William Lind debunks our dreams of World War 3

Summary: The latest clash on the China – India border has journalists agog and geopolitical experts aflutter with speculation. Whether they Viewed The Matter Darkly or considered it a Great Diplomatic Opportunity, most agree that it means we need to spend still more on lavish modern weapons. Here William Lind debunks this nonsense.

Two dogs fighting.
By lllonajalll. AdobeStock – 272842852.

A Glimpse of Future War Among Great Powers.
By William Lind.

Several weeks ago, the world got a glimpse of what future war will look like among Great Powers. The weapons were rocks and clubs. Indian and Chinese troops battled each other over worthless ground along their undefined border high in the Himalayas.  It was a classic case of two bald men fighting over a comb. But at least 20 Indian soldiers died, along with an unknown number of Chinese.

What is interesting about this skirmish is the weapons employed. Both India and China have sizable arsenals of modern weapons. They employed none of them. Instead, they fought with rocks and clubs.

I find the deafening silence over this choice of weapons, including from the U.S. military, to be interesting.  It certainly should draw the attention of anyone who studies where war may be going. Why did such a bizarre scenario unfold?  Because both countries have nuclear weapons.

It is probably true that neither India nor China wants a war at this point.  But what limited both countries’ soldiers to the weapons of cavemen was something with general import: so terrifying is the prospect of nuclear war to anyone threatened with it that governments are willing, even eager, to go to seemingly ridiculous lengths to prevent it.

Prevention begins with avoiding the escalatory ladder.  And that is what led to a fight with rocks and clubs.  Both countries rightly feared that if they went to the weapons of, let’s say Sung dynasty China or Moghul India, they would set foot on that ladder.  So rocks and clubs it had to be.  Even a battle with those so alarmed Beijing and New Delhi that they quickly sought to settle the dispute diplomatically.  Many weapons have claimed the title of “the Peacemaker”, but nuclear weapons actually deserve it.

This offers us a look at what war between other nuclear powers, let’s say the U.S. and China, might be like.  The driving consideration for both countries’ leadership would be avoiding escalation.  Since any confrontation would probably be a sea and air war, it might look something like the Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland.  Ships might ram each other (not too hard).  Water cannon might be employed.  Chinese sailors might throw bao at American crews, who would volley back hamburgers in return (the Americans would end up with the better lunch).  Fighter aircraft might engage, at least to the point of seeing who was better at staying on the other guy’s six.  Would they shoot?  If they did, both capitals would be frantic, trying to de-escalate.

Since both countries now have obesity problems among their youth, my proposal for an escalation-safe war would be vast eating and drinking matches between their respective ships’ and aircrafts’ crews.  Just imagine what the Navy PFT might look like!  It would do wonders for qualifying recruits.  Join the Navy and become the world!

The really funny thing here is that both the U.S. and China are spending vast sums buying weapons and generating forces for a conventional war.  That is not going to happen, barring outright insanity in both capitals at the same time.  Unless the inmates are running the asylum, both countries will seek to de-escalate rapidly from any accidental clash that might occur (things can happen; remember the War of Jenkins’ Ear).  Rules of engagement would quickly be established that would take both sides back to rocks and clubs, as India and China had already done.

The fact is, the whole China Scare is a sham, at least as far as a shooting war is concerned (our economic conflict is real, as President Trump understands).  It’s one more con job on the American people, intended to keep the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex rolling in dough.  When the massive defense budget cuts hit, which they soon will, remember my suggestion; let both countries’ navies roll in real dough.  That we may still be able to afford.

Chinese navy flag and ship - AdobeStock - 332089251
By Grispb. AdobeStock – 332089251.

Posted at Traditional Right, 8 July 2016.
Reposted with his generous permission.


About the author

William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. He has a Master’s Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 to 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 to 1986. See his bio at Wikipedia.

William Lind

Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985), co-author with Gary Hart of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (1986), and co-author with William H. Marshner of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (1987). Most importantly, he is one of the co-authors of “Into the Fourth Generation“, the October 1989 article in the Marine Corps Gazette describing fourth-generation warfare.

He’s perhaps best known for his articles about the long war, now published as On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. See his other articles about a broad range of subjects…

  1. His posts at TraditionalRight.
  2. His articles about geopolitics at The American Conservative.
  3. His articles about transportation at The American Conservative.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon. For something different, see “The Swallow – a story of the WWII Night Witches.”

