Tag Archives: Palestine

BACK TO REALITY

The November 2, 1917 declaration by then British foreign minister Arthur Balfour said his government viewed “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. Photograph: (AFP)

We’re back from Indianapolis after delivering one of our cats to our daughter and family.   We stayed three nights, to see the family and for the cat to get adjusted to her new situation.

I offered to go get some cat food, but our daughter and granddaughters would not allow me near the pet food aisle after my last blog!

I don’t know what it is but whenever I visit them I go into “vacation mode” – I don’t feel like doing anything. I just want to relax.  This is not fair to them.   We help take care of three (sometimes, five) grandchildren in Lansing; then have four when we visit Indy.

Our family Sunday ended up being a day in front of the television with our granddaughters who introduced us to the British series “Father Brown,” available on Netflix. It was actually quite good, though some things did irritate me.   For example, whenever the priest prayed in Latin, the closed-caption subtitles simply said: “Prays in a foreign language.”   Don’t most people know that Latin has been the lingua franca of the Catholic church for almost 2,000 years?

Family members are all trying to be healthier, which meant no junk in the house.   If I had remembered that, I would have taken some goodies to nibble between meals.  I was so hungry, at one point I called our daughter in Lansing and said:   “Can you come down immediately and bring some food?” I was just being humorous – it’s a 4+ hour drive; and I could have gone to a local grocery store if I thought I might expire.

Mike, our son-in-law, is a very good cook and the food was excellent.   I decided to join the healthy eating and then continue it at home, which is what I’m now doing.   I feel better already.   I’ve had no indigestion for a week and feel more energetic.  The dog food last week probably helped.

It was really nice to have a break from everything, including world news.

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BACK TO MORE REALITY

The terror attack in New York on Tuesday is a reminder of the constant threat to our lives that emanates from radical Islam.   It’s also a constant reminder of how hopeless our governments are – they keep letting in Muslims en masse, trying to claim that “Islam is a peaceful religion that has been hijacked by extremists.”

Trump called immediately for Congress to abolish the Diversity Visa Waiver program.  This is a lottery that enables 50,000 people a year from usually poor and backward countries to enter the United States.  They may then sponsor their relatives and friends to enter the US.   Tuesday’s murderer brought in 23 over 15 years.   Most of these people go straight to the bottom of our economic ladder, competing for jobs with low income Americans.

(Do the math. If one man brought in 23, multiply 50,000 x 23 = 1, 150,000 people per year.   That’s in addition to the one million plus who get a visa the normal way.)

President Trump immediately called on Congress to change the law.   That’s commendable.   The law needs to be changed.   But, then, why didn’t he react the same after the Las Vegas mass shooting?   Changes to the law are desperately needed.

It’s been over twenty years since the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, Australia.   35 people were killed in a little over half an hour.   The conservative prime minister, John Howard, immediately called on parliament to pass tough controls on assault weapons.

“Twelve days after the Port Arthur massacre, the Australian prime minister, John Howard, announced a sweeping package of gun reforms in a country where firearms had long been considered an essential prop in the national mythology of life in the bush.

“At that stage the gun lobby was the ruling lobby in Australia,” says Philip Alpers, associate professor at the University of Sydney.  “What happened at Port Arthur is that they were outpaced, outflanked and outwitted by a man who had the power to move in 12 remarkable days.”

“Tim Fischer was leader of the National party and Howard’s deputy prime minister in the Coalition government, charged with persuading skeptical country voters to support, or at least accept, reforms.  “Port Arthur was our Sandy Hook,” he says.   “Port Arthur we acted on.  The USA is not prepared to act on their tragedies.”   (The Guardian 14th March 2016).

The Sandy Hook massacre of kindergarten children took place on December 14th, 2012.   Congress did not pass any laws following the deaths of 26 people, including 19 children.   If the country could not make any changes after the deaths of so many young children, it’s doubtful they will ever come.

President Trump and others reacted to the Las Vegas shootings by saying, “Now is not the time to discuss gun control.”

Then, when will it be the time?   Immigration policies make the situation worse – the killer at Virginia Tech ten years ago was from South Korea.   The Boston Marathon killings were also the work of new arrivals.

