Tag Archives: Babylon

COULD SEVENTY BE “IT” FOR THE US?

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Tuesday February 21st marks a special anniversary that will most probably be overlooked.

It happens to be the 70th anniversary of the United States replacing Great Britain as the world’s number one power.

After fighting two world wars, Britain was faced with three major international crises all at once.

The new British Labour government had already announced plans to give independence to India, after two centuries of British rule.   This led to turmoil on the sub-continent between Hindus and Muslims.   British troops tried to keep the peace.

At the same time Palestine exploded.   In 1946 Jewish nationalists blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, British military headquarters in the mandated territory, killing 91 people.

The first two problems occurred on British territories; the third was in Greece, where communists were trying to take over the country.

At the same time, Britain was broke, following the two major global conflicts of the first half of the twentieth century.   Early in 1947, economic problems at home meant that Britain could no longer allocate funds to the conflict in Greece.   They decided to inform Washington to see if America wanted to take over.

“On Friday, February 21st” the Secretary of State General George C. Marshall, left the State Department early to attend the bicentennial celebrations of Princeton University and receive an honorary degree.   Then the British Embassy telephoned to say it had two urgent notes.”   As these notes were urgent, Dean Acheson, the Under-Secretary of State, asked the Embassy’s first secretary to deliver them rather than wait until the Monday.   “Recalling this episode in later years, Acheson wrote, “They were shockers”.”

“It was not being asked to provide aid to Greece that was shocking. The State Department was already preparing a plan for aid.   It was the fact that Britain was pulling out and proposing to hand over responsibility.   After all, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had advised the previous year:   ‘The defeat or disintegration of the British Empire would eliminate from Eurasia the last bulwark of resistance between the US and Soviet expansion . . .  Our present position as a world power is of necessity closely interwoven with that of       Britain , , ,

“This was a momentous change.   For two centuries Britain had been the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean.   Now it seemed to be surrendering that role in two key countries.   It is often said that Americans lack a historical sense that Europeans have, but on this occasion it was the Americans who saw the historical significance of that moment.   To British ministers, battling from day to day to keep the country’s head above water, this seemed to be just a temporary retrenchment in one area.   None of them appeared to see any larger implications in the decision.   The American view was put in grandiloquent terms by Joseph M. Jones, who was in the State Department at the time:   ‘Reading the messages, Hickerson realized, as had Henderson before him, that Great Britain had within the hour handed the job of world leadership, with all its burdens and all its glory, to the United States.” (“Picking up the reins,” Norman Moss, 2008, page 64, italics mine).

The whole world did not recognize the change immediately,   It was to be another ten years before it became clear to all.   At the end of 1956 the Suez Canal crisis showed that London could not do anything without American support.   Soon afterward, the US was encouraging Britain to dismantle its empire and then to join the European Union (then the European Economic Community).

US vs EU

It’s ironic then that, over the weekend, at the Munich Security Conference, “leading German foreign policy experts” called “on the EU to reposition itself on the world stage, replacing the United States as the West’s ‘torchbearer.’   Since Washington’s change of government, the United States no longer ‘qualifies as the symbol of the West’s political and moral leadership, according to Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Munich Security Conference.   It is therefore up to Europe ‘to make up for this loss.’”   (GermanForeignPolicy.com)

That’s easier said than done.   But the EU could be the world’s dominant military power for the simple reason that it is the world’s biggest trading power.   That’s the main reason why the US took over from Great Britain.   Economic power = military power.   The US is struggling economically which is one reason why President Trump is demanding the Europeans pay more for NATO.   Of course, the Europeans have their own financial problems, but they have an urgent need to protect themselves from both Russia and Islamic terrorism.   If they are going to have to pay more for defense, why not go-it-alone?   Especially when they no longer have confidence in American leadership.

One of the first superpowers, Babylon, was predicted to last “seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:12 & 29:10), illustrating how seventy is a significant number.   In Psalm 90:10, Moses was inspired to write that “our days may come to seventy years,” the lifespan of many human beings. Perhaps more significantly in the rise and fall of nations is the fact that, after seven decades, most people have forgotten everything. Few today remember World War II.   Few remember that Baron Ismay, Secretary General of NATO from 1952-55, described the alliance as intended to “keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”   In the current debate on the future of the alliance, this has been completely forgotten.

