Tag Archives: Picking Up the Reins

A CALL FROM SINGAPORE

Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia and just at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula, the island country of Singapore is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures. The Lion City is one of the world’s most dynamic, vibrant and prosperous nations.

A friend from Singapore called me at the weekend.   Amongst other things we discussed President Trump’s visit to the region, which is now taking place.   He told me that Singaporeans (mostly ethnic Chinese) believe that America is on the way down and China is on the way up.   In other words, the most powerful nation in Asia and the Pacific is now NOT the US, but China.   Every nation in the region is having to come to terms with Chinese domination.

My friend, who is over 80, remembered the events of 1942 that led Singaporeans to realize the British Empire was on its way down.   One of the greatest military defeats in British history was the fall of Singapore on the 15th of February in 1942.   The story is told of Lee Kwan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore.   While he was a student, the British blew up the causeway that linked the city to the mainland, to delay Japanese forces.   The sound of the explosion could be heard across the island.   When Mr. Lee’s British headmaster came out of the school building and asked him what the noise was, Mr. Lee responded: “It is the sound of the British Empire falling.”

Effectively, it was.   The fall of the British built and developed city started a series of events that led to American domination of Asia and the Pacific.   Now, China’s economic success means Beijing has greater clout in the area than Washington — many nations are looking to Beijing rather than Washington, to secure their future.

I posted an article to my blog in February to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first time anybody realized that the US had overtaken the United Kingdom as the world’s pre-eminent nation.   It’s all recounted in the book “Picking up the Reins,” by Norman Moss.   It wasn’t until the following year that the term “Leader of the Free World” was applied to the US.   Seventy years later, we find people openly talking about China overtaking the United States. Chinese resentment at US domination is illustrated by an item on today’s BBC World News website.   Apparently, the Chinese use the term “Boss of the World” to describe America.

China isn’t the only power center trying to take over from America. The European Union is also determined to provide an alternative to American hegemony, with Germany’s Angela Merkel now often labeled “the Leader of the Free World.”   Bible students will not be surprised at these developments.

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IRAN – SAUDI STRUGGLE

Keep an eye on the growing Sunni-Shia struggle in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia leads the former and Iran the latter.   The two countries are fighting a proxy war in Yemen.   The latest development was a missile attack on the Saudi capital, fired by Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.

Iran also supports Hizbollah in Lebanon, whose prime minister resigned on Friday out of fear that he, like his father, will be assassinated.

From Monday’s Jerusalem Post:  “Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.”

Syria is also caught up in the Sunni-Shia conflict.   Iran supports the Syrian president, Bashir Assad.

The West is solely focused on ISIS, a Sunni Islam group which is fighting Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.   ISIS is re-grouping in a number of countries, claiming to represent and defend Sunnis from the Shi’ite heretics.

It’s all very complicated.   Not at all as simple as TV news depicts.

A new area of conflict is in the Sahara, where the US lost four military personnel last month.   Most attention was focused on President Trump’s call to the young wife of one of the men who died. Little attention has been given to the wider problem of a growing conflict right across the Sahel.

The West seems to think ISIS has been defeated; the reality is that the organization has dispersed and formed new radical terrorist groups in a number of different countries.  ISIS fighters have also been returning home to western nations – we should expect more terrorist attacks following the “defeat” of ISIS.

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WALL STREET’S BREXIT WARNING

Big banks are worried about Brexit.   A group of large financial institutions with big London operations, including JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and HSBC, has told US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross that Britain’s unstable government and slow progress in Brexit planning may force them to start moving thousands of jobs out of  the City in the near future.   The lack of clarity over a transition deal is making them nervous.

Their concerns are unlikely to be assuaged by the latest chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.   Mrs. May is under pressure to strip two more cabinet ministers of their jobs following separate fiascos involving Priti Patel and Boris Johnson.   And the EU has warned that the UK has less than a month to make concessions on a divorce settlement.   The FT’s editorial outlines how the British government’s flailing at home is translating into weakness abroad: “Allies are increasingly wondering whether Mrs. May’s government has the focus or ability to play Britain’s traditional global position — let alone the enhanced role pledged by Brexit.”   (Financial Times, 11/8)

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TEXAS CHURCH ATTACK

26 people were shot dead in church Sunday, following a man’s argument with his mother-in-law.   Twenty others were injured, some very seriously.

