Tag Archives: Chamberlain

FAMILY REUNIONS

We had all nine grandchildren in the house last week, Monday through Friday.   Hence, the lack of a blog post a week ago.   Visits to the grocery store were frequent, as was taking them places.   There was no time to write, or even watch the news.

After our mini-family reunion, I really hope they will want to see each other after my wife and I are no longer around to host the gathering.   I’m sure they will!

I was struck (again) by how much louder the five younger ones, all boys, were, than their four older female sisters and cousins.   Noise, noise, noise!   Can’t boys do anything quietly?   Clearly not.

I found myself walking through the daily debris silently reminding myself that “children are a blessing!”  They certainly are and I’m already looking forward to when we can all be together again.

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THEN AND NOW

When everybody was gone, I started reading Boris Johnson’s “The Churchill Factor:   How one man made history.”

You may have heard of Boris Johnson.   He’s sometimes been described as “Britain’s Donald Trump.”   On his recent visit to England, Trump expressed the opinion that Boris would make “a great prime minister.”   A poll earlier this week showed him to be the favorite to succeed Theresa May.   Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have known each other for some time and are good friends.

Boris served two terms as a very successful Mayor of London.   More recently, he was Britain’s Foreign Secretary, the equivalent of Secretary of State.

He resigned a few weeks ago over Brexit.   His objection, supported by many, is that Mrs. May, the Prime Minister, seems to want to compromise with the European Union.   This would not deliver the Brexit (total independence) from the EU that was promised after the referendum over two years ago.   There is still no agreement between the UK and the EU over future trade.   Boris Johnson’s point is that the United Kingdom doesn’t need one – that new trade deals can be signed after breaking away from Brussels.   Have faith – it will all work out.

I must admit to sympathy with his stance.   Get out quick.   Don’t hesitate.

His book on Churchill was written a few years ago and published in 2014.   I’m now reading chapter 17 (there are 23 chapters).   The chapter is titled “The Wooing of America” and details Churchill’s relationship with Franklin Roosevelt.   His single-minded mission was to bring the United States into the war against Hitler.   At their first wartime meeting, the two leaders were concerned that Hitler had recently invaded Russia.   But Churchill knew that after Russia, he would come after Britain; and that if Britain fell and Hitler sank the Royal Navy, America would be next.   The whole world would very quickly descend into the barbarism of fascism.

A lot was at stake when they met in Newfoundland on August 10th, 1941.   This was the handshake that was to change the history of the twentieth century.

“As he stretches out that elegant white hand he knows he is reaching for his only lifeline; and yet there is nothing about him to convey the gloom of his position.   On the contrary, his face is suddenly wreathed in smiles, babyish, irresistible.

“Roosevelt smiles back; they grip hands, for ages, each reluctant to be the first to let go, and for the next two days Churchill maintains his schmoozathon.   We don’t know exactly what they say to each other at the first such Atlantic conference — the direct ancestor of NATO; but we know that Churchill lays it on thick.   His mission is to build up a sense of common destiny; to work with the grain of Roosevelt’s natural instincts, and to turn the USA from distant sympathizers into full-blown allies in bloodshed.” (page 235)

This was a family reunion, only the second time a President of the United States had shaken the hand of a British prime minister in office.   160 years after Yorktown.   160 years after the United States had separated itself from the rest of the English speaking world.   Now the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon world (the two sons of Joseph) were to be united in a common purpose.  They met in Canada, the oldest Dominion of the  British Empire, a nation founded by Loyalists at the end of the Revolutionary War.  The alliance that was forming  has remained the foundation of global peace and order for 77 years.

As I read Johnson’s book, I could see parallels with today.   There’s no fighting this time (not yet, anyway), but once again Britain is trying to free itself from European despotism, as it has so often in history.   There are those, like the current prime minister, who want to compromise; but others, like Boris Johnson, who are in a Churchillian mood, wanting to raise two fingers to the German-dominated EU (the two fingers were “V for Victory” in WWII, but, reversed, they have another meaning in England, which you will have to Google!)

History may repeat itself.

Confidence in Mrs. May is waning.  The Opposition Labour Party is scandalizing Britain with its anti-semitism.   The smaller parties are not credible.   An internal coup in the Conservative Party could replace Mrs. May with Boris Johnson, just as Chamberlain was replaced with Winston Churchill.

There’s another analogy.