Dismantle the alliance and two things will happen:   1) the American president will no longer be “the Leader of the Free World;” and 2) Germany will become the undisputed Leader of Europe (she already is economically).   On the 70th anniversary of America’s ascendancy, the Munich conference saw nations actively discussing the end of America’s pre-eminence.

President Trump in Washington and Vice-President Mike Pence, who addressed the conference, may see themselves as being in the lead, calling the shots, insisting on changes within the alliance; but the other member nations have the choice of forming their own military alliance, which will not be led by the United States.

As with the change seventy years ago, it may take a while to fully emerge, but this is the direction we are heading in.   On Sunday, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced she is seeking closer ties with Russia to bring about the defeat of ISIS.

It might be good for Washington’s new leaders to take a lesson from the great nineteenth century German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, who once observed that a great power, to survive, must be “one of three” in a world governed by “five.”   Note the following:

“Of the five original great powers recognized at the Congress of Vienna, only France and the United Kingdom have maintained that status continuously to the present day, although France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War and occupied during World War II.   After the Congress of Vienna, the British Empire emerged as the pre-eminent power, due to its navy and the extent of its territories, which signaled the beginning of the Pax Britannica and of the Great Game between the UK and Russia.   The balance of power between the Great Powers became a major influence in European politics, prompting Otto von Bismarck to say “All politics reduces itself to this formula:  try to be one of three, as long as the world is governed by the unstable equilibrium of five great powers.”   (“Great Power,” Wikipedia)

In 1914, the German and Austrian empires went to war with the British, French and Russian empires.   Germany was one of two in a world governed by five.   The Germans lost.  They repeated the same mistake in World War II, when Germany and Japan were the two, in a world still governed by five.   The three opposing powers were Britain, America and Russia.   Again, the Germans lost.

The five major powers right now are the EU, China, the United States, Japan and Russia (a great military power, but not so great economically).   The US remains in alliance with the countries of the EU and Japan, making it one of three in a world governed by five.   If the EU separates from the US, that will reduce America to being one of two.

This all may seem incredible with almost daily news of set-backs in the EU.   France and Holland may leave after elections early this year; Greece and Italy have serious financial problems, which may affect the euro.   But the fact remains that Germany dominates the continent and Germany is putting together a European military force to rival America’s.   The Munich security conference showed the will is there, boosted considerably by the change of administration in Washington.

Daniel 2:21 says that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.   “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings.”   It could be, that after seventy years, the American Era is coming to an end. Munich this weekend showed that many want to see that happen.

Something to think about as the US passes its seventieth anniversary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IS THIS TO BE THE FATE OF THE WESTERN WORLD?

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Michigan winters can be depressing, a real downer.   Add to that, the state of the world as 2016 begins and it’s amazing anyone can function.

A cartoon in yesterday’s paper showed half a dozen people nervously peeking into a dark room labeled “2016” – clearly, nobody wanted to go in.

Who knows what the year will bring?

Adding to my sense of foreboding has been a couple of books I’ve been reading.   Perhaps I should stop reading!   Then I could stop thinking and become like lots of other people.   It’s difficult, though, to watch hours of mindless drivel on television or at movie theaters when there are so many good books to read.

The books I’ve been reading are “The End of Byzantium” by Jonathan Harris  and “Isabella” by Kirstin Downey.   The latter is about the famous queen of Spain, but includes a long section on the fall of Byzantium and what followed.

Byzantium was the name of the Eastern Roman Empire, founded by Constantine the Great in the fourth century.   It survived the fall of the (western) Roman Empire by a thousand years.   Byzantium was the greatest power in Christendom during that period. Constantinople, its capital, was known as “the Queen of Cities.”

Yet it fell.

It fell to the Muslim Turks in 1453.   It’s fall was as dramatic and interesting as the fall of Babylon to Persia in 539 BC.   The consequences for both were dramatic.

Residents of both had considered their capitals impregnable.   Most Americans and Britons today would describe their own countries similarly.   After all, they have nuclear weapons.   The US has the greatest military on earth.

But, as the falls of Babylon and Constantinople show, it doesn’t mean a thing!  And, just as the “handwriting was on the wall” for Babylon (Daniel 5), so it is today for the West.

I went to see my primary doctor recently, shortly after San Bernardino.   He couldn’t understand why so many people brought up in the United States could become “radicalized.”   I know that Britons, Australians, Canadians and people in other western countries don’t understand this, either.

