Seventy years after the allies defeated the last member of the “axis of evil,” bringing the Second World War to an end, a string of deadly conflicts continues to affect all corners of the globe.
While many may argue that the loudest fights are being fought in the Middle East, recent years have witnessed military interventions that sprawled into fully-fledged conflicts, and sparked the formation of non-state actors that have extended several cases of domestic unrest into cross-border battles.
In the past two years, a global coalition started bombarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East. Russia annexed a part of Ukraine, following a referendum the international community did not recognize, which led to a prolonged conflict that claimed thousands of lives, while U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan continue despite the controversy surrounding them.
Meanwhile, a dispute over sovereignty and claims to natural resources in the South China Sea could escalate into a military clash between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors, the Council of Foreign Relations warned earlier this year.
Earlier in August, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) launched a new offensive against the Al-Shabaab militant group, while France joined forces with a number of other nations to conduct a military operation in Mali to curb violent Islamist extremists.
With an assortment of coalitions, extremists and massacres, these present day conflicts are reminiscent of the Second World War, which was commemorated this week by world powers on its 70th anniversary.
Despite the global spread of conflicts, historians and experts are reluctant to describe these present day wars, a world war.
The term world war “possibly connotes a coherence of the conflict all over the world,” Ian Kikuchi, a historian at the Imperial War Museum in London told Al Arabiya News.
“For example, in the Second World War, Germany’s war in Europe and Japan’s war in Asia are at least linked together because japan and Germany were allies,” he said.
“I think that lack of coherence in terms of who is fighting and why is probably why conflict in the modern world, although worldwide, are not being called a world war,” Kikuchi explained.
The immediate difference between today’s global conflicts and WWII “is there no clear coalition or no clear two sides,” Max Reibman, an expert and historian with the Dubai office of the Risk Advisory Group said.
In the Middle East, where strategic interests between the U.S. and Iran may align in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the absence of a classic alliance is one of the main differences between today’s wide-scale global conflict and a world war.
While in Yemen, GCC states, U.S. allies, continue to bombard Iranian-backed militias in a military campaign Tehran has been critical of.
“Here are two conflicts where you have multiple parties that aren’t necessarily lined up on the same side, in a strategic sense,” Reibman said.
“That’s why, for commentators, there is a real difficulty in assessing the kind of regional crises in the Middle East as a broader global world war because frankly, there aren’t two easily identifiable sides,” he added.
The League of Nations and the U.N.
One major difference between the present and the years leading up and during the war is the presence of the United Nations.
Following the First World War, dubbed the “war to end wars,” winning powers, sans the U.S., established the U.N.’s predecessor: the League of Nations.
Despite the U.N.’s structure, which sometimes stands in the way of immediate resolution to crises, “there is no comparable international forum which is so all embracing that has…the same degree of, legitimacy,” Kikuchi said.
“The League of Nations, never quite had the legitimacy it would have needed to actually keep a lid on certain crises on the 1930s,” Kikuchi told Al Arabiya News.
“I think with the authority the U.N. was set up with in 1945, is the backdrop of crimes against humanity in Asia and Europe, there was a moment there where an organization could assert itself as a voice for the international community.”
“And the international community, as an idea, had more power then that it had before,” he added.