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Why there can never be a Third World War

Service members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces hold artillery drills at a shooting range, December 17, 2021. [Reuters]

Many Kenyans have been worried about the possibility of another war of a large scale, following the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

This is a clear indication that this country has been in relative peace for long and we have really never experienced crises as in other places on earth.

When there was 1998 bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi, many Kenyans thought the world was coming to the end. The truth is that the world is not ending soon and there will be no world war again. There are many reasons why there can never be another global war as happened in 1914 and 1939. 

By the time First World War ended in 1918, a total of 20 million people had died and the future looked so uncertain that world leaders were worried. Woodrow Wilson (the American president) drew a 14-point proposal that would ensure world peace in the future. He inter alia proposed the removal of economic barriers between nations, punishment of Germany for starting the war, the promise of “self-determination” for minority nations, and a League of Nations that would provide a system of collective peace for all nations.

The First World War was not fought conclusively and there were no clear winners and global structures for peace promised by Wilson never worked effectively. It instead produced warlords like Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler and Mussolini who were to drum up chaos and discontent in the next war that saw casualties never ever witnessed in world history.

The Second World War was thus a total war, fought conclusively, and with clear victors and losers. Since then, there has been peace in the world, and mechanisms to prevent future wars were put in place and diplomatic relations between nations strengthened.

As such there will be no any other war of the same magnitude and scale for the following reasons: First, the world has increasingly become much more economically interconnected since the Second World War. Economic treaties and free trade agreements have intertwined the economies of countries around the world. This has meant there has been a huge rise in the volume of global trade since World War II, and especially since the end of 1990s.

Secondly, the spread of liberal democracy and its emphasis on diplomacy are correlated against war around the world. War can no longer solve world peace. In fact, the spread of cyber technology and social media has brought the world much closer, too. By 1945, populations were separated from each other by physical distance, language barriers, and lack of mass communication tools.

In conclusion, there is never going to be another world war again. The world is different now.  But this story could mean a bad lesson for Kenya as the 2007 post-election violence was concluded prematurely, a conflict without fronts, which left many Kenyans wondering who and what they were fighting for and for what reasons.  The conflict therefore had no clear winners or losers. In other words, the post-election violence was not conclusively fought and is likely to be repeated if we are not careful.

Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University.