Tag Archives: Mediterranean

ISRAEL ATTACKS SYRIAN AND IRANIAN TARGETS

Syria’s state media released images of what they say are destroyed houses near Damascus (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel says it has hit dozens of targets in Syria belonging to the government and allied Iranian forces.

The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel.   Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles over Damascus.  Other reports say the death toll was higher.   Local reports said loud explosions were heard in the capital.   Pictures on social media showed a number of fires.

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“It’s easy to go about our lives and forget that in places like Nigeria, Iran and North Korea being a Christian can often lead to death.” — Vernon Brewer, founder and CEO of World Help, Fox News, November 4, 2019

“4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons.  On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.” — Open Doors, World Watch List 2019

More than 245 million Christians around the world are currently suffering from persecution. — Open Doors, World Watch List, 2019 (Gatestone 11/15/2019)

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CHANGES AHEAD IF CORBYN WINS

The United Kingdom has a general election on December 12th.  It is considered the most important election in 80 years.  It will determine the issue of Brexit, the future direction of the British economy and even of the United Kingdom itself.

  • “By far the most likely casualty of a Corbyn government would be the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, where there is a strong likelihood that other member states of the alliance will be deeply reluctant to share highly sensitive material with a British prime minister who has spent his entire political career openly associating with regimes and groups that are utterly hostile to the West and its allies.
  • At the heart of his hard Left approach to foreign policy lies a deep hatred for the US and its role in safeguarding the interests of the Western democracies.
  • Thus Mr. Corbyn’s instinct is to be more sympathetic to the views of Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Assad regime in Syria than Britain’s long-standing allies in Washington and Europe.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 11/16/2019)

JEREMY CORBYN’S BIG NEGATIVE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

“A Corbyn-led government would quickly lead to the biggest change in Britain’s defense posture since the second world war.   Even if the country stayed in NATO, as is likely, it would be a passive member, reluctant to push back against Russian expansionism and hostile to the idea of a nuclear deterrent.   Given that NATO depends on confidence that it means what it says, this would be a severe blow to its credibility.   Britain’s Middle East policy would be revolutionized, with a more hostile stance toward Israel and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and a friendlier one to Iran.   America would almost certainly stop sharing critical intelligence with Downing Street, for fears that such secrets would find their way into Russian or Iranian hands.   Given Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, that would harm Europe’s ability to combat hostile states and non-state actors.

“Such a revolution would come at a sensitive time.   Mr. Trump is already disrupting established security relations (for all their differences, he and Mr. Corbyn share a common hostility to the multinational institutions that have kept the peace since 1945).   Brexit is straining relations with Britain’s European allies, while gobbling up the political class’s available bandwidth.  The Foreign Office is demoralized by decades of cuts, and the security establishment is still tainted by the weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco.

All this is taking place at a time when Mr. Putin is on the march and Islamic State is shifting its focus from state-building to global terror. A Dangerous world may be about to become more dangerous.” (“Security questions,” Bagehot, The Economist, 11/9,2019).

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MACRON ON RUSSIA

“. . . consider Mr. Macron’s Russia policy.   He has long argued that rogue powers are more dangerous when isolated.   To this end, he has hosted Vladimir Putin at both Versailles, near Paris, and Bregancon, on the Mediterranean.   But his call for a “rapprochement” with Russia, in order to keep it out of China’s arms, has alarmed Poland and the Baltics.   “My idea is not in the least naïve,” argues Mr. Macron.   He insists that any movement would be conditional on respect for the Minsk peace accords in Ukraine.   He has not called for sanctions to be lifted.   And he sees this as a long-term strategy, that “might take ten years.”   Mr. Macron’s belief is that, eventually, Europe will need to try to find common ground with its near neighbor.   Not doing so would be a “huge mistake”.” (Briefing, The Economist, 11/9/2019)

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WHO WILL PAY FOR ENDLESS WARS?

“Future generations will pay for them:   the wars have been funded by debt.   Most Americans have had little reason to think their country is even at war.    And lucky them because war is hell.   But this disconnect helps explain why the country’s civil-military relations are as distant as they are.   It also helps explain how America came to be locked in such long and largely unproductive conflicts in the first place.   Its voters started to reckon with the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam War – then demand accountability for it – only after they felt its sting.   By contrast Donald Trump, who almost alone among national politicians decries the latest conflicts, has struggled to interest voters in them – or indeed end them.

“Though mostly wrong on the details, the president raises an important question of the long wars.   What have they achieved?” (Lexington, The Economist, 11/9/2019).

