Careful, Sir John, you’re baiting the dogs of war
By Thomas McEnery
A political sage once said he was unsure what weapons would be used in the third World War, but in the Fourth the Xor weapons would be stones.
That opinion seems to epitomize much of the pre-war thinking of the Western world, namely, how the blatant insanity of a nuclear war was clearly an unpalatable absurdity for civilized men of whatever political philosophy, and would somehow be averted.
This view gained credence from the belief that even if some adventurous clique should eschew reason, then the “balance of terror” scenario would control more nihilistic rages. This argument is based in solid logic and has heretofore proven historically accurate.
Now the rub.
We are shown a world that in 1985 has all the symbols of reality, the logical extension of a world we can plainly discern today – political stability, economic malaise, and cordial apathy reign. I n the near future of Sir John Hackett’s book, these are greatly exacerbated.
The Atlantic Alliance, hinged by America and Great Britain, is still firm, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact allies are seemingly mighty, and a new China-Japan economic sphere holds court in the Far East. Yet there are deep fissures in the first two, NATO has only recently disbanded its internal defenses, spurred on by a national pride resurgent in the island nation of Britain and encouraged by an America financially freed FROM THE COLD WAR.
The Soviet empire is literally tearing at the seams, pressed by recalcitrant satellites and vocal minorities. India and South Africa have splintered apart and the economically disfranchised nations of the southern hemisphere are occasions of hunger and despair. True to the old dictum, the poor have indeed gotten poorer. The gap has become an abyss.
To further complicate an already impossible situation internationally, the president-elect of the United States has made a serious election gaffe on Poland. Not one involved with any erotic thoughts, but a far more potentially serious one, involving military aid to that every-rebellious nation. It was made into an ostensibly dead microphone and beamed around the world, a McLuhanesque twist fraught with danger.
The Kremlin is concerned; contingencies are discussed. Everywhere, in Africa, the Middle East the ever-dangerous Balkans, dominoes begin to be played, and Orwell’s “smelly little orthodoxies vying for our souls” gird with armor.
Events, as usual, take control. What began as an ingenious Politburo tactic to destabilize and debilitate American interests across the globe, now runs amok.
Just as the “Guns of August” in 1914 clearly developed a murderous will of their own, so too seven decades later. The President of Mexico is assassinated, a Soviet submarine sinks an Iranian transport in the Persian Gulf, and Russian forces initiate an invasion against a Tito-less Yugoslavia. (It seems impossible that even then the aged marshal will still hold sway.) The Marines land on the Dalmation Coast and the unthinkable has occurred: Russians and Americans kill one another with no surrogates.
On August 4, 1985, Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations invade in a massive strike across Europe – The Third World War has begun.
The Kremlin with sound precision has determined to conduct this war in the finest Metternchist style as merely foreign policy by other xxxx xxxxxx of the West, militarily as well as economically and the resurgent “new spirit” of the Atlantic Alliance must be blunted. They are also driven by a visceral fear of the West Germans.
Et the Soviets are not Cossack madmen, the war is to be a conventional one, and one they are convinced they will win.
Alas, even the Prussian von Molte comments that military plans rarely survive contact with the enemy. So it is in WWIII.
The Russians are repulsed and in another gamble they play the nuclear card and incinerate Birmingham, England. The Allies resolutely respond by annihilating Minsk.
As the sight of a world in ashes, the Eastern Europeans blanch and the ever-fragile Soviet Empire disintegrates and sues for peace. In the final pages a conference in Copenhagen looks to the future.
This “cautionary tale,” evocative of other locust ears, is clearly meant to a=be a clarion call. The book is an excellent and scholarly work. Written on the much broader scope of a novelist’s pad. Yet one may clearly distrust its premises and its conclusion: the syllogism, although deft, can also be self-serving. It is fine o advocate a varied military response, but this surely cannot be the answer.
No matter what our options, an ultimate compository of common decency and common sense must rebel against nations expensively preparing for Armageddon while all around us the third World is in the throes of theirs with the horsemen of famine and pestilence needing no augmentation. War has always fed on hunger and if the West does indeed awaken, as Sir John Hackett hopes, let us pray it will be in a much more sophisticated and inclusive way than the one envisioned in this entertaining future.
Thomas McEnery, a San Jose City Council member, is an author who specializes in this topic.