Tag Archives: Soviet Union

WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN

“When a Crocodile Eats The Sun” is one of the best books I’ve ever read.   I read it some years ago when I was making regular visits to Zimbabwe, the subject of the book by Peter Godwin.   Mr. Godwin was born and raised in Rhodesia as it was before 1980.   At the time of writing the book he was living in New York City and visiting Zimbabwe twice a year to see his elderly parents.  During this time his father was dying and eventually did die.

The title of the book comes from an old Shona proverb.   The Shona are the dominant tribe in Zimbabwe.  They believe that an eclipse of the sun is actually a crocodile eating the sun.  It is a warning of a coming calamity.

The eclipse was on June 21st, 2001.   In the following years, Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed, millions of people starved to death and the country was plunged into chaos.  This all followed President Robert Mugabe’s decision to confiscate white-owned farms.   Food production fell by an estimated 90%.

In Rhodesian days, the country was the breadbasket of Africa; it now became an economic basket-case.   In one chapter his mother and a group of friends shared one tomato between them.  In a later chapter, he related the challenges he faced to cremate his father – the famine, together with AIDS, had overwhelmed the country’s funeral systems.

Those in the West who still think it makes no difference which ethnic group dominates a country, should study what happened to Rhodesia-Zimbabwe.

This does not mean that every nation that witnesses an eclipse of the sun will go through something similar.   But the eclipse seen by Americans last week reminded me of the book – and the consequences that followed the eclipse of the sun.

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DISASTER IN TEXAS

Just as some saw the eclipse as a sign of impending doom, so others feel the same way about the disaster in Texas.

If any problems follow the heavy rainfall in Texas, they are likely to be economic.   The US is already over $20 trillion in debt, money which has to be paid back at some point.   The Federal Government is offering Texas billions of dollars in assistance.   Private debt in the country is at an all-time high.   Student debt is a bubble waiting to burst.   And the only way to rebuild Texas is by borrowing more money.

You would think the world’s richest country would have “a rainy day fund” (no pun intended) but, in fact, we have so much debt, more disasters could easily break us.

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RECOMMITMENT TO AFGHANISTAN

A further financial burden that could break the United States is the war in Afghanistan.   After promising to pull the US out of America’s longest ever war, President Trump is now recommitting to the fight.   His military advisers think the US can win, where no previous foreign presence ever has.   We should remember that it was Afghanistan that broke the Soviet Union, both financially and militarily.   The US has a bad case of “imperial hubris” if we think it can’t happen here.   Afghanistan is not known as “the graveyard of empires” for nothing.

A few months ago I wrote that President Trump had made his biggest mistake, calling for Germany to spend billions more on its military.   History shows that decision could be fatal for Germany’s neighbors and others.   The decision to increase the military in Afghanistan could turn out to be Trump’s second biggest mistake.

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INTERNATIONAL COMPLICATION

KABUL/BERLIN/WASHINGTON  – In light of the new buildup of US troops in Afghanistan, experts are warning of a new proxy war between NATO and Russia at the Hindu Kush.   As observers unanimously explain, Russia has been able to expand its influence in Afghanistan significantly over the past few years. Moreover, the dismal results of NATO’s nearly 16 years of war have seriously damaged the West’s reputation in that country.   Moscow can now take advantage of this situation and enhance its prestige, according to reports.   A former top US intelligence official considers that Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Afghanistan as “one more hot spot, to exercise his influence” and depict Moscow “as the problem solver and peacemaker.”

If NATO and Russia ally with divergent forces at the Hindu Kush, it
could develop into another proxy war, as in Syria.   (German Foreign Policy 8/24)

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THE ENEMY WITHIN

August 24, 2017National

The Muslim Brotherhood has penetrated every one of our national security agencies, including our intelligence agencies, according to retired Navy admiral James “Ace” Lyons, former commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet…

Meanwhile, Judicial Watch recently obtained documents revealing that the FBI under director Robert Mueller purged hundreds of pages of training curricula related to Islamic terrorism at the behest of Muslim Brotherhood front groups who were unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation case….

(http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/08/national_security_coverups_missteps_and_miscalculations.html)

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MORE ENEMIES WITHIN

“Antifa” is a contraction of the words “anti” and “fascist.”   It’s a new word that will soon enter our dictionary.   It’s very misleading. People who identify with “Antifa” are not fighting fascism – they are, rather, trying to stop conservatives expressing any opinion different from their own.   Their opposition to freedom of speech shows that they are the fascists!

