Tag Archives: Asia

A CALL FROM SINGAPORE

Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia and just at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula, the island country of Singapore is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures. The Lion City is one of the world’s most dynamic, vibrant and prosperous nations.

A friend from Singapore called me at the weekend.   Amongst other things we discussed President Trump’s visit to the region, which is now taking place.   He told me that Singaporeans (mostly ethnic Chinese) believe that America is on the way down and China is on the way up.   In other words, the most powerful nation in Asia and the Pacific is now NOT the US, but China.   Every nation in the region is having to come to terms with Chinese domination.

My friend, who is over 80, remembered the events of 1942 that led Singaporeans to realize the British Empire was on its way down.   One of the greatest military defeats in British history was the fall of Singapore on the 15th of February in 1942.   The story is told of Lee Kwan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore.   While he was a student, the British blew up the causeway that linked the city to the mainland, to delay Japanese forces.   The sound of the explosion could be heard across the island.   When Mr. Lee’s British headmaster came out of the school building and asked him what the noise was, Mr. Lee responded: “It is the sound of the British Empire falling.”

Effectively, it was.   The fall of the British built and developed city started a series of events that led to American domination of Asia and the Pacific.   Now, China’s economic success means Beijing has greater clout in the area than Washington — many nations are looking to Beijing rather than Washington, to secure their future.

I posted an article to my blog in February to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first time anybody realized that the US had overtaken the United Kingdom as the world’s pre-eminent nation.   It’s all recounted in the book “Picking up the Reins,” by Norman Moss.   It wasn’t until the following year that the term “Leader of the Free World” was applied to the US.   Seventy years later, we find people openly talking about China overtaking the United States. Chinese resentment at US domination is illustrated by an item on today’s BBC World News website.   Apparently, the Chinese use the term “Boss of the World” to describe America.

China isn’t the only power center trying to take over from America. The European Union is also determined to provide an alternative to American hegemony, with Germany’s Angela Merkel now often labeled “the Leader of the Free World.”   Bible students will not be surprised at these developments.

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IRAN – SAUDI STRUGGLE

Keep an eye on the growing Sunni-Shia struggle in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia leads the former and Iran the latter.   The two countries are fighting a proxy war in Yemen.   The latest development was a missile attack on the Saudi capital, fired by Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.

Iran also supports Hizbollah in Lebanon, whose prime minister resigned on Friday out of fear that he, like his father, will be assassinated.

From Monday’s Jerusalem Post:  “Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.”

Syria is also caught up in the Sunni-Shia conflict.   Iran supports the Syrian president, Bashir Assad.

The West is solely focused on ISIS, a Sunni Islam group which is fighting Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.   ISIS is re-grouping in a number of countries, claiming to represent and defend Sunnis from the Shi’ite heretics.

It’s all very complicated.   Not at all as simple as TV news depicts.

A new area of conflict is in the Sahara, where the US lost four military personnel last month.   Most attention was focused on President Trump’s call to the young wife of one of the men who died. Little attention has been given to the wider problem of a growing conflict right across the Sahel.

The West seems to think ISIS has been defeated; the reality is that the organization has dispersed and formed new radical terrorist groups in a number of different countries.  ISIS fighters have also been returning home to western nations – we should expect more terrorist attacks following the “defeat” of ISIS.

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WALL STREET’S BREXIT WARNING

Big banks are worried about Brexit.   A group of large financial institutions with big London operations, including JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and HSBC, has told US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross that Britain’s unstable government and slow progress in Brexit planning may force them to start moving thousands of jobs out of  the City in the near future.   The lack of clarity over a transition deal is making them nervous.

