Tag Archives: cold war

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.)

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LESSONS ON WAR

 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED LONE PINE PHOTO                  (306) 683-0889
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
LONE PINE PHOTO (306) 683-0889

“What was the true lesson of the war in Vietnam?   Or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?   No matter how powerful you are, it’s hard to defeat an enemy that cares much more about the outcome than you do.   Don’t escalate the fight with Russia over Ukraine, a nation that will always matter much more to Moscow than to Washington. Instead of boosting Vladimir Putin’s popularity by feeding anti-American fury in his country, let Europe lead.   This is not a new Cold War.   The American people don’t care.   Why continue this fight?

“Independents know the US shouldn’t try to push Israelis and Palestinians toward a peace deal that neither side really wants.  It shouldn’t defend Middle East dictators while claiming to defend freedom and human rights.   Let those most threatened by ISIS, in the Middle East and Europe, take the lead.   Let Germany and Japan finally accept responsibility for their own security.   Accept that decisions made in Beijing, not in Washington, will decide whether China sinks or swims.”

Ian Bremmer, “What does America stand for?”  Time Magazine, June 1st.  (Author of “Superpower:  Three choices for America’s role in the world,” published by Portfolio/Penguin.)

PARISIAN AFTERMATH

hebdo

It really is a dialog of the deaf!

I’ve just been listening to a discussion on the World Service of the BBC.   The program was Newshour, one hour of serious world news, the best available.

The discussion was about the cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo satirical paper.   Only last week ten members of staff, including four cartoonists and the managing editor, were all killed when terrorists invaded their office. Their motive was revenge, to kill those who had insulted the prophet Mohammed by depicting him in their paper.

In defiance, the paper’s staff, now temporarily housed in the offices of Liberation, refusing to be intimidated, have again depicted the prophet on their front page, holding up a sign saying “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie).   Interestingly, not one of the 200 members of staff of Liberation disagreed with the decision to house those from Charlie Hebdo, even though they clearly endanger themselves.

The BBC presenter was interviewing two female journalists, one a practicing Muslim of Algerian origin and the other a journalist with Liberation.

The Muslim explained to the BBC’s worldwide audience how deeply offensive the cartoon is, that it is, in Islam, blasphemy.   The other journalist countered by explaining that France has freedom of speech and that they are expressing their highly valued freedom.

What was particularly interesting to me was the Muslim saying she is deeply committed to freedom of speech but that does not extend to insulting somebody else’s religion.

It reminded me of a segment on the same program two or three years ago following the Arab Spring, a period of time when western countries thought they were witnessing the flowering of western style freedom in the Arab world. The interviewer then was talking to Tunisians who were anticipating democracy in their country.   They were asked a number of questions and gave the same responses as most people in the West would give.

That is, until the interviewer asked if their vision of democracy extended to allowing people to choose their own religion.

That was a definite no-no.   Nobody could ever renounce Islam

A huge gulf separates western thinking, which is based on individual freedom, and Islam, which means “submission.” They are two opposites.

This is not only a dialog of the deaf; it is also a clash of civilizations.

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The clash between these two worlds is going to be the defining conflict of our age, just as the Cold War was for over forty years.

Tom Rogan, a writer for National Review and an expert on Islamic terror groups, said on the latest McLaughlin Group that there are three types of terrorists now operating in the West.

One group is the al-Qaeda operatives, who have been around for about twenty years.

Secondly, we have those returning to the countries of their birth, from Syria and Iraq.   They have been trained for conflict and encouraged to stage terror attacks in their home countries similar to what we saw in Paris last week.   All western countries should expect to see a surge in such attacks in the foreseeable future.

The third group is made up of those influenced by “YouTube.”   These are often the lone wolfs we saw recently in Ottawa, Sydney, and New York. They keep an eye on terrorist websites, which encourage them to stage terror attacks, especially on police, security personnel, and government buildings.

Mr. Rogan predicted that we will see more attacks this year.

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While we are on the subject of terrorism, it should be noted that while the world’s attention was on the 17 deaths in Paris, an estimated 2,000 died in NE Nigeria when Boko Haram attacked a small town. Most of those killed were women, children and the elderly who could not run fast enough to escape from the terrorists.

