Tag Archives: Babylonian Empire

GUAM IN THE HEADLIGHTS

Guam isn’t in the news very often.   But right now it is.   The reason? North Korea has threatened to “nuke” it first.   It seems to have the technology to do it. But will it?   That is the question.

A North Korean attack on the US Pacific island would likely kill most of the 160,000 Americans who live there; but, within minutes, most of North Korea’s population would also be dead in a US retaliatory strike.  That figure would include North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Even if he has a bunker to retire to through the attack, he would no longer have a kingdom to rule over.   Kim would lose everything in minutes.   The three-generation Kim dynasty would be history!

Logic and common sense say he won’t do it.   But logic and common sense are sadly lacking in North Korea.

The world awaits developments and hopes for a good outcome.

Back to Guam.

The world was much simpler when the US took possession of the island in 1898.   It was one of four territories acquired by the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War.   The others were Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Guam had been a Spanish territory for 230 years, since 1668.

When the USS Charleston arrived in Guam to capture the territory, the ship fired its cannons in the direction of the Spanish fort on the island.   The Spanish garrison took some time to respond.   Eventually, they sent a delegation to apologize to the Americans. They had thought the cannons were a salute and they had no means of reciprocating – they hadn’t realized this was an invasion.   It had been a while since they had received any communication from Spain.

So Guam fell into American hands.

Not without some opposition – at home.   The United States was terribly divided on the issue of foreign adventures.   Pro-interventionists included President McKinley, the future Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, a man of great influence at the time.   All three felt that America needed overseas possessions, like European nations. Against the acquisition of colonies were Mark Twain, Dale Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan.   These two were often referred to as the “pro-imperialists” and the “anti-imperialists.”   Imperialism was very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth century.

The great debate around the birth of the American Empire is the subject of a new history book, entitled “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer, a foreign correspondent who now writes for the Boston Globe.   The Spanish-American War was a major turning point in American history and, indeed, in world history. It launched the US as a global power.

“Various forces united to push McKinley toward his decision to seize the Philippines.   Navy commanders recognized Manila Bay as a magnificent platform from which to project American strategic power into East Asia.   Business leaders saw millions of new customers for American goods, the prospect of rich resources, and a springboard to the potentially immense China market.   Missionaries and religious groups swooned at the prospect of saving millions of lost souls for Christ.   McKinley himself recognized above all the political value of annexation – and the furor he feared would engulf him if he turned away from empire at this crucial moment.” (“The True Flag,” page 87.)

Later, McKinley, a deeply religious man, recounted a vision he had at this time.

“When McKinley emerged from his trance, he found himself believing that the United States could not grant independence to the Philippines because its people were ‘unfit for self-government,’ and that ‘there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” (ibid.)

The following paragraph adds:  “McKinley was deeply religious, and his account of this vision was no doubt sincere.  Nevertheless he must have recognized the happy coincidence: what God wanted him to do would also be popular with voters.  This time, God sounded remarkably like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.”

These paragraphs show just how much American thinking has changed in the last century.   America’s track record in international affairs has been mixed, at best.   The Spanish-American War was won by the US.   World Wars One and Two, were also won, with allies, but there were many problems after the fighting was over.   Wars since World War Two have largely not been won and the country is now caught up in never ending conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.   The resultant turmoil has created an unprecedented refugee problem and untold suffering.

Americans are often woefully ignorant of these wars and the mess that is left behind.   President McKinley did not know where the Philippines and Guam were when he ordered US forces to take both.   Somebody once said that “wars are nature’s way of teaching Americans geography” — there is a great deal of truth to that.

History, too.   A review of a new book on President James Buchanan, who was in office immediately before Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, described him as one of the worst ever leaders of the free world.   This remark fails to appreciate that Americans presidents did not lead the Free World until after World War Two.

“The first time the phrase ‘Leader of the free world’ appeared in The New York Times was in a November 1948 essay by the British economist Barbara Ward, which urged Western unity against the communist threat. With its unchallenged economic might, the United States was ‘potentially the political leader of the free world.’“ (‘What does it mean that Trump is “Leader of the Free World,” by Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 2017.)