This was the 307th incident of mass murder in the US this year. Today is the 310th days of the year, so, in effect, the US is experiencing an average of one mass attack per day.   A mass murder incident is defined as the murder of four or more people.

No other nation in the world sees so much violence.   Yemen, in a civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims (see segment above), has the second highest incident rate.   Statistically, you would be safer living in Yemen, than in the United States.

I’ve always believed that people have a right to defend themselves, a right that goes back at least to the time of Henry II in the 12th century and perhaps goes back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom prior to the Norman ascendancy.  The second amendment of the US constitution guarantees that right.   After an attack in London a few weeks ago, I pointed out that if one member of the public, just one, had been carrying a weapon, the terror attack might have been thwarted.

President Trump raised the issue of mental health in the context of mass shootings at a press conference in Tokyo.   Mental health is certainly a major issue.   But easy access to guns, especially by the mentally ill, is also a factor and needs to be addressed.   It’s time for that presidential commission of inquiry into mass gun violence.   Let the public have their say.   They are the ones that are dying, even in church.

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100-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

November 7th is the anniversary of the Russian Revolution that brought the communists to power.   Not surprisingly, Russians are not enthused about the anniversary.   They rejected communism over 25 years ago.

There is still talk of a restoration of the monarchy, though most people do not seem to be in favor and do not expect it to happen.

There are lessons here from both France and Spain, two countries that were once dominated by their respective leaders, Charles de Gaulle and General Franco.   Both were strong men, who were vain enough to think that nobody could possibly replace them after their deaths.   Both men thought that the best way to preserve their nations in the future was through the restoration of their national monarchies.

De Gaulle was a close friend of the Comte de Paris, the descendant of the Orleanist monarch, Louis Phillipe, who ruled France from 1830-1848.   The Comte was aware of de Gaulle’s desire to restore the monarchy.

In 1968, France was rocked by student riots and violence across the country.   DeGaulle presented constitutional reforms (not including a restoration) that were rejected, leading to his resignation as President of France in April, 1969.   He died one year later.   De Gaulle, the inspiration behind the Fifth Republic in 1958, need not have worried  — the Fifth Republic remains to this day.

General Franco of Spain, a fascist dictator, had more time to think about the Spanish succession, proclaiming that his heir and successor was to be Juan Carlos, of the Bourbon line of monarchs. As soon as Franco died in 1975, Juan Carlos was proclaimed king.   Rather than continuing Franco’s conservative ideology, the new King dedicated himself to protecting Spanish democracy, thereby at the same time preserving the monarchy.   He even had the respect and support of Spanish communists.

Vladimir Putin may be thinking along the same lines.   He’s been a very strong leader, with a 90% approval rating at times.   He must be fearful of Russia’s future after he leaves the scene.

The restoration of the Romanov dynasty along Spanish lines, may be just what he’s thinking.   He’s already reviving Russian culture, and has helped the church take center stage.

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SYRIA SIGNS UP TO PARIS ACCORD

The US is now the only country in the world that has not signed up to the Paris climate treaty.   Syria was the only other holdout, but has now signed.

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PARADISE PAPERS SCANDAL

The Anglo-Saxon world loves its scandals, especially when its leaders are exposed.   In this regard, the Paradise Papers did not disappoint.

While TV audiences are focused on who has what and why, it should be emphasized that absolutely no one “exposed” broke the law.  They simply took advantage of legal tax loopholes, just as most people do, only theirs is on a much bigger scale than the average citizen.

The only law-breaking going on here was by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which somehow gained access to private financial information.   The paper’s partners in this enterprise included the British Guardian newspaper and the New York Times.  No surprises there.

Another concern is this:   the revelations are the latest “scandal” to undermine our institutions.   As if the Harvey Weinstein and other sexual revelations are not enough, we now have nightly reports that Queen Elizabeth II (and others) have been protecting their assets by moving them beyond the control of national governments.

Times have certainly changed.   Fifty years ago, royal tour-guides would proudly announce that the British monarch was the richest woman in the world.   Now, she’s not even in the top 500 wealthiest people in Britain (J.K. Rowling heads the female list), and people are getting riled about it.

The amount involved was only 10 million pounds ($13 million).