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also, see these posts …

  1. Martin van Creveld asks “War! What is it good for?”
  2. The good news of history: it’s a story of less violence & better societies.
  3. A great sociologist explains the logic of our wars: “crackpot realism.”
  4. Know our warmongers and America will change.
  5. Questions and answers about wars in our world.

Great books about modern war

There are two the best books I have read about modern war.

The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz by Martin van Creveld.

The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World by General Rupert Smith.

Transformation of War
Available at Amazon.
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
Available at Amazon.


12 thoughts on “William Lind debunks our dreams of World War 3”

  1. I think that as long as sane people are in charge the author is right. Once crazy people enter the equation, all bets are off. And there seems to be no shortage of nutters these days.

    1. Frank,

      “I think that as long as sane people are in charge the author is right.”

      Yes, but I think Lind is not just saying that the danger of WW3 is slight – but also that the vast fortunes we spend preparing for it is wasted.

      “And there seems to be no shortage of nutters these days.”

      Where? I don’t see them. Rather, we are in a period in which people pursue their dreams without regard for risks – or even likely outcomes.

  2. The argument rests on the assumption that the CCP values human life. The PLA won’t escalate until it can execute a hammer blow against the USA. This may include nuclear weapons. The PLA planners have to be convinced that they have wiped out US 2nd strike assets. Hypersonics, drones, cyber are on this track.

    1. RX|C,

      I’m awed at your knowledge about the plans of China’s leaders. America’s top experts lack such certainty about them – many of whom have spent a lifetime in study of China’s languages (are you fluent in reading Cantonese, or just Mandarin?), history, culture, and politics.

      That’s because such things are difficult to know. Europe’s leaders didn’t understand each other before 1914 (their belligerence led to WWI), in the 1930s (their confusion and over-confidence led to WWII), in the 1960s (their mad belligerence almost led to WWIII), etc.

      Esp read about Kremlinologists during the Cold War. Brilliant people, deep experts – bizarrely wrong about many key issues.

      Even more wrong have been amateurs – usually dominated by fear, anger, and other emotions that poison thought. And usually wildly over-confident, often seeming like transcripts from the Almighty.

  3. There won’t be a world war. It would always go nuclear and destroy the world, including the ruling class. The elites arent going to kill themselves.

    PS. Good to see you back.

    1. Sven,

      That has been known since Herbert Kahn’s great work “On a thermonuclear War” – which along with analysis by RAND and others that, as you note, WW3 would probably go nuclear to total destruction.

      The Cuban Missile Crisis provided adequate proof. Since then, nuclear powers have avoided confrontations. US and the USSR. China and India. India and Pakistan.

      The result has been the Long Peace.

      1. John F Pittman

        The Long Peace and the 4GW losses for the empire. Even 5GW will have to avoid aiming for the nuclear assets lest someone win a “use it or lose it” argument in such a confrontation. This was a screenplay series for NCIS.

        The similarity between the lack of general knowledge about what a 100% renewable energy portfolio, and the lack of general knowledge that with 4GW and nuclear possibilities, a WWIII standing army is a waste of money, concerns me about the public’s critical thinking..

        Larry, or anybody, why are we engaged in wars we can’t win and are uneconomical? Is it just to feed the MI complex? Long-term economics indicates to me that such is unsupportable, as increases in the MI complex would reduce the economic multiplier substantially.

        My opinions, YMMV.

      2. John,

        “why are we engaged in wars we can’t win and are uneconomical?”

        It’s a commonplace in history. As George Orwell explained, the British empire produced great wealth for its elites – and did little or nothing for the rest of its people. Including the ones who worked and died to build and maintain it.

        The US “Empire” is an extreme example of this. It is a net cost even on a national level (the British Empire was a gold mine for its GDP). But America’s people are OK with this. Choices of a gullible people.

        As said in the movies, if God didn’t want us to be sheared He wouldn’t have made us sheep. More accurately, being sheep is a choice – not a destiny.

