Join 3,422 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Talkin' World War III
December 1, 2007 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Can we have a little talk about World War III?
posted by homunculus (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
U.S. versus them.
posted by Brian B. at 2:20 PM on December 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bring that shit on!

Sweet, sweet nuclear fire. Ahhhhh.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:22 PM on December 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


The author sounds rather naive.
posted by matty at 2:28 PM on December 1, 2007


How is it naive?
posted by phrontist at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2007


There's a distinction between a "World War" and a use of nuclear weapons. Hard to take very seriously the analytical qualities of a piece which doesn't recognise that.
posted by Phanx at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2007


The piece does recognize that when it states, "...and second because "World War III" generally connotes a global nuclear war, while Bush was speaking about regional scenarios involving Iran and Israel."
posted by 517 at 2:56 PM on December 1, 2007


I read this the other day and decided to send Rosenbaum an email that read, in its entirety: "dude. breathe." But I didn't get around to it.
posted by thecaddy at 2:58 PM on December 1, 2007


I can't see how the rest of the world overthrowing the U.S. would be anything but good.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 3:00 PM on December 1, 2007


"I can't see how the rest of the world overthrowing the U.S. would be anything but good."

Yes, cos the rest of us all get along fine. Excuse me while I pick up Gillian Gibbons from the airport.
posted by nthdegx at 3:05 PM on December 1, 2007


Well, it's just possible that the US might be in less danger of retaliation from pent up anger over its foreign policies if it were a better world citizen. But in his hysteria, he didn't seem to mention that possibility.
posted by cytherea at 3:27 PM on December 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't see how the rest of the world overthrowing the U.S. would be anything but good.

You can't. Our navy is much more powerful than the rest of the navies of the world combined. Gonna have to step up your military spending by a factor of 5 or so if you wanna catch up.
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on December 1, 2007


I try to talk to girls and I keep thinkin' of World War III.
posted by mwhybark at 3:32 PM on December 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


And I won her over singing W W I I I...
posted by emelenjr at 3:59 PM on December 1, 2007


It's a good thing we still haven't impeached Bush and Cheney. We can all sleep safe and leave this in their capable hands.
posted by parallax7d at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2007


517,
Well, he says that, but then he goes on and uses "nuclear exchange" and "World War III" synonymously throughout the rest of the article. I'm not even sure what his point is by the end. That there is a possibility of nuclear weapons being used at some point, either by states with unstable/fanatical governments or non-state actors? He didn't really even attempt to talk about anything that that might be even close to a "Third World War", except for this part:

"The new "authorized" users of the Islamic bomb fire one or more at Israel, which could very well retaliate against Islamic capitals and perhaps bring retaliation upon itself from Russia, which may have undeclared agreements with Iran, for instance, that calls for such action if the Iranians are attacked."

This is why the definition is problematic. Even that unlikely scenario is more about an escalating exchange of nuclear attacks. Does that qualify as a world war, or must a world war be fought with conventional forces? If it's the latter, we're nowhere near something like that. If it's the former, I guess the scenario he outlined might be a possibility, but it seems like in today's climate the most you'll get is a regional conflict. Maybe something like China attacking Taiwan could spark something grander on the world stage?
posted by Sangermaine at 4:07 PM on December 1, 2007


justinian, that may be true, but the navy hasn't even been tested in a conflict in a long while. Iran has supersonic missiles that might be capable of taking out a carrier, should one stray too close to the iranian border.
posted by empath at 4:15 PM on December 1, 2007


I think that there's been a lot of mis-reading of the article.

It isn't about WWIII in the abstract - the article is about a recent change in US Exec office language about ongoing conflicts, which is coincident with a lot of nuclear-weapons-related "slips" and such. His suggestion is that the development of these two trends aren't simply coincidence, and what might that mean. There's a lot of instability out there - which the author describes at length - but the real point is what does it mean that the US rhetoric has changed about all of this?

The biggest problem with the article is that the guy needed a heavier edit. Concision would have helped Mr. Rosenbaum.
posted by mikel at 4:28 PM on December 1, 2007


Ron Rosenbaum's really one of America's great journalists, a jewel and asset to our culture. He's not talking through his ass about nuclear arms, having been down into the nuclear launch facilities and seen "the buttons," hung out with the guys who are prepard to press them, and written memorably about it. Everything he writes is worth reading. He does, however, have two subjects that throw him a little off kilter. Okay, three, if you count Shakespeare, with whom he is a little obsessed. The other of the two is Jerry Seinfeld, whom he hates with a wild, unreasonable passion. The other is war, about which he tends to get a bit overheated. I'll never forget the column he wrote for the NY Observer on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, where he postures and moans about having to be in New Jersey on the day hostilities commence, and not New York City, "my city" at "time of war." He seemed to be claiming a bit much for himself in terms of 9-11 victimhood -- that is to say, he lives in New York, New York was attacked, and that gave his soul a bigger stake in the coming war. (Of course, lots of intellegent people overheated after 9-11, and like Rosenbaum, were frustrated that they hadn't played a larger role, or been more directly affected by the biggest public event of our time).
On the subject of nuclear detonation, however, how can you NOT make a big deal out of it? One decent-sized nuclear weapon going off anywhere near a city of any significance would rock the foundations of world culture, scamble the markets beyond comprehension, and remove any kind of security any of us feel about anything for a long, long time (not to mention kill many, many people).
How could any of our presidential candidates even talk about anything else. This -- unlike abortion rights, creationism, gun control, etc. -- is an issue that is actually the president's call. People should get on their asses about it.
posted by Faze at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2007


Iran has supersonic missiles that might be capable of taking out a carrier, should one stray too close to the iranian border.

Mostly propaganda. The "Sunburn" ( the Russian 3M82 Moskit - I don't know the less capable Chinese variant) missile, supersonic, is radar guided. These radar stations ore not air based but land based. The second the radar comes on line and "paints' a carrier it is dead as a motherfucker.

Our navy and military HAS had VASTLY more recent experience than either the much degraded Iranian Airforce, the Russian Navy (that developed the Sunburn) or the so-called Chinese navies COMBINED.

And the Sunburn itself has never been combat proven.

The Iranians would also have to hit a carrier with the carrier combat air groups still on the deck to have much of any defensive impact. This is a problem as several air groups are pretty much are patrolling in the gulf 24/7.

We also have missile subs the Iranians (nor the Russian , nor the Chinese) could ever hope to hit. Each of those subs have both conventional and nuclear missiles. We can also deliver slower but SATELLITE GUIDED cruise missiles from stand off ranges well beyond the range of the Sunburn.

Sorry. The terrible truth is there is no conventional symmetrical force on the planet capable of a winning a standoff battle with the US. Not hardware to hardware. Every foreign strategic power on the planet knows this and why they suck us into asymetrical proxy combat where possible.

BTW that terrible power is in the hands of an idiot boy prince. And even with a moron in charge nobody could beat us toe to toe.
posted by tkchrist at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sorry. The terrible truth is there is no conventional symmetrical force on the planet capable of a winning a standoff battle with the US. Not hardware to hardware. Every foreign strategic power on the planet knows this and why they suck us into asymetrical proxy combat where possible.

They probably don't want a nuclear carrier going down in their own waters anyway. If an Islamic nation were really clever, they would invite the US to set up a large military base on their soil on the condition they employ thousands of people somewhere between their enemies and their capital. We would accept the offer and they would have us in their sights.
posted by Brian B. at 5:01 PM on December 1, 2007


Let me qualify that.... "Yet."

The direction we are headed, without correction, we will be number two (or three, or four... or tenth) with in fifty years.

Which would be fine with me.
posted by tkchrist at 5:02 PM on December 1, 2007


I don't think any country in the Islamic world has the industrial capability (or strong government) to wage any successful multi-front campaign ala the WWI or WWII era powers. They are good at waging "war as annoyance" but not much else.

A threat won't come from China either (although they will eventually surpass us in industrial capability.) Really the only point of contention between the U.S. and China is Taiwan, and despite popular belief, we've never shown much regard for Taipei. If they declare independence and China rolls in the tanks, we'll bitch and moan about it, but at the end of the day we won't do anything - there is too much to be gained in trade with China to split hairs over democracy-this or freedom-that.

What does that leave? A resurgent Russia? Pulllezzz... those autocrats are so busy carving out pieces of the pie for themselves that they have the best functioning kleptocracy in history. And kleptocracies do not go to war...
posted by wfrgms at 5:58 PM on December 1, 2007


Did this thread really just degenerate into how much better my military is then yours? Really?

A lot of people seem to missing the forest for trees. Does a semantic argument about the definition of World War III really matter?

The bottom line is any nuclear exchange on earth is a strategic threat to the US, and as such brings us closer to World War II regardless of how "regional" it might at first appear, especially in the Middle East.

Anyone who thinks Pakistan could launch an atomic weapon without getting China involved are in a fantasy land. If you think Pakistan is integral to the security of the US, please review this earlier thread. If China is involved, inevitably the US will be involved as well.

Rosenbaum is simply pointing out that the term has suddenly popped back up in the public discourse, except for the presidential debates, and traces the causation for that. I think he makes some good points about why the term suddenly popped back up, while also underscoring the irony of George Bush being the one to do it.
posted by herda05 at 6:03 PM on December 1, 2007


It's a motherfucker.
posted by Rangeboy at 6:34 PM on December 1, 2007


and as such brings us closer to World War II
Can nuclear weapons create time warps?

