Right-wing media divided: Is U.S. now in World War III, IV, or V?

With the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East and a terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, the right-wing media have declared a new “world war” but have not agreed upon which world war the United States now faces: World War III, IV, or V.

  • World War III?

Most recently, on the July 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said “World War III ... I think we're in it.” Similarly, on the July 13 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, a graphic read: “On the verge of World War III?” As Media Matters for America has noted, CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck began his program on July 12 with a discussion with former CIA officer Robert Baer by saying “we've got World War III to fight,” while also warning of “the impending apocalypse.” Beck and Baer had a similar discussion on July 13, in which Beck said: “I absolutely know that we need to prepare ourselves for World War III. It is here.”

  • World War IV?

On the July 10 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson interviewed Michael Ledeen, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and said “some are calling the global war on terror something else, something more like World War III.” But Ledeen responded that “it's more like World War IV because there was a Cold War, which was certainly a world war.” Ledeen added that “probably the start of it [World War IV] was the Iranian revolution of 1979.” Similarly, on the May 24 edition of CNBC's Kudlow and Company, host Lawrence Kudlow, discussing a book by former deputy undersecretary of defense Jed Babbin, said “World War IV is the terror war, and war with China would be World War V.”

Other conservatives have previously suggested the “war on terror” as “World War IV.” In a September 2004 article, Commentary editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz noted “World War III (that is, the cold war)” and that “the great struggle into which the United States was plunged by 9/11 can only be understood if we think of it as World War IV.” And in January 2005, FrontPageMag.com hosted a symposium called “Ukraine and World War IV.”

  • World War V?

On the July 13 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity declared: “we are loaded up today, as the Middle East on the brink of World War V, here.” Hannity did not explain what he regarded as World Wars III and IV. But earlier in the show, Hannity suggested the current conflict is World War III, stating: "[I]s World War III breaking out in the Middle [East]? It may very well be."

From the July 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight. Why should you care about the violence in Israel and Lebanon? That is the subject of this evening's “Talking Points Memo.”

The answer to that question is because it affects your life. Every time stuff like this happens, the price of oil goes up and the worldwide economy totters.

It's exactly what Iran wants. And Iran is behind the terror attacks on Israeli forces. The whole thing is part of World War III, ladies and gentlemen. Islamic fascism against the West. That global conflict, unfortunately, is here for the foreseeable future.


O'REILLY: Yeah. Last question, Mr. Cook. Military action, you know, look, here's what Iran's going to do. It's going to push us as far as it can. It's going to do as much damage to the world as it can. And then it'll draw back, if it thinks military action is coming its way, correct?

STEVEN COOK (fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations): I think that's precisely the case. And there won't be much upside for the United States to take military action directly against Iran. They have too many cards that they can play against us. They have cards to play against us in Afghanistan, cards to play -- continue to make our lives miserable in Iraq. And obviously as we've seen, they've continued -- they've heated up the border between Israel and Lebanon.

O'REILLY: All right, World War III, right?

COOK: Possibly.

O'REILLY: I think we're in it. I absolutely think we're in it.

From the July 10 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: From Kim Jong Il's missile testing to the Iranian president ranting that he'll wipe Israel off the map, and the fight to weed terrorists out of Iraq, some are calling the global war on terror something else, something more like World War III. Here now, Michael Ledeen, a columnist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a public-policy research institute. Michael, it was a columnist in the New York Daily News today saying this is World War III, and it's on. Do you agree with him?

LEDEEN: Well, it's certainly on. It's more like World War IV, because there was a Cold War, which was certainly a world war. But sure, it's global, and it's on.

GIBSON: Where do we count the start of it?

LEDEEN: Well, that's always difficult to do. Probably the start of it was the Iranian revolution of 1979, when you had the first fanatical Islamic regime declare war on us, and that was explicit in the fall of 1979.

GIBSON: What would be the hallmarks of this? I mean, we know there's a war on terror. But the proposition put forward is that if you look at all of this stuff, what the Iranians are threatening to do, what the North Koreans are threatening to do, what the Japanese are threatening to do, what we are prepared to do and have done, that there really is one large world war under way. Does that concept hold together?