Their concerns are unlikely to be assuaged by the latest chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.   Mrs. May is under pressure to strip two more cabinet ministers of their jobs following separate fiascos involving Priti Patel and Boris Johnson.   And the EU has warned that the UK has less than a month to make concessions on a divorce settlement.   The FT’s editorial outlines how the British government’s flailing at home is translating into weakness abroad: “Allies are increasingly wondering whether Mrs. May’s government has the focus or ability to play Britain’s traditional global position — let alone the enhanced role pledged by Brexit.”   (Financial Times, 11/8)

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TEXAS CHURCH ATTACK

26 people were shot dead in church Sunday, following a man’s argument with his mother-in-law.   Twenty others were injured, some very seriously.

This was the 307th incident of mass murder in the US this year. Today is the 310th days of the year, so, in effect, the US is experiencing an average of one mass attack per day.   A mass murder incident is defined as the murder of four or more people.

No other nation in the world sees so much violence.   Yemen, in a civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims (see segment above), has the second highest incident rate.   Statistically, you would be safer living in Yemen, than in the United States.

I’ve always believed that people have a right to defend themselves, a right that goes back at least to the time of Henry II in the 12th century and perhaps goes back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom prior to the Norman ascendancy.  The second amendment of the US constitution guarantees that right.   After an attack in London a few weeks ago, I pointed out that if one member of the public, just one, had been carrying a weapon, the terror attack might have been thwarted.

President Trump raised the issue of mental health in the context of mass shootings at a press conference in Tokyo.   Mental health is certainly a major issue.   But easy access to guns, especially by the mentally ill, is also a factor and needs to be addressed.   It’s time for that presidential commission of inquiry into mass gun violence.   Let the public have their say.   They are the ones that are dying, even in church.

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100-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

November 7th is the anniversary of the Russian Revolution that brought the communists to power.   Not surprisingly, Russians are not enthused about the anniversary.   They rejected communism over 25 years ago.

There is still talk of a restoration of the monarchy, though most people do not seem to be in favor and do not expect it to happen.

There are lessons here from both France and Spain, two countries that were once dominated by their respective leaders, Charles de Gaulle and General Franco.   Both were strong men, who were vain enough to think that nobody could possibly replace them after their deaths.   Both men thought that the best way to preserve their nations in the future was through the restoration of their national monarchies.

De Gaulle was a close friend of the Comte de Paris, the descendant of the Orleanist monarch, Louis Phillipe, who ruled France from 1830-1848.   The Comte was aware of de Gaulle’s desire to restore the monarchy.

In 1968, France was rocked by student riots and violence across the country.   DeGaulle presented constitutional reforms (not including a restoration) that were rejected, leading to his resignation as President of France in April, 1969.   He died one year later.   De Gaulle, the inspiration behind the Fifth Republic in 1958, need not have worried  — the Fifth Republic remains to this day.

General Franco of Spain, a fascist dictator, had more time to think about the Spanish succession, proclaiming that his heir and successor was to be Juan Carlos, of the Bourbon line of monarchs. As soon as Franco died in 1975, Juan Carlos was proclaimed king.   Rather than continuing Franco’s conservative ideology, the new King dedicated himself to protecting Spanish democracy, thereby at the same time preserving the monarchy.   He even had the respect and support of Spanish communists.

Vladimir Putin may be thinking along the same lines.   He’s been a very strong leader, with a 90% approval rating at times.   He must be fearful of Russia’s future after he leaves the scene.

The restoration of the Romanov dynasty along Spanish lines, may be just what he’s thinking.   He’s already reviving Russian culture, and has helped the church take center stage.

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SYRIA SIGNS UP TO PARIS ACCORD

The US is now the only country in the world that has not signed up to the Paris climate treaty.   Syria was the only other holdout, but has now signed.

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PARADISE PAPERS SCANDAL

The Anglo-Saxon world loves its scandals, especially when its leaders are exposed.   In this regard, the Paradise Papers did not disappoint.

While TV audiences are focused on who has what and why, it should be emphasized that absolutely no one “exposed” broke the law.  They simply took advantage of legal tax loopholes, just as most people do, only theirs is on a much bigger scale than the average citizen.

