Thirty-five years ago, Sir John Hackett published The Third World War, which speculated how WW3 might start in the mid-eighties and how it would be fought. His scenario started with the death of Marshall Tito in Yugoslavia, followed by the break-up of that country and Russian and Warsaw Pact tanks rolling through the Fulda Gap from East Germany into West Germany. Since it is now fashionable to call WW3 either the Cold War or the war against Islamic extremism, the time is right to publish a new speculative book about how WW4 might start and how it most likely would be fought. Among the scenarios author Douglas Cohn includes in World War 4:
Although Russia is now occupying parts of Ukraine, it's unlikely that will become a global war because the U.S. president is reluctant to do anything about it. But the Baltic states, which Russia is now eyeing, are different: they're members of NATO, and Article Five of the NATO Charter requires all NATO member states to go to war to defend any NATO member under attack. Putin is notoriously scornful of Obama, and he thinks Obama will do nothing about a "Ukraine lite" invasion of Latvia, Lithuania, and/or Estonia. All three have Russian populations left over from the Soviet era, and it's easy to imagine Putin invading "to protect the ethnic Russians," exactly the way he did in Ukraine. If the U.S. stands up for the Baltics, the other NATO nations will, too, leading to WW4.
Another possible scenario is a rapidly militarizing China picking any number of excuses to fight the U.S. China believes her time has arrived, as U.S. wealth and power wane (as China sees it) and China’s waxes. For example, all China has to do is decide that the time is right to take back Taiwan, betting that reluctant-warrior President Obama will do nothing. If we or our far-eastern allies decide to fight, however, that would also lead to WW4.
Similarly, Japan has decided that she can no longer count on the protection of the American nuclear umbrella, the guarantor of Pax Americana for the past 70 years. Japan is exploring constitutional changes that will allow her to build a military (and has also reignited the debate about whether or not to acquire atom bombs) that will no longer be defensive only. New military guidelines announced in 2010 direct the focus of the Japanese military away from Russia and towards China. Heightened territorial disputes and Chinese provocations against Japan in the East China Sea could easily result in a global conflict.
Douglas Cohn presents these and other scenarios for exactly how, in our dangerous word, WW4 could start, and how it would be fought: the strategies, the tactics, the units and troops, the air wings, the naval fleets, and the weapons.
Douglas Cohn is a 1968 graduate of West Point and was a U.S. army airborne ranger who led a recon platoon in Vietnam. His medals include two Silver Stars and the Purple Heart. He was retired as a captain after convalescing from gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest, abdomen, leg, and hand. In addition to his twice-weekly syndicated newspaper columns, he is the author of the forthcoming The Presidents’ First Year (Lyons Press, 2015). He and his wife, Kathryn, reside in McLean, Virginia.