What would a non-nuclear world war look like?

Hi all, 

I’ve seen a lot of us talking about nuclear war and MAD (which has been on my mind as well), but I’m also curious what you think would happen if we had a non-nuclear world war. WWII could serve as some template, but we now have stronger international communities and weaker local communities. 

It looks like higher food and gas prices are already happening. People are pulling together more, but hate crimes are also spiking. Globally, alliances are strengthening and being made for the first time. Several countries are also talking about localizing their supply chains more. 

Do you have any predictions for what it could look like both in terms of everyday life and in terms of global relations?

(Edit: does anyone know if you capitalize “in” in a title? It looked wrong both ways…)


  • Comments (21)

    • 1

      Thank you for creating this great topic Kira. If you don’t mind, I am going to edit the title a bit to better reflect what the topic is about. You can edit it again if you don’t like what I did. 

      As for capitalizing titles, the format we have for the forum to be uniform, is to just write it like a sentence rather than a title. So capital first letter, then the rest are lowercase.

      • 3

        Thanks so much for cleaning up the title! I was raised by an English teacher, so I’m always happy to be edited/reformatted 🙂 

    • 4

      Yes, look at Bosnia in the 90s or Syria over the last 10 years.  

      Food and fuel in short supply, Inflation being rampantsimply venturing outside you risk being shot, gassed, bombed or arrested.  

      Frequent power cuts, brown outs, water rationing.

      Medical care / dentistry is borderline or non existant, Drugs, Medicines few and far between.

      Imports dry up, so stuff like Coffee, Whisky, Cotton Bananas, Rice etc unavailable. 

      Consumables like, batteries, eye glasses, dentures, tyres, vehicle parts become unavailable. 

      Stuff like lumber, plywood, shuttering timber, hardware unavailable

      Food production like Veg plots and cattle will need guarding 24/7.  

      Public services like trash collection, sewing clearing, pest control,  phone line / cell/ cable services unrepaired. No internet, little or no cell service , probably no 911 / 999 service

      Imported cars, vans, trucks gradually fail because of lack of imported spares ( never buy a vehicle with uncommon tyre sizes). In time even parts for domestic built vehicles dry up.

      • 1

        Thanks for your insight, Bill! I hadn’t even had what being on the ground in a war zone would be like when I wrote the question, but you (sadly) sound pretty spot-on based on the reporting from Ukraine right now. 

    • 2

      With WW1&2, the history books and movies taught me that the majority of people were in favor of the war effort and did all they could to help. But as I have seen with a worldwide pandemic killing thousands of people a day, a big chunk of our population didn’t take it seriously and even thought it was made up.

      The percentage of overweight individuals has grown a bit since the 1940’s. How would that affect a draft and the number of eligible servicemen?

      Hopefully there would be more unmanned remote controlled vehicles and planes to cut down on the number of casualties. 

      • 2


        About 75 percent of America’s 17- to 24-year-olds were ineligible for military service due to lack of education, obesity, and other physical problems, or criminal history.

        This has been true for at least the last 13 years.

        Obesity among service members is growing due to very poor eating habits (McDonalds…)

        Basic training has been extended due to poor physical capacity, i.e., cannot do physical activity due to very limited activity growing up (they didn’t play outside). This is reflected in a much higher incidence of fractures during basic training due to lower bone density.

      • 1

        I’m sure that if there were to be a draft, they would include women. They’ve tried numerous times in the last few years to get women added to the Selective Service Act. As a female veteran, I think that’s a great idea. Of course there would probably be more exemptions than with male conscription due to pregnancy, motherhood, and whatnot. 

        I’m wondering if the fast food issue is going to solve itself here soon. A lot of fast food restaurants around where I live are either closing or slashing hours due to both being unable to staff and to supply chain issues/raising prices. Americans are so used to being able to get whatever they want whenever they want that people are throwing fits they can’t get a burger at 2 a.m. 

      • 2

        I’d wondered that, too. Even though we’re seeing more unity globally around the war in Ukraine than we did around the pandemic (for… some reason?), I really don’t think most people have the stomach for war anymore. 

    • 1

      You only capitalize a little word like in if it’s the first in the title.

      I don’t think we could have a non-nuclear world war. The major powers would be fighting each other to win. You can see now that Russia is fighting without rules or scruples. Took two major nuclear sites in a week.

      • 2


        I think I understand what you are saying about major nations being tempted to eventually going nuclear but they have been very successful in the last 70 years to avoid going nuclear.

        Both the Ukrainians and Russians see the tactical advantage of taking control of such a large target as a nuclear reactor: the winner controls the power generation and their soldiers are relatively safe from attack. Both sides would want that position but the Russians got there first.

        As far as ‘without rules or scruples’ remember the old saying that a ‘dirty fighter is what the loser calls the winner’.

      • 1

        The world order of the past 70 years is gone. You can see that Putin is just ignoring  it, is chafed by the sanctions, but is not doing anything to be released from them. Also true that we haven’t given him any guidelines as to how to be released from them. 