Changes can be made without encroaching on the Second Amendment, which says:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Today, the US definitely has a “well regulated militia,” so America’s needs have changed.   At the same time, people do have a right to defend themselves.   There’s a balance. It’s time for a national debate.

On the highly successful Australian TV show, “Janet King,” Janet, a senior employee of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS; sometimes referred to as “Crownies”), is appointed by the country’s Governor-General to head a royal commission into gun violence.   It’s time the United States had a presidential commission to look into mass casualty gun violence, with the remit that it report back to the president and the public within twelve months, making recommendations to effectively reduce gun violence.

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NEW ZEALAND MAKES THE NEWS

Before we leave the Antipodes, New Zealand has a new, radical prime minister.

Jacinda Ardern is only 37 and the third female leader of the country. She wants to restrict immigration into New Zealand – one of her first acts was to ban the sale of homes to people living outside of the country.   She is a left-wing republican, meaning she would like to end NZ’s relationship with the Crown thereby giving greater power to the politicians, of which she is the chief!   Interestingly, she is also a former Mormon who has strong views on churches that encourage families to shun former believers like herself; she left the church over its anti-homosexual stance.

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QUOTE: “President Xi (of China) believes that America is in steep decline and China rising in a power game that will define our century” (Carrie Gracie, China Editor, BBC News, 11/2).   President Trump is about to visit China.

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CENTENARIES

Today, November 2nd, is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in London to commemorate the celebration, boycotted by the anti-semitic socialist Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn.

The famous Balfour Declaration was announced in the middle of World War I by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, at a time when Great Britain was the dominant power in the world. It committed His Majesty’s Government to establish in Palestine a home for the Jewish people.   It was one of the most important documents of the twentieth century and a major fulfillment of Bible prophecy. It led directly to the establishment of a Jewish nation in the Middle East, the country now called Israel.

An independent Jewish nation had not been in existence since Roman times.   The Roman Jewish province of Judea rebelled against Rome in 66 AD. The Romans crushed the Jewish Revolt in 70 AD, destroying much of Jerusalem in the process.   The Jews rebelled again from 132 AD-135 AD.   Once again, the Romans crushed the revolt.   This time, the Jews dispersed to other parts of the Roman Empire and beyond.   For almost two millennia, they did not have their own country.   But scriptures made it clear that the Jews would be back in their homeland, called Judah in the Bible (the Jews were only one of the twelve tribes of Israel).

Zechariah was a prophet 2,500 years ago.   His Old Testament book is a Millennial prophecy about the Second Coming of the Messiah. Judah figures quite prominently in events at the time immediately prior to Christ’s Return.

Note Zechariah 12:2-3 – “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.  And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”

And Zechariah 14:2-4 – “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

“Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”

The last verse is clearly still in the future.   Jerusalem, Judah, revived after almost 2,000 years is once again a central point of geographical contention, with neighboring nations and tribes wanting to destroy the country.   As if perpetually drunk, they desperately try to destroy her, so far not succeeding.

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RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

Five days after the Balfour Declaration, Russia had a second revolution.   Earlier in the year, the Czarist regime had fallen and was replaced by a parliamentary system.   Elections were scheduled for later in the year.   Two weeks before the election, the Bolsheviks (communists) staged a coup on November 7th that overthrew the interim government of Alexander Kerensky.   They proclaimed the world’s first communist state.   It brought seven decades of misery to the country, with despotic leaders that made the czars look like Sunday school teachers.   Communism has gone, but the country remains a dictatorship, though claiming to be a democracy.

The Bolshevik Revolution was the second revolution of 1917; there was an earlier revolution in 1905, which led to the establishment of the Duma (parliament) but still left the czar with ultimate power and authority.   Russia’s parliament today is also called the Duma and is the people’s assembly.   However, some would say that Vladimir Putin is a new Czar, with all the power and authority.

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500th ANNIVERSARY OF PROTESTANT REFORMATION

Tuesday was the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg church in Germany.   We should all be thankful to Martin Luther.   He had the courage to stand up to the Church of Rome, ending the monopoly the Church had in western Europe.   All churches today owe their freedom to Luther.

