I am addressing young people as someone who, because of his age, is not going to fight in the next world war (World War III) and may not even witness its beginning. I just wanted to share with you the following ideas, which I believe to be well-founded: I am convinced that a Third World War is approaching; unlike previous ones, the battlefield will be the entire planet and, for the first time, it will include US territory. No matter how sophisticated the military technology and the artificial intelligence that supports it, soldiers will be needed on the ground who will die by the millions, along with innocent civilian populations. More than in any previous war; these soldiers will be young people and not the warlords, be they politicians (who will never put the decision to wage war to a referendum) or businessmen and shareholders in the companies of the military-industrial complex; the only certainty we have about war is that we know when it starts, but not when it ends; the specificity of the Third World War is that, when it ends (all wars end), not only the survival of the human species, but the non-human life of the planet will be at risk for the first time. It's a dystopian prediction, but realistic enough for religions centered on the idea of the apocalypse to proliferate today.

Unlike theirs, my message is Spinosian, that is, it is based on the dialectic of fear and hope. I know that most young people, when they look to the future, have a lot of fear and little hope. If they want to have more hope, they need to be prepared to instill fear in the powerful of this world who, apparently, are no longer afraid of their enemies and live in an orgy of hope. Before I go any further, I want to say to the young people that, although I was born in Europe, I speak from the global South through the lens of the epistemologies of the South. And for this reason, what I have said above is only half-true. As seen from the global south, World War III has already begun (just keep Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria in mind). When I talk about the future Third World War, I only mean that the scale of the existing war will increase exponentially and that it will also reach the countries of the global North, the sine-qua-non condition for something to become global, be it a war or a pandemic.

The interest in promoting war

In every war, there is a country or empire that is particularly interested in promoting the war. In the First World War, the most aggressive was the German empire; in the Second World War, Hitler's Germany. No one in the global South believes that Russia or China are interested in promoting war. Rising empires prefer positive-sum relationships to zero-sum ones (such as war). Their rise and increase in influence are based on providing real advantages to new allies, even if they are subject to conditions of subordination. That's why they favor diplomacy and multilateralism. It may seem strange to say that Russia is not interested in war, when it was Russia that invaded Ukraine in 2022. All peace activists, including myself, condemned that invasion, even though they said from the start (which was later confirmed) that the invasion was provoked by the US with preparations dating back to the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. The aim from the outset was to weaken Russia and provoke its dismemberment. In 1997, Polish-born US politician Zbigniew Brzezinski proposed dividing Russia into three large units. It was the same logic of weakening through dismemberment that led to the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia (or Serbia), Russia's ally, making it possible to install a huge US-NATO military base in Kosovo.

In strategic circles, there has been much discussion of the so-called Afghan trap, i.e., the means used by the US (again, in the Brzezinski era) to induce an invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in December 1979 with the aim of weakening it. The details don't matter for this text, but based on them, it is possible to suspect that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was a new version of the Afghan trap, the Ukraine trap, with the same purposes, although the outcome may be very different. The Ukrainian trap began to be built soon after the end of the Soviet Union, with the permanence of NATO after the end of the Warsaw Pact and the project to include Ukraine in NATO, alongside other countries that would serve as a shield against Russia's naval base in Crimea. In addition to Turkey, which had been a NATO member since 1952, Romania and Bulgaria joined the alliance (2004), and Georgia is still missing, which will first have to go through the regime change strategy (the same one that was used in Ukraine in 2014).

Those who promote war don't want real peace negotiations, but stage successive shows of peace proposals without the participation of one of the warring parties, so that the burden of continuing the war falls on the latter and thus feeds the propaganda war. This is how the US prevented the only genuine peace negotiation between Russia and Ukraine, which took place two months after the start of the war. For this purpose, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, whose imperial unconscious must still be haunted by the Crimean War against Russia (1853–56), was easily mobilized. In contrast to this attitude, since 2008, Russia has presented five serious peace and security proposals for the region, all of which have been rejected by the US.

We now know that the US's great rival is not Russia, but China. The three main theaters of war in which the US is currently involved—Ukraine, Palestine (and the Middle East in general), and the China Sea, are all aimed at the same goal: isolating China and preventing China's access to Europe and US areas of influence. War is always the last resort, often preceded by regime change destabilization, i.e., active interference in the internal life of target countries to bring about political changes that make it possible to create distance and hostility towards China. If we bear in mind that China is today the dominant country in international alliances that seek some margin of independence from US imperialism (BRICS+, Shanghai Cooperation Organization), it is to be expected that the democracies that are part of these alliances will be targets of political destabilization, especially Brazil. Regime change is a strategy developed since the Cold War and well documented in Lindsey O'Rourke's book: Covert Regime Change: America's Secret Cold War (Cornell, 2018). In fact, regime change is just one of the strategies used by the empire to interfere in the internal life of subject states, as so well illustrated by the book by former Financial Times journalist Matt Kennard, The Racket, A Rogue Reporter vs The American Empire (new edition, Bloombury, 2024).

The signs of preparation for war

In 1931, few people believed that there could be a new war fifteen years after the previous one had ended. But fascism and Nazism were growing in the countries and consciousness of Europeans, and with them the logic of war as a radical solution to conflicts. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War began, and at the end of it (1939), with the triumph of Franco's fascism, a wider war seemed inevitable. The same can be said of the Second Sino-Japanese War, fought between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from 1937 to 1945.