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TEMPLE MOUNT NO LONGER

154 UN nations call Temple Mount solely by Muslim name Haram al-Sharif  – EU approves text, but warns it may not do so in the future by Tovah Lazaroff, November 17, 2019

The UN gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif.

The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York 154-8, with 14 abstentions and 17 absences.   It was one of eight pro-Palestinian resolutions approved on Friday, out of a slate of more than 15 such texts the committee is expected to approve.   The UN General Assembly will take a final vote on the texts in December.

. . . Acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Cherith Norman Chalet told the Fourth Committee it opposed the “annual submission of more than a dozen resolutions biased against Israel.

. . .  “As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable,” Chalet continued.  “We see resolutions that are quick to condemn all manner of Israeli actions, but say nothing or almost nothing about terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.   And so the United States will once again vote against these one-sided resolutions and encourages other nations to do so.”
(https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/154-UN-nations-call-Temple-Mount-solely-by-Muslim-name-Haram-al-Sharif-608135)

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GERMAN MILITIAS

Right-wing militia groups say they patrol where police turn a blind eye.  But with criminality dropping and more police than ever in Germany,  analysts and politicians say their motives are more sinister.         Deutsche Welle, 18/11/2019 

Sebastian Niedrich is one of about 20 militiamen in Berlin with a “citizen patrol” initiative.   In groups of two or three, the red-vested men patrol neighborhoods in Berlin they claim are areas where petty crime is rife.   Their initiative is called “Establish Protection Zones” (“Schafft Schutzzone”).   It is abbreviated as “SS,” which in Germany immediately brings to mind the notorious Nazi-era “SS” – the paramilitary “Protection Squadron” that persecuted millions and was directly responsible for genocide.   Niedrich rejects any such connection.   Right-wing extremist initiative:   The “Establish Protection Zones” initiative, an offshoot of Germany’s extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD), says the areas it patrols are often popular tourist areas, as well as those with growing immigrant communities.

The first subheading of the NPD’s party platform in Berlin reads “The Problem of Foreigners” and lays out ways to close Germany’s borders, bar immigrants from receiving jobs and social benefits, and preserve Germany’s national identity.   The party’s website also prominently displays images of its logo-wearing patrols, superimposed with slogans like “Protect Germans!” and “Germans helping Germans!”   Multiple attempts to disband or ban the party entirely have failed in courts.   The extreme-right NPD in western Germany, has made it their task to protest against Islam.   A study on German society’s biggest fears released earlier this year by the Berlin Social Science Center showed that one in three respondents feared “foreign infiltration” on account of too many immigrants. Over half feared criminality.

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GERMANY-TAIPEI LINKS

German politician urges military links with Taipei                             Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2019

Germany and Taiwan should conduct military exchanges, which would be more meaningful than exchanges with China, German lawmaker Ulrich Lechte, a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday.   “The free world should stand together,” the Free Democratic Party lawmaker wrote on Facebook.  The Taipei Representative Office in Germany’s Munich office shared Lechte’s post on its Facebook page, and thanked him for his continuing support of Taiwan.   The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that 62 nations, including China, are to receive training from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military.

Amnesty International arms and human rights expert Mathias John criticized the plans to train Chinese soldiers, telling the paper that doing so was “incomprehensible” given China’s “human rights situation and the role the Chinese People’s Liberation Army plays” in human rights violations in China.   John also brought up the protests in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong police’s response to them.  Germany should “send a clear message and immediately cease all military cooperation with China,” he said.   A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense told the paper that Chinese soldiers regularly participate in educational events organized by the German military, including international officer courses, as well as officer training courses offered at military schools, universities and military leadership academies.   The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday reported that the German government is planning to send warships into the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait as a way of “refuting Chinese territorial claims” in those areas (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/11/19/2003726106)

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ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON and THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