I watched a two-hour documentary on PBS recently about Martin Luther and the Reformation.   He is considered the greatest theologian of all time, due to the fact that he wrote more books and articles on the Bible than anybody else. He also translated the scriptures into German.

Later in life, asked to sum up his writings, he replied: “God forgives.” That was of paramount importance to Luther, who struggled all his life with sin, as we all do.   Hearing that, I thought about all the churches that have come out of Luther, directly or indirectly.   Many have one thing in common – they can’t forgive.   How ironic.

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VISIT TO NOAH’S ARK

Earlier in the month, we were in Cincinnati, Ohio.   A group of us, including four of our grandchildren, took the opportunity to visit Noah’s Ark, which is just over the state line in Kentucky.   It’s well worth a visit, if only to get a better idea of the size of the original ark. This replica is built according to biblical specifications.

I’m very thankful that the enterprising Australian behind this project was inspired to build the Ark (and the Creation Museum nearby). More and more people are biblically illiterate, so it’s good that somebody has kept the story alive.   I found the wall plaques explaining everything interesting, but I do not agree with his theory that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

We had been told to allow three hours for our visit. With two 5-year-old twin boys, we went through quite quickly, in exactly two hours.  We left early — because it was raining!!!

The following evening we had a group of Barbadians over for dinner. Wonderful people.   They had actually come from Barbados to visit the Ark.   They are also Young Earthers, believing in the 6,000 years.   We agreed to disagree and still remain friends.  That’s the way it should be.

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FINALLY

I’ve been asked why I quote so often from the Daily Express and Daily Mail newspapers, two Conservative British tabloids.

The answer is quite simple: they have the best web sites.   Check them out sometime.

The Guardian and Independent, more intellectual papers, are constantly asking for money whenever I check their sites; whereas the Times, the Telegraph and the Financial Times make very little available.

The biggest problem with the two papers I use is that they often sensationalize news items.

I will try to find alternative sources, but, realistically I will have to use them occasionally as I don’t have the funds to pay for subscriptions to the more highbrow papers; and they have to request money as they have smaller circulations.

(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 graciously donate to help cover costs.) 

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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.)

TRUMP AND MAY’S BIGGEST MISTAKE

President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May have just made their biggest mistake.

The American president received Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House last week.   At a press conference, he clearly made the German chancellor uncomfortable when he publicly called for Germany to bring its military budget up to the full 2% of GNP agreed on by NATO.   This would raise military spending from 37 billion euros a year to 60 billion.   It would also restore German military might.

Across the ocean, Mrs. May is seeking closer military ties to Germany at the same time as pursuing Brexit.   The idea is to keep Germany close.   It would also contribute to restoring German military might.

British war time leader Sir Winston Churchill promised at the end of World War II that Germany would never rise again; 45 years later British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Attitudes change.   It’s now over seventy years since the fall of the Third Reich.   Today’s leaders see Germany as a model democracy and think it will always be that way.

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LONDON TERROR

Mrs. May has other things on her mind right now.   A terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge on Wednesday afternoon left 5 dead, including the terrorist and an unarmed policeman; also 29 hospitalised, seven of them critically.   The terrorist was known to the police as a “radical Islamist.”   No surprise, there.

As the terrorist was “British born,” the implication is that somehow it’s Britain’s fault and that more can be done (costing more, of course) to avoid such incidents in the future.

What will not be considered is this – Islam means “submit;” it’s the exact opposite of “freedom” which is what Britain is all about.   Muslim children raised in Britain will inevitably struggle with internal conflict, unable to reconcile the two opposing ideals.

A few weeks ago the BBC interviewed Somalis on the streets of Minneapolis, asking them how they felt about life in America and related issues.   Clearly better off than they were in Somalia, nevertheless every single one of them said they would rather live in a Muslim country and that America would be a better country if it embraced sharia law!

I first heard the news of the terror attack when I was having lunch with a friend.   A man sitting alone at the next table was checking his mail on his phone and suddenly exclaimed “there’s been a terrorist attack in London.”   He had no idea I was from the UK.   When I told him, his first question was “why don’t they arm the police?   How can a policeman defend himself when attacked like this?”