Note the following headline from the liberal-fascist New York Times: “Antifa grows as left wing faction set to literally fight the far right.” (8/17)   Just as you will never see a conservative editorial in the NYT, their readers will not allow conservative opinions to be expressed by anybody anywhere.

SKYFALL

Sky News in the UK is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News in the US.   Sky has just decided not to relay segments from Fox, described variously as “right wing” and “extreme.”

Does anybody ever describe CNN as “left wing” and “extreme?”  It most assuredly is!

Reminds me of Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

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RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

putin

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.

 

 

HUBRIS WILL NOT DEFEAT THE ENEMY

Bill de Blasio                             Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio

Yesterday (Monday) I read an article, which stated with great certainty that the US has been better at assimilating Muslims than European countries.   I also read a separate article in USA Today, which quoted the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, claiming that “New York City has the strongest, most agile, best-trained first responders in the world.   They’re ready to protect us.”

These are just the latest examples of hubris, which is defined as “excessive pride, or self-confidence, arrogance.”

When it comes to assimilation, I am reminded of a conversation I witnessed on British television one Sunday morning a few years ago. People of African descent who had lived in both the United Kingdom and the United States were discussing this very issue.   All the participants said they felt more comfortable and more assimilated in the UK than the US.

This may or may not be true of Muslims.   My concern here is that Americans should be very careful in making such assumptions, that we cannot say for sure and that, really, it doesn’t make any difference.   We are just as threatened by Islamic terrorism as the Europeans.   Whether the US responders do a better job remains to be seen.   FWIW, France (and Canada) are the two countries that top the World Health Organization’s list of best medical systems.   The US ranks at #37.   When it comes to saving lives, Paris is one of the best places to be.

When it comes to fighting ISIS, there’s a great deal of hubris right now.   Once again, the entertainment industry is partly to blame – it’s not just James Bond that defeats the world’s greatest evils; Americans have been doing it for decades.

Or, have we?

More than fourteen years after 9-11, Al-Qaeda is still killing people.   The hotel attack in Bamako was perpetrated by an al-Qaeda affiliate.

The US has been in Afghanistan for the same length of time (longer than the Russians were there) and there is no end in sight.   In fact, the situation is worse in that ISIS now operates there, along with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Iraq continues with daily conflict.   The immediate goal of overthrowing Saddam Hussein  was achieved by the western coalition, but the resultant mess just goes on and on.   The Iraqi conflict gave birth to ISIS, another problem that seems likely to go on and on.   And, if they are ever defeated, there will be other Islamic extremists to replace them.

Proverbs 16:18 says that:   “Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.”

I quoted Niall Ferguson a few days ago.   He showed the similarities between what is happening now and what happened to the Roman Empire in its last days – the barbarians are at the gates.   Indeed, they are within the gates thanks to the West having the most myopic immigration policies in the history of mankind.

The West has lived through a period that might be called the Pax Americana, a peace guaranteed by the United States since the end of World War II.

But the US has not had a decisive victory since World War II, when the global conflict was won by the three great powers, the British Empire (which fought the war from 1939-1945), the Soviet Union (which was forced into war six months before the US) and the United States.   The US could not have done it alone.

Korea ended up a stalemate, a burden still carried on the backs of the US tax-payer.   Vietnam was lost.   At the time, there was plenty of hubris.   Who would have thought, in 1965, that the US could lose to North Vietnam?

The next major conflict was the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91.   The immediate goal of driving Iraq out of Kuwait was achieved, but Saddam lived to fight another day, literally.   And, as I said, the mess goes on and on.

Americans are fond of saying that the US military is the best in the world and that the country spends ten times as much on its military as the next biggest spender.   That may be true, but it’s misleading.   In World War II, for every US soldier actually fighting, there were 60 people employed in support roles; for the British it was 45 to 1; for the Germans, 20 to 1.   Efficiency varies.

Additionally, US military personnel are paid more than those of other countries, so the dollar amount spent is not saying much.

Besides, the greatest threat now is Islamic terrorism, not a professional national army.   The “armies” that brought down Rome were barbaric, wild tribes, the Huns, the Vandals and, ultimately, the Arabs.   We’re faced with a similar enemy, but making it worse, our enemy is also “within.”   Let’s remember, the Babylonian Empire fell because two men betrayed it!   It only took two men to bring down the greatest empire in the world at that time.

The analogy with Babylon is apt in another way, too.   Babylon’s period of ascendancy lasted a little over seventy years, from the defeat of Assyria in 612 BC to its own defeat at the hands of the Persians in 539.   Super powers have great difficulty maintaining dominance over a longer period.   The Romans and the British were two exceptions, but countries simply burn out after 70 years.   The US is burning out, showing great reluctance to take on the growing threats to its own dominance.