LEDEEN: Yeah, I think so. I think the president had it right at the beginning, and he seems to have forgotten about it, when he said that we're not going to distinguish between terrorist organizations and countries that support and feed and house and train and arm them. And so if you help terrorists, we're going to treat you as if you are a terrorist yourself. Well, there are many terrorist regimes around the world right now, and we're going to have to try to cope with them.

GIBSON: Michael, if the -- there is World War IV and it's under way, if that's a correct assumption --

LEDEEN: It is.

GIBSON: -- what should we be doing right now that we're not doing?

LEDEEN: We should be doing what we did most effectively in World War III. The way we won World War III was not by invading and bombing primarily, it was by bringing down regimes that were palpably failures, like the Soviet Union and the Soviet empire in general. If you look at the terrorist sponsors, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and so forth, all of whom work very closely together and so forth, these are all failed regimes. Their people hate them. They're not even feeding their people, even though some of them are drowning in oil revenues. So we should be supporting revolution in those countries against them, exactly as we did in Poland and Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union itself. It worked in World War III, I don't see why it shouldn't work in World War IV.

GIBSON: Well, what if you throw into the mix the obvious, that we're not operating against states, we're not operating against governments in all cases, but what we call terrorists?

LEDEEN: It's exactly the same case. We are operating against states like Iran and Syria and North Korea. And in World War III, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union certainly supported terrorism around the world, as did allies of theirs like the Cubans and the Chinese and the North Koreans.

GIBSON: All right, Michael Ledeen, columnist, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Michael, thanks.

From the July 13 edition ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: Welcome aboard, glad you're with us. Well, is World War III breaking out in the Middle? It may very well be. And we're gonna go for full, complete, comprehensive analysis that you're not going to get in the mainstream media.


We are loaded up today, as the Middle East on the brink of World War V, here.

From the May 24 edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Company:

KUDLOW: Now, all right. Jed Babbin is talking about some kind of World War IV, I guess. Actually, World War V. We have World War I and II and the Cold War as World War III, according to Norman Podhoretz. World War IV is the terror war, and war with China would be World War V. How likely, John? What would trigger such a thing?

From the July 12 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Hey, everybody. Hurry up; we've got World War III to fight. Yes, it is the end of days, isn't it?


Here's what I do know about World War III and the impending apocalypse. One, we can't coexist with people who want to blow up trains and subways and bring down buildings. If somebody has a death wish, not really the best negotiating partner.

I also know that whether you like it or not, this is a religious war. Radical Muslims want to wipe everybody else off the face of the earth. And let me tell you something: Hollywood, clean the ears out and listen up. You are the first in line for the gas chambers if they ever win. You're the one who are producing a lot of the trash that's spilling out into their cave that's hacking them off.

Also, I know that people don't want to believe the worst. That's why more people aren't on the bandwagon. People are in denial. They don't want to think that we're facing something horrible. They want it to go away so we can all get back to our lives.

But listen to me, it is bad. And it's not just us. It's the whole Western way of life that is in trouble. That's why we need to get on that World War III bandwagon.

Now, here's what I don't know. I don't know if there are enough world leaders out there that actually have a spine anymore. Where are the real leaders? Not a lot of people are leading. That's not a real good place to be. Where's Churchill? Where's -- where's FDR?

You know -- I know we have, I know we have George Bush. He's doing it by himself. I mean, Tony Blair is doing good, too, but is that enough?

I also don't know what it's going to take to get people to wake up. My gosh, we were wide awake after 9-11. We've all gone back to sleep. We almost lost World War II because of apathy and denial. Please, let's not let it happen again.


BECK: Would you agree with me that World War III -- that we're here?

BAER: Oh, we've already, we've already started it.

BECK: Yeah, well I think we're 1938, World War II. It hasn't, it hasn't really hit yet where people are like, “Oh, I get it, we've got to fight.” Would you agree?

BAER: This is like Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia. That's the stage we're at right now.

BECK: Right, right. OK. Do you believe -- please say yes -- do you believe it can be avoided?

BAER: No, we're going into a war. We have to brace ourself. It's coming.

From the July 13 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: I absolutely know that we need to prepare ourselves for World War III. It is here.