At midnight Thursday night the US imposed tariffs on goods from Europe, Canada and Mexico. The countries of the EU and Canada have been allies of the United States since World War II.
Verbal reaction was swift, with condemnation from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and threats of retaliation from EU leaders. The President of France declared them “illegal”. The European response is: Retaliate, don’t escalate!
It’s not just bad feeling that will result from the decision by President Trump to impose the tariffs. The tariffs will lead to higher prices on imported goods, both in the US and the EU; unemployment will also increase, over all, though there may be short-term gains in this area.
Although nobody is left alive from the last trade war that afflicted the western world, many leaders are aware that trade conflicts were a contributory factor to World War II.
The trade war is also coming at a bad time, fresh on the heels of the US tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran. The Europeans did not agree with the US and are continuing to honor the agreement.
There’s bad feeling all round.
After seventy years of the NATO alliance, member nations outside of the US increasingly feel they are not in an alliance with Washington; rather, they are being dictated to as America changes direction on a number of levels.
Newsletter – Dispute Among Friends
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas ended his first official visit to Washington yesterday, without reaching a compromise in the transatlantic dispute over policy on Iran. “We’re pursuing two completely different paths,” Maas declared following his talks with his counterpart Mike Pompeo and the National Security Advisor John Bolton. The EU remains unified in their policy approach, which is diametrically opposed to that of the Trump administration. Berlin’s attempts to achieve an independent German-EU policy on Iran opposing Washington’s is particularly applauded by Germany’s strategists in the establishment’s foreign policy sectors. Recommendations of submission to the Trump administration’s threats to use force against Teheran, so as not to jeopardize German companies’ highly profitable business relations with the US, are coming from business circles. Meanwhile, foreign policy experts recommend developing the euro into an alternative global reserve currency. This could reduce the USA’s potential to apply pressure on Germany’s economy. (German Foreign Policy, 5/24)
BELGIUM ATTACKED AGAIN
On Tuesday, a terrorist attacked and killed two policewomen in the Belgian city of Liege. One of the policewomen was a single mother with twin daughters, aged 13. A passerby was also killed. The attacker shouted “Alahu Akhbar” as he stabbed the women repeatedly, then seized one of their guns before shooting at others.
The incident itself was horrific. But the reaction of the authorities and the media showed how little understanding there is in official circles of the reality of Islamic terrorism. There was a great deal of speculation as to what “radicalized” the perpetrator of the crime. Was he “radicalized” in prison or on the internet, or what?
After centuries of Islamic conquest and ongoing conflict between Islam and the West, today’s western leaders remain out of touch with reality. They believe that Islam is a peaceful religion and that only a very small minority of Muslims turn to violence.
What if they are wrong?
Before political correctness, Winston Churchill once said that: ”Islam is more dangerous in a man than rabies in a dog.”
He also observed that: “A nation that forgets its past has no future.”
IS IRELAND SET TO ABORT ITSELF?
Last week, Irish voters decided to legalize abortion, bringing Ireland into line with every other EU country except Poland and Malta, two very Catholic countries.
In the last few years, Ireland, also a Catholic country, has also embraced divorce and gay rights. Its current prime minister is gay and of Indian descent, two radical departures for the Irish.
But, with a small population, Is it really in the country’s interest to make abortion readily available?
Ireland is simply following other European countries, nations with low birth rates due to abortion and other forms of birth control.
To fill the gap left by those missing babies, the nations of western Europe are importing people from other parts of the world, resulting in serious social problems and terror attacks.
Wouldn’t it be better to simply keep the ban on abortion?
DEATH OF DEMOCRACY
What’s happening in Italy is yet further proof that the EU has a democracy problem. An entire nation has gone to the polls, yet the vote has been overridden because it delivered the ‘wrong’ result. Europe’s leaders insist they know they must listen to voters, but don’t seem very keen to hear what is being said. (Freddy Gray, The Spectator, 5/31)
The world is starting to resemble the 1930’s, which ended in WWII.
1) ITALY may not seem important. But In 1922 the fascists came to power and Mussolini proclaimed a revival of the Roman Empire. That was the beginning of World War II in Europe. Fascism was a major force in a number of European countries in the thirties.