It’s predecessor as global superpower number one was Great Britain.   Britain simply went broke.   The US is similarly broke, with a national debt of roughly 20 trillion dollars.   How much longer can the country lead the fight against anything?  ISIS is the wealthiest terror group ever, while the US is now penny pinching.

There’s a third lesson, too, from ancient Assyria and Babylon.   The former invaded the ten tribes of Israel, taking the people away as slaves.   The latter, Babylon, more than a century later, conquered the Jews and took them as slaves to Babylon.   The Old Testament prophets show that these nations were conquered because of their sins.

In a statement after the Paris terror attacks, ISIS said it attacked Paris because it’s a “sinful city, full of perversions.”   This does not mean that ISIS is made up of righteous people, any more than ancient Assyria or Babylon were.   But it does mean that many Muslims, appalled at the liberal values of the West, will naturally flock to ISIS.

In this sense, our own permissiveness works against us and is contributing to the violent acts being perpetrated by the terrorists.

But people in the West have hardened their hearts when it comes to God.   When the Church of England prepared a cinema ad promoting the Lord’s prayer, cinemas refused to show it; when the hashtag “#pray for Paris” appeared on Twitter following the Paris attacks, one French publication told people supporting the sentiment that their prayers were not welcome; that France doesn’t want religion!

Some asked where was God when Paris was attacked?   The answer can be found in Isaiah 59:2.   “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”  Isaiah was preaching to a nation that had known God, but rejected Him.

There are similarities with the western world of today.   We should avoid hubris, clean up our act, and turn to the true God if we are to have any hope of defeating Islamic extremism.

 

RUSSIA’S INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

Putin Syria

A generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is back in the Middle East.   It cannot be good for America!

Britain dominated the Middle East between the two world wars. After World War II, that domination continued for about a decade. Then, in 1956, the Egyptians seized the British and French owned Suez Canal. The two countries, together with Israel, invaded Egypt in an attempt to reclaim the Canal, but they were stopped by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.     In hindsight, it marked the end of the British Empire. It also resulted in greater US involvement in the region.

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic book in the Old Testament, written during the sixth century before Christ.  It’s a remarkable book because the writer, Daniel, who served two kings of Babylon while Babylon was the greatest power in the world, then served two kings of Persia when it was the Persian turn to attain the status of super power.

His writings predicted the eventual replacement of Persia by Greece and then, in turn, Rome.   These were four of the greatest empires of the ancient world.   Each rose to greatness and each descended into oblivion.   Only their ruins remain.

Daniel put it well when he wrote the following:

“And He (God) 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.” (Daniel 2:21)

God is behind the rise and fall of nations.   He also reveals His prophetic outline “to those who have understanding.”

Just as Great Britain’s period of pre-eminence came to an end, so will America’s.   But, as with Britain, the change took a while to be fully realized.

Russia’s intervention in the Middle East fundamentally changes the balance of power in the region.   Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union, was heavily involved in the area following the British withdrawal.   While the US supported Israel, Jordan and the other conservative monarchies, including the Shah of Iran, Moscow supported Egypt and Syria.   That changed with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979.   Moscow has not had much clout since.

But now that’s changed.   Moscow is not only involved in Syria, propping up President Bashar al-Assad against ISIS and other groups, it is also involved in Iran and Iraq.   In effect, Russia is backing the Shi’ite arc that starts in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and swings through Syria, Iraq and Iran.   Bible students will remember that this is basically the territory of the old King of the North of Daniel, chapter 11, the Seleucid dynasty that had its origins in the conquests of Alexander the Great.   The rivalry with the Ptolemaic dynasty labeled the King of the South in the scriptures continued for two centuries and constantly threatened the Jews who were in the middle. The terms “King of the North” and “King of the South” refer to their geographical location in relation to Jerusalem and the threat they posed to the ancient capital of the Jews.

The same chapter prophesies that these two powers will be revived in different form prior to Christ’s return and will once again threaten the Jewish nation of Israel.

So it’s interesting to see Russia getting involved.

Vladimir Putin had this to say at the United Nations just a few days ago:

“An aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself.   Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty, and social disaster.   Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.   I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you have done?”

President Putin was talking about the United States and the consequences of American intervention in the Middle East.

Discussing this speech on PBS’ McLaughlin Group, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan had this to say:

“We are responsible for the disaster in the Middle East by our interventions.”

