by Jonathan Chambers
National and multinational conflict in our World is as old as the hills. The problems between nations range from the mildly irritating to the terrifying.
Humans have experienced two “official” World Wars. But, who names it a World War? How would we know if a multinational conflict is, in fact, as big as WWI or WWII?
For a conflict to become a World War, it must last long enough to involve many parties. A single massive nuclear exchange is the likely traditional alternative; a global NBC terrorist attack might be the modern equivalent.
The only kind of conflicts which could tie down the US for any long period are civil wars and insurgencies. Any straight US vs. National Army conflict would be resolved within days or weeks by the Air Force, or would be mutual destruction (i.e. a nuclear war against Russia, even today).
One or more long-term civil wars, in places we can’t just ignore, where foreign powers get involved on both sides, would probably evolve into a World War.
Afghanistan is basically irrelevant to the World; a civil war in a major oil producer like Iraq, where Iran and Saudi were involved on both sides, would be a major step; even more so if Russia and/or China got involved). Likely flashpoints are various parts of CENTCOM (Saudi, possibly Iraq, possibly Egypt), China (civil war), Pakistan (domestic and/with India), or Mexico. Africa and South America are probably largely irrelevant, and thus could not be the flashpoint, although conflicts there could add to the badness.
North Korea is the one place which could possibly involve a long-term non-insurgency hot war, tempered a bit by the lack of allies for North Korea.
Each additional simultaneous conflict makes global war more likely, so initially a lingering conflict is more of a threat than short more-intensive conflicts.
The World is still at peace. But there are tensions near the surface, and the reshuffling of alliances has painted a clear picture of who fears who, who trusts who, and who is going to get slammed when the War comes.