Cyberwarfare in a World War III?

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(U.S. Army CERDEC/Flickr Creative Commons)

In the first World War, new weapons such as airplanes, poison gas, machine guns, submarines and armored tanks changed warfare forever. Millions of casualties were produced in only four years, it took the world decades to recover form that bloodshed. Not long after the first World War, came the second, crippling Europe with its atom bombs and V-2 rockets.

Many other wars that followed over the decades to the present day. The Gulf Wars in particular introduced long-range missiles and drones, a startling advancement many never could have predicted. However, despite the years of fighting, it’s been a long time since a handful of powerful countries fought against one another in world-wide warfare such as World War II in Europe. Today, with countries like the United States, Russia, North Korea and China showing their shiny nuclear missiles, and with claims of software hacking and election rigging; recent complaints from Russia of the firing of missiles in Syria is a prime step that could one day boil over to catastrophic action. It seems all it would take is one more push for someone to start swinging.

So if that were the case, how would a world war in this day and age happen? The answer would be through cyber warfare, and it could be the most terrifying method the world would experience to date. You can expect the superpowers to manipulate the most important 21st century technology ever known to man: the internet.  

Over time, war has become more abstract, as S.E Smith states in his article in The Week; not just in terms of the aim of war, Smith argues, but of the weapons ultimately being used. Smith goes on to state how close quarters fighting has become unusual when fought over land and other resources.

“Today,” Smith writes, “wars are about politics, and the tools we use to fight them distance warriors from each othe- a soldier in Arizona can command a drone strike in Pakistan, while a hacker in Russia can execute code thousands of miles from a target.”

Although the immediacy of warfare has diminished, war is far from being inevitable. This will be the age of cyberwarfare, and the consequences will be unfathomable. This is more than just corporate hackings and leaked emails. Cyberwarfare can result in pipeline explosions, nuclear reactor meltdowns, power grid shutdowns and weapons system sabotage. Any of these can cause a significant amount of fatalities.

The Pentagon identifies the use of cyberwarfare by government officials, or other actors hired by governments, to achieve their military objectives. Governments, the United States included, train their soldiers in the art of cyberwarfare. This includes making attacks that create power grid shutdowns or causing dangerous malfunctions to power plants. Soldiers and other military officials are also being trained in defending the country’s own resources from said attacks, as well as being able to detect their own vulnerabilities in cyberspace.

Land wars will become more unlikely due to the social and political implications, which happen due to casualty numbers with boots on the ground. The United States knows this, especially with many of our soldiers being stationed in the Middle East– all the battles fought there took many lives. But although the deployment of our troops may not be imminent in conflicts, the tensions in politics have reached dangerous grounds already, which could result in far worse consequences.

President Donald Trump tweeted on April 11, 2018: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

In response to this, the French Embassy in the UK tweeted: “We are continuing to exchange technical and strategic information with our allies in order to define our reaction, which will occur in the coming days.”

Could a world war be closer than we think? It’s only a matter of waiting for consequences to surface; and believe me, they will be deadly.


Joseph Frare is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joseph.frare@uconn.edu.

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