We Are Not 'At the Brink of World War III' — At Least Not Yet

AP Photo/Libkos

“We’re at the brink of World War III, just in case anybody doesn’t know it. As president, I will bring back peace through strength,” former President Donald Trump said at his 2024 kickoff rally in South Carolina on Saturday.

PJ Media’s own Rick Moran wrote up the initial report for you, quoting Trump reminding supporters that “Through weakness and incompetence, Joe Biden has brought us to the brink of World War III.”

I am here to politely but only partially disagree with the once (and future?) POTUS.

We are not on the brink of World War III. At least not yet. But we’re heading in that direction if Biden doesn’t give up the “weakness and incompetence” that have defined his foreign policy from Day One.

Biden is, exactly as Trump said, doing everything wrong.

I’ll pause here to note that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin did not invade Ukraine on Trump’s watch, even though Trump indulged in fewer foreign adventures than any president in at least 30 years. But: “If you move against Ukraine while I’m president,” Trump is said to have told the Russian leader, “I will hit Moscow.”

Deterrence works — and it’s exactly what Biden lacks.

Migrants picked up on this fact, gathering on our southern border in record numbers even before Biden’s inauguration, for the chance to become illegal immigrants who would likely never be removed.

Then there was the Afghanistan debacle, which showed to the world that Biden would not take care of our own people. Surely, Putin calculated that Biden would care even less about the people of Ukraine. And that’s exactly the message Biden sent in his own words. Instead of going Full Trump and threatening to level the Kremlin, wishy-washy Joe said, “I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.”

Not exactly a line in the sand, was it? But deterrence had likely failed long before Biden’s anti-Churchill moment.

What got nerves fraying this weekend was a series of attacks on Iran. Somebody or somebodies hit various targets, perhaps not with much success, in a country already roiled by months of protests against the regime. Israel likely conducted at least three of the strikes. Interestingly, the short-range quadcopters they used would have had to have been launched and controlled from within Iran.

Exclusively for our VIPs: A Most Unnecessary War

Here’s more on how complicated the situation is from the Wall Street Journal:

Russia and Israel have had a yearslong understanding that has allowed Israeli warplanes to repeatedly strike Iranian targets inside Syria, where Moscow provides air defenses for President Bashar al-Assad. Israel is worried that open support for Ukraine could imperil its ability to strike Iranian targets in Syria.

And yet … Russia is also the main sponsor of Syria’s long-embattled Assad regime engaged in a simmering terror campaign against Israel.

Old-school milblogger Laughing Wolf tweeted, “I’m increasingly reminded of 1914. The web of treaties, secret and open, alliances, etc.”

From World War I to World War III
Kaiser Wilhelm II planning with Hindenburg and Ludendorff. (Public domain.)

The 1914 analogy is far from exact. NATO is an open alliance, and for all its many apparent faults (cough, Germany, cough) is basically strong. Russia is a mess, and perhaps not as politically stable as it appears from the outside.

Weakness begets desperation, however, and that’s where things do resemble 1914.

Imperial Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II had alienated most of Europe during his belligerent reign, and the result was a previously unthinkable Franco-Russo-British alliance. Caught in a trap of its own making, Germany found that it had to support its only remaining ally — hapless Austria-Hungary — no matter what.

That’s how a local Balkan crisis in 1914 spiraled into a war so devastating that the Continent remains culturally scarred by it to this day.

Putin is stuck in a war he has so far been unable to win or quit. The longer this drags on, the more likely it is that Putin will try something truly desperate, or that some other spark — perhaps in Iran, for example — will light an even bigger conflagration.

As I wrote for you last week, “The decision to send heavy armor should have been made in March of last year, when it was clear that Ukraine had a lot more fight in it than most anyone expected.”

From the start of Putin’s stupid war, Biden should have pursued a two-track strategy of arming Ukraine to the teeth (Track One) while using all means at his disposal to force a negotiated settlement (Track Two).

ASIDE: Yes, a negotiated settlement would require concessions from Kyiv, too. Sorry, Ukraine. Our national interests do align when it comes to Russian aggression — but they do not, repeat not, align perfectly.

Instead, Biden (and the rest of the West) has dithered endlessly on sending Ukraine the weapons needed to win, while doing basically nothing on the diplomatic front. Worse, Biden has escalated the stakes for Putin personally, by insisting on regime change that we can’t actually force and wouldn’t want to risk forcing even if we could.

So I wouldn’t say that we’re “at the brink of World War III,” but we’re one black-swan event away from being there.


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