The BBC has not been able to verify the figure because it is impossible for anybody to get nearer than 200 kilometers to the area. Boko Haram also destroyed the cell phone tower in the town, so that nobody living there has been able to communicate.

People who escaped ran to the nearest big city of Maiduguri. All told the same story of countless numbers of dead within and outside of the town.

A few days later, in the same region of Nigeria, a ten-year old girl, used by Boko Haram as a suicide bomber, blew up a market, killing twenty people.

It’s not surprising that the local archbishop has called on the US and other western countries to intervene to save the people from the Islamic onslaught.

The Nigerian army seems to be doing very little.   Neighboring Cameroon claimed today that is has killed 150 terrorists belonging to the organization.

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FOOTNOTE:   Sky News has just said that 5,000 EU citizens are now fighting in Iraq and Syria with ISIS.   What will they do when they return to their home countries in Europe?

Clearly, President Obama was wrong when he said a few months ago that the War on Terror was over. It seems more likely that it’s just starting.

NATO SUMMIT IN WALES

NATO summit Wales

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO or, in French, OTAN) was formed on the 4th April 1949.  It was said at the time that NATO’s purpose was to “keep the Americans in Europe, the Russians out and the Germans down.”  To the extent that this is true, NATO has been very successful.  The Americans still have a presence in Europe, the Russians have stayed out of NATO member countries, and the Germans work in cooperation with the other member states.

The alliance is now 65 years old. During the Cold War it had 16 member countries; now it has 28.  The greater number came about as the result of the fall of communism.  This, of course, is part of the problem. Russia still has not accepted the fact that many of its former constituent republics don’t want to be associated with their former bosses in Moscow.  This includes Ukraine and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

On the eve of the NATO summit in Newport, Wales, President Obama stopped over in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to reassure the Baltic countries that America will stand by them, if they are attacked by Russia. Reportedly, there has been a great fear that Vladimir Putin will do to them what he has done in Ukraine – invading them and destabilizing them, using their Russian minorities as an excuse.  (Remember, Hitler did the same thing over 75 years ago, invading the Sudetenland to protect the German-speaking minority.)

Today, September 4th, NATO leaders met in Newport to discuss the two great crisis that now confront NATO – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ISIS, or ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (or the Levant, which also includes Lebanon).

NATO was established specifically to protect countries from invasion by the communist Soviet Union.  Communism is now dead in Europe but Russia still poses an enormous threat, specifically to countries that were formerly ruled from Moscow.  Mr. Putin once said that the greatest disaster of the twentieth century was the fall of the USSR.  In his mind, countries like Ukraine and the Baltic nations belong to Russia.  It’s as if Great Britain was still claiming the American colonies or India and felt free to invade them at any time! It should be noted that Russia was an expansionist country long before communism – Catherine the Great first acquired the Crimea in the eighteenth century.

Originally, NATO did not project its military power beyond Europe.  However, in 2001, it first invoked Clause 5, which authorizes all member nations to come to the aid of a country that is attacked.  After 9/11, European countries helped the US, patrolling the skies to protect that country from further attacks.  It’s ironic that the organization that was set up to protect Europeans from Russia was instead used in protecting the US from terrorism.  In the following years, NATO troops were used in Afghanistan.  A coalition of some NATO members were also involved in Iraq.

NATO’s outgoing Secretary-General, the former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, today said that NATO faces three serious threats, to the east, the south-east and the south.  These threats are Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ISIL in Iraq, and Syria and Islamic extremists to the south in countries like Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia.

NATO’s solutions are: the formation of a rapid response force to deal with any Russian aggression and the bombing of ISIL insurgents in Iraq and Syria.  At the time of writing, nothing specific has been decided on the problems to the south.

The rapid response force idea has been suggested before but never got off the ground.  The problem is that it would be a multinational force and requires the cooperation of a number of countries.  In a crisis, it’s highly unlikely that there would be such cooperation.

As it is, NATO really is a 3-tier organization.  The US is the leader and has been the “indispensable nation” when it comes to action; Britain, France and Germany are the second tier, almost always ready to back the US and offer some military support; other member countries are too small to make an impact.  Interestingly, when meeting with the Ukrainian leader at the summit, the leaders of the four nations mentioned sat at a round table with him, while other leaders watched from the sidelines.

A serious military threat to all member countries could change things dramatically.