The mess the US and its allies created in the Middle East is affecting peoples around the world.   The Lansing State Journal carried the following front-page headline today:   “Eager for Syrians to arrive”, referring to Lansing, Michigan, welcoming Syrian refugees in the coming days and weeks.   Europe has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are refugees, over the last few weeks. Australians are also seeing Syrian refugees arrive in their country.   This could pose a serious security threat to western nations.

President Obama said the following at the UN:   “The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.   You can jail your opponents, but you cannot imprison ideas.   You can control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.”

What the US president was saying was intended as a warning to President Putin and the Arab dictator he intends to keep in power, President Assad of Syria. The latter is a ruthless dictator (the former is simply a dictator who can be ruthless; there’s a difference). The US position on Syria is that Assad must go. That now seems highly unlikely.   When Mr Obama refers to “ideas” that cannot be suppressed, he is referring to democracy and the “moderate” resistance to Assad. However, recent history shows that democracy is not the winner when dictators in the Middle East are overthrown. Rather, Islamic extremism or chaos, and usually both, result.

Putin, unfettered by ideological constraints, instinctively knows that.

Russia is in Syria to stay.

This could pose a problem for Israel now that the Russian bear is on its border.

It could also weaken the Russians.   Mr. Putin must remember that it was Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 that brought down the Soviet Union, which he has described as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.

What it will mean for Russia is not clear at this time.   However, it is clear what it means for the United States.   Just as an American president’s decision in 1956 precipitated the fall of the British Empire, so an American president’s inaction over Syria and cozying up to Iran, with the resultant weakening of ties with traditional allies in the region, has directly led to America’s decline in the Middle East.

 

GERMANY OVERHAULING DEFENSE STRATEGY TO COUNTER RUSSIAN THREATS

GDM von der Leyen

The Ukrainian situation is having a profound effect on Europe.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is promising to overhaul defense strategy in response to Russian aggression against the government and people of Ukraine.   The Russians have been using “power politics and military force,” to get their own way.

The latest deal, Minsk 2, brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the aid of French President Francois Hollande, failed to end the fighting.   It’s clear who is the major problem – yesterday, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, was warning Ukraine to pull its forces out of yet another of the country’s cities, so that Russian rebels can take over.   There’s ample proof these rebels include Russian professional soldiers.   This is a blatant attack by Russia on the sovereignty of one of its neighbors.

Not content with being the biggest country in the world, the Russians clearly want more territory.   It may even be that Moscow is intent on taking back all the territories of the former Soviet Union. The fall of the USSR in 1991 was once described by Mr. Putin as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.

It’s less than seven years since Russian troops invaded Georgia in support of ethnic Russians living there.   Less than a year ago, the Crimea was annexed.   Now eastern Ukraine is seriously threatened. Other countries on Russia’s borders now face the same prospect, as the western alliance is proven impotent in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Watch for dramatic changes ahead in Europe.   As the US shuts down military bases in Europe to focus on needs elsewhere in the world, only one western European country has the capacity to fill America’s shoes.   That country is Germany.   The German Defense Minister sees clearly the need for Germany to reassert itself in the face of Russian threats from the east.

 

 

TERROR ATTACK IN PARIS

BBC News photo
BBC News photo

Europe is the center of attention this week.

In Dresden, an 18,000 strong crowd demonstrated against the Islamization of Europe. PEGIDA (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West”) has been staging demonstrations in a number of cities. Counter-demonstrations are also being held by those in support of Muslims. How many of the participants are Muslims themselves has not been revealed.

PEGIDA has been condemned by the German Chancellor and President, along with many other prominent people, but the movement must be a serious worry to the establishment. A backlash against Islam has clearly started and is gaining momentum.

That momentum is likely to build with the terrorist attack in Paris today. Twelve people were killed and as many injured when the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were invaded by two or three gunmen. It’s of particular concern that the gunmen were asking for specific people who they named. The publication has satirized Islam in the past. It has just been revealed that the publication’s editor and two cartoonists were amongst those murdered.

This is a classic example of a clash of civilizations – whereas western countries appreciate satire, Islamists don’t. It remains to be seen what effect this attack will have on freedom of speech. This is the second attack on the publication’s offices – the first was in November 2011. One of the gunmen shouted, “The prophet has been avenged!” – clearly, any publication or writer who speaks out against Islam is in danger!

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the daily terror attacks that were taking place in France prior to the holidays. France may seem a long way away but the reality is that these attacks could happen anywhere. Ottawa and Sydney suffered terror attacks recently. In the US, one of the Boston Marathon bombers is about to go on trial.