The only law-breaking going on here was by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which somehow gained access to private financial information.   The paper’s partners in this enterprise included the British Guardian newspaper and the New York Times.  No surprises there.

Another concern is this:   the revelations are the latest “scandal” to undermine our institutions.   As if the Harvey Weinstein and other sexual revelations are not enough, we now have nightly reports that Queen Elizabeth II (and others) have been protecting their assets by moving them beyond the control of national governments.

Times have certainly changed.   Fifty years ago, royal tour-guides would proudly announce that the British monarch was the richest woman in the world.   Now, she’s not even in the top 500 wealthiest people in Britain (J.K. Rowling heads the female list), and people are getting riled about it.

The amount involved was only 10 million pounds ($13 million).

Exactly 100 years after the class warfare of the Russian Revolution, people have learned nothing.   All socialism brought was “equal shares of misery for all” (Margaret Thatcher’s definition).   Do we really want to embrace it again, naively thinking it will improve all our lives?

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IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

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According to the BBC’s website:   “Almost all of Australia’s state and territory leaders have signed a document in support of the country becoming a republic.”

This follows republican Malcolm Turnbull replacing monarchist Tony Abbot as prime minister of Australia.   Both men are Liberals.  The Liberal Party in Australia is actually the nation’s conservative party.  Mr. Turnbull feels that this is not the time for a republic – it would be best to wait until the Queen’s reign ends.

Elizabeth II has been Queen of Australia for more than half the country’s existence as an independent nation.   Nobody speaks ill of the Queen, who has been a conscientious monarch, serving the country well.   But Australia has changed in the fifty years since the queen’s first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was in charge.   Sir Robert was an ardent monarchist who attended the coronation of the monarch in 1953.

At the time, Sir Winston Churchill was the British prime minister.  When the nine Commonwealth prime ministers met for their bi-annual conference, they spent a great deal of their time discussing defense matters.   The Korean War was ending and there were serious threats to the British Empire in Egypt, where the new radical government of Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted to gain control of the Suez Canal, a move that would later deal a fatal blow to the whole idea of empire.

Today, the Commonwealth has 53 members, almost all of whom are non-white and mostly have different ideals and priorities to the mother country.

Trade ties have declined with Britain’s industrial decline.  Australia now has closer ties with Asia than with Britain.

Demographic trends also mean that there are less people of British descent in Australia.

It’s interesting to note that the new Canadian prime minister feels very differently to Mr. Turnbull.  In December, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Malta for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.   The BBC asked him if he had any plans to make Canada a republic, something his father favored when he was PM.  Justin Trudeau, thirty years later, replied:  “No, we are very happy with our Queen, the Queen of Canada.”   Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party is a left-wing party, so very different from Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

Why the difference in attitudes toward the Crown?

I suspect the answer lies in the word “identity.”

Canada was founded by Loyalists who did not want to be a part of the new American Republic after the American Revolution.   They asked for independence in 1864 while the US was fighting a Civil War.  They did not think much of the American form of government, adopting a system more in line with Great Britain.   They wanted to retain the British Head of State, Queen Victoria, as their own monarch.   They laid the foundation of the Commonwealth.  Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed their example.   These nations were the mainstays of the British Commonwealth until after World War II, when India, Pakistan and Ceylon joined the club.

Canada’s identity, dwarfed by its more powerful southern neighbor, is bound up in the monarchy.   It needs to retain the link in order to maintain its sovereignty, separate and distinct from the United States.

The same dynamics do not apply in Australia, though a case can certainly be made for preserving Australia’s distinctly unique way of life, separate from other nations in the region.  The link with the Crown is a part of Australia’s cultural heritage, which sets it apart from most other countries in the region.

magazine has been in favor of an Australian republic ever since the issue was first raised, describing the queen as “Elizabeth the Last.” But even The Economist admits that it will lead to ten years of political instability, as the ripple effects will require a number of constitutional changes.   Perhaps now is not a good time to change the system.

