In the 20th Century humanity engaged in three worldwide conflagrations that involved hundreds of countries and cost millions of lives. “Wait!” you say. “There weren’t three world wars, just two, World War I and World War II.” Indeed those two wars were certainly horrible conflicts.
World War I (1914 – 1918) cost more than 20 million lives and changed the world map. It resulted in the breakup of several European empires including the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. It also led to the establishment of a Communist empire in the Soviet Union. It was called “the war to end all wars.” Of course, it was not to be.
World War II (1939 – 1945) was partly a result of the unresolved issues of World War I and was the most deadly conflict of all world history. As many as 60 million lives were lost among the dozens of countries involved. That war resulted in the total obliteration of Nazi Germany, the end of Imperial Japanese militarism, the creation of an independent China, and the establishment of the United States and the Soviet Union as the world’s two competing Super Powers. That East-West ideological conflict was what led to what I regard as World War III.
Thankfully, the enmity between the USA (with other Western nations) and the USSR never escalated to an all-out nuclear war. That is why it was given the misnomer of the “Cold War.” The truth, however, is that it was anything but “cold.” For more than forty years regional and bloody wars were fought around the globe that pitted the United States, Great Britain, France and their allies against the Soviet Union, Red China, and their puppet proxies. The main cause of this decades-long struggle was the revolutionary dogma and the expansionist goals of Marxist-Leninism.
A few of the hot “battles” and crises in this broader World War included: the Berlin Airlift (1948- 49); the Communist victory over the Nationalists in China (1949); the Korean War (1950 – 1953); the failed Hungarian Revolution (1956); the Communist takeover of Cuba (1959) and consequent Cuban Missile Crisis (1962); the Czechoslovakian “Prague Spring” that was crushed by Soviet tanks (1968); the Communist victory in the Viet Nam War (1965 – 1975); the successful Polish Solidarity Uprising (1980 – 1989); and dozens of other smaller civil wars involving revolutionary movements armed by the USSR.
So, in the global picture, the “Cold War” was actually a very hot World War III. Nevertheless, in the late 1980s and early 90s, something almost miraculous happened. The Soviet Union economically went broke trying to keep up with the military power of the USA. The USSR collapsed, East European countries quickly booted out their puppet Communist governments, and the international threat of Soviet aggression virtually disappeared. Though some countries remain officially Communist (China, Cuba, North Korea, and Viet Nam), none of them (except maybe North Korea) still seem belligerently intent on trying to export that ideology as did the Soviets. Thus, against every one’s expectations (except perhaps President Ronald Reagan), World War III ended with a long hard fought (and bloody) victory for the USA and the West. The thousands of American soldiers who fought in and lost their lives in Korea, Viet Nam, and other places, should be lauded for contributing to the victory.
With the end of the Communist threat, many observers in the field of International Relations were anticipating a period of global peace and the growth of democracy around the world. Some even declared “the end of history” as we have known it. At the time I remember remarking to someone that such a hope was terribly premature. I told them that there was a sleeping giant in the world that was just beginning to awaken. The giant essentially had been sleeping for 400 years, but beginning in the 1970s had begun to stir in countries like Iran and Afghanistan. It thus was poised to raise its ugly head again. I was referring to the world of radical Islam.
In the late 1990s, unfortunately, my prediction was proven accurate. Across the Middle East and in other parts of the world, pockets of fundamentalist Islamists grew rapidly. Soon, Islamic terrorism spread even to the shores of America making its most horrible statement on September 11, 2001. Perhaps the events of that day more than any other shook the free world out of its post-Cold War lethargy. Since then radical Islamism has spread across the globe even to the point of now dominating many of the formerly docile Muslim countries.
Thus we are now deep into World War IV with little indication that it will be resolved anytime soon. Islam, unlike Marxism, has been around for more than 1300 years and shows no sign of dissipating, as did Soviet Communism. Radical Islamists are well-funded by petro-dollars and fanatically driven by a religious ideology of Jihad that values self-sacrifice (e.g. suicide bombings). Western nations seem helpless to stem the tide against the patient and steady rise of this aggressive world movement. Each day we see once peaceful Muslim countries falling into the political hands of hardline Islamists. Even some of our so-called allies quietly support and accommodate those who practice and teach this doctrinaire form of the Muslim faith.
Most Western countries (Europe and the Americas) were built on a Christian worldview foundation. At one time, that belief system provided a strong spiritual counterforce to Islam and other religions. Unfortunately, for the most part, those nations have now embraced the empty and morally decadent ideas of Secularism and Naturalism. Thus, the people in those countries no longer possess the moral and spiritual fortitude to stand against Islam’s growing influence, even in their own lands. In fact, as many Western countries have opened their doors to greater immigration, committed Muslims have established growing colonies within their host nations. These influxes force countries to accommodate higher degrees of Islamic culture and law within their borders.
So what, if anything, can we do? First, we should pray, of course, for those nations (including the USA) that once embraced Christian values, to stop the downward spiral of secular culture. Second, we must also pray for evangelical Christians and missionaries in Islamic countries who, by God’s grace, are winning Muslims to Christ even in places where they are severely persecuted. Third, we need to support those ministries and churches that seek to defend the Christian faith against the intellectual attacks from skeptics and other religionists who seek to undermine the foundations of our faith and Western Civilization. If we do not aggressively counter the growth of Islam, then we, our children, and our grandchildren, unless Jesus comes, may be on the losing end of World War IV.
© 2013 Tal Davis