An article in yesterday’s Lansing State Journal called for more Muslim immigration into the US.   The reasoning was simple – the more people from the Middle East who come here, the better, because they either go back enthused about the American way of life, or they stay here committed to America.

This is naïve thinking at best.   At its worst, it’s downright dangerous.

Both my doctor and this writer represent 1960’s liberal thinking.   They believe that our western way of life is superior and that anybody who moves to the West will naturally see things that way given a short period of time to adjust.   And their children, naturally, will be just as committed to the American (or British) way of life as anybody else born here, embracing our liberal values.

This reasoning fails to understand that there is a major difference between Islam and the West – one means “submission” (or “surrender”), while the other believes in freedom.   These two cannot be reconciled.   Any child brought up in the former, while living in the latter, is inevitably going to be confused.

Why can’t people see that?

If they cannot grasp what is written above, then they can at least read some history and learn lessons from the past.

Note the following from “Isabella,” describing the fall of Christian Constantinople to the Muslim Turks.  Don’t think this can’t happen again – it’s happening right now in the Middle East as Christians are being driven out by Muslims.   After the fall of Byzantium, it happened to other European nations as the Muslims moved into the heart of Europe.   Again, hundreds of thousands have moved into central Europe in the last few months.

(When I was on a tour of Turkey a few years ago, I asked our tour guide three times what happened to all the Christians when Constantinople fell to the Muslims.   Three times, I failed to get an answer.)

“On the last day, a crowd of men, women, children, nuns and monks, “sought refuge” in Hagia Sophia . . . (the sixth century cathedral built by Justinian) . . . the Turks broke down the doors of the church with axes and dragged the congregants off to slavery.   The statues of the saints were smashed; church vessels were seized.   “Scenes of unimaginable horror ensued,” historian Franz Babinger writes.”

“The Turkish soldiers killed four thousand in the siege and enslaved almost the entire population of the city.   They plundered the churches, the imperial palace, and the homes of the rich, and they did considerable damage to much of the city’s fabled architecture . . . unique and rare classical manuscripts were torn apart for the value of their bindings and thrown into the garbage.” (“Isabella”, page 172, 2014)

“By the end of 1459, all of Serbia had fallen under their control.   About 200,000 Serbs were enslaved by the Turks…..Soon, he (Mehmed, the sultan) attacked the city of Gardiki, in Thessaly, killing all 6,000 inhabitants, including women and children.   He had accepted the surrender without struggle of the Genoese colony of Amasra, on the Black Sea coast, where he enslaved two-thirds of the population.” (p. 175)

ISIS continues to treat Christians the same way.   There was, and is, no respect for other religions.

In the fifth century, the Roman Empire was invaded by barbarians (non-Romans).   This is a reason they no longer exist.   Spain itself was overrun by Muslims in the eighth century, a reason why Isabella took the stand she did centuries later.   When the Holy Land fell to the Muslims, it was necessary for the West to intervene to enable pilgrims to travel there safely.   After Constantinople fell, the West was in shock, rather as it would be if the United States fell.

The historian Niall Ferguson wrote after Paris that the West has the feel of Rome about it, that we are in danger of falling the same way; conservative columnist Mark Steyn wrote that “the barbarians are at the gate, and there is no gate!” – a reference to the fact that Angela Merkel and others are welcoming the invaders.

There clearly are genuine and justified concerns about allowing more Muslims into western countries.  Just yesterday, the BBC has reported that Germany has been shocked by how many German women were sexually assaulted and even raped over New Years, a direct result of the recent surge in immigration from the Middle East and North Africa.

TV reporters and those who write for newspapers advocating more immigrants are clearly ignorant of history.   They endanger all of our lives.

Reporting right now is focused on the growing Saudi-Iranian conflict, a continuation of the 1400-year-old struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam.   Neither can respect the other.   They just want to kill those who believe differently from themselves.  We can see it clearly when looking at the two branches of Islam – why do the same reporters find it so difficult to see the threat Islam poses to Christians and secularists in the West?

Christians for centuries have prayed “Thy Kingdom Come” (Matt 6:10) as Jesus Christ taught us to do in His model prayer.   Never has the need for that kingdom been greater.  Only He can put an end to false religion and the religious confusion that threatens the end of our civilization.

