From Russia and China to the Middle East, conflicts seem to be deepening by the day.

Daraa, Syria. January 27, 2022. Photo by Mahmoud Sulaiman on Unsplash

“I hope I am wrong,” General Mike Minihan wrote in a memo obtained by NBC News yesterday. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.”

In the leaked memo, the head of U.S. Air Mobility Command predicted the presidential elections in Taiwan and the United States in 2024 will provide an excellent opportunity for the Chinese Communist Party to move on Taiwan.

Though high-ranking members of the Pentagon and the Biden administration, including President Biden himself, have dismissed the possibility of an “imminent attack” on Taiwan by the People’s Liberation Army of China, not everyone is convinced.

Gen. Minihan, it would seem, is one such person. In the explosive memo, he instructed troops under his command to use the month of February to “consider their personal affairs and whether a visit should be scheduled with their servicing base legal office to ensure they are legally ready and prepared,” and “prepare for China fight.”

“Fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most,” Gen. Minihan advised. “Aim for the head.”

Though ominous, Gen. Minihan’s warnings aren’t the only geopolitical warning signs. Elsewhere, war and rumors of war seem to be increasing exponentially by the day.

Nearing the first anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ill-advised, if not yet ill-fated, efforts to annex Ukraine by force, the conflict is still well underway.

Ukraine’s allies in the West have, inch by painstaking inch, continued to push Putin. The big question is perhaps the most existential threat the world has ever faced—Exactly how much material, military, and financial support can Ukraine’s allies provide without provoking Putin into escalating the isolated conflict into a global nuclear conflagration?

Putin has already alluded to nuclear weapons on several occasions. World leaders and foreign policy experts are certain Putin wouldn’t dare. However, these are the self-same experts who swore there was no way — no way — Vladimir Putin would ever dare invade Ukraine.

From humanitarian aid to advanced weapons defense systems to tanks; Ukraine wants fighter jets next.

How far will Putin let his geopolitical opponents go before upping the ante? No one really knows. Maybe not even Putin himself.

Whatever happens in 2023, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has already been an ugly, sobering conflict. It has reminded world leaders that we are not living in a post-utopian paradise free from the possibility of world war and nuclear weapons.

Considering the advanced weapons of mass destruction created during World War II — and likely perfected in the many years since — humankind would be wise to avoid escalating war between world powers.

When a criminal commits an armed robbery, anything can happen. If an intended victim fights back and is killed during the struggle, the would-be robber is responsible for that wrongful death, even if the culpable party had no intention of killing anyone.

When war breaks out, when one country invades another — as sides are taken, plans made, contingencies plotted, geopolitical lines redrawn — anything might happen.

The assassination of an obscure Arch Duke before World War I, though no one knew it at the time, eventually ended with the nuclear bombing of two Japanese cities by U.S. forces at the close of World War II.

Even the most brilliant scientific minds often have no idea how things will turn out over the long term — or even the short term. That is especially true during wartime when fear forces the world’s finest minds to turn their formidable attention and advanced education to the task of killing as many enemy soldiers — i.e. people — as possible with the least amount of risk to blood and treasure.

It isn’t that the inventors don’t succeed in their grisly task — often they succeed way too well, as evidenced by the 10,000-year human arms race in which we are all participating, however unwillingly.

And that’s just since we started writing things down.

Anything can happen during wartime. A weapon — once unleashed on the battlefield — will be copied, emulated, and improved upon. It will return — usually on the opposing side. Advanced weapons of war, like Dr. Frankenstein’s terrible monster, have frequently been turned on their progenitors throughout history.

No country can be too careful with its mandate for waging war.

Plenty of the top scientists working on the Manhattan Project had reservations about the project, the nuclear weapon they were creating; with its devastating potential and earth-shattering implications.

Some of the scientists had even deeper, more dire concerns than even the potential deaths of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent people by radiation poisoning and nuclear fallout.

A few of the world’s most brilliant scientific minds of the day looked at the Manhattan Project data carefully, brought all their knowledge of applied, advanced, and theoretical science to bear, and came up with a highly plausible theory none of them liked very much.

Some of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first nuclear weapon thought deploying the weapon could potentially ignite all the hydrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere, thereby instantly rendering the entire planet into a giant fireball.

Using this powerful new bomb, these concerned scientists theorized, might result in the instantaneous death of every living creature on the planet.

And they did it anyway.

Where will the world’s next global war take us? How close to the brink of utter destruction will we come next time?

The world could, once again, come within the barest inch.

Next time, it could be even closer than that.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)