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Robert Reich: Are We Headed For World War III? – OpEd


As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, the leaders of the world’s two largest nuclear-armed nations are now engaged in what appear to be preparations for war.


Vladimir Putin is amassing hundreds of thousands of troops on three sides of Ukraine’s border with Russia. He’s also preparing live-fire naval exercises around the world. And he’s suggesting he’ll ship hypersonic missiles to Venezuela and Cuba, aimed at the United States.

Joe Biden is about to deploy thousands of American troops, along with warships and aircraft, to NATO allies in the Baltic and Eastern Europe. He has ordered family members of the U.S. embassy staff to leave Ukraine. Other NATO member countries are putting their armed forces on standby alert and sending additional ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe.

Hence the acute danger of what we’re seeing now in Washington and the Kremlin.

The mere threat of warfare often ends periods of domestic reform. World War I brought the progressive era to a screeching halt. World War II ended FDR’s New Deal. The Vietnam War put a stop to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Republicans are already portraying Biden as “weak” in his response to Putin.

The possibility of war also distracts the public from failures of domestic politics, as the Spanish-American War did for President William McKinley and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq did for George W. Bush. Hopefully, Biden’s advisors aren’t thinking this way.


Wars also legitimate huge military expenditures and giant military bureaucracies. They also create fat profits for big corporations in war industries, put lots of people to work. After all, the massive mobilization for World War II got us out of the Great Depression.

A final point of concern. Nuclear war means almost certain annihilation. That leaves ground and air as the most likely scenes of active combat. Those who have fought ground and air wars know war is hell. Yet subsequent generations tend to forget. By the eve of World War I, many in America and Britain were talking of the glories of large-scale warfare. Today, most Americans have no direct experience of war. Afghanistan and Iraq were abstractions for most of us. Vietnam has faded from our collective memory.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

4 thoughts on “Robert Reich: Are We Headed For World War III? – OpEd

  • January 28, 2022 at 3:36 am

    I seem to remember going down this road before. I am about the same age as you, Robert Reich, and this looks very familiar to both of us, and also very disgusting. Over and over and over we seem to fall into the same trap, and the “powers that be” love it. I remember when I lived on the peninsula and when the Viet Nam War was just on the point of starting. The paper most people took at the time was The Palo Alto Times, a peninsula paper you may remember, which won several awards in its time. It had picked up an article written by a reporter from some big news service, I believe, who had gone in person to interview the captain of the American ship in – whatever harbor it was, (?) whose vessel was supposed to have been fired upon by one across the harbor, in theory, what started the whole Viet Nam War. The captain said he had noted no explosions around him when the ship was supposed to have been fired on, but was not outside. The First Mate, however, had actually been on deck at the time, and said he “noticed no tracers” from the ship which was supposed to have fired on them, which would have occured within his sight at the time. There were no such tracers visible. There was, in short, no evidence that such an attack had occured. This was supposedly the first incident of the Viet Nam “conflict.” Long after this had escalated into the whole war and the war was finished, I saw a tiny two- sentence fill- in
    in my local paper then, stating that someone (don’t remember who, if any actual names were mentioned) had admitted that the said “attack” in the harbor had never, in fact, happened… This was, of course, very interesting to me… also very discouraging… how many times has this happened in the history of the world? No one will, I suppose, ever really know…

  • January 28, 2022 at 6:25 am

    Let’s do some simple quantitative analysis starting from the 20th century. Of the major wars, WWI, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam began under Democratic presidents, while the first Gulf War and the “War on Terror” began under Republicans. By that measure, Democrats are twice as warlike as Republicans.

    Taking volition into account, most American wars (from an American point of view), were not caused by Americans, they just sort of happened. Of the two that we could easily have avoided, Vietnam was caused by an evil Democratic president for predominantly personal reasons, while the first Gulf war was probably caused by diplomatic blunders. I suppose we can call that a tie.

    Minor wars and police actions? Those happen in pretty much every presidential administration, and I don’t know how to correlate many of them to American domestic politics.

    My personal metric is conscription – it generally correlates with an aggressive foreign policy. If I’m counting right, the draft existed in 13 presidential terms, 9 Democrats, and 4 Republicans, and I’ll note that tHow many wars has Trump started? The last of those Republicans eliminated the draft for good… so far.


    Since the day that he was elected, he has only been closing wars, not starting them.

    Do you want examples?

    The ISIS war. He closed the ISIS war. Something that the guy before him couldn’t do!

    The only wars that Trump has started are the trade war against China (and so far, he’s done great) and the war against radical left communism.

    He did something that Obama didn’t have the guts to do; he stood up to China!

    Oh, and by the way, he has achieved a great peace deal between Israel and UAE.

    Trump has achieved a deal between Kosovo and Serbia.

    He has achieved another peace deal between Bahrain and Israel. the last of those Republicans eliminated the draft for good… so far.

  • January 30, 2022 at 4:24 pm

    I think Germany-France are going in the correct-Path to work with Russia and help avoid conflict and get this resolved amicably. I wish Biden-advisors fall in line with Germany.
    I think, the kid-actor in Kyiv seem like a problem wanting to join NATO and back stab mother-Russia.
    Hence, Russia has a point in keeping this kid in check.
    Better to keep ‘eyes’ on China–remember Virus creator-spreader to destroy ‘democracy-liberty’ in one-stroke?
    So, let us not play into the hands of Red-Army like the idiots Kissinger-Nixon?

  • April 23, 2022 at 7:24 am

    I don’t understand why Russia is in this “land-grabbing” mode!!!!! If this ‘conflict’ develops into WWIII, I fear that ‘Mankind’ as a whole. will never be the same & our natural resources will “forever all-be-gone” and the Earth could resemble a “burned-out (cinder!) planet with very little or no living creatures!! China is my biggest fear for them all; to side with Russia & challenge ‘The US & her allies & just “sweep through” the South East Corridor & join forces with Russia—–that is quite a juggernaut!!! And with the ‘Global Warming’ situation literally ‘heating-up’, the ‘Ages of Man’ no doubt, will disappear!!! I hope I’m wrong but there is just too much at stake—and Putin is willing to “roll the dice” for China to be in his ‘corner!’ My GOD—–“how could this come to this ‘stage’ of “future existence” in such a short time???!!!


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