Increasing concerns about the Islamization of Europe will also likely be boosted by a new best-selling novel in France, written by Michel Houellebecq, France’s most famous living writer. The novel’s title is Soumission (Submission), which is the meaning of the word “Islam.”   The book takes a look at France in 2022, not too many years from now, when the country is led by a Muslim who, amongst other things, orders women to stop working (thereby ending unemployment). The novel shows most French collaborating with the new regime, as most did in World War II when the country was invaded by Germany.

Attitudes toward Muslims may also be affected by Europe’s latest economic news. Today, it was revealed that the eurozone has entered a period of deflation, with prices dropping. Partly, this is due to the fall in the price of oil; but it also reflects other factors that show economies going down. There will no doubt be emergency measures taken to stop a deflationary spiral, which is one of the worst things that can happen to an economy. One likely solution to be tried will be quantitative easing, as applied in the US. Otherwise known as printing more money, this practice carries its own risks.

Rising unemployment and economies in disarray will only add to feelings of xenophobia.

Meanwhile, Greece may have a new left-wing government soon, which will increase the likelihood of the country withdrawing from the euro.   The majority of Greeks are angry that the country has gone through a period of severe austerity imposed from outside as the price of staying in the single currency.   The euro can’t be all bad – Lithuania has become the latest country to adopt the currency, which is now used by all three Baltic republics. The three countries, ruled by the Soviet Union before the collapse of communism, are anchoring themselves in the West.

Finally, staying in Europe, Germany’s Angela Merkel is visiting Britain’s David Cameron.   The UK wants to see some changes in the treaties that govern the EU, which Frau Merkel does not want. If those changes are not forthcoming, it’s likely that Britain will pull out of the Union. They will need the German Chancellor’s help whichever way things go, so the visit is timely and comes just before a British general election in May.

It’s going to be an interesting year in Europe, with a serious prospect of big changes.

KARZAI’S RELEASE OF 65 TERRORISTS UNDERSTANDABLE

Musharaff Karzai

Richard Armitage, US Under Secretary of State during the first administration of President George W. Bush, was sent to Pakistan shortly after 9/11.  His job was to gain the support of Pakistan against Afghanistan, which was harboring Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

According to then Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff, Armitage told him that if he supported the US, his country would be an ally; if he declined and refused to support the United States as it attacked Afghanistan, then Pakistan would be considered and enemy and would be bombed back to the Stone Age.

Musharaff was, not surprisingly, stunned.  He responded by telling Armitage, “You don’t know what you ask; you don’t know our history.”  Armitage came right back with:  “History began on September 11th.”

I should add that I’m writing the above from memory having read President Musharaff’s memoirs some years ago.  I should also add that Mr. Armigage denies using threatening a rapid return to the Stone Age for the people of Pakistan.  He does not deny the rest.

American diplomats may be unfamiliar with the history of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The locals are not.

President Musharaff’s book reminds readers that the British had problems on the “North West Frontier” for two centuries – it was the most unruly part of the empire.  This is the area now inhabited by the Taliban.  The tribes that live in this area have no loyalty to the country they inhabit – their loyalty is to others in the tribe.  It’s not surprising that Pakistan does not have effective control of these areas.  Nor does Afghanistan’s central government in Kabul.

When you know the history, President Hamid Karzai’s decision to release 65 Taliban terrorists from prison a few days ago, is understandable.  Washington didn’t like the decision.  The terrorists were put away by US and coalition forces but Karzai is looking beyond the US presence in his country and remembering the past.

After the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the president left in charge was Mohammad Najibullah.  Out of necessity, he publicly blamed the Soviets for the mess the country was in.  This was in a vain attempt to save himself and his government.  In 1992 he was overthrown and imprisoned.  When the Taliban came to power in 1996, he was castrated and dragged through the streets behind a truck.  He was then hanged from a traffic light.

Karzai must be thinking about all this as the US and its allies withdraw from the country.

His memory likely goes back even further to when the British invaded Afghanistan back in 1839.  One purpose was to restore Shah Shuja to the throne.  This they succeeded in doing, but shortly afterwards he was assassinated.  The British withdrawal was a disaster, only one soldier surviving.  Mr. Karzai is of the same tribe as Shah Shuja.

At this point in time, President Karzai could do a deal with the US, allowing a limited number of American troops to remain in the country but it seems like he would rather not do this, realizing that at some point he has to do a deal with the Taliban.