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A Majority Of Young People Fear A 'Cataclysmic War' In Their Lifetime

If you're concerned about World War III then you're not alone.

The International Red Cross ‘Millennials on War' report has revealed almost half of 16,000 millennials think it’s more likely than not that there will be a third World War in their lifetime.

The report, which surveyed 1,042 Australians of all ages, found the majority of Australians considered war and armed conflict to be the most important issues the world faced in 2020, followed closely by climate change and terrorism.

The ICRC survey found that almost half of the millennials (age 18-35) surveyed globally felt it’s likely there will be a WWIII. The fear for armed conflict is mirrored by Australian millennials (45 per cent) who say that war is one of the most important issues facing the world today.

Australia is surrounded by sea, far away from rocket fire and gunfights, so why are many of us so concerned with warfare?

Dangerous Prospects

Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Michael Shoebridge told 10 daily that the fear of armed conflict is 'credible'.

He said that Australians are rational in their concerns about the possibility of World War III and that strong state and federal leadership is of the utmost importance moving forward.

"The prospect of armed conflict between great powers (the U.S. with Xi’s China and/or Russia under Putin), without means to control escalation, is inherently dangerous," Shoebridge said.

He said Australia faced a challenge in easing the public's fears about armed conflict and rising tensions overseas.

However, he felt that could be addressed through 'concerted domestic action and international engagement'.

A U.S. special forces soldier. Image: AP

War On Our Minds

The Australians surveyed by the Red Cross, including 319 millennials, revealed there is a stark difference in opinion between the younger generation and the rest of the country as to what the most important issues are in 2020.

Aussie millennials considered climate change (60 per cent) and unemployment (51 per cent) to be the most important issues that the world faced in 2020.

While war/armed conflict (57 per cent) and climate change (55 per cent) were the global threats the general population feared most.

Red Cross' Head of International Humanitarian Law Yvette Zegenhan said it was “revealing” that most Australians believed war and climate change were more important issues than unemployment and terrorism.

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Increased Support Torture Tactics

The survey was conducted as part of a global report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which surveyed 16,000 millennials from 16 countries.

Nine of the countries surveyed are in peace times, including the U.S., U.K. and France, while seven are experiencing armed conflict, including Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Colombia.

The findings revealed that, of all countries surveyed, Australia scored the lowest in finding war torture acceptable.

The responses did, however, highlight that one in four Australians would support torturing enemy soldiers for information, despite war torture being illegal under international law.

“It is alarming to find that more Australians believe it is acceptable to torture enemy soldiers than when we asked this question three years ago,” Zegenhagen said.

Australian Army soldiers fire a Javelin anti-tank missile during Exercise Chong Ju at the Puckapunyal Military Area in Seymour, Australia. Image: Getty

Director-General of the ICRC Yves Daccord acknowledged the role that millennials will have in current and future conflicts.

“Our global survey reveals that millennials are nervous about their future and see cataclysmic war as a real likelihood in their lifetime,” Daccord said.

Despite Australian millennials reflecting global fears of armed conflict, issues such as climate change (60 per cent), unemployment (51 per cent) and poor health care (48 per cent) took precedent.

Nearly one-third of Australian millennials surveyed (30 per cent) believed that climate change is making war and conflicts more likely.

“It’s vital for us to reinforce their belief in the norms of humanity and to encourage values which help us to protect and assist victims of war and armed violence,” Daccord said.

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Meanwhile, Michael Shorbirdge believes that Australia's 'sterile climate debate' and its involvement in the wars of 'great powers' can be fixed by a change to the 'national narrative'.

He noted that Australia has a "failed policy of maximising economic engagement with China" -- implying that our window for greater economic ties to the regions biggest market has closed and impacts all Australians negatively.

"Changing the national narrative involves political risk. Not doing so brings real physical and national risks," he said.