Mr. Trump repeated a commitment to Mrs. May that the US will offer a free trade deal to the United Kingdom when Britain leaves the EU.   (EU rules mean that no deal can be signed until D-Day on 29th March next year; D for Departure!)    American farmers, losing markets in the current trade dispute with the EU, will benefit from a new trade deal with the UK; Britain will benefit with plentiful supplies of cheap food.

Once again, the New World may come to the aid of the Old.

Once again, a family reunion could make a big difference in the world.

There’s another lesson from Churchill’s meeting with FDR.   After the historic meeting of president and prime minister, there was a “divine service” on the Sunday morning.   Sailors of the two nations sang hymns together – “chosen by Churchill – that express that single heritage:   two broadly Protestant nations bound together against a vile and above all a pagan regime.”   (pages 235-6)

This was just a few weeks after the National Day of Prayer called by King George VI during Dunkirk.

At such a critical time, today’s leaders should follow the example of their predecessors and ask God for divine help through a very challenging time.

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BEWARE OF CHINESE TIES

Britain is keen for a sweet deal with China after Brexit – but watch out for Beijing’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’, says Michael Auslin.   For decades we’ve heard dire warnings about China’s growing military power, but these doom-mongers have missed the point.   China isn’t on the war path.   Where old empires would start by invading, it starts by trading.   Only when an economy has become dependent on trade does Beijing begin to demand more, with the aim of creating an ever-expanding ‘Greater China’ in its near abroad.   (Freddy Gray, The Spectator, 8/2)

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FARMERS IN CRISIS

There’s increasing talk of land redistribution in South Africa, the wealthiest nation on the African continent.   It’s been almost a quarter of a century since the end of apartheid, a period in which few black South Africans have seen any benefits.   A wealthy elite has been created through corruption at the highest level, but little has been done to help the average person.

Neighboring Zimbabwe confiscated land from white farmers at the turn of this century.   The result was mass starvation, the collapse of the currency and economic chaos.

The European farmers who colonized southern Africa in the nineteenth century brought a great deal of development to the region.   Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was the ‘breadbasket of Africa;” now, after almost forty years of independence, it’s the “basket case of Africa.”   The white farmers who once dominated Rhodesia were “commercial farmers,” similar to their American and Canadian counter-parts. African farmers are “subsistence” farmers, who just grow enough food for their own families.   This is a major cultural difference the world does not understand.   Confiscating white farmland can only have one consequence – a dramatic drop in food production (Zimbabwe saw a 90% drop, with a consequent famine).

Farmers in South Africa are being murdered at an alarming rate.   Many have chosen to leave the country.   Western Australia is one area that is attracting them.   Other parts of Africa are offering the farmers 99-year leases to boost their own agricultural production. Even Russia is encouraging them to relocate.

Other farmers from Europe moved to North America, Australia and New Zealand in the nineteenth century.   These commercial farmers produce a disproportionate percentage of the world’s food.   Higher tariffs on agricultural produce could affect this, along with changes in the weather and massive fires that seem to be a permanent fixture of our landscape.   All of these threaten today’s farmers.

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AFRICAN ELECTION

Zimbabwe’s woes never seem to end.   The “first free election” held at the weekend, has been followed by riots and violence as the losing party claims to have won.   It’s not possible to determine who really won, but after 38 years, ZANU-PF is still in power.   Most people will not be surprised.

Prior to Zimbabwe, Rhodesia had elections for decades without any violence.   Zimbabwe has not been able to achieve that.   As is the case elsewhere in Africa, tribalism and corruption have led to democracy being compromised.   Zimbabwe’s first leader, Robert Mugabe, was in power for almost 38 years, leading a very corrupt regime.

It’s doubtful there will be any significant change.

 

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GOVERNMENTS IN CRISIS

First came Brexit; followed by Donald Trump four months later.

Both showed that voters wanted significant change.   Both are considered populist.   Two years later, Britain and America, once the most stable nations in the world, are now in turmoil.   Their friends and allies are in confusion.

Mrs. May’s Conservative government could fall at any time.   She survived this week and things are likely to quiet down with the summer recess, but with only a few months until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, there’s going to be more turmoil ahead.

There is little reporting on Brexit in the United States.   Americans don’t realize how important it is.   The best analogy is this:  California has voted to leave the United States, effective March 29th 2019.  The vote was over two years ago, but there’s still no agreement on trade between California and the other 49 states and time is running out.   What about passports?   Residence rights – can Californians remain in the other states after 3/29?   Can people from Michigan remain in California if they own a home and work there?

It’s almost unthinkable.   So is Brexit, except that it’s less than fifty years since the UK was a fully independent country outside of the EU (then the EEC, the European Economic Community).

