World War III: Is it a possibility?

Even if you haven’t seen the news, you might have seen the memes. 


On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike at the Baghdad airport, killing Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani and five others. Many in the U.S. took to social media to express concern, disbelief, anger, support and political memes. 


While lots of people are convinced that we’re going to war, others are not so sure. Legally, the War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, forbids the president from committing the U.S. to war without getting congressional approval. In this sense, we are not at war and will not be until the president receives congressional approval. That is, if he chooses to seek congressional approval. 


According to Ransford Edwards, assistant professor of political science, “To a certain degree, the assassination of general Soleimani is an act of war. Whether approved by Congress or not, Iran may choose to retaliate, which would give Congress a more legitimate reason to allow a declaration of war.” Edwards continued, “I don’t think that at any time we’re going to sit around and wait for Congress to approve a conflict.”


Tensions with Iran have been rising for years, but have escalated more quickly since Trump became president. In May 2018, President Trump announced that the United States would be exiting the international nuclear deal with Iran. Then, in April 2019, Trump identified Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, marking the first incident where the United States has named an official branch of a foreign government as a terrorist organization. Shortly after, Iran and the United States began breaking off deals on oil and metals, and altercations began occurring, leading to the assassination of Soleimani.


While many citizens boast support for a potential war, the United States can’t necessarily afford one. Immediately following the assassination strike, oil prices skyrocketed, although they are now receding. If either the United States or Iran escalates things further, oil prices could rise significantly. Not only that, but a large amount of money is funneled into the United States military. The 2019 defense budget boasts an astonishing $686 billion dollars, money that could slowly be used up over time if the United States enters another war overseas. 


“Wars require a massive amount of spending,” Edwards said, “and you can’t have spending based on just tax cuts, so you have less money coming in as revenue and more money going out for conflict.” 


Since 2001, the United States has been at war in Afghanistan. In 2004, the United States entered a war in the northern territory of Pakistan. Since 2015, the United States has been staging interventions in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Entering another war overseas, a war many fear will not be resolved in a short timeframe, could pose a serious threat to the United States economy and government spending budget.


Both the United States and Iran seem to be taking a step back. On Jan. 8, President Trump gave a speech addressing the situation with Iran. He called for economic sanctions but not military action towards Iran. Additionally, he noted that Iran was stepping back, although this has yet to be confirmed by the Iranian government. While war with Iran is a possibility, until the United States or Iran take action, we teeter only on the brink.

Photo: S. Radford

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