The atomic bomb, but not just it, had ended world wars as we knew them. Even more decisively than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States had conclusively demonstrated that nations with superior production capacities combined with manpower and technological advancement will win any world war. For the Soviet Union, a world war against the country whose factories had supplied it with everything it needed to beat the Nazi war machine was unthinkable.Instead the Soviet Union launched its own third world war fought not with atom bombs, but in some cases with stones and sticks, but mostly a political war that depended on spreading Communism, building third world alliances, and subverting America from within. It won that war even as its politics and economics imploded, finally leading to the fall of the Soviet Union. While the United States was the last man standing in the Cold War, after paying a bloody price from Korea to Vietnam to the Middle East, it had inherited a world order shaped by the USSR. America had built multinational institutions, beginning with the United Nations, that had been hijacked by what we, in less politically correct times, would have called ‘subversives’. Asia, Latin America and the Middle East were dominated by socialist and nationalist movements that had been allied with the Soviet Union and shaped by its Communist ideologies. All that the fall of the USSR did was cut off some of the funding. It also encouraged China to step into Russia’s place as a much more credible peer rival to the United States and the West. But it wasn’t China that picked up the Soviet mantle: it was the Islamists, many of whom we had nurtured as anti-Communists. From Iran to the Muslim Brotherhood, they were the ones with a global vision, a knack for running secret organizations and a murderous belief system that was just as compelling to its adherents as Communism was to its acolytes earlier in the 20th century. While most people still think of WWIII as some grandiose phenomenon in which nuclear weapons will rain from the sky leaving behind a poisonous wasteland filled with lurching zombies, the real world war was being fought before many of us were born. WWIII does look like Ukraine, but it also looks like Vietnam and like Iran bombing the Marine Barracks 40 years ago. And it’s also China stealing our technological secrets and barraging us with propaganda. WWIII is small scale and deep. It’s compact proxy wars that fall short of a nuclear exchange. It’s information warfare that exploits our weaknesses. and It’s ideological, economic and social. Instead of nuclear explosions, it’s narrow territorial conflicts, it’s influencers on social media spreading lies and it’s hacking attacks. It’s death by a thousand cuts rather than one big smash. The winners and losers of the first two world wars were conditioned by their history to think of a world war as something apocalyptic, but WWIII as it is now is being fought by nations and movements that were on the sidelines or bit players in those conflicts, but who have absorbed the post-war strategies of those wars that terrorism, guerrilla warfare, influence campaigns, economic warfare and limited hostilities are better tools of ju-jitsu against great powers. The WWIII that so many imagined never came because we were the victims of our own success. With or without nuclear weapons, no one wanted to fight an unrestricted global war against us so they found ways to undermine us, to tie us down and small wars to drag us into. They focused on undermining our morale, fracturing our society, turning our youth against us, corrupting our morals, buying out our economy and invading us through immigration. While we still keep waiting for a big war to begin, our enemies have been winning it. World War III is here and we’re losing it because we don’t see what’s going on around us as a war. And so we never really fight back. A world war plays to our strengths and our enemies, from the Soviet Communists of the Cold War to the Chinese Communists of today, from the local and international Marxist and Islamist coalitions, prefer to exploit our weaknesses. We may have the strongest army, but the worst internal security. There is nothing stopping foreign enemies from robbing us, ripping us off or just walking across the border. We hate the idea of war so we bribe our enemies to leave us alone, to return our citizens that they have taken hostage, and to win their hearts and minds. Why try to tangle with an Abrams tank or an A-10 when you can bribe our politicians, corrupt our universities and fund terrorist groups to attack us around the world. That’s the real WWIII. Americans have a weakness of thinking that history begins and ends, that it explodes outward in world-changing events, when history is just a record of the things going on around us. The world wars were not abrupt cataclysms that divided the past and the future, they were extensions of events that had been underway. War has a way of marking periods in time, but the absence of great wars is not an absence of history: it just means that they are being fought by other means. Our unhealthy obsession with World War III has all too often blinded us to what is going on around us. We did not take Islamic terrorism seriously because our enemies seemed too small and backward. And we only view small wars in terms of their risk of exploding into big wars as if the only wars that really matter are the ones that might lead to the ‘Big One’. Instead of fighting a war as we imagine it to be, we need to be ready to win the ones we’re in.