I explained that one third of all the police are now armed and you see a lot of them in London, protecting the main tourist sights.   But Wednesday’s murder shows that every policeman needs to be able to defend himself, even if it’s only with a stun gun.

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BREXIT MOVING AHEAD

Mrs. May has also announced that she will invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome on March 29th.   This will formally begin Britain’s exit from the European Union.   Failure to reach agreement on terms within a two-year period will automatically mean a “hard Brexit,” with Britain simply leaving the EU and signing trade deals around the world with other countries.   There would be no trade deal with the 27 remaining EU countries.

Such a failure would likely impact any military agreement between Germany and the UK.   It would be hard for the two countries to maintain a good friendship when they cannot even reach an agreement on future trade.

The formal triggering of Article 50 will put a dampener on celebrations in Rome, for the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.   All 27 leaders of the EU will be there – Mrs. May will not be attending.   Interestingly, all 27 leaders will also be meeting with the pope.

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SCOTTISH REFERENDUM #2

The Scottish leader, Nicola Sturgeon, continues to mimic a “Rottweiler.”   With her teeth firmly latched onto Mrs. May’s pants, she will not let go of her demand for a second referendum on Scotland’s independence.   (If the vote goes against her, she will ask for a third and a fourth, until she gets what she wants!)

Scotland depends heavily on subsidies from England.   Ms. Sturgeon should concentrate first on improving the nation’s finances, showing that Scotland can go it alone.   Then she could go back to the Scottish electorate and claim an independent Scotland would do better on its own.

But that’s not what’s happening.   Rather, Scotland is hoping Germany will come to its rescue.   Edinburgh has even opened a trade mission in Berlin (whisky for cars?).

Don’t get me wrong.   I’m not trying to make light of a serious situation.   The United Kingdom is better with Scotland.   It would be a real shame if England’s northern neighbor pulled out after more than 300 years of unity within one nation.

It would also present a potentially serous security issue if Germany replaced England as Scotland’s benefactor.   Scotland’s independence would be compromised — the Irish parliament already finds it cannot agree on a budget without Berlin’s agreement.

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1400 YEARS OF SECTARIAN CONFLICT

There’s a big battle going on in Mosul between ISIS and government forces.   Optimism has been expressed on the imminent defeat of the terror organization.

Overlooked is the fact that Shia militias are operating in Iraq, without restraint.   The government is majority Shia.   Many Sunnis identify with ISIS.   If the terrorists are defeated, another organization (perhaps worse than ISIS) will arise to protect the Sunnis from the Shia.

Western countries, led by the US, have been sucked into the ancient Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East.   Whereas the West sees things ideologically, Middle Easterners see the situation from a sectarian viewpoint.   To us, ISIS is bad because it’s a violent terrorist organization; to Sunni Muslims living in a majority Shia country, ISIS is their protector.   To the Sunnis, this is also America’s fault – until the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunnis. They lost out when America came in!

There’s two lessons here for the West – 1) Get out of the Middle East and stay out!   2) Stop importing the region’s sectarian conflicts through immigration policies that do not take into account national security.

In other words, let’s get back to the pre-1914 Middle East, before the war that brought down the Ottoman Empire and led to the fragmentation we now see in the region.   The war led to increased British dominance of the region, and now American domination.   It’s a mess.   It’s time to get out.

On another note – why is the US getting involved in Yemen, another territory witnessing increased fighting between Sunni and Shia?  A US Navy Seal was killed there last month in a raid by American forces.

The Sunni-Shia conflict has gone on since the 7th century, almost seven times as long as the United States has existed as a nation.   Do we really think that our involvement is going to end the conflict between the two major branches of Islam?   Do we really think that moving Shia and Sunni from the Middle East to the US (and Europe) will suddenly make them love each other?   After the London attack on Wednesday, one security expert interviewed mentioned that the UK knows of 850 British passport holders, fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. If they are British raised, why are they still identifying with Sunni Islam and anxious to fight Shia Muslims?   It’s a question that needs to be addressed.

It’s just been announced that the perpetrator of the London attack was Kent-born and raised Khalid Masood, aged 52.   He was the son of immigrants and  a convert to Islam.