The country had an election last Sunday. The result stunned Europe — two populist parties got most of the votes. The two parties are widely seen as the equivalent of the fascist party that ruled Italy up to and during WWII.
This follows an election a few months ago that had a similar outcome in Germany. The AfD there is now the main opposition party. These parties in Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe are often labeled “far-right.” They are all “populist” parties that have gained support at the expense of mainstream political parties. They are anti-EU and anti-immigrant, as well as very nationalistic.
2) There is increasing talk of a TRADE WAR on both sides of the Atlantic. What started out as retaliation against unfair Chinese trade policies is spreading into a full-scale trade war between the US and the EU. The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 followed the stock market crash and put high tariffs on US imports. It is considered a major development on the road to the GREAT DEPRESSION, which led in turn to WW2. It is difficult to see how the western alliance can hold together with increasing conflict over trade.
Historically, trade wars increase unemployment; while unemployment leads voters to turn to the right, becoming more nationalistic. A trade war will strengthen populist parties everywhere.
3) GERMANY REARMING — President Trump has been pushing for this to force Germany to contribute more to western defense. Germany now has a military presence in the Sahel, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Baghdad. Germany is also at the forefront of calling for a united European military force.
4) UK & GERMANY AT LOGGERHEADS — In 1938 the British government was seeking to appease Germany; it still is, though this time there’s no talk of war. Just TALK, TALK, TALK over trade following Brexit. It does not look good for Britain as I write.
5) GROWING ANTI-SEMITISM. There have been a number of attacks on Jews in France, so many, in fact, that French Jews are leaving in record numbers for Israel; the Polish parliament has passed a law that forbids people from claiming Polish involvement in the Holocaust, even though it’s known that 200,000 Poles helped the Nazis round up Jews during World War II and assisted in the extermination camps; thirdly, Iceland has just banned male circumcision, while other countries are considering it. This action will affect Muslims as well as Jews.
6) RUSSIA IS MAKING THREATENING NOISES UNDER PUTIN, just as it did under Stalin. Could Russia and Germany repeat the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? Both China and Russia now have dictators for life. A prominent spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church is calling for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia. He seems to have Putin in mind as Czar. Whatever happens domestically in each country, the US will likely be in confrontation with both in the future. In the 1930’s Stalin’s threats were ideological; now the threats are just plain old-fashioned nationalism.
7) AMERICA FIRST – in the 1930’s it was AMERICAN ISOLATIONISM, now it’s called AMERICA FIRST. And it’s not just Trump – America is focused on itself. There is little foreign news on TV and most people just aren’t interested in what’s happening overseas. It took Pearl Harbor to wake Americans up. What will it take this time?
History repeats itself. But it does not repeat itself exactly. It remains to be seen how future events play out. But the similarities with the 1930’s are definitely there.
There are, however, two big differences.
During the 1930’s the world’s only superpower was the British Empire. This no longer exists. There is also no Winston Churchill warning of the dangers ahead. Without a warning message it is doubtful nations will make the changes needed to change course and avoid the mistakes of eight decades ago.
The above is a speech I’ve prepared for Men’s Speech Club tomorrow. I decided to post it to my blog.
“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that it’s desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).
Special Dispatch No. 7328
Pro-Hizbullah Lebanese Website: “Hizbullah Has 70,000 Iranian Missiles Across Syria Ready To Launch Into Israel; In A Year It Will Have 500,000” (MEMRI, 2/12)
Iran has 10 military bases in Syria, two near Israel border — analyst
Up to 20,000 fighters trained by Tehran are in country, now focused on Israel, after neutralizing IS threat, NY Times reports Times of Israel * 19 Feb 2018
Iran operates 10 military bases in Syria and is training militias loyal to President Bashar Assad’s regime for a possible battle with Israel, with two key facilities located near the border with Israel, an analyst for an American think tank said in an article published Monday. Up to 20,000 fighters from various militias throughout the war-torn country have been trained by Iranian military personnel, giving Tehran its “true muscle” in Syria, according to the Monday report in The New York Times. Israel has been warning for years that Iran is seeking to entrench itself militarily in Syria. According to Israeli political and military assessments, Tehran, which has shored up Assad in the Syrian civil war, has been working to create air and naval bases in Syria, from which it can arm the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah and other Shiite groups, as well as carry out attacks of its own against the Jewish state. Monday’s report said hundreds or thousands of Iranian military officials are in Syria and that about 6,000 of the Iran-trained combatants in the country are members of Hezbollah, with the rest coming from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries. Most of them view the battle against non-Shiite Muslims and against non-Muslims in the region in religious terms, the report added.