It should also be pointed out that, approximately half the population remains very loyal to the monarchy, so any change could be divisive.

Interestingly, whereas many Australians who favor a republic would prefer the US system, it’s not likely to happen.   Politicians prefer the German or Irish system, replacing the Queen with a figurehead president appointed by parliament.   This is not a very good system.   While the monarch is above politics, any political appointee inevitably won’t be.   It should also be remembered that, when the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office, the new Chancellor did away with the office and had himself proclaimed Fuhrer.   The rest, as they say, is history!

It’s also interesting to note that the Toronto based organization “Democracy Watch” recently listed the seven most democratic countries in the world.   All were constitutional monarchies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.   The United States was not in the top seven.   Sadly, America has become less democratic in recent decades, as big business together with lobbyists seem to determine everything in politics.   Add to that the influence of the media – elections are increasingly just personality contests.  Reality TV has taken over.

An additional factor for Australia to consider is that constitutional monarchy is the cheapest political system.

Christians should also remember I Peter 2:17 – “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”

It might be good for everyone to ponder on the old maxim:   “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

INDIAN SUMMERS & HOME FIRES REVIEWED

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It’s hard to imagine that the British drunkards, fornicators and adulterers on “Indian Summers” could have run an empire, but that’s what the latest offering on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater is having us believe.

I’m sure that some of that went on, as it has done in every nation, but surely not everybody?   Even the resident missionary in Simla has had an extramarital relationship.

Sunday’s episode went so far as to suggest that there was one law for the Brits and one for the natives, that innocent until proven guilty did not apply to Indians.  Indian writer Dinesh d’Souza once wrote that one of the greatest gifts the British gave India was the legal system, including this very point.   Equality before the law is a basic principle of English common law, thanks to the Magna Carta, which is being remembered this year, 800 years after its signing.

I’ve written before of how in the last days of colonial Rhodesia, a young white male who murdered a black taxi driver was hanged for his crime.   The fact that he was white was no excuse.

“Indian Summers” also gives the impression that the British oppressed the Indians.  Difficult when the Indians outnumbered them 1,200 to 1.

And if the Indians hated the British so much, why have so many moved to England since independence?

A more accurate portrayal of British history can be found on the BBC World News channel.   “The Birth of Empire” is a documentary series on the British East India Company, the biggest commercial enterprise in the history of the world.   It started as a trading company in 1600, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and was so successful it ended up running the sub-continent.

Eventually, the British government took over the responsibility of administering the Indian empire.

Note the following quote from Indian writer Dinesh D’Souza:

“Despite their suspect motives and bad behavior, however, the British needed a certain amount of infrastructure to effectively govern India.  So they built roads, shipping docks, railway tracks, irrigation systems, and government buildings.   Then they realized that they needed courts of law to adjudicate disputes that went beyond local systems of dispensing justice.   And so the British legal system was introduced, with all its procedural novelties, like “innocent until proven guilty.”   The British also had to educate the Indians, in order to communicate with them and to train them to be civil servants in the empire.   Thus Indian children were exposed to Shakespeare, Dickens, Hobbes, and Locke.   In that way the Indians began to encounter words and ideas that were unmentioned in their ancestral culture:   “liberty,” “sovereignty,” “rights,” and so on.

“That brings me to the greatest benefit that the British provided to the Indians:   They taught them the language of freedom.   Once again, it was not the objective of the colonial rulers to encourage rebellion.   But by exposing Indians to the ideas of the West, they did.   The Indian leaders were the product of Western civilization. Gandhi studied in England and South Africa; Nehru was a product of Harrow and Cambridge.  That exposure was not entirely to the good; Nehru, for example, who became India’s first prime minister after independence, was highly influenced by Fabian socialism through the teachings of Harold Laski.   The result was that India had a mismanaged socialist economy for a generation.   But my broader point is that the champions of Indian independence acquired the principles, the language, and even the strategies of liberation from the civilization of their oppressors.  This was true not just of India but also of other Asian and African countries that broke free of the European yoke.