Dozens of nations have been truly and deeply thankful for the American umbrella, especially the nuclear umbrella, which protected them from communism during the Cold War.   However, the Cold War ended over a quarter of a century ago.   Now, there are other threats and the US is not doing so well.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961 warned:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

A powerful military-industrial complex will constantly be pushing the country toward war to justify its existence and its cost to the tax-payer.   Each of these wars divides the country as assuredly as the first overseas military adventures in 1898.   The wars in the Islamic world have cost the US billions, in addition to thousands of lives.   The result has been described by historian Geoffrey Wawro (University of North Texas) as “Quicksand,” the title of his 2010 book – the more we struggle to get out, the more we get sucked in!

WILL AMERICAN HEGEMONY BE A CONSTANT?

President Trump has vowed to maintain American hegemony, while at the same time promising to put “America First.”   Ultimately, these two are opposites.   America already suffers from a bad case of “imperial over-reach,” with too many commitments around the globe.  Can the US handle a major conflict on the Korean peninsula, together with unfinished wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Can the US afford another major conflict, with a $20 trillion overdraft?   Will American voters support more wars?   President Trump has added another possible military intervention, saying that the US may have to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

History shows that every great power eventually burns out.  Before the US, the British Empire was the world’s number one superpower. After World War Two, the British had to deal with three major international problems all at the same time – in India, Palestine and Greece.   Imperial over-reach led to a withdrawal from Greece and the US was well on the way to replacing the United Kingdom as the world’s policeman.   Americans should not fall into the trap of thinking the same cannot happen to them.   The country has a bad case of imperial hubris, just as Britain did before the US.

History shows the inevitability of America’s demise.

So does the Bible.

Bible scholars have long known that the US plays no role in the final prophesied events, which center on Europe and the Middle East.

This implies that something big is going to happen to America, which returns the country to its pre-1898 status, isolated from the rest of the world.   However, it won’t be the same as pre-1898 – then, the US was secure in its isolation; now, there’s too much bitterness and resentment around the world toward the United States.   Additionally, the United States is more divided now than it was then.

Daniel 2:21 reminds us 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;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

In the sixth century BC, while living in the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a vision that revealed to him that Babylon would soon fall and be replaced by Persia; in turn, Persia would give way to Greece and Greece to Rome.   This is exactly what happened over the next few centuries.   Each of those superpowers, in turn, thought it was invincible; yet, each one fell.   Both history and the Bible show the inevitability of this continuing.

Already, there are voices declaring the 21st century China’s century, just as the twentieth was America’s and the nineteenth Great Britain’s. Certainly,   China is a rising power.   It’s the main reason North Korea can threaten the US at this time and seemingly get away with it.

But the Bible shows that the final superpower is a power that has not yet formed; that ten nations will come together and threaten the peace and security of the world.

Revelation 17:12-13 says the following:

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.   These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”

The term “for one hour” means that this superpower will not last very long.   America’s supremacy has lasted 70 years, Britain’s was much longer; the next one will be a lot shorter.

Which brings us back to Guam.

When the USS Charleston took possession of Guam en route to the Philippines, America became a major power in Asia.   A successful attack on Guam from North Korea would signal the end of the American Empire.   It happened once before in 1942 when the Japanese took the island, but the US returned after defeating Japan.     A nuclear attack on the island would mean there’s nothing to return to.

It’s likely that something will be worked out and we will return to peace – this time.   But at some point American hegemony will end and it could end on an island thousands of miles away or somewhere closer to home.   It’s worth remembering that the British Empire suffered two major defeats, in Singapore (1942) and Suez (1956).

Stephen Kinzer, who wrote “The True Flag,” has an accompanying article in the latest issue of American History magazine.   He ends with an observation by Mark Twain, who opposed America’s international expansion.

The last two paragraphs make for sobering reading:  “Despondent, Twain wrote a bitter lament. His observations, trenchant then, sound eerily appropriate today.  (italics mine)

“It was impossible to save the Great Republic,”  Twain wrote.  “She was rotten to the heart.   Lust of conquest had long ago done it’s work.   Trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.   The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on, the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose.   There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

(This blog is a fully independent blog that has no connection to any church or secular organization. It was started to keep people informed on international affairs in light of the scriptures.   Financial support comes from myself and readers who generously donate to help cover costs.)

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.