It gets more complicated.

BREXIT VOTE

The referendum of June 2016 was a free vote.   Many Conservative MPs (Members of Parliament) voted to “Leave,” but many voted to “Remain.”   Members of the other political parties mostly voted to “Remain” in the EU.

73% of all MP’s support continued membership of the EU, including 56% of Conservatives.   But they are bound by the referendum result when 51.9% of the electorate voted to Leave, 48.1% Remain. Voter turnout was 72.21%, meaning that just over one third of British voters wanted to stay in the EU.   Parliament is clearly not in step with the people.   British democracy is at risk here.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister who presided over the vote, resigned.   He voted to “Remain;” as did Theresa May, his successor, who is now trying to deliver Brexit.   Although she is committed to honoring the will of the people and intends for Britain to leave Europe, she is clearly “hugging the coast” and wants as close a relationship as possible.   She made things more difficult for herself last year when she called for a General Election, resulting in a minority government, which is propped up by a party from Northern Ireland.

On Friday, 6th July, the Cabinet met at the Prime Minister’s country home of Chequers to discuss the way forward.   They drew up plans for further negotiations with the EU.    Since then, a number of party leaders have resigned, including the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and the chief Brexit negotiator, David Davis.   Both men accused Mrs. May of wanting a compromise.   Mrs May has had twelve frontbenchers  resign since the election last year.

Visiting US President Donald Trump was in the UK a week later and got involved by stating that if the UK does not break away from Europe completely, the US may not be able to give the country a trade deal.   If Britain were bound in some way to EU trade regulations, it would complicate a trade deal with America.   Mr. Trump also said that he thought that Mr. Johnson, a close personal friend, would make a great prime minister.

Boris Johnson gave a Churchillian speech in parliament on Wednesday on why he resigned, criticizing Mrs. May and claiming that Brexit can be saved.   Mr. Johnson has made a point of saying that the British have lost the confidence needed to go it alone.   He claims that May’s proposals would lead to Britain becoming a “colony” of the German led EU.   A poll yesterday by “Westmonster” showed that, given a choice between Johnson or May, 93% of voters would support Mr. Johnson.   (“Westmonster” is similar to Breitbart.)

It’s reminiscent of the late 1930’s, with a weak, compromising Prime Minister (Chamberlain / May) and one voice defying Europe (Winston Churchill/ Boris Johnson).   Churchill is Mr. Johnson’s hero – he wrote a book on him a few years ago:  “The Churchill Factor: How one man made history.”   He may yet succeed May and lead Britain to a full Brexit.

US PRESIDENT TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

Mr. Trump was criticized for getting involved in British domestic affairs.  In an interview after his visit to the UK, he was asked who is America’s biggest “foe.”   He replied that the EU is the biggest foe of the US at this time.

This followed his attendance in Brussels at the NATO conference, at which he threatened to pull America out of NATO if European countries do not contribute more to the military organization.

Not all EU countries are members of NATO.   The EU is a major trading organization, whereas NATO is a military alliance.   Within the space of a few days, Mr. Trump criticized the two organizations that have been pillars of the Western Alliance for many decades.   An immediate consequence was the EU signing a trade agreement with Japan.   The EU is already China’s largest trading partner, and China is the EU’s second largest trade partner after the US.   The EU, China and Japan are busy building closer ties as the US turns away.

Mr. Trump ended his European trip with a visit to Helsinki to meet with Russia’s President Putin.   This was the most shocking meeting of all with the US president seeming to support Mr. Putin against his own intelligence services, Putin denying that Russia interfered in the US election.   Mr. Trump has backtracked on his claim, now supporting his intelligence services; but has followed all this by inviting Putin to Washington in the autumn.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the President of the United States, in just a few days, turned the world upside down.

The late Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, wrote a memoir of his years in the diplomatic service after World War II when America built the present world order.   He gave the book the title:   “Present at the Creation”, published in 1969.   It would be appropriate now for somebody involved in current events, to write a sequel:   “Present at the Destruction.”

The seventy-year global world order put together mostly by America and Britain is ending.   It may take a year or two to see clearly what will replace it.

 

 

IMMINENT MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA

“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1) 

By an amazing coincidence, I have been reading a book on “Munich” while the current crisis in Syria has been building up.

At Munich in 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met to discuss Hitler’s claims on German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.   Chamberlain famously gave in to his demands. The former British PM described Nazi Germany’s annexation of the area of German-speaking Czechoslovakia in 1938 as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing.”

Similar words could be spoken today about Syria.