Such a threat could come from Russia or from ISIL.

The Bible shows a major threat from the Middle East, the south-east the NATO Secretary-General was talking about.  A leader of a powerful Mideast nation to the south of Jerusalem is going to attack a northern power – some, at least, of the NATO members.  This is prophesied in Daniel 11:40-44.  In verse 44, the conflict widens to include nations “from the east and the north,” which could include Russia.

A century ago, the European nations, the Russians and the Ottoman Turks were all involved in the First World War.  One hundred years later, the same disputes continue but manifest themselves differently.  NATO members can talk but there is no prospect of solutions in sight.

ORWELL, “1984” and US POLITICS

George-Orwell-1984

Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” are at their highest in many decades, following revelations of the US government listening in to our phone conversations in true “Big Brother” fashion.

I pity the federal employee who has been assigned my phone number – he must be bored out of his mind.

I was on a train in England sometime ago, with nowhere to go to escape the woman across from me who clearly was not interested in quietly reading like other well-behaved passengers (i.e. myself).  She rather spent the entire two-and-a-half-hour journey calling her friends.  Her inane chatter almost drove me mad!  Whichever government employee keeps tabs on her might want to switch to tracking me – compared to hers, my life is far more interesting!

In the same week as the revelations hit the headlines, I did think of “1984”, one of the best books of the twentieth century, but it was for a completely different reason.  I’m not going to read the book again.  It’s one of the few novels I read twice but I prefer his “Burmese Days” and think that his most famous book “Animal Farm” was the most influential and perceptive book of the century.

However, “1984” has been on my mind.

The reason is the new de facto alliance between the United States and Al-Qaeda.  Remember Al-Qaeda?  Osama bin Laden?  If you remember, they attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and killed about 3,000 Americans.  The attack led to two major wars that killed even more Americans, plus Brits, French, etc. – not forgetting even more domestic casualties (“collateral damage”) in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you can remember even further back (Americans have notoriously short memories!) you will know that we actually armed Al-Qaeda in their war against the Russians (then the Soviet Union) back in the eighties.  At that time, OBL was a “freedom fighter.”  Then he became “Public Enemy #1;” now, of course, he’s dead.

But his organization lives on and is fighting against the Syrian regime of Bashir al-Assad, who is now “International Enemy #1” (unofficial title).  And so are we.  We fervently want to end his dastardly regime and replace it with another dastardly regime!  Because that’s the way it works in that part of the world.

It gets more complex but I will try and simplify it for you.

Assad is an Alawite, a sect of Shia Islam.  OBL and his not-so-friendly bunch of thugs are Sunnis, as are most Muslims.  Assad is supported by Hizbullah, a Shiite terrorist organization in Lebanon that is in conflict with Israel – and Iran, which is ruled by Shiite nutters who don’t like us; or maybe they do, as they haven’t attacked us yet, whereas the Sunnis have!!!

Assad and the others are also supported by the Russians.  Remember them?  They were our enemies for over forty years during the Cold War.  They are still our enemies but everybody is still hoping they return to democracy (return???  They’ve never been a democracy.  Why should we expect them to embrace democracy now, especially when it’s not working any more in the West?).

This is all very reminiscent of “1984.”  If you remember (and I’m going back 40 years here), there were three major powers and two of them were always in alliance against the other one.  The problem was they kept changing sides.  And when they did history had to be rewritten so that the people thought they had always been at war with the present enemy and in alliance with the other.

Sounds awfully like modern international alliances and wars, doesn’t it?

There’s another lesson from Orwell that’s applicable here.  It’s found in “Animal Farm.”

For those unfamiliar with it, the book is a satire on communism.  At the beginning, the animals rebel against Farmer Jones and take over the farm.  The analogy is with Russia (Farmer Jones represents Czarist Russia; the animals the peasants who took over with the Bolshevik Revolution.)   In time, the pigs start to resemble the Czar.  In the final scene, when the animals look through the farm window, they see the pigs sitting at the table smoking cigars and drinking whisky.

In other words, revolutionary rulers end up being just like those they overthrew.

In the same way, when it comes to the Middle East, successive US Administrations looks like the last presidency and the one before that and the one before that . . .

Nothing changes and nothing is accomplished.

But they keep on having to take sides in every dispute and sometimes going to war.

And all for what?