It should also be noted that the perpetrator was unusually old for a terrorist.

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If you can find it on pbs.org, this week’s Frontline examined the rise of the Shia militias in Iraq and the (Shia) government’s failure to address the problem.

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ANOTHER BLESSING OF BRITISH RULE

“Among some contemporary Israelis the British Mandate has come to be viewed nostalgically.  Although Palestine did not have the elephants, maharajahs and tigers of the Indian Raj, the same culture of Highland reels, polo and pink gins in the King David Hotel flourished.  So did an incorruptible civil service, possibly a novelty in the region.”  (‘Blood and Rage”, by Michael Burleigh, 2009, page 89)

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THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

A few days ago a friend gave me a copy of the Seventh Day Adventist magazine, “Amazing Facts.”   The cover story was titled:  “The Power of Forgiveness.”   Forgiveness is sadly lacking, even amongst Christians.   Church organizations often find it hard to forgive, so how can they teach their members to forgive others?

Yet our eternal life depends on it.

When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus Christ how often should he forgive his brother, Peter suggested that seven times would be enough; the Messiah’s response was “seventy times seven”, meaning an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:21-22).

Jesus expounded on one of the points in His model prayer, adding:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”   (Matthew 6:14-15)

If Christians always practiced forgiveness, we would no doubt have more Christians.

Perhaps, given time, even the Muslims would follow and learn to forgive a 1400-year-old schism.

 

 

 

 

 

COULD SEVENTY BE “IT” FOR THE US?

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

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While US media has been focussed on alleged Russian hacking of the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has strengthened its role in the Middle East.

The morning that America suffered a major setback in the Middle East, American news networks led on two deaths – those of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.   Tragic though these deaths were, developments in the Middle East put America where Great Britain was exactly six decades ago.

Before World War Two, the British Empire was the dominant power in the region.   Britain withdrew from Israel in May of 1948. Immediately, the Jewish nation was invaded by five neighboring Arab nations.   Miraculously, Israel survived. In those early days, it was not helped by the United States.

In 1952, as a direct consequence of defeat against Israel, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown by the military.   The new leaders soon seized the Anglo-French Suez Canal.   Together with Israel, these countries invaded Egypt but were soon stopped by US President Eisenhower.   This single event led directly to the dismantling of the British Empire.   In 1958 the pro-British King of Iraq was overthrown.   Britain was losing its remaining influence in the area. The country fought a war against rebels in Aden, withdrawing from the protectorate in 1967.

It was a gradual decline, with one setback after another.   Now, the UK does not play any major role in the Middle East.

Since Britain, America has been the dominant power in the region. During the time of the Soviet Union, the US and the USSR were rivals in the area, with Moscow backing Egypt and Syria.   Later, Egypt switched sides and allied itself with the United States, but Moscow retained its influence in Syria.   Iran was in the US sphere of influence until the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

The region has seen never-ending turmoil since the fall of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after World War One.   That turmoil shows no sign of ending.

The recent war in Iraq has left a big mess in the region.   At its root is the almost 1,400 year sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Until the US invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims, even though the majority of people were Shia Muslims (the reverse is the case in Syria).   Following the US backed election in Iraq, the majority Shia now rule the country. This development has altered the religious balance in the region and is causing repercussions everywhere.   ISIS was formed to protect Sunni Muslims from the now dominant Shia.

In Syria, Sunnis have been trying to overthrow the Alawite (Shia) minority regime of President Assad for five years.   Enter Moscow. Russia’s backing of the Syrian president has enabled Assad to win. The US showed a great deal of weakness, refusing to get involved even when the Syrian government crossed the line and used chemical weapons on its own citizens.   Now, after months of fighting in Aleppo, the biggest city of the country, Assad is firmly in power and Russia is sponsoring “peace talks” with the rebel factions in the country.   The US is not invited to the peace talks. Russia now controls Syria.   To accomplish this, the country needs Turkey’s help. The two are pushing for peace in the country. Turkey, the second most powerful military power in NATO, is now working with the Russians to bring peace to the Middle East.

That’s two set-backs for Washington in just a few days.