HUBRIS WILL NOT DEFEAT THE ENEMY

Bill de Blasio                             Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio

Yesterday (Monday) I read an article, which stated with great certainty that the US has been better at assimilating Muslims than European countries.   I also read a separate article in USA Today, which quoted the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, claiming that “New York City has the strongest, most agile, best-trained first responders in the world.   They’re ready to protect us.”

These are just the latest examples of hubris, which is defined as “excessive pride, or self-confidence, arrogance.”

When it comes to assimilation, I am reminded of a conversation I witnessed on British television one Sunday morning a few years ago. People of African descent who had lived in both the United Kingdom and the United States were discussing this very issue.   All the participants said they felt more comfortable and more assimilated in the UK than the US.

This may or may not be true of Muslims.   My concern here is that Americans should be very careful in making such assumptions, that we cannot say for sure and that, really, it doesn’t make any difference.   We are just as threatened by Islamic terrorism as the Europeans.   Whether the US responders do a better job remains to be seen.   FWIW, France (and Canada) are the two countries that top the World Health Organization’s list of best medical systems.   The US ranks at #37.   When it comes to saving lives, Paris is one of the best places to be.

When it comes to fighting ISIS, there’s a great deal of hubris right now.   Once again, the entertainment industry is partly to blame – it’s not just James Bond that defeats the world’s greatest evils; Americans have been doing it for decades.

Or, have we?

More than fourteen years after 9-11, Al-Qaeda is still killing people.   The hotel attack in Bamako was perpetrated by an al-Qaeda affiliate.

The US has been in Afghanistan for the same length of time (longer than the Russians were there) and there is no end in sight.   In fact, the situation is worse in that ISIS now operates there, along with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Iraq continues with daily conflict.   The immediate goal of overthrowing Saddam Hussein  was achieved by the western coalition, but the resultant mess just goes on and on.   The Iraqi conflict gave birth to ISIS, another problem that seems likely to go on and on.   And, if they are ever defeated, there will be other Islamic extremists to replace them.

Proverbs 16:18 says that:   “Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.”

I quoted Niall Ferguson a few days ago.   He showed the similarities between what is happening now and what happened to the Roman Empire in its last days – the barbarians are at the gates.   Indeed, they are within the gates thanks to the West having the most myopic immigration policies in the history of mankind.

The West has lived through a period that might be called the Pax Americana, a peace guaranteed by the United States since the end of World War II.

But the US has not had a decisive victory since World War II, when the global conflict was won by the three great powers, the British Empire (which fought the war from 1939-1945), the Soviet Union (which was forced into war six months before the US) and the United States.   The US could not have done it alone.

Korea ended up a stalemate, a burden still carried on the backs of the US tax-payer.   Vietnam was lost.   At the time, there was plenty of hubris.   Who would have thought, in 1965, that the US could lose to North Vietnam?

The next major conflict was the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91.   The immediate goal of driving Iraq out of Kuwait was achieved, but Saddam lived to fight another day, literally.   And, as I said, the mess goes on and on.

Americans are fond of saying that the US military is the best in the world and that the country spends ten times as much on its military as the next biggest spender.   That may be true, but it’s misleading.   In World War II, for every US soldier actually fighting, there were 60 people employed in support roles; for the British it was 45 to 1; for the Germans, 20 to 1.   Efficiency varies.

Additionally, US military personnel are paid more than those of other countries, so the dollar amount spent is not saying much.

Besides, the greatest threat now is Islamic terrorism, not a professional national army.   The “armies” that brought down Rome were barbaric, wild tribes, the Huns, the Vandals and, ultimately, the Arabs.   We’re faced with a similar enemy, but making it worse, our enemy is also “within.”   Let’s remember, the Babylonian Empire fell because two men betrayed it!   It only took two men to bring down the greatest empire in the world at that time.

The analogy with Babylon is apt in another way, too.   Babylon’s period of ascendancy lasted a little over seventy years, from the defeat of Assyria in 612 BC to its own defeat at the hands of the Persians in 539.   Super powers have great difficulty maintaining dominance over a longer period.   The Romans and the British were two exceptions, but countries simply burn out after 70 years.   The US is burning out, showing great reluctance to take on the growing threats to its own dominance.