DW remains an excellent source of European news. The German news program is shown on PBS on weekday evenings.
On Monday it reported the appointment of Chancellor Merkel’s “heir apparent”, Annegret Kram-Karrenbauer, as General Secretary of the conservative Christian Democrats. This is a role that Mrs. Merkel had before becoming Chancellor – the same development could happen again. Already, the media has dubbed her “Mini-Merkel”.
On the same evening news program, it was reported that the latest polls show support for the left-wing Social Democrats is plummeting. At the same time, the “extreme right wing party, AfD, continues to rise dramatically. DW’s Oliver Sallet commented that “this is unheard of. It has never happened before in (the Federal Republic of) Germany. The general trend continues, which is the rise of the Right in Germany.”
RENEW LAUNCHED IN UK
Prior to the above news item, the program reported the launch of a new party in the United Kingdom. “Renew” is dedicated to reversing the Brexit decision.
Britain remains very divided on whether the country should restore its independence, or further immerse itself in the German dominated European Union.
It’s also reported that the American billionaire George Soros has donated 600,000 pounds to try to ensure Britain does not go ahead with Brexit; at the same time, the CEO of Bank of America is speaking out against it. Neither of these men is British. In the US, the nightly news frequently brings up Russian interference in the last US election. It’s time the British government condemned outside interference in Brexit. This is a British matter for the British people to decide.
TRADE WAR GETTING WORSE
Chart du jour: Donald Trump, look away now
The EU’s trade surplus with the US jumped in 2017 and Donald Trump won’t be happy about it. Having already dubbed Germany a potential “currency exploiter,” the White House will be wincing at new figures which show EU exports to the States jumped 3 per cent last year to €375bn. Bloomberg reckons the figures could further strain trans-Atlantic trade ties between the two economic giants. (FT 2/16)
RECOMMENDED FAMILY SHOW
Friends recommended “When Calls the Heart,” which is available on Netflix. The show is now in its fifth season on Hallmark.
It centers on the development of a small town “the other side of the Rockies” and the relationship between a Canadian Mountie and an adventurous school teacher from a wealthy family. It’s a very good family show.
Prior to watching it, I was saying to my wife that we have watched good programs from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, but nothing from Canada. Now, finally, here’s a series set in Canada. That’s not the same as being “Canadian.” Hallmark, a US based channel, has left its prints all over it. Even the Mountie is an import from Australia!
King Edward VII conferred the title “Royal” on the Mounties in 1904, six years before the series is set. At the time, all outposts of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) would have displayed a photo of the King in their office. Schools would, too, as any reader of “Anne of Green Gables” knows. (Perhaps, we can overlook this as the school in the series meets in a saloon!) The government is referred to as “the federal government,” whereas Canadians refer to the government in Ottawa as the “Government of Canada.” Additionally, the only time any political subject has come up in the series, it’s been about US presidents. Also, New York, San Francisco and Hollywood have received special mention, as if they are a part of the same province.
In other words, a very uplifting series is slightly marred by historical error, which could have been avoided. Hallmark missed an opportunity to teach Americans about their bigger neighbor to the North.
It’s not very often that Philippians 4:8 comes to mind when watching a television series. But it did with this one:
Philippians 4:8 NKJV – “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
There is no bad language in this series, no sex and minimal violence. My wife and I recommend it as good family viewing, suitable for our grandchildren.
One final comment: famously, Mounties always get their man, but the Mountie in this series is taking a very long time to get his woman! It’s sometimes painful watching what must be one of the slowest courtships in dramatic history. It’s good, though, for teens today to see how people used to court the opposite sex.
After yet another school shooting in the United States, the 19th this year, Pat Buchanan wrote a brilliant analysis. The following is a quote from his article, posted this morning.
“Another factor helps to explain what happened Wednesday: We are a formerly Christian society in an advanced state of decomposition.
