By Bharat Vasudevan
The Great War (aka World War I) was a global war that should have ended all wars; however, other global conflicts would occur as a result. The Second World War occurred because of the harsh conditions imposed on Germany after they lost WWI. Many who lived and served during the Cold War would claim that it was the Third World War. Even though Western Europe was in constant competition with the Soviet Union (now Russia) for centuries, this age old rivalry would be waged in other regions of the world, in the developing nations that were trying to resolve their own conflicts. Today the world is engaged in another global conflict from Islamic militants and their supporters, which has evolved since World War One. The Great War was simply a chapter. In this new chapter, it is embedded with the convergence of multiple clashes of civilizations and clashes within civilizations that started centuries before the Great War, but has been exacerbated because of it.
The First World War was a conflict between the Allied Forces (Britain, France and eventually America), against the Axis Powers (Germany and Austria, Hungary). Technically this war was a clash within the European civilization due to the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand by the Black Hand of Serbia. Since France and mostly Britain had colonized most of the globe, these conquered civilizations would fight for their colonialists. Even though Russia had been in conflict with Western Europe for centuries, they would join the British and the French only due to a common German threat. Germany would ally with The Ottoman Empire against their common threat with the Russians and curtail British access to India. After the Allies won, the British and the French eliminated the 500 year old Caliphate and colonized the Middle East, known as the Sykes-Picot agreement. This broke the colonial powers’ promise to the Arabs of liberating them from their Turkish occupiers sowing the seeds for today’s conflict. The Treaty of Versailles was created to demilitarize and divide Germany and the Austro Hungarian Empire into several independent states. Germany and its citizens faced harsh conditions as a result. This treaty would create the next global conflict.
The Second World War, or the next chapter of the Great War, could be titled “The Revenge of Germany”. The Germans were determined to reverse the Treaty of Versailles and return Germany back to its pre World War One status. Since most of the world was still occupied by Britain and France in addition to the newly acquired territories in the Middle East, the world would be involved in another global conflict. This time, the European colonialists were also fighting independence movements in their own empire. Even though Germany lost again in WWII, the European powers started to lose their colonial empires to these independence movements. These newly independent states, labeled the Third World, would try to rebuild their civilizations from the ashes of colonialism. Transition has not occurred smoothly. These newly formed states and their borders were created by the colonialists. This exacerbated previous conflicts pre colonial occupation such as Hindus versus Muslims, and create new ones, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. It also escalated tensions between the Arab society and the West.
America and Russia became the superpowers after the Second World War, making the world bi-polarized. The long standing competition between the Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation) and the West, mainly America, had resumed. Nuclear weapons and the Cuban Missile Crisis made it obvious that conventional warfare was risky. Instead the competition would be fought with covert operations and proxy wars around the globe, mostly in the Third World. Most of these nations tried to stay neutral during the Cold War and they wanted to build their new nations. Unfortunately the Cold War would affect these nations as the two superpowers would fight for global supremacy. Hence, the Cold War became a global conflict. This curtailed certain nations from focusing on domestic issues and escalated regional conflicts. It also furthered escalated tensions in the Islamic World to commence the next global conflict.
The current global conflict can be labeled the Global Jihad. Third World countries are modernizing and are becoming major players in the international community. However, Islamic societies from Morocco to Indonesia labeled the “Globalized Balkans”, quoting Zbigniew Brzezinski, have a population that want to return to their colonial days. They are disgruntled with their own civilizations, from corruption and feel that Western values are infiltrating their societies and communities. The Arabs specifically blame the actions and policies of the West (Britain and France) since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was forged and actions mostly implemented by America during the Cold War for the situation in the Middle East. There is nostalgia for the days when Islam colonized this region, which stretches from Morocco to Indonesia, and was the dominant civilization during medieval times. Extremists in the Middle East feel their nations have strayed away from their traditional cultures and want theocratic states. There are regional Islamic radicals, some that are state sponsored, in parts of the globe who want to re-colonize areas that were liberated from Muslim rule. Global groups like Al Qaeda assist Islamic separatists around the world. Together these terrorists and the states supporting them have created a Global Jihad against Islamic and non-Islamic nations. These terrorists, mostly Sunni, want to impose Islamic holy law not only in the Middle East, but around the globe and establish a global caliphate. Groups such as ISIS have created a caliphate and have been caught operating in countries such as Egypt, Australia, India, and recently in America. They have even declared to build a cyber caliphate, threatened to colonize Rome soon, and want the flag of Islam over the White House.
The Global War still continues. This chapter is a convergence of clashes between civilizations and within civilizations that existed before the Great War. These clashes between The West versus Russia, the West versus the East and the Middle East, Hindus versus Muslims, Black Africans against the Arabs, Iranians versus the Arabs (which is intertwined with the clash between Shiite and Sunni Muslims), and concerns of a rising Germany by members in the European Union are all occurring in this new chapter. The West must be united and work with other hegemonic nations to create a global united front against these Islamic militants, in countries such as Russia, India, Iran, China and Israel. Like in the Second World War, bitter enemies need to work together as they face a common threat. Just as Britain sided with her arch rival, the Soviet Union, America will now have to side with Iran as they face common enemies such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. Every American president has worked with the Ayatollahs in the past and even collaborating with them today. Lastly, to win this new global war, there must be full support and major participation from Arab and other Islamic countries, just as Jordan has shown in their willingness to fight ISIS. Without full participation, these terrorists will continue to advance.
Bharat Vasudevan is a researcher and analyst with the Center for International Relations.