 214 Years Ago

The Battle of Trafalgar, fought 21 October 1805, was one of the most important and decisive Naval engagements of all time, decisively establishing the supremacy of the Royal Navy on the high seas.   Rather than a conventional engagement between lines of battle with gunnery duels, the English made a bold attack that allowed them to gain local superiority over the enemy and raked their ships with devastating broadsides.   The Franco-Spanish fleet was decisively defeated and British supremacy on the high seas was decisively established for the rest of the 19th century.   Lord Nelson’s defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar allowed British trade to flourish around the world, laying the foundations for Britain’s emergence as an economic superpower.   It also made possible the Greatest Century of Missions, as Protestant missionaries were able to sail to every corner of the world.   The Royal Navy’s domination of the high seas brought an end to the slave trade in the 19th Century.   (Reformation SA, 2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • The Chinese Ambassador to the UK has accused both the UK and the US of interfering in Chinese domestic affairs.   He is referring to British and American support for student protesters in Hong Kong.   He has a point. Democracy isn’t working too well right now in the US or the UK.   Perhaps we should shut up until things calm down at home!
  • “The escalation of the unrest in Hong Kong coincides with recent mass protests around the world.   These protests – in Bolivia, Iran and elsewhere – are not connected.   However, they are loosely linked thematically in that they concern inequality, political freedoms, corruption and climate change.”  (“Protests catch fire,” USA Today, 11/19/2019)
  • Prince Andrew’s BBC interview in which he denies having had a relationship with a 17- year-old girl, courtesy of Jeffrey Epstein, has failed to convince many.   Members of the royal family rarely give interviews.   It’s difficult to remember one, which was advantageous to the royals.   Perhaps they just haven’t had as much practice at lying as politicians!  (Prince Andrew has since withdrawn from public duties, “for the foreseeable future”.)
  • A 55-year-old man in China’s Inner Mongolia region has been diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit, the third recorded case of the deadly disease in the country.
  • A famous person I’ve never heard of is complaining about the patriotic song “Rule Britannia,” which dates back to the days when the British Royal Navy governed the world.   Is she objecting to the fact that the royal navy did more than any other institution to end the slave trade?   From 1810 to 1860 the West Africa Squadron freed 250,000 slaves. (see article above on Horatio Nelson; last sentence) “Slavery was a fact of life in the sixteenth century.   The African slave trade was already the largest form of commerce in the world.   No one had the least qualms about it, least of all Africa’s own tribal rulers.” (“To Rule the Waves,” page 2, Arthur Herman, 2004)
  • “The global debt ballooned to a record high of more than $250 trillion and shows no sign of slowing down, according to a new report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).   . . . Extended low interest rates and easy money has facilitated the accumulation of a bone crushing amount of debt over the last decade or so,” Dylan Riddle, a spokesperson for the IIF told ABC News in a statement.   “This debt has helped fuel global growth, however, we must focus on managing the current debt load, and deploying resources for more productive means — like fighting climate change or investing in growth.”  (ABC News)

COULD SEVENTY BE “IT” FOR THE US?

flags-collage-of-three-flags-flags-of-eu-uk-and-usa-together

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE POPE AND THE PRESIDENT

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama's first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama’s first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.

The Founding Fathers of the United States could not have imagined such a scene ever taking place in this country.

The scene was played out this morning on the White House lawn. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, together with a US president of African heritage with a Muslim father and other definite Muslim connections.

Whereas the US was 98% Protestant at its founding, today there are arguably only two faiths that matter – Catholicism and Islam.

Certainly, these are the only two that dominate news headlines.

Just a few days ago, the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked a question by a man who believed that President Obama is a Muslim.   Because he did not correct the man, it is assumed he believes the same way and he has been greatly criticized for it.   Of course, if there’s nothing wrong with Islam, why should anybody get upset if described as being Muslim!

A day or two later, Ben Carson, another Republican candidate, a quiet, reserved and respectful man who is a double minority, both black and a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, was asked what he thought of having a Muslim president.   He was not in favor of it and has since been accused of racism!

Fifty years ago, when Senator Edward Kennedy sponsored the bill, which became the new immigration law, he said Americans would not see any noticeable change in the fabric of the country.   Here we are five decades later in a very different religious landscape thanks to that immigration act.

It doesn’t take a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson for Islam to make the news every day.   Migrants moving into Europe from the Middle East and Africa underline the dysfunctionality of Islamic countries, racked with ethnic, ideological and religious strife.   Under international law, when people flee one country they should register for refugee status in the first country they come to; but international laws are being broken every day as people push their way through borders and barriers toward their number one goal, Germany or Sweden.   None seems to want to go to any oil rich Arab country, which speaks the same language.   One migrant made it clear when he said: “Europeans have more compassion!”

That compassion stems from Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant.   For centuries, monks and nuns provided the only hospital care available for travelers and locals alike.   They also provided food and drink to the poor.

Yes, Christianity and Islam are very different.   Only the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, seems to be pointing that out, saying his country does not want the migrants.   Hungary suffered for almost two centuries under Islamic rule, so it’s not surprising that they don’t want Muslims back.  Mr. Orban has said that the massive movement of migrants into the country threatens the nation’s Christian heritage.   For this realistic comment, he is being condemned by the emotional majority more influenced by television images of people pushing further into Europe.