“Nikolas Cruz was a product of broken families. He was adopted. Both adoptive parents had died. Where did he get his ideas of right and wrong, good and evil? Before the Death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent. (“The Motives behind the massacre,” Pat Buchanan, 2/16)
Deuteronomy 28 is the classic Bible chapter that should help us all think. In summary, what it says is that the more we obey God, the greater our society will be; the more we turn away from God, the worse it will become. As Mr. Buchanan points out, “before the death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.”
RIPPLE EFFECT OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS
It’s not just that US schools are unsafe, it’s clear to the rest of the world that America is a very violent country, with a governmental system that doesn’t work any more. As one writer put it, the US has an eighteenth century constitution in a twenty first century world.
Most countries already have a bad impression of the current US president. But, when Mr. Trump spoke following the shootings and talked about mental illness, that impression only worsened. Mental illness was (and usually is) a major factor, but what differentiates America from other western countries is easy access to weapons. Even the mentally ill can walk into a gun dealer and buy an assault rifle!
Parkland will not be the last school mass shooting.
ISLAM AND THE WEST
Sheikh “Abu Qusay” delivered a Friday sermon in Jerusalem, in which he said:
“Oh dweller of the White House, let me tell you, from the pulpit of the Prophet Muhammad, that this is the promise of Allah and His Messenger: Jerusalem is the heart of the land of Islam. We will storm your White House, stomp on your head, kill your soldiers, and capture your land. This is the promise of the Prophet Muhammad.” The sermon was posted to the internet on December 22nd. (MEMRI)
Nervous Rex? Tillerson in Turkey
The war in Syria has already tested and destroyed many alliances. Turkey’s relationship with America may be next. Having launched one army offensive against Kurdish insurgents in north-west Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government says it will soon order another, this time in the north-east. There, the militants are flanked by American troops, who are supporting them in their fight against Islamic State. It will be up to America’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who arrives in Turkey today, to calm nerves and prevent the diplomatic row between the two NATO allies from exploding into an armed one. That will not be easy. After an American general warned that his forces would retaliate against any attack on their positions inside the Kurdish strongholds, Mr Erdogan said the United States “had clearly never received an Ottoman slap.” Slap or no slap, Mr. Tillerson’s ears will be ringing by the time he gets back to Washington. (Economist, 2/15)
German government plans massive military expansion in Iraq By Johannes Stern, 13 February 2018
The new grand coalition in Germany is planning a massive expansion of the German army (Bundeswehr) mission in Iraq.
This was announced by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) in the course of her trip to the Middle East last weekend. Von der Leyen praised Germany’s cooperation with the Peshmerga [Kurdish military forces] during her visit to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in northern Iraq. The Bundeswehr has been arming and militarily supporting the Kurdish force for three and a half years. It was “impressive to see the great success of the Peshmerga training mission,” she said, thanking “Bundeswehr soldiers” on the spot. Von der Leyen then announced that in future the Bundeswehr would be deployed throughout Iraq.
There will be “another mandate,” she said, “a mandate with a new balance … between Baghdad and Erbil on equal terms on both sides.” The defense minister made no concrete statements about the planned operation, but left no doubt she envisaged a long-term military engagement throughout Iraq. “Both in Kurdistan, as well as in the central government in Baghdad,” there is “a request above all to help in the implementation of reforms, in the construction of ministry structures,” the minister said. In Erbil, for example, “the construction of an entire sanitary unit is necessary,” but this also involved “of course the entire planning, organisation, recruitment and training.” There is also “considerable demand” for logistics. Germany wanted to “make its contribution” to provide Iraq with “independent, loyal operational forces for the long term.”
The Socialist Equality Party rejects the coalition pact, which focuses on the return of Germany to an aggressive foreign and great power policy, and calls for the disclosure of all the talks. Under conditions of escalating warfare in Syria and Iraq, and US preparations for war against North Korea, which threaten to provoke a Third World War, this demand, along with the demand for new elections, is becoming increasingly urgent.
Special Dispatch No. 7339
Hamas, Palestinian Factions In Response To Israel’s Airstrikes In Syria: ‘Any Israeli Attack, On Any Front, Will Be Answered With A Comprehensive War On All Fronts’ (MEMRI 2/15)
Macron Vows to Reform Islam in France “It is time to bring in a new generation”
by Soeren Kern, February 13, 2018 at 5:00 am
The overall objective of President Macron’s plan is to ensure that French law takes precedence over Islamic law for Muslims living in the country.