“My conclusion is that against their intentions, the colonialists brought things to India that have immeasurably enriched the lives of the descendants of colonialism.   It is doubtful that non-Western countries would have acquired those good things by themselves.   It was the British who, applying a universal notion of human rights, in the early 19th century abolished the ancient Indian institution of suttee — the custom of tossing widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres.   There is no reason to believe that the Indians, who had practiced suttee for centuries, would have reached such a conclusion on their own.   Imagine an African or Indian king encountering the works of Locke or Madison and saying, “You know, I think those fellows have a good point.   I should relinquish my power and let my people decide whether they want me or someone else to rule.”   Somehow, I don’t see that as likely.

“Colonialism was the transmission belt that brought to Asia, Africa, and South America the blessings of Western civilization.  Many of those cultures continue to have serious problems of tyranny, tribal and religious conflict, poverty, and underdevelopment, but that is not due to an excess of Western influence; rather, it is due to the fact that those countries are insufficiently Westernized.   Sub-Saharan Africa, which is probably in the worst position, has been described by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as “a cocktail of disasters.”  That is not because colonialism in Africa lasted so long, but because it lasted a mere half-century.   It was too short a time to permit Western institutions to take firm root.  Consequently, after their independence, most African nations have retreated into a kind of tribal barbarism that can be remedied only with more Western influence, not less.   Africa needs more Western capital, more technology, more rule of law, and more individual freedom.”      (“Two Cheers For Colonialism,” Dinesh d’Souza, 5/8/2002).

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

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A more accurate Masterpiece Theater presentation is the series “Home Fires” which has been showing immediately prior to “Indian Summers.”   This series, which ended its first season last night, is set in an English village during World War II.   The program revolves around the Women’s Institute and its efforts to help the war effort locally by growing and canning food, knitting and sewing, and raising funds to buy ambulances.

With many of the men in their lives fighting on the front lines around the world, the ladies are faced with a whole series of difficult challenges, including food rationing and the preparation for bombing raids.

The series ended with hundreds of planes of the Royal Air Force flying overhead on their way to fight the Battle of Britain.   The villagers are contemplating the reality of a Nazi invasion with all the changes that would bring.

It’s well worth watching and is available on DVD and Netflix.

SPREADING PROBLEMS

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So much is happening across the globe right now, it’s difficult to know where to start.

It’s Monday morning and the world news is dominated by further falls on stock markets across Asia and Europe.   China’s economy is heading south fast and is dragging other countries down with it.   As the country is the second biggest single economy in the world, it’s not surprising.

It’s not that long ago that China was a third world backwater.   Then, the communist dictatorship allowed free market reforms that led to an incredibly fast growth rate.   Too fast.   And suspiciously fast – could the numbers be trusted?   Now, we know the truth – the reality is not what we thought it was.   Millions of Chinese people are losing their life savings and are naturally angry about it.   If this continues, the Chinese people may conclude the ruling Communist party has “lost the mandate of heaven,” a precursor to significant change.

But change could also come elsewhere as a result of what’s going on.

The average American lost 6% of his retirement fund towards the end of last week.   6% isn’t too bad.   But if this fall continues, people will get more angry and frustrated.   It can only help Donald Trump’s presidential hopes.

Note the following from today’s The Daily Skimm:

“Last week, after some bad economic data from China, global stock markets completely freaked out.   US markets ended up with their worst losses in four years.    And today isn’t looking any better. China’s markets opened even weaker than yesterday, which has triggered a global domino effect.   Think:   Asian and European markets taking tumbles and oil prices way down.

“Right now, the ups and downs of global markets are hinging on two of the least transparent things ever:   the Chinese government and the Federal Reserve.”

It’s time to worry!