A third set-back is in Israel.   The outgoing administration in Washington did not veto the latest UN vote against Israel, condemning the country for building new settlements for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.   Friction between the US and the only western style democracy in the region is unsettling, to say the least. This set-back may only be temporary as a new President takes over in the US in just three weeks, but that gives a few days for further negative developments.   Even the British have criticized America’s condemnation of Israel.   The State Department seems set on causing rifts with US allies in the final days of the current Administration.

Keep in mind, too, that Syria borders Israel on the Golan Heights.   What happens in Syria may affect Israel.   Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow in June, the fourth time in a year that he sat down with President Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The tables have been turned once again in the region.   Over sixty years ago, the UK was the dominant power in the region; since then, it’s been the US.   But now Russia is arguably the dominant power in the area.   The Russians are in alliance with the Shi-ite Muslims in Iran and Syria; they are also working with Sunni Turkey, which ruled the whole area prior to 1919.   At the same time, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is more comfortable with Putin than with Obama, with whom he’s had a serious exchange of heated words in recent days.

There’s even a fourth development that puts Russia ahead. Following the hacking scandal, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US; President Putin made it clear that he will not expel any Americans. This is a triumph for Putin in the propaganda war with America.

What lies ahead?   Remember that the Middle East is the primary focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem at the epicenter.

In the nineteenth century, there was no indication that the Jews were about to become an independent nation again.  Their period of self-rule ended with the Romans before the time of Christ.  Their rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD led to the Diaspora, a dispersion that scattered the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire and left them scattered until fairly recently.   Bible prophecy showed that the Jewish nation would be restored and that happened in 1948.

Exactly a century ago, British and Australian forces entered Jerusalem in the continuing war with the Ottoman Turks.   At this point in time, a Jewish nation became possible.   The British were given a mandate to administer Palestine by the League of Nations.   This was an impossible task as Palestinians and Jews clashed repeatedly.   Eventually, the League’s successor, the United Nations, divided the territory up between Jews and Palestinians, the latter never accepting their loss of land.

 

 

LIES, FALSEHOODS AND MISTAKES

Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem claimed on Sunday that there was never a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.   He went so far as to claim that the “Al-Aqsa mosque was an Islamic mosque since the world was created . . . It was never anything other than a mosque.”

The Grand Mufti is the senior Islamic cleric in charge of Islamic holy places, including the al-Aqsa mosque.

A predecessor of his has also been in the news recently.   The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to blame Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti at the time of World War II, for the Holocaust.   Al-Husseini fled to Germany in 1941 and met with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim Von Ribbentrop and other Nazi leaders.   He wanted to persuade them to extend the Nazis’ anti-Jewish program to the Arab world.   The implication in what Netanyahu said is that Hitler simply wanted to expel the Jews (to Palestine), but the Grand Mufti said they should be destroyed.

However, the German government issued a statement claiming full responsibility for the Holocaust, although it’s good to remember that Adolf Hitler was an Austrian.

Anyway, over seventy years later, the Muslim leader of Jerusalem, having learned nothing from history, is claiming the Jews have no historical rights to Jerusalem or anything else in Palestine.

As it happens, I’ve been studying the Old Testament prophetic books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.   These three men prophesied to the Jews in the post-exilic period.   The Jews, you will remember, were taken into captivity by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar at the end of the seventh century BC and remained there for seventy years.

In 539 BC, Babylon fell to the Persians, who let those who wanted to, return to the Promised Land.   There, they helped rebuild the 500-year-old Temple of Solomon.

Haggai was very precise in his writings. In chapter 1, verse 1, he writes “In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month……”   Bible commentaries and marginal notes will tell you the exact day this was written, in our Roman calendar.   It was August 29th, 520 BC.

In the second chapter, again he was very exact.  ”In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet…”   This equates to October 17th of the same year, 520 BC.   Haggai then asks the “remnant of the people” (those who had returned from captivity):   “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory?”   It is thought that Haggai himself remembered the temple prior to its partial destruction by Nebuchandnezzar’s conquering army.   He now appealed to the people to help rebuild it.

None of the above is likely to convince the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem that there was a Jewish Temple centuries ago.