The plan, as currently conceived, is vague and short on details, but appears to involve three broad pillars: determining who will represent Muslims in France; delineating how Islam in France will be financed; and defining how imams in France will be trained.
“It is time to bring in a new generation. We have seen fifteen years of debate to defend the interests of foreign states.” — Hakim el-Karoui, a French-Tunisian expert on Islam who is advising Macron on the reforms. (Gatestone)
A New Élysée Treaty – Berlin and Paris are seeking a “new Élysée Treaty.” On the 55th anniversary of the original 1963 Élysée Treaty, in which the Federal Republic of Germany and France committed themselves to hold “consultations” on major political issues, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the drafting of a new treaty aimed at “deepening” cooperation between the two countries and “strengthening” the EU. In a declaration, the parliaments of both countries called for harmonizing almost the “complete range of policy issues.” This would amount to massively enhancing the “German-French axis.”
(Own report) – In Washington serious warnings are being raised against an independent German-European military policy aimed at weakening NATO. The militarization of the EU is being supported as long as “it is complimentary to NATO,” a senior Pentagon official was quoted. However, Washington would intervene if Berlin and the EU were to pull military resources away from NATO and use them for their own wars. This statement was made in light of the NATO defense ministers’ meeting that begins today, which will include a decision on the establishment of two new NATO headquarters. One will be established in the United States, to secure the military supply routes from North America over the Atlantic to Europe. A second will be established in Germany, to optimize rapid redeployments of West European troops eastwards across the continent. At the current stage of planning, this will be under German sovereignty and available also for use outside of the NATO framework.
Despite its loss in U.S. trade court against Bombardier, Boeing believes 2018 will be a turning point in its lengthy WTO challenge to Airbus over government subsidies. The threat of hefty tariffs could redraw the playing field — or trigger a trade war among traditional allies. (Dominic Gates,The Seattle Times 2/10)
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday rejected the sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange to a group that would have included Chinese investors, capping a two-year battle over a deal that sparked political opposition in Congress, reports the WSJ’s Dave Michaels. (2/16)
Some like it hot: America’s economy
The White House will announce its infrastructure plan today. It is expected to call for $200bn more in government spending to encourage private investment, hoping for a total of $1.5trn towards spending on roads, bridges, ports and more. Were Congress to pass such a plan without cutting spending elsewhere, it would be the third recent salvo of fiscal stimulus. Last week lawmakers passed a budget that will raise spending by $143bn (0.7% of GDP) this year; in December President Donald Trump signed into law tax cuts worth about $280bn in 2019. America’s budget deficit will probably reach $1trn (5% of GDP) that year. All this will stimulate an already hot economy. Unemployment is just 4.1%, and real-time estimates of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2018 are as high as 4%. The natural question is: when will inflation take off? This strangely timed fiscal experiment will reveal the answer. (Economist Espresso, 2/12)
China, Maldives: Beijing’s Boats Send a Message to India — China’s increased military presence in the Indian Ocean gives the country more options to respond to the crisis in the Maldives, in addition to challenging New Delhi’s influence in the region. (Stratfor, 2/16)
Finally, Mo Ibrahim has found an African president worthy of the $5 million prize the Sudanese billionaire offered to any leader who would step down after losing an election. The prize goes to Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It’s been eleven years since the prize was established. “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institution,” said the head of the prize committee.
Liberia’s gross domestic product was only $550 million when Mrs. Sirleaf became president in 2005. At the end of her tenure in office it had increased to $2.1 billion. (Wall Street Journal, 2/14)
COMMENT ON OXFAM CHARITY SCANDAL
Can charities be truly bad? It seems perverse to say that they are, but the Oxfam abuse scandal has revealed a sinister side to international aid — and about time, too. In our cover package this week, Harriet Sergeant argues that, in Africa and elsewhere, NGOs often do more harm than good. Mary Wakefield, meanwhile, who wrote about rapist aid workers in the magazine a fortnight ago, well before the Oxfam story broke, asks why polite society prefers to ignore scandals which relate to organisations that people want to believe are good. (The Spectator, UK, 2/15)
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils — Berlioz
"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill