From time immemorial, a common topic of debate amongst International Relations circles has been over the possible outbreak of World War III, the source of contention, the nature of conflict, its scale etc. While some strategic circles believe that CoVID-19 is starting of a new cold war, this time between “CHIMERICA”, others are speculating it to be World War III, different from what military strategists, geopolitical enthusiasts envisaged it to be. As the global response to the pandemic gathers steam, the rhetoric of wartime mobilization is everywhere.
The meaning of “Security” has changed— while countries were busy building Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)/ deterrence capabilities, achieving Nuclear Triad and Theatre Missile Defence Systems, concentrating resources in acquiring and manufacturing sophisticated cutting edge weapon systems, we ignored the warnings from various scientific communities, experts, medical specialists of a potential threat looming on mankind, the result, world was hit by a ‘non-military global challenge’. Even if, as some call CoVID-19 as a “bioweapon”, the world was still not prepared for it.
It’s time to address the elephant in the room, “Is the world fighting against the Coronavirus Pandemic or are we already fighting the third World War and we just don’t know about it yet?!.
It is first important to understand why is the ‘World War’ called ‘A World War’—
- It is Global- irrespective of political ideology of a nation, religion, status in world affairs
- It entails- economic slowdown, loss of lives and property, chaos in society
- It is a ‘Total War’- all resources are directed towards it.
- Change in World Order
Drawing a Parallel between Coronavirus and the World War
- Coronavirus is a Pandemic, it has engulfed the entire world, whether it is the oldest democracies or communist countries.
- The number of deaths worldwide is gigantic and still counting.
- Like after the War, the winning side slapped war reparations, here nations are filing similar law suits against China.
- All the resources of a nation are being concentrated towards fighting the Pandemic.
- Wartime laws are being imposed. During a war, the liberal democratic order is temporarily suspended, and extra-ordinary measures are passed that significantly extend state powers and limit the population’s rights. Some of the extended state powers only marginally infringe upon the lives and rights of citizens such as the creation of ‘war economy’.
- The economic costs are revised every day. Global economy is facing a slowdown and the longer the world takes to fight this battle, the worse the economies are going to suffer. Unemployment numbers are on the rise, certain sectors are completely shut down due to social distancing and lockdown measures. As the UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned, “it could bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past”.
- After World War II, scientists were seen as national heroes in developing the technologies needed to protect our country in the event of a new war. They are heroes again in a very different area of expertise — along with the frontline doctors, nurses and caregivers who are tirelessly (and often at risk to their own lives) working to confront the virus.
- The post-war period has always seen a strategic shift, from a bi-polar to a unipolar world and from a unipolar to a rise of multipolar world. The world order is expected to change yet again, swinging towards the East given the scale at which the West is hit and despite large populations and lower level of development, the East seems to be winning this battle.
Whether CoVID-19 is a Pandemic or a brewing Cold War 2.0 or if we are witnessing the third World War is debatable. The only striking difference between the World War and the Coronavirus is that the World War ended, but can the Coronavirus be eradicated?.
Author: Saloni Salil
The Author is Defence Analyst and Officer on Special Duty at Defence and Security Alert Magazine, New Delhi.