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It’s 8.20 AM Eastern time. I just received a news alert from the Wall Street Journal. The headline is: GLOBAL MARKET ROUT CONTINUES.   Stock markets continue to fall around the world.

It’s a good reminder that we should not put our faith in this world and particularly in this world’s money, which is, frankly, worthless paper.

In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus Christ said the following:

19:  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20:  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

 

Our retirement funds are certainly set to take a big hit, though how big remains to be seen.   Christians should take encouragement from Christ’s words and not worry as we go through this market “correction.”

It’s now 9.45, the New York Stock Exchange opened a few minutes ago, and we seem to be witnessing a big crash.   The stock exchange is down over 1,000 points, heading rapidly toward a “correction,” usually defined as a drop of 10% or more.   The dollar is also falling against other currencies.   Commentators are saying that this crash started with China, but blame should also go to the high taxes and anti-business policies of the current US Administration.   One lady said:  “They’ve killed the economy!”   Meanwhile, China is using the state pension fund to buy stocks in a hope of keeping up prices, an unwise move that could wipe out pensions for decades.

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It’s really inspiring to hear that three young Americans on vacation in Europe helped save a train full of passengers from an imminent terrorist attack.   Today’s news shows them receiving the “Legion d’Honneur” from France’s President Hollande.

But, you will notice there’s another guy standing with them, an older man who was also part of the rescue.   The much-praised trio was actually a quartet.  The other man was from England.   It would be nice if just one American network would acknowledge his role along with the three Americans.   All four were very courageous and may have saved dozens of lives!

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In this age of mass murders, it’s interesting to note that America, with less than 5% of the world’s people, accounts for almost one third of all mass murders, defined as incidents where four or more people are killed.

SINGAPORE LOSES ITS FOUNDING FATHER

Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore is one of the greatest success stories of the modern world.

The modern history of the country started in 1819, just under 200 years ago.  The British were looking for a strategic location to base their growing merchant and naval fleets and to thwart Dutch regional influence.

The then Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolan in Sumatra, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, landed in Singapore after surveying neighboring islands.   A colony was soon founded with a population of only 150. Today, the population is almost 5.5 million.   Singapore’s success was based on free trade, which made it a vibrant commercial center, attracting merchants from all over Asia, the Middle East and the United States, as well as Great Britain, which dominated the globe in the nineteenth century.

The port city saw its greatest period of growth after the British opened the Suez Canal in 1869.   Control of vital sea-gates around the globe contributed to the dominance of the British Empire.   It was possible for British vessels to sail from England to Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, before continuing their journey through the Suez Canal and Aden, then on to points east, including Singapore.   The naval base at Singapore enabled the British to dominate the Far East and Australasia.   Singapore was a vital sea-gate, one of the arteries of empire.   Many believe this fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis 22:17 that Abraham’s descendants would “possess the gates of their enemies.”

Everything went well until the Japanese attacked the city the day after Pearl Harbor.   Once regarded as an impregnable fortress, the city surrendered on 15th March, 1942.   It remained under Japanese occupation for three-and-a-half-years.   Looking back, it was a major turning point in the decline and fall of the British Empire, perhaps the biggest single turning point.   It showed that the seemingly invincible British, a white race that ruled the greatest empire in history, could be defeated by a non-white peoples considered backward and inferior.

After the defeat of Japan, the British returned, but it was impossible to return to the pre-war order.   New political parties were formed that campaigned for independence.

In 1963, the people of Singapore voted to join the new Malaysian Federation, which the British had created six years earlier.   Only two years later, Singapore, an island of mostly Chinese immigrants, had to leave the Moslem dominated federation and go it alone.

In 1965, at the time of independence, the total Gross National Product of Singapore was only $1 billion.   Fifty years later, it’s $300 billion.   Per capita income has grown from less than $500 per year to well over $55,000, second only to Japan in East Asia.   The island state has been transformed in fifty years from a Third World outpost to a thriving city-state that belongs proudly to the First World of wealthy, affluent countries.