  4. It is true that this skirmish received little attention in MSM. That the use of firearms of any kind is forbidden on the “line of confrontation” must be taken into account (there were several reports in “The Wire” and “Asia-Times Online”…) Fact is, the soldiers stationed there are not allowed to make use of their firearms under any circumstances. The reporter of “The Wire” reported, after talking to several witnesses, that personal insults between Chinese and Indian soldiers contributed to the escalation.
    As for the rather poor coverage by US and European media, I don’t think there was a lack of interest. I know many independent colleagues who would have loved to go there, including myself. Only hindering reason is that independent journalists cannot invest like a aid-relief organisation for unimaginative editorial stags. (Vehicle, hotel, language assistant quickly runs up 500+ US$ per day. Then ad the costs for a return flight from NYC or Paris…). Media tent to dig their own graves by reacting this way: once the report is finished, arguments like “the material already exists” to “with the digital camera you don’t have to pay for films anymore” are being used and their fees have become ridiculous. Times when insurance, travel expenses are being covered are over since the “War” for the Kosovo “Liberation” Army. In Astan and Iraq you have had to be embedded with all this disadvantages this involves. Nobody wants to have a Peter Arnett who is telling live on TV “Americans are baby-killers”.
    Any colleague who tried to report about Modi’s other muscle game, the occupation and lock-down of Kashmir 4 months before was slowed down by the latest harassment of the Indian Foreign Ministry to delay a visa application forever. Not to mention a permit from the Ministry of Defence for a visit to the “first line”. In addition, the first “lock-down” measures due to this virus had also begun in India.
    From my personal experience, it would have been easier for me to travel there from the Chinese side through my contacts in Beijing. But, – who pays all the travel expenses. In my opinion, this whole show can be considered a typical PR gag rather than a risk for a 3rd world war. There are certainly much more critical smouldering fires that can quickly spread into a bush fire. In this sense I am absolutely convinced that if the increasingly faith-based societies will eventually produce a megalomaniacal “charismatic” fool and the danger of nuclear use will be appeased. And only then will Einstein’s prophecy become reality.

    1. Theodor,

      “In my opinion, this whole show can be considered a typical PR gag rather than a risk for a 3rd world war.”

      I don’t believe that you get Lind’s key point. The US press eagerly and uncritically prints stories – largely exaggerated or outright propaganda – about the massive threat to the US by China, Russia, and Iran. As a result, we get people like RC who read the news and so believe …

      “The argument rests on the assumption that the CCP values human life. The PLA won’t escalate until it can execute a hammer blow against the USA. This may include nuclear weapons. The PLA planners have to be convinced that they have wiped out US 2nd strike assets. Hypersonics, drones, cyber are on this track.”

      The incident on the China-India border shows that other great powers are well aware of the danger of escalation – and are taking strong steps to avoid it. That makes it important news, more so than the latest warmonger study saying that China is building weapons to destroy America (rather than building defenses to prevent the US doing to them what we have done to quite a few other nations).

      The press typically puts near-zero effort to validate the propaganda given it by DoD and the defense industry. They could as easily reprint news from legitimate foreign press about the China – India border without sending you there to validate it.

      1. Yes, yes, of course I have understood it very well, – only the scissors in my head remind me to be careful in cyberspace…
        But that means that people here are already being systematically taken in by their own propaganda. That the press has become the victim of its own, sometimes very absurd scaremongering. This in turn paralyses any empirical analysis. This in turn is the proof that without neutral verification by independent reporters is necessary.
        I have reported in enough socially unstable, conflict-ridden societies where exactly the wrong results came out of such propaganda. In one case, a handful of “alibabas” came running up a mountain screaming, shouting “Allu Akbar”, shooting their last bullets because they had no other chance to get out of their position alive otherwise. The far superior troops on top of the mountain really thought that now there would come throat-cutting Islamists their TV and radio stations always report, fled and left their ammunition, howitzers and two tanks behind. This is when someone falls for their own propaganda.
        Larry, the European view on this incident was only apparently more “relaxed”. Ever since the Kosovo conflict, I see Europe buckling. It’s easy to ignite escalation, as you can see with what is happen in the UK, desperate to find its new place.

        Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

  5. I think it will be at least a generation before America can break it’s addiction to having an existential enemy which drives all “defense” planning. It will probably take serious shocks to the US economy/value of the dollar to provoke actual debates about scaling back our military spending and the utopian scope of our current missions around the planet.

    COVID might start the ball rolling, but I doubt it.

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