Let me jump right into it. There isn’t going to be a World War III.
The Pentagon’s assasination of Iranian General and Ayatollah darling Qasem Soleimani has unnerved many important figures, ranging from Democratic leadership to the Iranian regime.
Many have called out the Trump-ordered move as an act of war, in some cases drawing wide comparisons to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which launched Europe — and then the world — into “The War to End All Wars.”
While elements such as nationalism and alliance-obligations that precipitated World War I still simmer today, the Archduke-analogies seem too far-fetched because a myriad number of unprecedented variables also loom in our present times.
The first of these is how interdependent global economies have become under the influence of globalization; in 1914, isolationism and going to war without forcing the world through irreparable economic damage seemed possible — attainable even. Today, the notion is egregious. In 2020, the world runs not on ideologies and alliances and promises — only money. Politics molds itself according to economics, rather than the other way around.
The trade-war with China is an example of this. While Wall Street has already suffered from this futile display of egos, the situation could have been worse. True tariffs would have stopped the economy altogether. The United States cannot even commit to a trade war, so it is hard to imagine it committing to the far greater investment of military conflict, which necessitates both a monetary and human cost.
A proxy-war, on the other hand, may be on our hands. The Middle East has been the favored American playground, and we have reason to believe that the US will follow its previous catastrophic strategy in the region and make another decade-long mistake.
The calamities of 1914 were uniquely led by monarchical whims rather than the popular vote, though large swaths of European populations still delusionally believed in the concept of the glory of war. This seems removed from the disillusion people feel today. Though the President does hold extraordinarily unilateral wartime power, it would be wise to not launch into another war if one is seeking reelection. Especially because just as 2020 is not 1914, it is not 2004 either and Trump does not have the license to act Bush received after 9/11. does not have the license to act Bush received after 9/11.
Americans who have celebrated the assasination can be split into roughly two categories. First is the pool of Americans who support the assassination of Soleimani and perhaps even the impending violence it underwrites. However, there exists a second and larger pool of people who justify the move due to the number of American lives Soleimani took but do not subscribe to war — because, again, of its American cost, and not the fabric of collective humanity that such a war would tear into.
The latter, combined with the large populations who condemn the assassination, are sure to make up a majority — however marginal — that might deter the President from rushing into a war neither America nor Iran is ready for.
The one shifting variable in this equation is the Iranian reaction. The waves of mourning reverberating through the nation first seemed incredibly convincing, an opinion overturned by Masih Alinejad’s Washington Post article. She writes, “There are many Iranian voices who think Soleimani was a war criminal, but Western journalists rarely reach out to them. Ironically, Western media is more skeptical of such state-organized events in other countries, such as Russia or North Korea, but seems to leave its critical sense at the border when it comes to the Islamic Republic.”
Journalists’ role in shaping perceptions are never clearer than in their portrayal of Iran. Western media, in their overwhlemingly and thankfully anti-Trump approach, could not afford to portray Iranians as rejoicing on the eve of a funeral for a revered public figure, as doing so would suggest the Iranian people were in agreement with the leader the world loves to mock. However noble their intentions, Western media’s partisan coverage has resulted in an enemy-making of Iran, because it equates its peoples’ opinions with those of the Ayatollah and the regime which vow revenge.
Perhaps, like Alinejad claims, not all Iranians are mourning Soleimani or seeking revenge like their regime leaders have suggested — but that doesn’t mean the President’s threat to decimate cultural does not provoke anger. As most international politics is today, Iranian outrage may be propelled by ego and self-preservation. Even those who see Soleimani’s death as good for the country may be angered by American impudence and arrogance — which may, because of the polarization it enables, be rephrased as Trumpian impudence and arrogance.
I find the predictions of war unconvincing ones because indignation is almost never enough to see through war. One has to be uniquely sure of their success to attempt to ride that horse, especially with the ghost of victory dissipating fast under the shadow of the American and NATO military edifice, despite American fallibility and questionable leadership and the whole cohort of states which might be willing to take an open stand against the US.
Only once in history did a state go to great lengths for revenge — an outrage which birthed the Global War on Terror. Only Iran is not America, and cannot imitate its high-handed moves either. If it tries, it might destroy its own nation.
These are my current beliefs. They are subject to change, especially with further development of this still-open narrative. If I’m wrong, I suppose you may all dig out this old article from under your Daily stacks and laugh at my naivete.
Tanisha Tekriwal is a Weinberg freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.