Exactly 100 years after the class warfare of the Russian Revolution, people have learned nothing.   All socialism brought was “equal shares of misery for all” (Margaret Thatcher’s definition).   Do we really want to embrace it again, naively thinking it will improve all our lives?

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMERICA’S FIRST CIVIL WAR

REV WAR

What was America’s worst war?

I mean in the sense of numbers of people killed as a percentage of the total population.

Many would say the Civil War (1861-65), when 2% of the population died.

In fact, three times as many people, proportionately, died in the Revolutionary War, sometimes called America’s First Civil War, which took place almost a century earlier.

6% of the population died in the earlier conflict and tens of thousands fled the country when the war was over.  As with the later conflict, families were divided, brother fought brother and there were intense feelings on both sides.

Both wanted freedom.  The Patriots (or Rebels) wanted to free the thirteen colonies from British rule; the Loyalists (Tories) were convinced that, without a king, there would be anarchy.  They referred to their opponents as the “sons of anarchy.”

Gordon Wood, an American historian who has written a number of books on the Revolutionary War and the events that surrounded it, brought out in one of his books that England was then the freest country in the world and that the people in England’s colonies were even more free; so why did some colonists want even more freedom?

It’s a good question.

There were legitimate grievances just as there are against any government, but the American Revolution is different from all other revolutions in that the people revolting were not the poor and dispossessed.  They were, in fact, the aristocrats of the colonies.   They were actually better off than the people they were revolting against.

It’s no wonder then that this was not a popular uprising as movies have sometimes suggested.  The country was very divided.  By some estimates, the division was a third, a third and a third – a third in favor of the revolution, a third who were loyal to the crown and a third that were largely indifferent.

Tired of war after six years of fighting, on the eve of the final battle, the number of people who were supportive of remaining under the Crown was higher than those who wanted to sever the tie and build a completely independent republic.

That final battle, the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, was to be decisive.

In their latest novel (2012), “Victory at Yorktown,” Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen are fair to both sides, until near the end when it is clear where their loyalties lie.

They bring out that, immediately prior to the battle, many in Congress wanted to negotiate with London on British terms.  Russia’s Catherine the Great had offered her services as mediator.  The proposal was that the new United States of America should remain within the British Empire but would maintain its newly created federation.  A total amnesty was proposed for those involved in the rebellion.

Washington had to persuade them to wait, to see first how the battle went.   If the battle was lost to the Continental Army, then a peace treaty would have been signed in Britain’s favor and the US would have remained within the Empire, under the Crown, similar to the way Canada is today.

If the sole combatants had been Washington’s Continental Army and British regulars, the British would have won.  But the French came in and made a big difference.  The British lost and their army surrendered.

Even then, the British could have simply sent another military force to continue the war.  Britain was the greatest military power on earth at the time but the parliament in London voted against further funds for the prosecution of the war.  The subsequent Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognized the new United States of America as a sovereign nation, albeit one without a sovereign!

The French paid dearly for their support of the rebel forces.  The country’s finances were in trouble as a result of the conflict and before the decade was out they had their own revolution, exacerbated by radical ideas brought back from America by French soldiers.

Following Washington’s victory at Yorktown, about 100,000 loyalists fled the country, mostly to Canada.  That was roughly 10% of the country.  Many loyalists remained – far more than left.  Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson came from an Anglophile, East Coast family that always toasted the king on his birthday, right up until after World War II (“Picking up the Reins” by Norman Moss, 2002, page 65).

In reading the book “Victory at Yorktown,” you realize how easily the battle could have gone the other way.  It’s too easy to say it was won because the French Navy was there.

There is also a biblical explanation.

Genesis 48 tells us that the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to become “a multitude of nations” and a “great” nation.

Many people in Victorian times and the early part of the twentieth century believed this prophecy was fulfilled in the British Empire and the United States.  The British Empire comprised dozens of different countries, each different from the other.  They were all united by a common loyalty to the Crown.

If the US had lost the battle of Yorktown and remained within the empire, it would have been a part of the multitude of nations.  It had to be separated from the Crown even though, arguably, most did not want that separation in 1781.

The country went on to become what Winston Churchill called “The Great Republic.”

At the same time, the loyalists that moved to Canada made Canada the great Dominion of the British Empire, which it became.

The Battle of Yorktown was likely a foregone conclusion!