World War III is already here, so let's start winning it



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On July 4, 1776, our nation’s fighting spirit and will to win were born.

The Continental Congress boldly declared independence from Britain under King George III, and the world of kings forever turned upside down. Ever since the 13 colonies dared to win, generation after generation of Americans have held true to that defining spirit. 

Two hundred forty-eight years later, we are again at war. Beginning on Feb. 22, 2022 — the day Russian President Vladmir Putin invaded Ukraine — the world as we have known it since the end of World War II has again turned upside down.

This is not a war of our making, but a multipolar war of Putin’s choosing. It is rapidly becoming global in scale and scope. Initially sparked in eastern Europe, it is exploding beyond Ukraine and has spread to the Middle East, the Sahel in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it is threatening to engulf Taiwan as well.

What was an ideological war is now increasingly kinetic. Yet Washington and Brussels remain largely dismissive of Putin’s coalescing partnership with Chinese President Xi Jinping to impose their multipolar world order on the West.

We are already in World War III. It does not look or feel like Hollywood said it would. Nuclear mushroom clouds are not exploding around us, nor are we waking up to radioactive day-after scenarios, trying to survive in fallout shelters. 

Rather, this real-life version of World War III is far more insidious and deceptive. We are facing death by a thousand Russian and Chinese cuts around the globe, and the vast majority of the country remains unaware of our growing peril. 

The Biden Administration remains in deep denial, just as King George III and his advisors deluded themselves in the 1770s. Washington must finally wake up to the scope and scale of Moscow and Beijing’s machinations, and then level with the American people about what must be asked of them to defend liberty.

This war is not going to go away. Chillingly, Biden lacks an overall strategy to win, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is incapable of forging one, instead inexplicably choosing to play for ties and short-term political gains. 

As a result, we find ourselves at increased risk of those ties turning into losses. As the saying goes, “If you are not winning you are losing.” It is time for the U.S. to recognize that it is game on. That means picking up wins against Russia and China and their allies.

To get there, Biden must start by demanding Sullivan’s letter of resignation. He must also ditch his “escalation paralysis” and tap a fighting general of the caliber of Ben Hodges or David Petraeus as a successor. 

This cannot happen quickly enough. Sullivan’s fear of escalation is paradoxically yet predictably leading Putin to double down on escalation — be it weaponizing space, threatening to nuke NATO Capitals or escalating regional tensions in the Middle East and Africa.

Winning is not a hard concept. It goes to the core of our nation’s DNA. Nonetheless, Biden overcoming Sullivan’s fear of winning is a heavy lift – and one, frustratingly, that the president does not appear to be yet willing to make. 

It is important that our allies are willing to do the winning for us on the battlefields of this growing World War III. President Volodymyr Zelensky and his generals have been proving that now for 862 days. And Ukraine can indeed land a winning blow against Putin. Crimea is becoming untenable for Russia. While Moscow retains the initiative in Kharkiv, Kupiansk and elsewhere along the eastern front in Ukraine, Kyiv has parried its thrust, and battlefield conditions are growing more favorable to a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Russian casualties continue to mount exponentially — with more than 545,090 dead and wounded. American-made ATACMS account for much of that acceleration. Yet, were it not for Biden’s restrictions, the Ukrainians could be interdicting even more Russian troops staging near its borders before they are able to enter the close fight inside of Ukraine. 

Presently, according to estimates from the Institute for the Study of War, Biden’s rules of engagement limitations on the U.S. of ATACMS is confining Ukraine to hit only 16 percent of the territory that Russia is using to amass its forces and conduct deadly drone, missile and glide bomb strikes. Ukraine cannot win if Biden continues to cede 84 percent of the battlefield as a sanctuary for the enemy. 

Israel likewise is willing to put strategic regional wins in the Middle East on the board for Washington — not just against Hamas in Gaza, but also against Hezbollah and Iran’s rapidly accelerating nuclear weapons program as well. 

Since Oct. 7, Putin, in partnership with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has intentionally tied down U.S. air and naval assets in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Red Sea. Yet instead of encouraging Israel to bank the wins, Jerusalem too is feeling the wrath of Sullivan’s escalation fears.

After Iran attacked Israel on April 13 and 14, unleashing drones and missiles, Biden urged Israel not to go for the win against Tehran. By his own admission, he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would be on his own if Israel conducted a large-scale retaliation against Tehran. 

Ties are seemingly okay in Biden’s White House — they are consistent with his “just enough” strategy. But he will not let America’s allies win. Instead — and ironically so, given his campaigning in 2020 on ending forever wars — the president’s legacy is quickly becoming one of allowing new forever wars to take root in region after region. Biden refuses to go for outright wins and keeps handcuffing our allies from achieving those wins on our behalf.

Putin has placed his economy on a war footing. We have not. The Russian president knows that he has unleashed World War III. Biden seemingly does not — or at least, at a minimum, does not understand the magnitude of it.

Meanwhile, Xi is accelerating his designs to seize Taiwan. We still do not have an adequate plan to defend Taipei, let alone other key allies in the Indo-Pacific.

Iran is rapidly drawing near to nuclear breakout, and North Korea is increasing its saber-rattling against Seoul.

World wars are game changers. It is past time for Biden, this Independence Day, to begin winning this one and start turning the world upside right again. 

Mark Toth writes on national security and foreign policy. Col. (Ret.) Jonathan Sweet served 30 years as a military intelligence officer and led the U.S. European Command Intelligence Engagement Division from 2012 to 2014.





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