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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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?