It is doubtful the enthusiasm for Muslim immigrants will last long. Then what?

Catholicism and Islam have clashed repeatedly throughout history – and could do so again.   People in the West have largely forgotten this past history or don’t care.   But that’s not the case in the Islamic world where the term “crusaders” is often used to describe westerners, a reference to the Crusades between Catholic Europe and the forces of Islam that began in 1095 and lasted for two centuries.

There were other less famous clashes between the two.   In the eighth century Muslims invaded Spain and France, until they were defeated in 732 by Charles Martel. His grandson Charlemagne was still fighting the North African invaders decades later.   After the Crusades ended, there were other clashes as the Ottoman Turks advanced westward, conquering islands in the Mediterranean and moving fairly rapidly into the heart of Europe.

The historic rivalry between Rome and the Islamic world will likely be a part of the prophesied clash between the King of the North and King of the South in the last verses of the Book of Daniel, chapter 11.   Earlier this year the leaders of ISIS threatened to invade Rome and kill the pope.

Islam has certainly succeeded in dividing the West in the early years of this century, as both Americans and Europeans hold different opinions on how best to deal with the migrant crisis.   Some are fearful about security while others just want to help, not realizing there are a number of rich Arab countries, which could take the Syrians in.   Not all the migrants are Syrians – a British newspaper revealed last Saturday that only 1 in 5 migrants is a Syrian refugee.   The others are economic migrants and could be sent home under international law.

Is this the end of western civilization, as Mr. Orban fears?   That’s not likely.   What is more likely is that westerners will change their thinking when they experience the reality of greater numbers of Muslims.   Anti-immigrant parties are likely to come to power, promising to do something to restore their countries to what they were.

Islam means “submission,”   In spite of denials by national news presenters, this makes the religion incompatible with the US Constitution, which is based on freedom.   And just as Islam is incompatible with freedom, so is Roman Catholicism, a religion that dominated Western Europe for over a thousand years, until the Protestant Reformation introduced an element of religious freedom.   It was English Protestants who founded James Town and Protestants of mostly British descent who founded the United States.   Today’s Protestants seem to have very little influence in the country, a fact that increasingly threatens religious freedom.

What we saw today on the White House lawn was, in a sense, a profile of three religions – Catholicism, represented by the Pope; Islam, represented by the American son of a Muslim Kenyan father; and Protestantism, represented by the White House itself, the US Constitution, and the soldiers in early American uniforms.

The first two are on the rise – the Church of Rome and Islam!

SINGAPORE LOSES ITS FOUNDING FATHER

Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore is one of the greatest success stories of the modern world.

The modern history of the country started in 1819, just under 200 years ago.  The British were looking for a strategic location to base their growing merchant and naval fleets and to thwart Dutch regional influence.

The then Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolan in Sumatra, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, landed in Singapore after surveying neighboring islands.   A colony was soon founded with a population of only 150. Today, the population is almost 5.5 million.   Singapore’s success was based on free trade, which made it a vibrant commercial center, attracting merchants from all over Asia, the Middle East and the United States, as well as Great Britain, which dominated the globe in the nineteenth century.

The port city saw its greatest period of growth after the British opened the Suez Canal in 1869.   Control of vital sea-gates around the globe contributed to the dominance of the British Empire.   It was possible for British vessels to sail from England to Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, before continuing their journey through the Suez Canal and Aden, then on to points east, including Singapore.   The naval base at Singapore enabled the British to dominate the Far East and Australasia.   Singapore was a vital sea-gate, one of the arteries of empire.   Many believe this fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis 22:17 that Abraham’s descendants would “possess the gates of their enemies.”

Everything went well until the Japanese attacked the city the day after Pearl Harbor.   Once regarded as an impregnable fortress, the city surrendered on 15th March, 1942.   It remained under Japanese occupation for three-and-a-half-years.   Looking back, it was a major turning point in the decline and fall of the British Empire, perhaps the biggest single turning point.   It showed that the seemingly invincible British, a white race that ruled the greatest empire in history, could be defeated by a non-white peoples considered backward and inferior.

After the defeat of Japan, the British returned, but it was impossible to return to the pre-war order.   New political parties were formed that campaigned for independence.

In 1963, the people of Singapore voted to join the new Malaysian Federation, which the British had created six years earlier.   Only two years later, Singapore, an island of mostly Chinese immigrants, had to leave the Moslem dominated federation and go it alone.