It’s predecessor as global superpower number one was Great Britain.   Britain simply went broke.   The US is similarly broke, with a national debt of roughly 20 trillion dollars.   How much longer can the country lead the fight against anything?  ISIS is the wealthiest terror group ever, while the US is now penny pinching.

There’s a third lesson, too, from ancient Assyria and Babylon.   The former invaded the ten tribes of Israel, taking the people away as slaves.   The latter, Babylon, more than a century later, conquered the Jews and took them as slaves to Babylon.   The Old Testament prophets show that these nations were conquered because of their sins.

In a statement after the Paris terror attacks, ISIS said it attacked Paris because it’s a “sinful city, full of perversions.”   This does not mean that ISIS is made up of righteous people, any more than ancient Assyria or Babylon were.   But it does mean that many Muslims, appalled at the liberal values of the West, will naturally flock to ISIS.

In this sense, our own permissiveness works against us and is contributing to the violent acts being perpetrated by the terrorists.

But people in the West have hardened their hearts when it comes to God.   When the Church of England prepared a cinema ad promoting the Lord’s prayer, cinemas refused to show it; when the hashtag “#pray for Paris” appeared on Twitter following the Paris attacks, one French publication told people supporting the sentiment that their prayers were not welcome; that France doesn’t want religion!

Some asked where was God when Paris was attacked?   The answer can be found in Isaiah 59:2.   “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”  Isaiah was preaching to a nation that had known God, but rejected Him.

There are similarities with the western world of today.   We should avoid hubris, clean up our act, and turn to the true God if we are to have any hope of defeating Islamic extremism.

 

LIES, FALSEHOODS AND MISTAKES

Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem claimed on Sunday that there was never a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.   He went so far as to claim that the “Al-Aqsa mosque was an Islamic mosque since the world was created . . . It was never anything other than a mosque.”

The Grand Mufti is the senior Islamic cleric in charge of Islamic holy places, including the al-Aqsa mosque.

A predecessor of his has also been in the news recently.   The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to blame Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti at the time of World War II, for the Holocaust.   Al-Husseini fled to Germany in 1941 and met with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim Von Ribbentrop and other Nazi leaders.   He wanted to persuade them to extend the Nazis’ anti-Jewish program to the Arab world.   The implication in what Netanyahu said is that Hitler simply wanted to expel the Jews (to Palestine), but the Grand Mufti said they should be destroyed.

However, the German government issued a statement claiming full responsibility for the Holocaust, although it’s good to remember that Adolf Hitler was an Austrian.

Anyway, over seventy years later, the Muslim leader of Jerusalem, having learned nothing from history, is claiming the Jews have no historical rights to Jerusalem or anything else in Palestine.

As it happens, I’ve been studying the Old Testament prophetic books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.   These three men prophesied to the Jews in the post-exilic period.   The Jews, you will remember, were taken into captivity by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar at the end of the seventh century BC and remained there for seventy years.

In 539 BC, Babylon fell to the Persians, who let those who wanted to, return to the Promised Land.   There, they helped rebuild the 500-year-old Temple of Solomon.

Haggai was very precise in his writings. In chapter 1, verse 1, he writes “In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month……”   Bible commentaries and marginal notes will tell you the exact day this was written, in our Roman calendar.   It was August 29th, 520 BC.

In the second chapter, again he was very exact.  ”In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet…”   This equates to October 17th of the same year, 520 BC.   Haggai then asks the “remnant of the people” (those who had returned from captivity):   “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory?”   It is thought that Haggai himself remembered the temple prior to its partial destruction by Nebuchandnezzar’s conquering army.   He now appealed to the people to help rebuild it.

None of the above is likely to convince the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem that there was a Jewish Temple centuries ago.

However, it should be pointed out to him that, amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls found shortly after World War II, were fragments of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.   All were dated from the second and first centuries Before Christ.

Islam did not come on the scene until the seventh century After Christ (A.D.)   Arabs took control of Jerusalem in 638 and built the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 705.

The claim that the Al-Aqsa mosque has been there since creation is ridiculous.   It’s also political – the real aim here is to “prove” the Jews have no historical claim to Jerusalem!

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It’s just been announced that Paul Ryan is to be the next Speaker of the House.   Except for one, all eight of the last speakers have been Catholics.   One, Newt Gingrich, converted to Catholicism after his period in office.   Mr. Ryan, aged 45 and the youngest speaker since 1869, takes his religion seriously – before accepting his new office, he wanted a commitment that his new responsibilities would not interfere with his family time.   He goes home every weekend to spend time with the family and to attend church.   He will be sworn in using his personal copy of the New American Standard Bible, which he reportedly uses at weekly Bible studies.   Others should follow his example! (see below)

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“If the public were paying attention, they probably wouldn’t care if Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi or her emails.   The bar for honesty among politicians is so low that it is no longer news when politicians lie, only when they tell the truth.”  (“Clinton escapes again – with help of committee.”   Cal Thomas, Lansing State Journal, October 30th.)

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CNN International broadcasts “International Desk” every weekday from 10am Eastern time.   The program comes out of London.   Today’s anchorwoman twice referred to problems on the Slovenia-Australian border.   Who moved?  Slovenia or Australia?   The two mistakes were made either side of a commercial break.  You would think that somebody at CNN would have noticed the mistake and told her before she came back on air.   I can only conclude that nobody at CNN actually watches the channel.   This, of course, could be a very good thing!

Meanwhile, millions of people around the world are left unaware that there is a major problem involving refugees on the border of Slovenia and Austria!

RUSSIA’S INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

Putin Syria

A generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is back in the Middle East.   It cannot be good for America!

Britain dominated the Middle East between the two world wars. After World War II, that domination continued for about a decade. Then, in 1956, the Egyptians seized the British and French owned Suez Canal. The two countries, together with Israel, invaded Egypt in an attempt to reclaim the Canal, but they were stopped by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.     In hindsight, it marked the end of the British Empire. It also resulted in greater US involvement in the region.

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic book in the Old Testament, written during the sixth century before Christ.  It’s a remarkable book because the writer, Daniel, who served two kings of Babylon while Babylon was the greatest power in the world, then served two kings of Persia when it was the Persian turn to attain the status of super power.

His writings predicted the eventual replacement of Persia by Greece and then, in turn, Rome.   These were four of the greatest empires of the ancient world.   Each rose to greatness and each descended into oblivion.   Only their ruins remain.

Daniel put it well when he wrote the following:

“And He (God) changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

God is behind the rise and fall of nations.   He also reveals His prophetic outline “to those who have understanding.”

Just as Great Britain’s period of pre-eminence came to an end, so will America’s.   But, as with Britain, the change took a while to be fully realized.

Russia’s intervention in the Middle East fundamentally changes the balance of power in the region.   Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union, was heavily involved in the area following the British withdrawal.   While the US supported Israel, Jordan and the other conservative monarchies, including the Shah of Iran, Moscow supported Egypt and Syria.   That changed with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979.   Moscow has not had much clout since.

But now that’s changed.   Moscow is not only involved in Syria, propping up President Bashar al-Assad against ISIS and other groups, it is also involved in Iran and Iraq.   In effect, Russia is backing the Shi’ite arc that starts in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and swings through Syria, Iraq and Iran.   Bible students will remember that this is basically the territory of the old King of the North of Daniel, chapter 11, the Seleucid dynasty that had its origins in the conquests of Alexander the Great.   The rivalry with the Ptolemaic dynasty labeled the King of the South in the scriptures continued for two centuries and constantly threatened the Jews who were in the middle. The terms “King of the North” and “King of the South” refer to their geographical location in relation to Jerusalem and the threat they posed to the ancient capital of the Jews.

The same chapter prophesies that these two powers will be revived in different form prior to Christ’s return and will once again threaten the Jewish nation of Israel.

So it’s interesting to see Russia getting involved.

Vladimir Putin had this to say at the United Nations just a few days ago:

“An aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself.   Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty, and social disaster.   Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.   I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you have done?”

President Putin was talking about the United States and the consequences of American intervention in the Middle East.

Discussing this speech on PBS’ McLaughlin Group, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan had this to say:

“We are responsible for the disaster in the Middle East by our interventions.”

The mess the US and its allies created in the Middle East is affecting peoples around the world.   The Lansing State Journal carried the following front-page headline today:   “Eager for Syrians to arrive”, referring to Lansing, Michigan, welcoming Syrian refugees in the coming days and weeks.   Europe has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are refugees, over the last few weeks. Australians are also seeing Syrian refugees arrive in their country.   This could pose a serious security threat to western nations.