I think perhaps too much is being read into here. The simplest explanation of why the term is being thrown around now is the same for why "Islamofascism" started being used. The administration wants Iran to be seen as a grand threat, and casting it in these Apocalyptic terms helps ratchet up the message.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:44 PM on December 1, 2007


The threat of nuclear war, remains the ultimate in emotional blackmail. The bombing in Syria, reminds me of a spoiled brat, who goes out to play, and comes home with a whopper of a tale, to justify beating up a smaller child. Mommy he threw a rock at me! When the parents of the other child call, suddenly it becomes a very big rock. I don't believe anything that comes out of the Middle East, any more, especially if it is a justification for violence.

I have always maintained that 9/11 was the gun, used in the biggest robbery of all time, a robbery that is still ongoing. Now that the memory of that is not so raw, they have to dig nuclear war out of their costume closet.
posted by Oyéah at 7:01 PM on December 1, 2007


Wfrgms, we're not talking about a multi-front conventional war like WWI or II. I don't think anyone suggests that a world war would be fought conventionally in any seriousness. If there's going to be a big showdown, it'll probably be nuclear, and the thrust of this article is that ANY nuclear exchange could prove to be devestating.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:24 PM on December 1, 2007


At this very moment, there's a high probability that this scenario is being wargamed incessantly in the defense and intelligence ministries of every nuclear nation, most particularly the United States, Russia, and Israel.

I think India probably has a higher stake than any other country, and the lack of any mention of India in the article is ridiculous. Rosenbaum acts like it is possible that Bin Laden will become the Dictator of Pakistan but that is ridiculous. Sure he has friends in the ISI, but they aren't just going to hand him the keys to the castle.

Pakistan doesn't have that much beef with Israel, why would they nuke them? Currently the most likely scenario for is between India and Pakistan, they have been on the brink of a full scale conventional war for over a decade and this is scary as fuck.

If they declare independence and China rolls in the tanks, we'll bitch and moan about it, but at the end of the day we won't do anything - there is too much to be gained in trade with China to split hairs over democracy-this or freedom-that.

Taiwan is a face issue more than anything else. If the US let China successfully invade Taiwan, it would basically be admitting that it is no longer a super power, and would lose massive military respect in Asia. Japan would probably flip the switch and go nuclear and so on. No US president would ever let a huge shame like that happen on their watch if they could stop it.
posted by afu at 12:59 AM on December 2, 2007


Rosenbaum is simply pointing out that the term has suddenly popped back up in the public discourse, except for the presidential debates, and traces the causation for that.

That's what I found interesting about this. His concern that bin Laden is going to get Pakistan's nukes is pretty far fetched. The Pakistani military isn't going to give away their crown jewels to anyone, regardless of what happens to Musharraf. The bigger worry, like afu said, would be that a new regime might be more gung-ho for war with India (which we've been stupidly helping them equip for).
posted by homunculus at 3:03 PM on December 2, 2007


say what you will about nuclear exchanges, but at least it's over with quickly!

"I do not know what weapons world war 3 will be fought with, but world war 4 will be fought with sticks and stones" - Al Einstein
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 6:09 PM on December 2, 2007


Bush handed blueprint to seize Pakistan's nuclear arsenal
posted by homunculus at 9:36 AM on December 3, 2007


5 Myths About the Bomb and Us
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on December 3, 2007


U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work
posted by homunculus at 10:37 AM on December 3, 2007


Despite Knowledge That Iran Halted Nuke Program, White House Continued To Warn Of False Threat
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on December 3, 2007


Bush: DNI Told Me ‘We Have Some New Information, He Didn’t Tell Me What The Information Was’
posted by homunculus at 12:52 PM on December 4, 2007


tkchrist - the Sunburn uses active radar in the same way as the AGM-84 Harpoon/SLAM - it has a built in seeker head and doesn't use semi-active radar homing (like the AIM-7 Sparrow). Destroying land based radar would not affect the missile once it is in flight. Once it's in the air you've got maybe 30-60 seconds to hit the "vampires" before titanium capped penetrator forces 320kg of explosives inside your ship. Swamping fleet defences with enough missiles will work - phalanx/goalkeeper works but multiple missiles from multiple angles will let missiles through. You just can't stop them.
posted by longbaugh at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2007


Sy Hersh: We Pay Bush to Know These Things - What Did He Know When?
posted by homunculus at 9:48 AM on December 5, 2007


OK, now we're not going to bomb Iran
posted by homunculus at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2007


« Older Tom Tomorrow presents Bill O'Reilly's Very Useful ...  |  E-How to be an evil villain, T... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments