Tag Archives: assassination

EUROPE CHANGES WHILE US PRE-OCCUPIED

British Prime Minister Theresa May, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet at the German Chancellery in Berlin, Germany November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
British Prime Minister Theresa May,  Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet at the German Chancellery in Berlin, Germany November 18, 2016.       REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

When newspapers around the world reported that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in Sarajevo, nobody would have thought it would lead to the First World War, the worst war in history.  The subsequent war started in the Balkans, a part of Europe that frequently saw conflict; it didn’t seem anything to worry about.

25 years later, another world war followed on from the first, again started in Europe.

You would think that, consequently, the world would want to know what’s happening in Europe!   But the mention of Europe is likely to see wide-mouthed yawns in an audience – Europe is a continent of the past, not the future; a quaint place to visit but of no relevance.

However, Europe is a continent that is unraveling as old rivalries rise to the surface.   The end result could be a Europe that is very different from what we see now.

What we are witnessing is the return of nationalism, the root cause of both world wars.   Right now, we are in the dark, just as the world was the morning after the Archduke’s assassination.   Another seemingly insignificant event could lead directly to global conflict, just as the assassination did over a century ago.

After six decades of the European Union and its predecessor, Europeans are turning against the idea of “an ever closer union.” Now, they want to put their own country first.   It started in the United Kingdom with the Brexit vote.   Outside of Europe, the Americans voted earlier this month to put “America First.”   Austrians seem likely to elect their “far right” candidate to the presidency on December 4th.   If he wins, he has promised to dissolve parliament and to hold a vote on whether or not the country should stay in the EU.   A referendum in Italy on the same day could also have a profound effect on other countries in Europe.

However, the biggest two upcoming elections will be in France in May and Germany four months later.

France just had its primaries for the center-right party, resulting in the selection of Francois Fillon as their presidential candidate. He will run against the leader of the Socialist Party.   It’s not likely that their candidate will be the current socialist president, Francois Hollande, as his approval rating is down to only 4%.   A third party candidate, Marine LePen, of the National Front, could beat the two establishment figures.   Ms. LePen is against both the EU and immigration, two popular positions that could give her victory.

Elections next year in France and Germany may see a continuation of the trend toward nationalist parties.

Brexit has already led continental Europeans to move ahead with a European Army, independent of NATO.   This has been talked about for some time, amid growing concerns about Russia and Islamic terrorism.   Donald Trump’s victory in the US led, hours later, to a German call to quickly move forward – without Britain this is now possible.   It’s also the case that, until the UK actually exits the EU, it will have to help pay for the combined military force.

Europe and America differ on Russia, even more so now that Trump will be president.   Note the following from The Orange County Register, November 25th.

“Russian and American interests in Europe do not align.   Although both powers do share the general goal of preventing Islamic terror networks from spiraling out of control, Russia’s tacit support for some acts of terrorism, through its close relationship with state sponsors of militant jihad, is well known.   The truth is that Putin’s regime wants instability in Europe, by hook or by crook, so as to replace U.S. dominance on the continent.” (“High-stake Russian relations”)

The editorial continues:   “And the reality is that Putin is well on his way to getting it.   NATO allies like Turkey, Bulgaria and Hungary have joined in a clear pendulum swing away from Western liberalism.   At the same time, reactionary parties on the ascent aim to shake off the political bonds economically forged by the international institutions that give the US its influential stake in European affairs.   Few in Europe wish to become satellites of Moscow.   But few realize that, absent a robust American role in Europe, there is no European force powerful enough to keep its patchwork of small states from slipping into Russia’s shadow.

“Were the US capable of defending a persuasive liberal agenda abroad, friendlier European relations toward Russia wouldn’t necessarily be cause for such profound alarm.   But today, America’s leadership – like public opinion – is divided and unsure about just how much support free trade and international agreements deserve. Without clarity and confidence, even a little resurgence in traditionally pro-Russian sentiment in Europe could trigger a stampede away from the kind of American influence that has helped build and maintain security and order on the continent for generations.

“Is that a price America’s pro-Russian right and left are willing to bear?   Whatever Trump’s actual preference around Russian relations may be, he is well advised to take into account the answer to that question.   Nothing can ruin a presidential legacy like losing Europe.” (The last sentence was italicized by myself for emphasis.)

Five days earlier, another editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette addressed European issues:

“President Obama spent Thursday and part of Friday in Germany, underlining the importance of the relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel and, particularly, their personal rapport.   With Obama’s imminent disappearance from the world stage, the transition to a Donald Trump administration is creating international disquiet, as world leaders prepare for the unknown.   The German chancellor is arguably the most important figure of stability in international politics . . .   They met in Berlin, increasingly the capital of Europe, although Brussels still hosts the headquarters of both the European Union and NATO, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Maariano Rajoy all traveled to Berlin for their farewell-as-president meeting with Obama.”

Continuing:   “Germany is the economic and, thus, probably, the political center of Europe, an ironic epilogue to its loss of two major wars in the last century.”  (“Obama’s last key European stop.”  Italics mine)

Put these two articles together and what you have is this:

Europe is increasingly likely to break away from America; and Germany is the leader of Europe.

But . . . not yet!

The Economist magazine’s Charlemagne column adds that Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel “are still too hesitant to be able to lead the free world” (“Iron Waffler,” Charlemagne, November 19th):

“Now, after an election campaign in which Mr. Trump trashed immigrants, vowed to rewrite trade deals and threatened to withdraw America’s security guarantee, the West’s indispensable nation appears to have dispensed with itself.   Desperate for a candidate to accept the mantle of leader of the free world, some alighted on Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor.”

Yet Mrs. Merkel’s options are limited.   “We are protected by our terrible history,” says Joschka Fisher, a former foreign minister.   “You cannot say, ‘Make Germany Great Again’.”

Times are changing – and further changes are likely as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the US.   “The Westbindung (Western integration), a staple of German foreign policy since Adenauer, is fraying as extremist parties on the left and right cozy up to Russia.”

Konrad Adenauer was Germany’s first chancellor after the formation of the Federal Republic in 1949, four years after Adolf Hitler.   Germany’s foreign policy since then has been firmly rooted in both NATO and the EU.   Extremist parties in the country threaten this and could destroy this policy after next year’s election.

“Germany’s stake in the global liberal order is immense.  Its export-led economic model relies on robust international trade; its political identity is inexorably linked to a strong EU; its westward orientation assumes a friendly and engaged America.   All of these things may now be in jeopardy, and Germany would suffer more than most from their demise.   But do not look to Mrs. Merkel to save them, for she cannot do so alone.”

A different chancellor, a stronger chancellor, perhaps with more extremist views of either left or right, could make a huge difference in the 2017 general election.

It’s very difficult to predict what will happen in the next twelve months in Germany or other European nations, but the continent is going through a peaceful turmoil that could see radical changes in the months ahead.

The biblical books of Daniel and Revelation both wrote of the Roman Empire and successive attempts to revive the empire down through the ages.  In 1922 Mussolini proclaimed a revived Roman Empire; in 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed to lay the groundwork for another attempt at European Union.   A final group of European nations will soon come together, with Germany as its leader.   Bible students have expected this for years — now the world’s media sees Berlin as the new European capital and Germany as the driving force behind the world’s biggest single economic grouping.

 

Does any reader have 60,000 frequent flyer miles they are not likely to use?  I would like to go over to Europe to research and write on developments on the continent.

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KENNEDY’S LEGACY 50 YEARS ON

JFK

It is said that everybody over a certain age knows exactly where they were when they heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. 

I was twelve at the time and attending a meeting of the Boys’ Brigade (the Methodist equivalent of the Boy Scouts) in my hometown in the north of England.  One of the men in charge arrived late and informed us that the president had been shot.  It was about 7.30 British time (1.30 Central time).  I did not learn until I got home that he had died.

At the time we had two television channels.  Both dropped every scheduled program and talked of nothing else that day and most of the following day, Saturday.   On the Sunday I was at my grandparents’ home watching a movie on TV when the film was interrupted to tell us that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot.

Monday, if I remember correctly, was JFK’s funeral, which we saw live from almost 4,000 miles away, something new at the time.

Even though I did not grow up in the United States, and never dreamed that I one day would live here and become a citizen, I was well aware of what had happened on this side of the Atlantic.