This achievement was the work of one man, Lee Kuan Yew, the longest serving prime minister in the world (from 1959 to 1990). Singapore’s former prime minister died at the weekend.   The man who cried when the federation broke up and Singapore had to go it alone, had a clear vision of what was needed – a free enterprise system which would become a regional financial center.   This does not mean that government was not involved.   He was mildly authoritarian, with restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.   He also oversaw massive public housing projects, which contributed to a rising standard of living for the people. The US could learn from its medical system.

He leaves behind a wealthy, efficient and honest administration – one of the modern world’s greatest success stories.   Other developing nations, struggling to survive in the contemporary world, could learn a great deal from Singapore and the man who built its modern economy.

Singapore is also symbolic of Asia’s growing might, accompanied by the decline of its former imperial master Great Britain, and the West in general.

The world has changed a great deal in the fifty years since Singapore became an independent republic.   It’s experience should give many nations pause for thought and reflection.

 

TERROR GROUPS GLOBAL REACH

Jan. 27, 2015:  In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Cortinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)
Jan. 27, 2015:   In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Corinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)

ISIS has claimed it was behind the attack on a leading hotel in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, earlier this week.   The hotel was one of the few remaining western hotels, catering to foreign nationals. An American and a Frenchman were amongst the nine who were killed.

The attack shows that ISIS is now operating in Libya, a long way from home.

The three major terror threats right now are ISIS, AQAP and Boko Haram.

ISIS, having established a rudimentary caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq, now calls itself IS (Islamic State) reflecting its new status as a country.   It is even negotiating with Jordan, a neighboring country, over the fate of a Jordanian prisoner and a Jordanian pilot captured by IS.   There is the possibility of a proposed exchange of prisoners.   They also hold a Japanese journalist and are threatening to behead him at the time of writing.

AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) staged the Paris attacks. Some terror experts say this is the most dangerous group and the biggest threat to the West, including the United States.   The terror group emanates from Yemen, home of Osama bin Laden.   Yemen’s pro-American government has just fallen, replaced by a group loyal to Iran, a Shi’ite theocratic republic.   This strengthens Iran at the expense of the US.   AQAP is Sunni and will likely continue uninterrupted, safe in its own territory in the splintered nation.

Boko Haram may seem disconnected but operates over an increasingly wide area.   It has the same aims as the other two, the downfall of the West and a rejection of all things western.

In addition to the three groups mentioned, there is also the Taliban, which continues to stage terror attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.   A Taliban attack on a school in December killed 148, mostly students.

Smaller groups like the Nusra Front also operate.

The Economist magazine (page 26, January 17th issue) showed there were 17 significant terrorist attacks by these groups in a one-month period (December 15th – January 13th).   The total number of deaths is hard to determine as statistics from some areas, especially Nigeria, are unreliable.   But a low estimate for the period totaled 528. During this one-month period there were terror attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.   They included suicide bombings and gun attacks.

This is a global conflict, which will affect every nation on earth.

US TO CLOSE 15 MILITARY BASES IN EUROPE

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Lord Ismay, the first Secretary General of NATO, famously said that the purpose of the organization was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

The announcement today that the US is closing a further 15 bases in Europe, mostly in Germany, shows how times have changed. The Americans no longer see Europe as a priority. It may not be too long until the Americans are no longer “in,” which may also mean the Russians will no longer be “out.”   The Germans have not been “down” for a long time.

The timing of the announcement was rather insensitive, coming 24 hours after the terrorist attack in Paris that left twelve dead.   At precisely the time that Europe is faced with its most serious threat in decades, the US confirms that Asia is the priority, not Europe, the continent where two world wars began.

In the 1950s and 60s, Britain was gradually withdrawing from the world, closing military bases. The closures reflected waning political, military and economic power.   However this announcement is dressed up, it will be perceived the same way.  The US is on the way out.