What is the probability of World War III occurring?

Recently I read a book about how to think like a rocket scientist. It’s easy reading and gives some excellent advice on how to approach problem solving.

One of the approaches it suggests is to always step back and look at the big picture. It then goes on to discuss how one would apply this kind of thinking for the space shuttle. When they made the space shuttle so-called experts determined that the probability of it blowing up was 1 in 100,000. Along comes another smart guy, Richard Feynman, who explained that the probability of 1 in 100,000 means that the space shuttle could fly every day for 200 years without a mishap.

Given how complex the space shuttle is, does this make sense? Clearly not. The smart guys at NASA failed the big picture test.

Let’s apply big-picture thinking to the probability of war occurring. For about the last 100 hundred years we’ve had two major world-wide wars. That gives us a rough idea that the probably of a major war in any given year is about 2%.

Since the last major war ended in 1945, what is the probability of war not occurring by 2007 (1945 to 2007)?

My calculation shows that the probability of war NOT occurring by 2007 from 1945 is about 29%. If we were in 1945 then we could say that there was a 71% probability of a major war by 2007.

= (1 – .02) ^ 62 = .2858

That seems to imply that we should have had a major war by now. Of course, in real life the probability of war occurring in any given year is not the same from year to year.

For the record, given that we’re in 2007, the probability of war next year is still 2% based on my rough analysis. However, we can use some other analysis to get a better handle on the probability of war in the next ten years.

The basic argument for this site is that the necessary conditions for war that led to World War I in 1914 are present today:

1. Imperial overstretch

Just as Britain was overstretched in 1914, isn’t America overstretched today?

2. Great-power rivalry

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Due to alliances the world shifted to a Cold War model where two sides were confronting one another. Isn’t it true that Russia, China and Iran (the SCO) are against America, Britain, Japan and Israel?

3. Unstable alliances

NATO’s purpose is no longer clear. Additionally, western European countries are increasingly become anti-American. In fact, a recent survey shows that some European countries hate America more than our enemies do.

4. Rogue regimes

Rogue regimes such as Iran and Syria are necessary to help start a major war. They help fund terrorist organizations which then go on to start conflicts.

5. Terrorist organizations.

Organizations like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. While Al Qaeda is global in scope, it will be Hezbollah and Hamas that actually lead the world into war.

So if the conditions for war are set, what are we waiting for? That’s where the rogue states and terrorist organizations come in. Pay attention to Israel. Soon thousands of missiles are going to come raining down by Hezbollah and Hamas. Shortly after that Syria will join the fight with their missiles containing chemical warheads. Israel will have no choice but to respond with nuclear weapons.

Once Israel destroys its neighbors with nuclear weapons then the clock starts ticking for retaliation against America by Russia and China.

So when will Israel use nuclear weapons against its neighbors? I think that there is a good chance of that happening in the next five years. Perhaps even within the next three years.

I would estimate a 75% chance of a nuclear response by Israel by 2012 given that it is currently 2007. From there I would estimate a 75% chance of nuclear retaliation against America within five years of that event.

So the current probability of nuclear war against America by 2017 is about 55% based on my estimates.

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