World on verge of World War III what would Churchill do?
Trucks which had been carrying troops are burned on crossroads in Kiev city’s center Feb. 18. (Wikipedia)
Britain’s Winston Churchill, political head of the Royal Navy in 1914, was one of the driving forces in pulling Britain into the catastrophe of World War I, which it could easily have avoided. But 40 years later, as prime minister, he counselled peace, not war, negotiation, not confrontation, with the nuclear armed Soviet Union.
By that point Churchill had lived through two world wars and adamantly did not want to see a third. And in a conversation at the Potsdam Conference with U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson, he recognized the fearful powers of nuclear weapons from the very first reports of the Trinity Test in New Mexico in July 1945.
“Stimson, what was gunpowder? Trivial. What was electricity? Meaningless. This atomic bomb is the Second Coming in Wrath.”
Albert Einstein recognized this same huge truth. “The atomic bomb has changed everything except our way of thinking,” he said.
Einstein also prophetically warned in a 1949 interview with Alfred Werner, “I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth — rocks!”
That Bomb is the elephant in the room today towering over the escalating crisis in Ukraine. It is the specter whose shadow covered everything through the long decades of the Cold War, but at least then, everyone recognized it was there. And policymakers in Washington and Moscow above all shared the determination, by and large, never to let it destroy the world.
But none of the armchair pundits and shrill political backseat drivers (“Yes, Sen. McCain, that means you”) ranting and raving today for us to “stand up” to the Russians, and manly jut out our jaws at them imagine for a second that they, themselves, could easily die screaming in thermonuclear fire along with almost everyone else.
Yet that possibility really exists. It became real in February when the European Union, with the casual support of the United States, encouraged the violent, revolutionary toppling of the democratically-elected government in Ukraine, and an outraged Russia determined to draw the line on 25 years of disintegration, humiliation and retreat.
The United States is in no condition to stop Russia with conventional military power. Over the past 13 years, the U.S. land combat forces have exhausted themselves in futile and even ridiculous “nation building” activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. These ludicrous “crusades” have left as hundreds of thousands of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And the U.S. Army is now in no condition to pose a credible conventional military deterrent to the Russian Army in Europe.
Before the end of the Cold War there were more than 400,000 U.S. troops in Germany, including the best combat forces. Today there are less than 50,000 left, most of them in non-combatant support functions.
Half a century after the start of World War I, Einstein was right. We still haven’t learned a thing. The danger of World War III looms closer than ever.
Martin Sieff is a former senior foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and former Managing Editor, International Affairs for United Press International. Mr. Sieff is the author of “That Should Still Be Us: How Thomas Friedman’s Flat World Myths Are Keeping Us Flat on Our Backs” (Wiley 2012) and “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East” (Regnery, 2008). He has received three Pulitzer Prize nominations for international reporting.