Barring the current military operations, Iraq is a hotbed of instability. Racial tensions, unbelievable corruption, and large numbers of Islamic radicals mean that “instability” is a laughable understatement. Regardless of one’s views about the 2003 invasion, there is little doubt that the presence of the United States is the main (perhaps only) reason why the country hasn’t descended into civil war. However, given President Obama’s dedication to reducing the American military presence, there are going to be drastic changes.
Best Scenario: The Iraqi government proves strong enough to handle the challenges that come its way. Despite some turmoil, the government proves strong enough. They begin to turn an enormous profit off of the oil in their country, and both Iraq and the United States prosper as a result. Iraq becomes a regional power, comparable to Iran and Saudi Arabia, perhaps stronger. In this instance, the chance of Iraq being involved in a World War decreases, but it still exists. There is a moderate possibility that Iraq, emboldened by its newfound strength and American support, will begin to exert that muscle in the Middle East. Iran, Turkey, and Kuwait will not take kindly to this. Also, because of the Islamic fervor, if Israel ever becomes involved in a regional war, this will inevitably draw in Iraq, and place the U.S. in a very tricky position.
Worst Scenarios: The Iraqi government becomes unstable, but the United States is unwilling to recommit forces. If Iraq does not collapse entirely, it will be manipulated, perhaps invaded outright by Iran, and a host of other Middle Eastern nations. The rise of a nuclear Iran means that a full collapse is not even necessary. The risk of a nuclear war would make foreign powers unwilling to engage heavily. If Iraq collapses entirely, it is virtually guaranteed that Iran and perhaps even Russia will become involved in “peacekeeping” operations. The strengthening of Russian and Iranian alliances in recent years makes this chance greater than it would have been otherwise.
Basically, the only reason why Iraq is not ranked higher is because they have so few resources and interests. They simply can’t fight wars on a global scale, nor do they have an incentive to be involved outside their region.
This is a rather straight forward case. Lebanon is in the perfect location for a World War. Situated close to Israel, Turkey, and Iraq and populated by a large number of radical Muslims, if Lebanon is miraculously not involved directly in a Middle Eastern war, it will likely be caught in the crossfire, and eventually drawn in. Unfortunately, the weakness of the Lebanese government means that it is little more than an Iranian puppet state, and if a war broke out, it would be virtually assured to side against the Western powers. Additionally, the frequent accusations by the Israeli government of a range of actions such as arming militants, stockpiling weapons, and hiding WMD’s means that any war would likely involve an Israeli preemptive attack on military installations.
Russia has, in previous years, become more aggressive than it has been since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The invasion of Georgia, military and economic alliances with Iran, and diplomatic opposition to the United States are all signs of a changing dynamic within Russia. It’s unlikely that Russia will be the initiator of a war, but it is entirely possible that they could take a small aggressive act that escalates. Or, in order to protect their economic interests, they could step in to defend a country such as Iran, and initiate a series of escalating steps. Barring direct involvement however, Russia will doubtless try to turn a world war to its economic advantage.
India is not usually thought of as a major threat to world peace. And for the most part, it’s not. The reason why it ranks as number 7, is because of one country: Pakistan. The Indians and the Pakistanis have been pointing nukes at each other for years. All it takes is one incident, and the whole continent will be ablaze. Also, the growth of India’s economy competes with that of China. Although so far the two have cooperated, and remain on fairly good terms, chances are that they will begin to rub elbows sooner or later.
6. North Korea
North Korea has little to gain by going to war. They are economically insignificant. They have no religious motivation to invade the South. They’re on good terms with China. So why the listing? Simple. Their leaders for the past decades have been certifiably insane. And they have nukes. Sooner or later, one of them is going to golf his way into a sand trap, and take it out on South Korea. Then all hell is going to break loose.
Ah China… economically growing to rival the United States. Nearly 30% of the world’s population lives within their borders. They have nukes, they have an enormous military, and they have lots of enemies. They’re on bad terms with Japan (admittedly for some pretty good reasons). They’re on bad terms with Taiwan. They’re on strained terms with the United States. They tolerate Russia. They tolerate India. Basically, they’re the kid who lifts weights, who might randomly just snap one of these days. Also, if a war breaks out anywhere in Asia or the Middle East, you can be sure that China is going to look to profit from it. And because they have the U.S. under their complete economic control, courtesy of the national debt, they won’t hesitate to take advantage of whatever situation presents itself.
Pakistan is like India, only with personal problems. They have nukes, and don’t like the Indians much. Understandably, they’re quite upset that the U.S. keeps killing Pakistani citizens along with the terrorists we bomb with Predators. And they’ve got tons of radical Muslims trying to take control of their country. So far they’re holding them off, but who knows what the future brings? All it takes is a single nuke stolen, pointed at Israel, and the whole region is at war.
I could go into great depth about why Iran is a threat, but most of that has already been publicized. I could also detail why the Iranian religious philosophy does not care that a nuclear war with Israel would be suicidal. But I won’t do either. For those of you more interested, I recommend anything by Joel Rosenberg. For the rest of you, I’ll sum up.
Iran has nukes. They hate Israel. They hate America. They barely tolerate the rest of the world. They’re friendly with Russia because they get weapons and nuclear help from them. Iran has no qualms about launching nuclear weapons at America or Israel. The reason for this, is because according to the particular brand of Islam to which the Iranian leaders ascribe, they must push the world to the brink of destruction. Once they do this, the Islamic messiah, known as Imam-al-Mahdi (sort of a combination of Jesus, the Pope, and the President) who will force the entire world to convert to Islam, or die. And if they happen to die in the process, they receive 72 virgins (these are the Muslims who actually believe this.) Basically, they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by starting a war.
Israel has a tendency to make a lot of people mad. Muslims hate Israel. Most of Europe hates Israel. In fact, America is basically the only nation that likes Israel. And because of this, anything in the Middle East that involves either nation will no doubt drag the other in as well. Hence, because Israel is surrounded by enemies, despite their fairly stable democracy, they are almost guaranteed a war sooner or later. As it is, they wind up in a large, regional conflict every decade, almost like clockwork. And everyone knows they have nukes, despite their policy of ambiguity.
1. United States of America
Let’s be honest. Most of the world at least severely dislikes us. We’re the only world superpower (at least for the next few years). And if a war breaks out, there’s no way that we won’t get at least tacitly involved. In the rare instance that we don’t get militarily involved, we’ll be selling so many weapons and positioning defensive forces that we might as well be at war. Additionally, the United States has so many bases, interests, allies, and protectorate nations under our economic, military, and moral umbrellas that you can’t step anywhere without hitting something of ours. Given this, it is assured that any World War will involve the United States in some capacity.
(Honorable Mention): Venezuela
Economically powerful, ideologically radical, Venezuela has plenty of reasons to go to war. The only reason they didn’t make the list is the fact that they’re so isolated. Unless they try to foolishly invade a neighbor, they’re not likely to wind up militarily involved in any war. Also, their radical support is mostly limited to economic ties with Iran, and are more or less kept on a leash by the combined efforts of the U.S. and Brazil.