bloody and why the Germans were so successful in the first two years of World War II. They pioneered blitzkrieg tactics and were the only nation somewhat prepared for a new kind of war. Even then Germany strained to win.
Presently, the world is gearing up to fight World War III as if it will be a continuation of World War II with much advanced technology. Aircraft carriers, bombers and tanks are prepared to cross oceans and continents to fight with their equals elsewhere. But there are newer weapons available.
While great attention is focused on the building up armies, cyber warfare teams are preparing for a different kind of war. The most hi tech weapons are useless if they will not power on or fall into enemy hands though hacking.
World War III isn’t too far away, but it’s not inevitable either. New leaders and new attitudes in the political and economic realms can help deescalate the rising tensions between countries. The activism of moral leaders such as Pope Francis can be a peaceful influence if people listen.
We must not fall into the mistaken thinking that we will win any war, or believing we are prepared for what’s to come. As with every war, the only thing we should expect is surprise.