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It Is the Third World War

It Is the Third World War

Monday, 21 December, 2020 - 09:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

World War III did not take place. The world has not lost its senses. Perhaps because it learned from the two previous wars that left corpses, ashes, and rubble scattered over cities and continents.


The Korean conflict did neither cross its borders, nor did the Cuban missile crisis plunged America and the Soviet Union into a heated confrontation.


No one dared to ignite such a fire. Washington and Moscow tamed the fury of their allies and the greed of their agents. Even when the Berlin Wall collapsed, the Kremlin Kaiser was almost ready to live in fewer countries with less influence.


Much has been said about the Third World War that will not take place, and that humankind has learned bitter lessons and was now armed with nuclear bombs to deter a slide into war. It was also said that the world was tired of rebuilding, reconstructing, and re-pumping of life into factories and economies.


The world spent seven decades without much panic. Neither the American army advanced to liberate Eastern Europe from the weight of the Warsaw Pact forces, nor did the Red Army impose its forces on Western Europe, which prefers the returns to prosperity and stability over the pride of victory.


Major wars in the world seemed completely unlikely, especially when technology shortened distances and the global village emerged. It was believed that the greatest risks to the village would come from economic cracks or collapses in the global financial system.


But the world suddenly woke up to what we might call a Third World War. A war that was not launched by a superpower, nor was it ignited by an army general. A war triggered by a mysterious epidemic that left its Chinese stronghold and started attacking in all directions. Thus, the whole world fell into the grip of fear, panic, and major losses.


Fear haunts the inhabitants of a village when rumors talk of a serial killer, secretly moving in search of his victims. The police increase their patrols and erect security checkpoints. Residents shut their doors and windows and set plans to act in the event of a disturbing surprise. The prevailing public anxiety may prompt the government to deploy the army to reassure the people. The failure to arrest the killer will fuel thrilling scenarios. Some parents may refrain from sending their children to school to spare them the possibility of being a target. It is natural for the story of the mysterious criminal to dominate the newscasts on the screens and to make headlines on the front pages of newspapers.


Such a climate of fear will necessarily affect the economic situation, especially if the killer repeated his attacks and the authorities in charge of ensuring the safety of people failed to arrest him or reveal his movements.


The story of the serial killer came to my mind as I heard British Prime Minister Boris Johnson address the people with regret and pain.


Johnson, who had experienced the agony of COVID-19, was hoping to see Britons spend New Year’s Eve in a near-normal condition with reasonable damage; but he was forced to confront his countrymen with a grim and painful reality.


He announced that the government should abandon its previous plans that were aimed at easing restrictions over Christmas. He stressed that in light of the preliminary evidence about a new strain of the virus and the potential danger it represents, he finds himself compelled to inform the citizens, with a distressed heart, that the government could not continue with the Christmas plans.


The news shocked the British people, especially after experts confirmed that the new strain was able to spread way faster. Many had dreamed of taking New Year’s end as an opportunity to avenge the gloom of past months… the depression of wearing masks and adhering to social distancing rules. Many had also wished that people would tend in the last weeks of the year to increase their shopping ahead of the holidays. The last month of the year is an important economic date that big and small stores await, and the markets were betting on it to curb their losses.


But when the city is forced to abide by lockdown measures in these sensitive weeks, the year will surely be considered catastrophic, with all the bankruptcies, layoffs, or downsizing activities that the situation could entail.


We can add to the abovementioned the infection of Emmanuel Macron, and before him Donald Trump and a huge number of officials, stars, military, and athletes.


The severity of the battles varies from one country to another, depending on the measures, the capability of the health and medical bodies, and the behaviors of the citizens. Accurate numbers of casualties were lacking in countries that do not have strong institutions that are able to cope with disasters.


With the end of 2020, the entire world is witnessing a Third World War… Despite the discovery of vaccines, experts say that the battle is likely to continue.


COVID-19 is the third world war. No accurate account has been made yet on the number of human fatalities and devastating economic losses. The impact of this war will certainly be evident in the government’s future priorities, as well as in the behavior of individuals and in human relations in general. What is certain is that after World War III, the world will not be the same again. People have discovered the fragility of the cities in which they gathered.


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