Monday, May 18, 2009

Matt 24 watch, 82: The Gathering Storm -- yet again . . .

Recently, thanks to a kind donation from an expatriate, the local public library has acquired Sir Winston Churchill's six-volume history of the second world war. (NB: This work is best understood as memoirs by a principal, and as a source on otherwise inaccessible first hand information and associated interpretations by one in the midst of the train of events.)

The first volume bears the title, The Gathering Storm, and has the theme: "How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm."

In it, we may re-learn some key lessons of fairly recent (but all too easily forgotten) history:
1 --> How Germany, long since chafing under the Versailles treaty restrictions (designed to prevent a resurgence of the aggression that under the Kaiser threw the world into chaos and bloody turmoil), first ended up in the hands of a charismatic ex corporal as dictator, then how he bluffed France and Britain into allowing him to re-militarise the Rhineland. After all, Germans were "just going back into their backyard."

2 --> But once the Rhineland was re-occupied militarily, a fortress line was put down that recalled to a France with lingering wounds the formidable German lines that it had cost so many hundreds of thousands of French soldiers their lives to fruitlessly assault; ultimately provoking the nearly fatal mutinies of 1917. And, with the "back-door" to France and Britain thus locked and barred, Hitler felt free to rearm and indulge his appetites for expansionism in Eastern Europe.

3 --> At the first, he was rebuffed, not by Britain and France, but by Italy under Mussolini; who sent Italian troops to the Brenner Pass when Nazis in Austria tried to subvert that state in 1934, murdering its leader.

4 --> But then, Mussolini attacked Ethiopia, and neither Britain nor France nor the League of Nations that they led had the backbone to stop him. Symbolic sanctions were imposed, but they were not crippling, just provocative, driving Mussolini straight into Hitler's waiting arms.

5 --> So, soon enough, Hitler re-armed, building the army, air force and U-boat (submarine) fleet that would soon plunge the world into an even worse nightmare than the First World War. At each step, on the fear of or revulsion to war and the hope that he would be appeased, he was allowed to get away with the build-up to war. Then, in 1938 he was allowed to step by step engulf Austria, then the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, both of which were ethnically German.

6 --> Next, early in 1939, he gobbled up the remainder of Czechoslovakia on one excuse or another; setting the stage for turning on Poland. At this, the leadership of Britain finally woke up -- after they had already thrown away their advantages and would have to fight at a serious strategic disadvantage.

7 --> By September 1939, Hitler attacked Poland, provoking war. Then across the spring of 1940, he conquered Denmark and Norway, finally attacking and utterly defeating France within only a few weeks in May and June 1940.

8 --> So, by the Summer of 1940, an isolated Britain stood alone, and only the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy blocked Hitler from conquest of the keystone state of the international system at that time. Thankfully, the immortal few -- flying mostly semi-obsolescent Hurricanes and a minority of Spitfires that were only just comparable to Hitler's fighters -- prevailed in the Battle of Britain.
In short, apparently powerful states, but rotten from within and riven by inner doubts and divisions, multiplied by guilt over their own real or imagined follies and misdeeds, and by delusional wishful thinking about their times and challenges, may far more easily fall before the threats of their times than we may want to think.

Therefore, we must immediately ask:
How much more so are the small nations of our Caribbean vulnerable to the tidal waves of our times?

ANS: We are far more vulnerable to the decay of our civilisation that is ever more and more living out of Romans 1 than we are wont to recognise. (That is why we must be ever aware of our own inner apostasies, divisions and proneness to the idolatry of political messiahs and utopian ideologies that divert us from a sound understanding of our need to repent and be reformed through the gospel. It is also why we must understand the dangers in the tidal waves of de-Christianisation surging down into our region from the North, through satellite-cable TV, the Internet, popular music and culture, the intellectual and policy fashions of he day and many other avenues of influence. [in particular, we the Christians of the Caribbean need to soberly re-assess our tendency to emotionally identify ourselves with ideological forces and movements in the north that are strongly associated with Romans 1 style apostasy, whether or not we still smart from our history of slavery, colonialism and racism.] Similarly, we must be aware of he global ambitions of the Islamists. [Kindly note the distinction I here draw to ordinary Muslims.] )
All of these are regular themes in this blog, so we need not further underscore them just now. Instead, I want to draw our attention to an ongoing development in the pivotal region of the world, the Middle East, now that in Israel, Mr Netanyahu has again become prime minister; and now that the recently headlined fighting in Pakistan shows just how close the Islamists are to acquiring control of a state with nuclear arms.

