Tag Archives: Vietnam

TWO SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS

Candidates

I thought readers might appreciate the following from a friend in Australia:

“Your presidential race is fascinating yet depressing.  Away from America, nobody, and I mean just about no one, can believe that Americans would support such a demagogue as Trump and all he stands for.   To say they like him because he speaks his mind and refuses to be PC is just inane.  Look at the type of person he is.  I would really fear for America, and more so the world, with a clown like him in charge.   It is positively sickening.

Bernie Sanders sounds like maybe a nice guy but a bit out of touch. I don’t think America could work his way. So Hilary . . .  there are skeletons in the closet so to speak but at least she has experience and did quite a reasonable job of it.  I think much of America still lives in the Teddy Roosevelt era in outlook . . . with little knowledge of the outside world and sort of contempt for it.”

Similar comments are also being made in newspapers in other parts of the world.

It’s difficult to imagine the Atlantic alliance holding together if Trump wins the election; having said that, the Democrats have not done any better.   Bret Stephens in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled:   “Barack Obama checks out.”   With 311 days left until he hands over to his successor, the president seems to be insulting America’s friends while embracing her enemies (visits to Vietnam and Cuba are going to follow last year’s treaty with Iran).

Mr. Stephens’ article follows on from one in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.   Mr. Goldberg interviewed President Obama, who seemed to forget he is still president and spent quite some time criticizing US allies, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and former President Sarkozy of France who may be re-elected. He even made it clear that if Russia invades Moldova, the US will do nothing, giving the Russian president the go-ahead to annex another neighbor.   Even Israel is set to suffer another blow from the US president, who is treating Saudi Arabia equally in arms sales.

Historian Niall Ferguson also commented on the Goldberg article in today’s Boston Globe:

“At the top of the list of scapegoats are America’s traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libya’s descent in chaos was all their fault) but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.   Then comes the Washington “foreign policy establishment” and the US military, who are always trying to “jam” him into going to war.   Next in line are the members of his own cabinet — among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.

“The president says he is “very proud” of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria.   He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to “force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons,” he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s.   Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months?   Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.

“The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable.  But why worry?  The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine:   “Don’t do stupid sh–.”   As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.” (“A Catastrophe of Epic Proportions,” Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe).

As a President, Hillary Clinton seems likely to continue Mr. Obama’s policies and Europe is apprehensive of a Trump presidency, the Atlantic alliance could have some serious problems a few months from now.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed: “it is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president.   This is something we are going to have to learn to live with!”   That was said over sixty years ago.   The problem has since doubled as every girl can now also aspire to be president.

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The United States isn’t the only country experiencing an interesting and potentially nation-changing election.   Germany had one, too. Last Sunday three of Germany’s states voted.  The result was significant gains for the AfD, the Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.   Trump is not the only western politician who wants to do something about immigration.

As Reuters put it:   “Voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in three German regional elections on Sunday, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for manoeuvre as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants.

“Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.”

Following the election we see this report from the New York Times today:

BERLIN — German authorities banned a neo-Nazi group known as the White Wolves Terror Crew after the police conducted early morning raids on Wednesday in 10 of the country’s 16 states, confiscating weapons but making no arrests, the Interior Ministry said.

Far-right parties have gained strength as Germany struggles to integrate more than one million migrants, and the ban is intended to demonstrate that the authorities will not tolerate agitation against foreigners and migrants “and certainly no violence,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

“This group is an association of neo-Nazis who openly and aggressively agitate against our state, against our society, against people who think differently, against migrants and against the police,” he said.

Mr. de Maizière said that the group wanted to build a dictatorship, and that its aim “is supposed to be realized with all means available,” including violence. He added that the core of the group was made up of approximately 25 people, with the leaders coming from Hamburg.

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Staying in Europe, the Prime Minister of Iceland, a European country that is not a member of the EU, has warned the United Kingdom to recognize a European reality.   The Daily Telegraph carried the following headline on March 9th:

“Britain warned it wields no power in German dominated EU.”

It’s even losing control of its own stock market. Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange are to merge, with Deutsche Bourse holding a 54.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange, giving it effective control of one of the most important stock markets in the world.

Whether the British vote to leave the EU or remain a member on June 23rd may not make much difference. They will still be under the dominance of Berlin, whatever the outcome.

