I can no longer sit back and allow
Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination,
Communist subversion, and the International Communist conspiracy to
sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
General Jack Ripper
Dr. Strangelove 1963

World War III

World War III was the biggest war that never happened. World War III was to be the final conflict between the Socialist Camp and the Western Imperialists. Possibly the Cold War was World War III in very slow motion. In 1990, events in Eastern Europe created the strange possibility that the threat of World War III was over.

Americans looked to Washington for answers in the wake of World War II, as communism, directed from Moscow, rolled up Eastern Europe, blockaded Berlin, and spread to Asia. The reply came via forceful denouncements of the communist menace, international cooperation among the Free World nations, military reorganization, and - at home - Civil Defense. Training films, booklets, bomb shelters, and drills prepared citizens to respond to attack warnings and evacuation orders. Americans came to realize that intercontinental ballistic missiles had taken from them their two biggest buffers, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Now they would have not months but minutes to prepare for World War III.

C. Wright Mills went after the American "power elite" and their "crackpot realism," which, in his view, would inevitably lead to nuclear war sooner or later. Dire warnings about the imminence of World War III were common in the 1950s, as the world adjusted to the introduction of nuclear weapons. C. Wright Mills and other critical writers exaggerated the power of the military in American society and the weakness of civilian social forces. Mills acourgeds uncommitted, stand-aside intellectuals and asserts their role as moral and cultural critics, interpreters, and informants to the people. In the years since Mills published The Causes of World War III, the mass society asserted itself and nonnuclear conflicts became the major threats to world peace.

Tensions between the Soviet Union and the West escalated during the post-World War II period and declarations by leaders on both sides, including Stalin and Churchill, and strategists, such as United States diplomat George Kennan, began to formally announce the existence of a Cold War. At the heart of their message was recognition of the posturing by the two superpowers with opposing ideologies and world views.

In February 1946, Stalin’s Soviet Party Congress speech made the growing East-West conflict seem inevitable. Cold War historian Walter LaFeber discussed how Stalin’s speech cast a pall over contemporary East-West negotiations, “In an election speech of February 9, the Soviet dictator announced that Marxist-Leninist dogma remained valid, for ‘the unevenness of development of the capitalist countries’ could lead to ‘violent disturbance’ and the consequent splitting of the ‘capitalist world into two camps and the war between them.’ War was inevitable as long as capitalism existed. The Soviet people must prepare themselves for a replay of the 1930s by developing basic industry instead of consumer goods and, in all, making enormous sacrifices demanded in ‘three five- year plans, I should think if not more.’ There would be no peace, internally or externally. These words profoundly affected Washington. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, one of the reigning American liberals, believed that Stalin’s speech meant ‘The declaration of World War III.’”

Two weeks after Stalin’s speech, in late February 1946, United States diplomat George Kennan responded to a State Department request for an analysis of Soviet expansionism and global intentions with what became another such declaration of a Cold War. Kennan’s response, later given the descriptive title “The Long Telegram,” warned that Soviet policies assumed western hostility and that Soviet expansionism was inevitable.

Conflict continued with the Soviet Union determined to push the United States and its allies out of West Berlin. In June 1948, the Soviets imposed a blockade on West Berlin in an attempt to cut off supplies to the city. The United States and its allies began to supply the city with a massive airlift of unprecedented size, and the Soviets ended the blockade in May 1949. The United States’ commitment to Western Europe’s defense, exemplified by efforts during the Berlin Blockade, led to the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in April 1949.

Shortly after the lifting of the Berlin Blockade, in August 1949, the Soviet Union broke the American nuclear monopoly by developing its own atomic bomb. The Soviets had matched the United States’ key technology sooner than most expected. Communism seemed everywhere on the move, exemplified by the crises described above and then most dramatically with the North Korean invasion of June 1950 that began the Korean War.

In World War II, the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan), did not wage war until they were on a military par with their enemies. This was predicated on the traditional military and political theories of war prevailing at the time.

In his Third Inaugural Address as Governor of California on January 8, 1951, Earl Warren [later of Supreme Court fame] tated "If World War III comes, it will be the war that was envisioned and threatened by the Communist conspiracy many years ago, and which has only awaited the ability of that conspiracy to strike effectively. The zero hour may be rapidly approaching. Already, a third of the people of the world are behind the Iron Curtain. Another third do not know from the beginning of any day until its end, when they will be subjected to aggression on the part of Russia or her satellites like that suffered by Korea....

"n any appraisal of the present global situation, it must be borne in mind that World War II was started with a slow fuse. The fuse was lighted by the Fascists on September 1, 1939, and it burned until June 15, 1940, when the so-called “phony” war ended in the frightful explosion of the blitzkrieg.

"It may be that another such time fuse is burning at this moment. How much longer or shorter it will be cannot be predicted, but we can be sure of this — that if and when World War III explodes, it will exceed in violence and destruction anything that has occurred in the history of mankind. No human being on the face of this earth will be safe from its repercussions. Certainly no one in America will be safe, because, as the sole remaining force capable of preventing this world involvement, we are the main object of the wrath of Communism.

"I do not predict World War III. I hope and pray it will never come. I believe that if we marshal our full military and spiritual force; if we dedicate our Nation to the well-being of the human race; if we demonstrate our willingness to make individual as well as collective sacrifices; if we work together as a united people — our Nation will be so strong and will be able to give such leadership to the remainder of the friendly world that even power-mad, hate consumed Totalitarians will have the caution not to precipitate the awful event.

"These aims must be the goal of every American at this critical hour. The necessities of the situation are great - far greater that they appear on the surface. Only Divine guidance can supply the strength and the start this new administration. I speak of them, not as a matter of preachment to you, but as a matter of self-dedication for me...."

Warren called on Californians to heed " the warning of the National Government — including its military establishment — that any future war against America will start with a bolt out of the blue; that the attack will be directed against civilians and our war production centers; and that it will be of such intensity as to make the blitzkrieg seem a sham battle by comparison."

William Stueck [The Korean War: An International History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995 (paperback, 1997)] was the first truly international history of the Korean War argues that by its timing, its course, and its outcome it functioned as a substitute for World War III. Stueck draws on recently available materials from seven countries, plus the archives of the United Nations, presenting a detailed narrative of the diplomacy of the conflict and a broad assessment of its critical role in the Cold War. Chinese intervention in Korea in the fall of 1950 brought with it the threat of world war, but at that time and in other instances prior to the armistice in July 1953, America's NATO allies and Third World neutrals succeeded in curbing American adventurism. While conceding the tragic and brutal nature of the war, Stueck suggests that it helped to prevent the occurrence of an even more destructive conflict in Europe.

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