Is World War III around the corner? From 60 Minutes to the journal of the Council on Foreign Relation(CFR), Foreign Affairs, a recent focus has been on the likelihood of war, even nuclear war, between the major powers. We must not let that happen.
Most conflicts going on now are small wars over control of resources and territory, such as those raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Competition for Middle Eastern dominance between U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, on the one hand, and Iran, now allying more closely with Russia, is intense. Russia, which had played no role in the region for decades, is now actively participating in the Syrian civil war. The Arctic is another source of oil over which competition is increasing.
China is actively cementing its hold over the South China Sea, a source of natural gas and an essential shipping lane, despite sanctions by the Internal Court of Arbitration. China is also forming many new international trade, communication and currency alliances with other emerging nations such as India, Brazil, South Africa, and Russia, with names like BRICS and OBOR. The US led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an attempt to counteract this trend.
Both Russia and China are increasing their military budgets, 10% annually in China and 26% in Russia. NATO just held the largest military exercises since WWII; Obama has called for $1 trillion to be invested in improved nuclear weapons. Seeing what’s coming, CFR calls for a draft in the US, recognizing that widespread battles and occupations require large numbers of boots on the ground. Thirteen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan did not win US control of resources or stability and showed that an air war and limited numbers of soldiers will not do the trick.
What would it take to throw a wrench in this trajectory? The weakness of all the war-mongering powers is that they need to enlist millions of their citizens into their armies or to patriotically root for victory. In the US, anti-Muslim racism will be whipped to new heights. Poverty and unemployment will drive a disproportionate number of black, Latino, and recent immigrants into an expanded military. Everywhere, patriotism will be used to incite workers and students to fight workers and students of different nationalities to kill each other. Vicious racist terms like “ragheads” for Middle Easterners or “gooks” for Vietnamese are taught to soldiers to incite them to see enemies as subhuman.
We should remember that the main reason the Vietnamese War ended without a US victory is because 25% of American soldiers were actively refusing to fight. Some just sat down in the jungle, while others “fragged” (attacked) their officers. They were influenced by the huge anti-war movement at home and years of organizing and protests within the military. That is why the U.S. ruling class has avoided a draft ever since, but now they know they can’t avoid it. They may choose to call in national service, which not only sounds nicer, but is a way to keep the most anti-war young people off the battlefield, while getting cheap labor at home.
The overt xenophobia of Trump, win or lose, is tolerated, even useful, in order to reinvigorate the idea of Americans over everybody. But Clinton is just as likely to engage in war. No matter who is president, we must fight racism and nationalism, which falsely turn us against our fellow workers and students around the world.