President Obama said the following at the UN:   “The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.   You can jail your opponents, but you cannot imprison ideas.   You can control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.”

What the US president was saying was intended as a warning to President Putin and the Arab dictator he intends to keep in power, President Assad of Syria. The latter is a ruthless dictator (the former is simply a dictator who can be ruthless; there’s a difference). The US position on Syria is that Assad must go. That now seems highly unlikely.   When Mr Obama refers to “ideas” that cannot be suppressed, he is referring to democracy and the “moderate” resistance to Assad. However, recent history shows that democracy is not the winner when dictators in the Middle East are overthrown. Rather, Islamic extremism or chaos, and usually both, result.

Putin, unfettered by ideological constraints, instinctively knows that.

Russia is in Syria to stay.

This could pose a problem for Israel now that the Russian bear is on its border.

It could also weaken the Russians.   Mr. Putin must remember that it was Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 that brought down the Soviet Union, which he has described as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.

What it will mean for Russia is not clear at this time.   However, it is clear what it means for the United States.   Just as an American president’s decision in 1956 precipitated the fall of the British Empire, so an American president’s inaction over Syria and cozying up to Iran, with the resultant weakening of ties with traditional allies in the region, has directly led to America’s decline in the Middle East.

 

WHAT’S BEHIND THE MIGRANT CRISIS?

Immigrants

Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens have either arrived in Europe in recent months, or will do soon.

There are daily reports of migrants dying in great numbers.  Just today, 71 deaths were reported after an abandoned truck was forced open in Austria.   This number included four children.  It is thought they all suffocated.  It is also thought they came from Syria. Also today, 200 are feared dead after their boats capsized off the coast of Libya.

There has always been a trade in human beings.   The end-time economic system called Babylon, prophesied in Revelation 18, lists the trade in the “bodies and souls of men” as one of the thriving businesses (v.13) that make up the final economic system.  One aspect of this trade is the millions that are being made from “helping” people escape war-zones and get into Western Europe illegally.   There are plenty of people willing to cash in, trading in human misery.

Under international agreements on refugees, people fleeing dangerous situations should go to the nearest country where they can seek help.   Instead, they are routinely going through a number of countries to reach the wealthy, welfare-generous nations of Western Europe.

Not all these arrivals are fleeing from war and upheaval.   Many interviewed on TV news programs are coming from democratic nations that have a free enterprise system.   There is no reason for them to migrate, except the desire to better themselves, by taking advantage of all the freebies available in their new country.

However, some are fleeing from war.   Their lives are at risk.

Although the US is not directly affected by this migrant surge, the wars can be blamed on America.   The refugees are escaping from the continuing carnage in Iraq and Syria, with lesser numbers from Afghanistan and Somalia.   All four of these countries are Islamic – there are plenty of Islamic countries they could migrate to, but instead they want to go to Europe or Australia.

The naïve assumption that American style democracy could be introduced into Islamic countries divided by religious hatreds that go back centuries and with no tradition of tolerance or freedom has bequeathed today’s migrant disaster upon the European continent.

But, naïveté  is not restricted to America.   Many Europeans seem to think they can take in all these refugees and assimilate them into their irreligious social democracies.   This is not going to happen.

What is more likely is that the post-World War II social order in Europe will start to unravel.   Xenophobic right-wing parties are gaining strength with the new arrivals.   Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was booed when she went to speak at an arrival center for migrants, a center that was earlier burnt down by extremists opposed to their arrival.

European governments seem incapable of handling this crisis, due to the sclerotic administrative structures that comprise the European Union.   Added to which are human rights laws that make it almost impossible to turn anyone away.

But people are starting to demand change.   Anti-immigrant parties are seeing increased support.   The Sweden Democrats are now the largest party in Sweden, the country that has been the most generous in taking in Syrian migrants.   UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, won over 13% of the vote in the recent British election.   France’s National Front is expected to do well in the next French election.

It should be noted that Donald Trump is capitalizing on similar anti-immigrant feeling in the US.   People in many western countries feel their way of life and culture are threatened with so many migrants.

When Jesus Christ said of the end-time that “nation will rise against nation” (Matthew 24:7), He was predicting increased ethnic conflict. The Greek word for “nation” is ethnos, a reference to ethnic groups rather than political entities.

The primary causes of migration are ethnic and religious conflict; in turn, the migrants are bringing ethnic and religious tensions into their new countries.