Almost fifty years later, on a visit to Ireland, Irish people still talk about the Kennedy’s visit to their country.  One Irishman informed me that for decades most homes had two pictures on the wall – one of the pope and the other of Kennedy.

Why is it that we remember the event so well?

Since Kennedy’s assassination, there have been other assassinations.  Lord Mountbatten, the queen’s uncle, was blown up by IRA terrorists in Ireland in 1979.  I actually do remember where I was when I heard that news, but I can’t recall the exact date.  I remember, too, where I was when I heard the news that Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards but, again, I don’t remember the exact date.  I remember too where I was when I heard that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated, but would have to look it up on Wikipedia to get the date!

Kennedy’s assassination stands out.  I remember the day (Friday), the date (November 22nd) and the time (his death was announced at 1pm Central time).

America was never to be the same again.

Why is that?

Kennedy’s accomplishments in office were not that great. He started the Peace Corps and set NASA on the path to the moon.  His liberal agenda was not realized until his successor, Lyndon Johnson, took over as president.  He is most famous for averting World War III over the Cuban missile crisis, but accounts vary on his role.

His self-deprecating humor remains endearing.  He even joked about his own economic policies.  He told the story of an invite to the White House for some prominent businessmen, at which he tried to encourage them to invest and grow to create more jobs.  He added:  “Why, if I weren’t president, I would be out there investing and growing my business myself.”  At which point one of the businessmen said:  “If you weren’t president, so would we!”

So, again, why is Kennedy remembered so well and with so much devotion?  The majority of people in a recent poll said that JFK is their number one choice to be added to Mt Rushmore, alongside Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Part of the answer lies in the fact that Kennedy’s was the first presidency of the television age.  The 1960 election was close, unlike Richard Nixon’s shave!  It was said that Nixon’s five o’clock shadow cost him the election.  It was a turn-off to the female vote.  Losing the female vote cost Nixon the election.

Eleanor Roosevelt commented in a 1951 radio program that “all the great social reforms have taken place since women got the vote” (paraphrased from memory).  This is not strictly true.  Slavery was abolished by men.  But she had a good point.  It would also be correct to add that all those social reforms, fifty years later, are bankrupting the country.  But she didn’t live to see it.

Kennedy changed the direction of America, from the conservative administration of Eisenhower, to the liberal-socialist reforms of LBJ.  Big government got a lot bigger during the decade of the sixties.

Kennedy’s presidency was made by television.  Until Fox News the networks were all very liberal – and those liberals idolized JFK and his attractive wife and family.  They were young and glamorous, from America’s aristocracy, financially successful before they embarked on a political career.  They were a stark contrast to the previous two occupants of the White House.  Not since FDR had an aristocrat been in the presidential mansion.

I’ve watched a few programs in the last few days on the anniversary of the assassination and I’m struck by how nothing negative has been said about the man and his period in office.  I doubt that any other politician would receive the same treatment.  Certainly, no conservative politician would.

His successor came from the other end of the social spectrum.  Johnson took over Kennedy’s agenda.  Following the assassination, he had a lot of goodwill, easily winning the election less than a year later.   200 programs were approved in a very short period of time, programs that have contributed to the mess we are in today.

He continued to pursue the Vietnam War that had started under Eisenhower and Kennedy.  This was his undoing.  After all the chaos, confusion and upheaval of the sixties, America at the end of the decade was a very different country.  Its traditional values were eroding fast.  The country’s innocence was lost, never to return.

JFK gave people hope – hope that government could solve all the problems.  Five decades later, many feel that government itself is the problem!   But people remember that hope, the positive feelings they had inside and the awful impact on the collective and individual mindset when it all suddenly and tragically ended.

The years following the assassination are a blur – memories of race riots, Vietnam, more assassinations (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy), changing morals, hippies, druggies, the list goes on and on.  It’s no wonder that people look back on JFK’s period in office as a golden age.

The assassination left such powerful images in our collective consciousness, it’s difficult for there to be an impartial and honest assessment of the Kennedy administration.  Instead, people are left with the idea that his was the greatest presidency and everything he stood for was good and proper for America and the rest of the world.

One final thought – in a few months it will be the centenary of the most significant assassination in history, that of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th, 1914, the event that triggered World War One, the greatest conflict in history, the repercussions of which are still being felt.  Will our TV stations give it any attention?