WWIII isn’t going to happen, but you should still care


Illustration by Anika Vučićević

Elise Sanders, Columnist

After Qasem Soleimani, a powerful and influential Iranian general, was killed in Baghdad by an airstrike ordered by President Trump, millions took their anxieties to social media. Many feared a third World War would occur. Young Americans dreaded a draft. Any optimism for the new year crumbled before our very eyes. The internet, however, quickly moved on from this panic. New controversies were discovered, new panics set in and new memes were made.  

American social media moves on, as it always does. This doesn’t sit well for me, not this time. We were concerned, but not for the right reasons. When the situation proved not to directly affect us in the near future (i.e. a draft), we turned our focus away. The conflict with Iran will not escalate into a World War, but will continue America’s imperialist presence in the Middle East.

We are living in a post-9/11 world; we are all aware of the basic truths of these geopolitics. We know the U.S. wants oil, and the Middle East has a lot of it. We know that Bush falsely blamed Iraq for 9/11 and subsequently invaded it. We know of drone strikes, proxy wars, the refugee crisis and the decades the U.S. has spent creating conflicts and involving itself in Middle Eastern politics. 

We learned about the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Persian Gulf War and 9/11 in school; we learned about how many Americans were killed here or how many Americans were held hostage there. We didn’t learn that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians were killed in the Iraq war, because American forces deliberately misrepresented the number of civilian deaths. We didn’t learn about how many families were killed in drone strikes and how many more have been displaced from their homes. 

We don’t think about the billions of dollars that oil and gas companies earned from the war, only to take that money and lobby for blocking legislation for climate change policies. How corroded must the souls of petroleum CEOs be that they not only profit from the deaths of innocent civilians, but continue to funnel them towards (predominantly Republican) representatives who deny climate change and any legislation that would benefit posterity and the world?

Our first inclination is to ask, “How will this affect me?” This is completely normal – survival is driven by this instinct. We took into account two questions: “Will this cause WWIII?’ and “If it does, will I get drafted?” When a draft wasn’t immediately issued the next day, we let our attention wander and have placed that fear aside. And we did nothing with it. We didn’t ask ourselves, “Ok, this probably won’t affect us, given past geopolitical trends. But is that really where it ends?” Rather than a constructive debate, we had a panic that we nursed with memes while ignoring the real-world consequences. 

We need to consider how many families will be killed, how many people will lose their homes and how much money will be made by out-of-sight CEOs as a result of this airstrike and what will inevitably follow.