        Might makes right. Winner takes all. I don’t want to see that return, but don’t know what options we have. 

      • 1

        That’s what I was leaning towards, thanks! 

        Putin seems unpredictable, cornered, and unafraid of war crimes. Even a few days ago when I made the post, I was certain every serious nuclear power wanted to avoid nuclear war. Now I’m less sure. 

      • 1

        Putin is evil an unpredictable. However, I think his nuclear threat may have been a bluff. He has no problem killing others but he doesn’t want to die himself, which would happen due to MAD. Of course I could be completely wrong but that’s the way I see it. I am also concerned that this administration wouldn’t have the guts to perform MAD, not that it would really matter to us once Russia launched their nukes. What we should have done is reminded him of MAD when he made that threat but our leaders are too weak.

    • 1

      We live in a globalised world: containers, computers, corporations have eliminated local economies. I was raised in central California, in the 1960s you could get just about any food from milk to beef to apples and oranges to watermelons and blackeyes within 25 miles of my house, fruits to nuts as they say. Now it is monocrop almonds, about 85% of all the almonds in the world in fact. Not only is the climate perfect but now the infrastructure has matured and consolidated to the point it is cheaper to import then to Italy (the largest producer 50 years ago) than to grow them there locally.

      Probably most countries are similar in whatever category. Point is, I think globalism doesn’t preclude world war, wars are started by individuals manipulating the mob, but I think it limits the extent simply because we can’t make war on the place we import goods from for any length of time. Back in the day the US manufactured our way to winning WWI & II, we made tanks and planes faster than they could be destroyed. Today we manufacture not much, we are clerks and waiters.

      I just googled, the US military has a little over 5k aircraft. In WWII we had 300,000. Yeah they are cooler now but they still gotta stay in the air. Probably most can be grounded for the lack of a $5 Taiwan chip, many are inoperable by human unaided.

      Today we do anything to save lives, we spend billions so soldiers won’t die—which is fine by me. But listening to my SIL, an Army Mstr Sgt who spends most of his time babysitting, there just aren’t enough actual soldiers. The old wars of mass attrition are so foreign to us, the farm boys back then inured to butchering pigs and steers, I’m just not sure we have the stomach. Not to belittle the sacrifice of today’s fighters. I was between wars myself. I just don’t know if you could get enough of us marching in the same direction.

      Not to say there are not countries able.

      • 3

        Great points, Pops! I always appreciate hearing how things have changed over time. 

        Even isolating just Russia from the global economy has had massive repercussions- splitting the world in half does seem untenable today. I have heard that America is ramping up electronics manufacturing again, but I don’t have a source for that, so maybe not. Regardless, it couldn’t happen fast enough for us to not have massive problems during a war. 

        The way people responded to the pandemic honestly had me doubting how much people in general really cared about saving lives, but most people do seem to be trying to avoid and deescalate the war as much as possible. Maybe war is more visceral or easier to understand as a threat than a pandemic that mostly happened out of sight? 

        It seems like Russia isn’t actually on the list of countries that can thrive in isolation. The sanctions don’t seem to have made Putin back down yet, though. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. 

      • 2

        Luckily isolating from Russia is only causing (from what I can see) increased prices as the pump and possibly increased flour and bread prices. Imagine the hurt it would put on our lives if we were placing sanctions and stop importing goods from China or other Asian countries where we get a lot of our manufactured goods from. 

        It is important to stock up on the things you have during the good times, because the bad times may come.

    • 3

      Hi! I’m more worried about the global food supply in the next year due to the effects of the Ukraine-Russia war. Prices are raising right now, but if you research it, with the decrease in fertilizer and the fact that so much of the Ukrainian farmland is expected to become a warzone, there is a very real possibility that it will get much worse. Even farmers here in America are worried about their crop yields because they cannot get fertilizer. Plus, a lot of China’s wheat crop was destroyed due to flooding this year. Hopefully if there is a WW3 it won’t go nuclear. There’s a great article from the NYT on this. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/20/world/americas/ukraine-war-global-food-crisis.html

      • 4

        Not to rain on your downpour Goblin, LOL, but there is also a bad drought in the plains right now, just as winter wheat is starting to become active.

        Plains Drought

      • 2

        Oof, good point. I have family members with celiac, so we’re used to going wheatless anyway. I’ll be curious to see how far-reaching the effects are. Sounds like they’ll be pretty widespread, even if you and Pops mentioned wheat specifically.

      • 3

        Much of coarse grain crops go to animal feed, over half in the US and maybe 40% globally. So meat, dairy, eggs, farmed fish are all affected. On one hand it is good to know we could feed more people if we fed fewer cattle, of course on the other hand we know the rich world will continue feeding cattle while the poor world starves.

    • 1

      It would look like the current war in Ukraine. The same, but without nuclear bombs. And no one would have an opportunity to blackmail each other with using a nuclear bomb.