In 1965, at the time of independence, the total Gross National Product of Singapore was only $1 billion.   Fifty years later, it’s $300 billion.   Per capita income has grown from less than $500 per year to well over $55,000, second only to Japan in East Asia.   The island state has been transformed in fifty years from a Third World outpost to a thriving city-state that belongs proudly to the First World of wealthy, affluent countries.

This achievement was the work of one man, Lee Kuan Yew, the longest serving prime minister in the world (from 1959 to 1990). Singapore’s former prime minister died at the weekend.   The man who cried when the federation broke up and Singapore had to go it alone, had a clear vision of what was needed – a free enterprise system which would become a regional financial center.   This does not mean that government was not involved.   He was mildly authoritarian, with restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.   He also oversaw massive public housing projects, which contributed to a rising standard of living for the people. The US could learn from its medical system.

He leaves behind a wealthy, efficient and honest administration – one of the modern world’s greatest success stories.   Other developing nations, struggling to survive in the contemporary world, could learn a great deal from Singapore and the man who built its modern economy.

Singapore is also symbolic of Asia’s growing might, accompanied by the decline of its former imperial master Great Britain, and the West in general.

The world has changed a great deal in the fifty years since Singapore became an independent republic.   It’s experience should give many nations pause for thought and reflection.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS DESK

syriza

Syriza was described on the BBC World Service this morning as a “very left-wing party.”   It looks as if it will come to power in Greece this Sunday, January 25th.

The big issue, as is common in western democracies, is the economy.   In the case of Greece, this means austerity, which, in turn, means the euro.

In May, 2010, faced with imminent national bankruptcy, the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (the so called troika) bailed out the small Mediterranean country, while imposing strict austerity on the Greeks.   Austerity measures were increased in 2011 resulting in very high unemployment, especially amongst the young.   The measures were extremely unpopular.   Much of the blame was given to the euro, Germany and Angela Merkel.

Today, Syriza is threatening to unilaterally halve the debt, to end Greece’s national “humiliation” and if necessary, to leave the euro. Angela Merkel has indicated she is ok with a Grexit, the term being used for a Greek exit.

One concern is that, if one country withdraws, others will follow.   The eurozone could unravel.   Although not a member of the eurozone, Great Britain could pull out of the EU, which, again, might influence others.

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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died yesterday, automatically succeeded by his half-brother King Salman.   Little change is likely in the kingdom in the immediate future.   The two kings come from a total of 45 brothers and half-brothers.   However, King Salman, aged 79, is likely the last of the present generation.

King Abdullah’s passing is ill-timed.   He has been king since 2005 and before that was de facto monarch for ten years as the previous king had suffered a serious stroke.   So, for twenty years, he has been the most powerful man in Saudi Arabia and a major figure in the Middle East.   His knowledge and experience will be sorely missed.

This is a challenging time for the Arabian peninsula, home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), perpetrators of the Paris terror attack.   Yemen’s pro-American government resigned this week as rebels seized the capital.   At the same time, another neighbor, Oman, will soon lose its leader, the pro-western Sultan Qaboos, who is now 74 and has been suffering from an undisclosed medical condition, which has resulted in him being rarely seen in public.

King Abdullah has been involved in bringing down the price of oil.   If the king had wanted to, he could have reversed the falling price simply by cutting Saudi production, but he didn’t.

He has also played a major role in supporting western efforts at fighting IS (Islamic State) and supporting Sunni rebels against Syria’s leader, who is allied to Saudi Arabia’s enemy, Shia Iran.   It should be noted here that Iran’s leader will attend a memorial for King Abdullah tomorrow.   Under Islamic custom, the king was buried today.

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Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. He died on 24th January 1965.

His official biographer is Sir Martin Gilbert.   Sir Martin spends two months every year at conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he lectures on Churchill.   He has willed his extensive Churchill library to the college.

A few years ago, a student invited me to go with him to one of the lectures.

I asked Sir Martin to sign my copy of his one volume book on Churchill, which he gladly did.   I also took the opportunity to ask him a question:   “If Churchill had never lived, what would have happened in World War Two?”   His response was:   “We wouldn’t have gotten very far.”   His lecture that evening illustrated his point.

That evening’s talk was on the sinking of the French fleet after the fall of France.

Churchill ordered that the fleet should be sunk so that it would not fall into the hands of the Germans.   Hundreds of French naval personnel died in the British attack on the fleet.   The incident remains controversial to this day.   Not only did it deny the Germans the use of the fleet, it had the added side benefit of convincing US President Franklin Roosevelt to back Churchill.    He was now convinced that the British war-time leader would stop at nothing to win the war.

The western world desperately needs a Churchill now.