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Modern wars are everywhere
On disinformation campaigns, the Secretary of Commerce's email account, and the new face of conflict
An exhausting amount of braying has been coming from circles sympathetic to Vladimir Putin, suggesting that support extended to Ukraine by the United States and other allies is bringing the planet closer to an imagined World War III. Some of these critics may be sincere; many are probably not.
■ But even if one were to take their claims at face value and to assume the maximum amount of authenticity about them, the arguments are still a jumbled mess. Worse, they distract from a real global conflict that is already underway.
■ News has emerged that China has been targeting Americans for hacking, targeting the House of Representatives, the State Department, and even the Secretary of Commerce. While the campaign is being reported as a discrete event, we really have to stop thinking about global conflict strictly in terms of heavy artillery and maps of battlefields. The interconnection of the world -- not exclusively by the Internet, but in large part because of it -- has introduced an entirely different style and tempo to conflict. And it is clear that many Americans, at least, have failed to take full notice.
■ In the "great wars" of history, there were occupiers, occupied, and others far from the conflict. Dwight Eisenhower could take leave from his command of Allied forces in Europe, and not only create physical distance from the conflict, but also obtain time away from it. He might have needed to worry about Axis spies reading his messages to Washington, but he didn't have to worry about them surreptitiously draining his bank account at home.
■ There is no such thing as that kind of space from conflict anymore, and not just for people in uniform. The threats are persistent, they extend everywhere, and they touch everyone. That isn't to say that conventional shooting wars aren't a problem, too; it is wholly obvious from the situation in Ukraine that they remain terrible things.
■ But if anyone awaits the outbreak of some formally declared opening battle of "World War III", they've already missed the point. Chronic, persistent, costly, inescapable conflicts are happening now. And we've already been drawn into them.