However, it should be pointed out to him that, amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls found shortly after World War II, were fragments of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.   All were dated from the second and first centuries Before Christ.

Islam did not come on the scene until the seventh century After Christ (A.D.)   Arabs took control of Jerusalem in 638 and built the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 705.

The claim that the Al-Aqsa mosque has been there since creation is ridiculous.   It’s also political – the real aim here is to “prove” the Jews have no historical claim to Jerusalem!

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It’s just been announced that Paul Ryan is to be the next Speaker of the House.   Except for one, all eight of the last speakers have been Catholics.   One, Newt Gingrich, converted to Catholicism after his period in office.   Mr. Ryan, aged 45 and the youngest speaker since 1869, takes his religion seriously – before accepting his new office, he wanted a commitment that his new responsibilities would not interfere with his family time.   He goes home every weekend to spend time with the family and to attend church.   He will be sworn in using his personal copy of the New American Standard Bible, which he reportedly uses at weekly Bible studies.   Others should follow his example! (see below)

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“If the public were paying attention, they probably wouldn’t care if Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi or her emails.   The bar for honesty among politicians is so low that it is no longer news when politicians lie, only when they tell the truth.”  (“Clinton escapes again – with help of committee.”   Cal Thomas, Lansing State Journal, October 30th.)

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CNN International broadcasts “International Desk” every weekday from 10am Eastern time.   The program comes out of London.   Today’s anchorwoman twice referred to problems on the Slovenia-Australian border.   Who moved?  Slovenia or Australia?   The two mistakes were made either side of a commercial break.  You would think that somebody at CNN would have noticed the mistake and told her before she came back on air.   I can only conclude that nobody at CNN actually watches the channel.   This, of course, could be a very good thing!

Meanwhile, millions of people around the world are left unaware that there is a major problem involving refugees on the border of Slovenia and Austria!

REPEATED DIPLOMATIC GAFFES

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Fifty years ago this month, Sir Winston Churchill died.  Queen Elizabeth II ordered a state funeral, a rare honor, for the great war hero.

Six days later, 110 world leaders attended his funeral.  At the time, the number of countries in the world was not much greater.

Notably absent was the US president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.   It wasn’t just that the president failed to attend, citing illness.  The Vice President Hubert Humphrey was not sent in his place.   Even the Chief Justice failed to turn up.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower attended as a private citizen, honoring his old friend and comrade from the dark days of World War II.   Looking back, Eisenhower could have been sent as the official representative of the United States, but he wasn’t.

This was a serious diplomatic blunder at a time when the Cold War was at its height and America needed its European allies, particularly Britain.   It may, or many not, have been a factor in Britain’s continual refusal to send troops to Vietnam, the only US conflict the British have not supported since the end of the Second World War.

The same mistake was made just under two years ago when only a low ranking official was sent to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

Now, the Obama Administration has made a similar error of judgment, for which it has apologized.

This time, the failure was not to attend the demonstration of unity in Paris held on Sunday. 3.7 million people were in attendance throughout the country, most of them in the capital, Paris.

The British, German and Spanish prime ministers were all present; as were the prime minister of Israel and the Palestinian leader, two men who would not normally want to be seen with each other.

Neither the US president nor the Vice-President were there.   And nor was the Secretary of State, John Kerry.   In contrast, the President of France, Jacques Chirac, was the first world leader to visit Washington after 9/11.

Diplomatic gaffes like this can lead to serious problems.  I don’t think the Atlantic Alliance is going to disintegrate because the US president failed to turn up in France for the Unity rally, but repeated blunders like this one send a message, that Europe is now of little importance to the US.   The announced closure of 15 US military bases in Europe last week also sent a negative message, that America is losing interest in Europe.  The announcement came just after the Paris terror attacks.   That was also insensitive – at a time when Europe clearly needs some help, the US is withdrawing!

Washington should remember that only once has NATO’s Clause 5 ever been invoked.   This is the clause that states if one member country is attacked, the others must come to its aid.   The one time it was invoked was immediately after September 11th, 2001, when other NATO countries came to America’s aid.

Alliances, like friendship, work both ways.   If friends don’t support friends in times of trouble, the friendship could just fizzle out and die.