The preparation for war begins in the minds of the citizens. Suddenly, leading politicians from the "international community" (i.e., the USA and the European Union) begin to suggest the idea that war is inevitable in order to defend the values of Western civilization. There is no question about what these values are or what the threat consists of, but the solemnity of the speeches suggests that the threat is serious and that swift action is needed. A German minister recently said that within a few years, Europe would be at war again. All this is said with a tone of normality that trivializes the 78 million dead in the last two world wars and the many millions who have died in all the wars that have followed one another in different parts of the world, and always with the active intervention of the US and its allies: Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Central America, Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and Palestine. It is also surprising that the nuclear threat, which for decades was the great deterrent to war because of the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the immense catastrophe it would mean, is now beginning to be seen as a realistic possibility in military circles. Annie Jacobsen (the same journalist who revealed Operation Paperclip, the secret service program that brought Nazi scientists to the US), has just published a book that is very revealing of what I have just written: Nuclear War: A Scenario (Dutton, 2024).

The escalation of war is in full swing and that's what leads me to warn young people that World War III is just around the corner. Two indicators justify my warning. On the one hand, the green light has just been given for the use of missiles and other weaponry, much of it supplied by NATO countries, to hit targets on Russian territory. This means turning the war into a war between Russia and NATO, or, in other words, a war between nuclear powers. On the other hand, the then NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said in June that NATO had 500,000 troops available in high readiness for the war in Ukraine.1 In addition, several countries, including the US, are taking steps to make military service compulsory or to make it easier for young people to decide to join the armed forces.2

Rhetoric to promote war

The rhetoric to promote war goes through several stages. Warlords always start by promoting war in the name of preserving peace. They aggravate conflict situations, justifying them as measures to stop them from spreading. They take offensive measures while claiming they are defensive. This rhetoric serves to numb the consciences of peace activists. When this objective is largely achieved, a new phase begins: the demonization and persecution of those who remain steadfast in the struggle for peace. Suddenly they are discredited as being in the service of the enemy, financed by the enemy, traitors to the patriotic cause of the noble war effort to preserve peace and Western civilization. Discreditation is followed by active persecution. On the other hand, the exponential profits of arms companies are now hailed as a sign of the strength of the economy, whereas before they were pejoratively considered "the merchants of death" or "war profiteers."

In the case of the US, the country that since the Second World War has most insisted on making its power reside in military power, rather than preparation for war, we are witnessing a policy of limited but permanent war sustained by four pillars: successive defeats in the wars in which they have intervened (Southwest Asia, and the Middle East) are transformed into victories through a massive propaganda war; the priority of the well-being of populations is gradually replaced by the priority of national security, which, incidentally, has both an external and an internal dimension (the US has 25% of the world's prisoners despite only having 5% of the global population); military budgets grow exponentially and their growth is never questioned; finally, electoral processes are manipulated so that the promoters of militarism always win elections.

The interests in promoting war

War is at the service of capitalism and colonialism in many forms. Among the main ones, we can distinguish the war arms production companies (the US military industry controls 45% of the global arms trade and its profits have risen exponentially with the war in Ukraine and the war in Gaza);3 financial capital (Ukraine is currently the third largest debtor to the IMF); access to natural resources (around 30% of the 33 million hectares of Ukraine's rich arable land, considered the breadbasket of Europe, is already owned by ten large foreign agro-industrial companies).4 While denouncing the genocide in Gaza, we must not forget the Ben Gurion Canal project, proposed in the 1960s and once again on the agenda of the warlords, an alternative canal to the Suez Canal and managed by Israel and its allies. This canal would link the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Longer, but with more capacity than the Suez Canal and also outside Egyptian control (which in the past has repeatedly blocked the passage of ships to or from Israel), this canal could be an alternative to China's new Silk Road. Initially planned to end in the Mediterranean at a port north of the Gaza Strip, there has been recent speculation that the ongoing ethnic cleansing could, among other "advantages" for Israel, clear the land and shorten the length of the canal, crossing what is now the Gaza Strip.5

I'm addressing young people because they will be the cannon fodder of the Third World War, no matter how sophisticated the high technology, the use of robot dogs and Artificial Intelligence. Reading Curzio Malaparte's war diary, Kaputt, on the East and North German front in the Second World War, one of the things that struck me most was the description of the exuberant banquets of Hitler's allied generals and politicians, with the most exotic delicacies, the finest wines, and the most elegant women, while at the front, young Germans and their enemies were dying in their thousands, deserting or going mad, wandering through the forests with no destination or future, or just waiting for a merciful bullet.

To prevent the outbreak of World War III and give hope to those who are afraid of it, it is necessary to instill fear in those who are promoting it. The peace movement, now renewed by the fight against the genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza, is a sign of hope, but it is not enough. War is always the result of a massive manipulation of fear and the creation of conditions of vulnerability, deprivation, precariousness, and the erosion of social rights that affect ever larger populations. Above all, it results from the fragmentation of the struggles that resist all this. The greater the fragmentation, the more invisible power and dominance become, and the greater the risk that victims will rise up against other victims who are even more victimized and that those condemned from the land will fight other groups who are even more condemned from the land. The articulation of social struggles against the three main modern dominations—capitalism, colonialism, and hetero-patriarchy—is therefore the necessary condition for the reconstruction of peace alternatives—peace that this time is demanded by both human beings and nature. The sufficient condition is to re-found knowledge and education policies so that they reveal what I call the sociology of absences, the set of anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, and anti-patriarchal alternatives that are proliferating in the world.

We don't need alternatives; we need alternative thinking about alternatives.


1 Antiwar.com. (2024, June 16). NATO: 500,000 troops on high readiness for war with Russia.
2 Antiwar.com. (2024, June 15). Congress moves toward stepped-up registration for a military draft.
3 Responsible Statecraft. (n.d.). The military-industrial complex in Ukraine and Israel.
4 Oakland Institute. (n.d.). The takeover of Ukrainian agricultural land.
5 New Arab. (n.d.). What is Israel's Ben Gurion Canal plan and why Gaza matters.