Are We Approaching the Threshold of a Third World War? In the era of "peak apocalypse," posing such a question may seem dismissible. Amidst the ongoing pandemic, constant warnings of ecological collapse, and a steady stream of dystopian narratives fueled by Netflix algorithms, it's easy to trivialize the idea. However, the specter of a global war looms large, perhaps not felt with such intensity since the intense Cold War rivalry between the United States and the USSR. Across the globe, authoritarian governments are facing a crisis of efficacy. In an age marked by worldwide stagnation, their incapacity to fulfill promises regarding job creation, poverty alleviation, and the growth of their middle classes has reached a critical juncture. Fearing internal dissent, autocratic leaders are increasingly compelled to divert attention by concentrating on external adversaries, be it through regional military expansion or high-stakes confrontations with Western powers. The rapidly evolving crisis triggered by a drone attack on a US base near the Jordan-Syria border exemplifies this alarming new reality. While Iran has vehemently denied direct involvement, there is unmistakable evidence linking it to a series of attacks, all orchestrated to diminish the US presence in the Middle East. In the face of the inevitable response from the United States, a pertinent question arises: What motivates Iran to engage in such a perilous undertaking? Often overlooked amid the common narrative depicting Iran as a fanatical and malevolent regime is the fact that it is also a regime grappling with internal failures. The decline of Iran stands out as one of the most remarkable narratives in recent history. Once a flourishing ancient civilization strategically positioned at the heart of global trade and boasting vast oil and gas reserves, it has now devolved into a country in disarray under the rule of a fossilized and inefficient theocracy. Its infrastructure mirrors that of a nation ravaged by war, and a staggering fifty percent of the population grapples with poverty. As the egregious consequences of the clerics' mismanagement become increasingly undeniable, and dissenting voices amplify through protest movements, the beleaguered regime resorts to diversion tactics. Instead of addressing internal failures, it intensifies its longstanding efforts to position itself as a regional powerhouse, envisioning a "Shia Crescent" that serves both as a sectarian defense against Sunni and Western adversaries and a source of imperialistic pride. Attaining nuclear capabilities is deemed indispensable to realizing this vision. Undoubtedly, the actual peril might not be Iran's genuine surge in power, but rather its leadership's awareness that time is not in their favor. While Tehran may be only a few years away from developing nuclear warheads for ballistic missiles, the deteriorating economy may make it increasingly challenging for the regime to justify the program's cost to its restive citizens. This aligns with a historical pattern identified by historians: confident and successful countries are not the ones instigating wars, but rather those corroded and schizophrenic, plagued by grandiose delusions and a mortal dread of the future. This paradox of the fragile aggressor is not exclusive to Iran but is unfolding to an even more alarming extent in Russia. The Putin regime has failed to leverage Russia's inherent advantages, leading to a populace on the brink of destitution and a nation trapped in an oil-dependent cycle typically associated with third-world countries. Putin, in response, seeks to counteract economic and demographic decline and divert attention from domestic failures through conquest. Russia, likened to a jellyfish releasing toxins even after death, poses an ominous threat. What intensifies Russia's danger is the narrowing window for "recovery" envisioned by Putin; if current trends persist, Russia could become a geopolitical minnow within a few decades. China, too, presents a shifting landscape, with Xi Jinping's grand strategy facing setbacks. The shift towards a military-autocratic model and the "military-civil fusion" strategy to make China a technologically advanced military power indicate a significant pivot. The notion of China raising the risk of a new world war, perhaps by invading Taiwan, is not unthinkable. Xi recognizes the limited time to act, and the conventional belief that World War Three would be accidental may need reassessment. Autocratic leaders, fearing death upon losing power, might pursue survival strategies that, while irrational to others, seem deeply rational to them. In this era where rogue dictators believe in their chances of winning, the West must utilize its own unpredictable nature inherent in being democracies to contain the authoritarian threat. From normalizing relations with China in the 1970s to the robust response to the invasion of Ukraine, the West's unpredictability is a perilous trump card that may need to be played again to maintain supremacy.