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Another March 9th headline from the UK’s Daily Mail:

London is more Islamic than most cities in Muslim countries, says Pakistan-born Islamic scholar.”

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.

 

LESSONS ON WAR

 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED LONE PINE PHOTO                  (306) 683-0889
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
LONE PINE PHOTO (306) 683-0889

“What was the true lesson of the war in Vietnam?   Or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?   No matter how powerful you are, it’s hard to defeat an enemy that cares much more about the outcome than you do.   Don’t escalate the fight with Russia over Ukraine, a nation that will always matter much more to Moscow than to Washington. Instead of boosting Vladimir Putin’s popularity by feeding anti-American fury in his country, let Europe lead.   This is not a new Cold War.   The American people don’t care.   Why continue this fight?

“Independents know the US shouldn’t try to push Israelis and Palestinians toward a peace deal that neither side really wants.  It shouldn’t defend Middle East dictators while claiming to defend freedom and human rights.   Let those most threatened by ISIS, in the Middle East and Europe, take the lead.   Let Germany and Japan finally accept responsibility for their own security.   Accept that decisions made in Beijing, not in Washington, will decide whether China sinks or swims.”

Ian Bremmer, “What does America stand for?”  Time Magazine, June 1st.  (Author of “Superpower:  Three choices for America’s role in the world,” published by Portfolio/Penguin.)

REPEATED DIPLOMATIC GAFFES

obama-press_3161834b

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.

INTERNATIONAL REPORT

Lindt Cafe

Katrina Dawson was 38-years-old. She was described by the London Daily Mail as a “brilliant young barrister (lawyer) and mother of three.” She was one of the hostages who died in the Sydney café that was held up by a deranged cleric from Iran. Another hostage, Tori Johnson, 34, the café manager, also died, shot while trying to wrestle a shotgun out of the hostage-takers’ hands.

The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott apologized to Australians for the failure of security services, in not preventing the incident. The man had a history of violence and was known to be an Islamic extremist.

The perpetrator of this awful crime was an immigrant from Iran, given refuge through the generosity and benevolence of the Australian government and people. Australia’s immigration policies are the root cause of the problem here.   Not even the very conservative Mr. Abbott was ready to call for change.

That means more Australians will die at the hands of Islamic extremists.

Quick to capitalize on the situation, left-wingers started a twitter campaign.

#Illridewithyou was the hashtag, in a campaign to encourage Australians to “adopt” a Muslim on the way to work, so they wouldn’t be attacked by angry mobs.

But . . . there were no angry mobs.

Australians are, in the main, an easy-going people who welcome strangers, including Muslim immigrants. There was absolutely no need for a campaign to accompany Muslims to work.

There is, however, a serious need for changes to immigration policy – and not just in Australia!

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There seems to be a greater awareness of the threat posed by Muslim immigration in Germany, where another demonstration took place last weekend, this time in Dresden. Fears of “Islamization” prompted the demonstration, which some claim was driven by neo-Nazis.

At this point, that is questionable.

But one thing is for sure – if nothing is done to curtail Muslim immigration, modern day Nazis will capitalize on the public’s anxiety and we could see a repeat of the 1930’s.

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The 1950s were very much in the news in the United States this week, as news programs remembered the Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro’s coming to power.

It’s been 55 years since Castro came to power, presiding over the first communist government in the western hemisphere. In 1962, tension over Soviet plans to place nuclear weapons on the island, only 500 miles from Florida, led to a major confrontation between Washington and Moscow and threatened a nuclear conflict.

In 1960, economic sanctions were placed on Cuba by the United States. Those sanctions remained in effect for over 50 years. This week, President Obama announced his intention to restore diplomatic relations with the island nation and request Congress to lift the embargo. Pope Francis had used his influence to broker a deal between the two countries, which included the release of long-time prisoners by both nations.

The sanctions have not made sense for a long time. If the US can trade with communist China and communist Vietnam, then why not Cuba?

However, the president seems to have missed out on an opportunity to push for some concessions from Cuba. Although American companies may benefit from investment and trade opportunities, the greater benefit will be to the Cuban people, who should see greater job opportunities and an eventual rise in their standard of living.