Global Issues

This is not WWIII

Niall Ferguson, fellow Jesuite, argues in the LA Times that:

Such language can — for now, at least — safely be dismissed as hyperbole.This crisis is not going to trigger another world war. Indeed, I do not expect it to produce even another Middle East war worthy of comparison with those of June 1967 or October 1973. In 1967, Israel fought four of its Arab neighbors — Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. In 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. Such combinations are very hard to imagine today.

The most important factor that he discusses seems to me to be:

Crucially, Washington’s consistent support for Israel is not matched by any great power support for Israel’s neighbors. During the Cold War, by contrast, the risk was that a Middle East war could spill over into a superpower conflict. Henry Kissinger, secretary of State in the twilight of the Nixon presidency, first heard the news of an Arab-Israeli war at 6:15 a.m. on Oct. 6, 1973. Half an hour later, he was on the phone to the Soviet ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin. Two weeks later, Kissinger flew to Moscow to meet the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev.

He concludes that the stakes are quite different for Israel and for the US. That the prospect of a regional sectarian conflict has no ‘silver lining’ for US regional interests. And thus, that:

It may not be World War III. But the current crisis nevertheless calls for a much more urgent diplomatic effort than the Bush administration seems to have in mind.

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