At the time of writing this article, President Trump is deciding on how to react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. If the US does nothing, nobody else will.   In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, as British Prime Minister, was the leader of the western world; today it’s President Trump.   Less than a year after Chamberlain’s famous appeasement toward Hitler, Britain and Germany were at war.   It had become all too clear, even to Chamberlain, that Hitler was intent on global conquest.

There’s been plenty of evidence that Russia has similar territorial designs.   The Russians took control of part of Georgia a few years ago; this was followed by the conquest of Crimea and of eastern Ukraine.   Domination of Syria makes them the most powerful voice in the Middle East.  This role is growing – last month, Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Ankara.  These three are now in a de facto alliance while Turkey remains officially in NATO.

Geoffrey Wawro, a professor at the University of North Texas, wrote a book called “Quicksand” (2010), on “America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East.”   Reviewer Rick Atkinson sums the book up well, writing that Wawro reveals “how an extraordinary tale of idealism, politics, force and miscalculation began and unfolded over the last century.”

The more the US got involved, the more the US was sucked in; hence the title “Quicksand.”   Why should we expect any other outcome following action in Syria?   Could US intervention lead to war with Russia?

“There was no reason for war in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Bosnia.   As AJP Taylor said of 1914:   “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war.   Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons.   The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”   I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready, Russia” tweet.” (“Look at Syria and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars,” Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, April 12th.)

A miscalculation now could be fatal for the US, Russia and Syria.

SYRIAN COMPLEXITIES

Syria is a perfect illustration of the complexity of modern warfare and the geopolitics that complicate everything.

Syria was established after World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.   After “the war to end all wars,” the Treaty of Paris carved out a number of new countries from the ruins of the Turkish ruled empire.   The treaty was aptly described as “the peace to end all peace” by a British general who saw a future of never-ending conflict in the region.   A century later nothing has improved.

Before World War One, Mesopotamia was a sleepy backwater of no interest to anyone.   The same could be said of Syria.   Bible students know that this had to change to fulfill apocalyptic prophecies about Israel (the Jews) and its neighbors.   The prophesied Jewish national homeland was established exactly seventy years ago, in May 1948.

Syria was a Mandated territory of the League of Nations.   France was given the mandate; Britain was given Iraq and Jordan to administer, again under a Mandate from the League.   Palestine was also a League of Nations mandated territory, given to the British.

After World War Two, the French left Syria.   It soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.   From 1970 Syria has been the home of a Russian naval base, the only one Russia has on the Mediterranean. The Russians are not going to give it up.   And they will support President Assad as long as it is in their interest to do so.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped Russia to gain further influence in the region.   By removing Saddam Hussein from power and arranging an election in Iraq, the majority Shi’ites came to power, altering the balance of religious and political power in the Middle East.   Iran is the leading nation of Shia Islam.   An arc of Shia Islam now exists, from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, roughly the same territory of the ancient biblical King of the North. Russia is heavily involved with the Iranians and Syria.   Turkey is now also with them, wanting to stop its Kurdish minority from breaking away.   The Turks are not Arabs, so this does not present a conflict for them.

Syria is not majority Shia.   Assad’s support comes mostly from his Alawite clan, a branch of Shia Islam, which amounts to only 11% of the population.   The Sunnis do not want to be ruled by Assad. Neither do the Sunnis in Iraq want a Shia government over them.  This is why ISIS formed, to “protect” Sunnis from Shi’ites.

It’s all very complicated.

No wonder the president is taking his time.

If he does nothing, he will be seen as weak against Syria and the Russians.  If he does something, innocent lives will be lost, but Assad will remain in power and Russia will continue as its benefactor.

A further complication came today when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Moscow has “evidence” the video of the gas attack was performed by actors.   How does the West prove the film was real?

It seems like a no-win situation for the United States.

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European Immigration:   Nuns Out, Terrorists In                                                          by Douglas Murray, April 13, 2018 (Gatestone Institute)

  • When the same Home Office that forbade Sister Ban even to enter the country discovered that the young male Iraqi was in Britain, he explained clearly that he had been trained by ISIS.  He told the Home Office officials that the group had trained him to kill.   The Home Office promptly found him a place to live and study, and treated him as the minor he said he was but most likely was not.   He subsequently told a teacher that he had “a duty to hate Britain.”
  • Last year the Institute of St. Anselm (a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns, based in Kent) closed its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students.   One nun last year was apparently denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account.
  • So, those who flee ISIS are turned away, while those who are trained by ISIS are welcome.