For, we may read in a May 16, 2009 New York Times article, based on an interview with Mr Netanyahu, as follows:
WHEN the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, visits the White House on Monday for his first stage-setting visit, he will carry with him an agenda that clashes insistently with that of President Obama. Mr. Obama wants Mr. Netanyahu to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state. Mr. Netanyahu wants something else entirely: the president’s agreement that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons . . . .

Mr. Netanyahu would prefer to avoid hard decisions concerning the Palestinian issue, for reasons both political (he is not, let us say, sympathetic to the cause of Palestinian self-determination) and strategic (he believes the Palestinians, divided and dysfunctional, their extremists firmly in the Iranian camp, are unready for compromise). Nevertheless, the prime minister’s preoccupation with the Iranian nuclear program seems sincere and deeply felt . . . .

Mr. Netanyahu . . . said that Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons represented a “hinge of history.”

“Iran has threatened to annihilate a state,” he said. “In historical terms, this is an astounding thing. It’s a monumental outrage that goes effectively unchallenged in the court of public opinion. Sure, there are perfunctory condemnations, but there’s no j’accuse — there’s no shock.” He argued that one lesson of history is that “bad things tend to get worse if they’re not challenged early.” He went on, “Iranian leaders talk about Israel’s destruction or disappearance while simultaneously creating weapons to ensure its disappearance.”

Mr. Netanyahu doesn’t believe that Iran would necessarily launch a nuclear-tipped missile at Tel Aviv. He argues instead that Iran could bring about the eventual end of Israel simply by possessing such weaponry. “Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella,” he said. This could lead to the depopulation of the Negev and the Galilee, both of which have already endured sustained rocket attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.

More broadly, he said, a nuclear Iran “would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.”
Of course, Mr Netanyahu's "hinge of history" is a direct echo of the title for the fourth volume in the Churchill series on World War II, "The Hinge of Fate."

In that volume, Churchill describes the decisive turn in the tides of the war across 1942.

For, up to June to December 1942, the Allies seemingly hardly won a battle; after that -- having finally (but belatedly) mobilised adequate resources and having begun to "bleed the Germans white" in Russia (and the value of that massive Russian sacrifice should never be underestimated) -- they seemingly hardly lost one. The difference is, Mr Netanyahu is suggesting that the ongoing slow-burn global ideological, geostrategic and spiritual contest triggered by the rise of militant Islam
ism -- note my distinction from "ordinary" Muslims -- in recent decades, could now easily and irreversibly shift to overdrive; once Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

Indeed, with the recent apparently successful launch of a space satellite, Iran has already acquired the ballistic missiles to launch even crude nukes on a continent-wide or even global scale. The same Iran that has sponsored global terrorism since 1979, which has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel, and which has committed itself to the Mahdist global subjugation project of eschatological Islam. the very same Iran where we may note Khorasan is located, making the eschatological predictions of the Black Flag Armies in the hadiths all too relevant:
“Hadith indicate that black flags coming from the area of Khorasan will signify the appearance of the Mahdi is nigh. Khorasan is in todays Iran, and some scholars have said that this hadith means when the black flags appear from Central Asia, i.e. in the direction of Khorasan, then the appearance of the Mahdi is imminent.” [Muhammad Hisham Kabani – a chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America -- The Approach of Armageddon? (Canada, Supreme Muslim Council of America, 2003), p. 231. (NB Others point out that Khorasan formerly referred to areas E & NE of Persian Empire; and point to the Taliban as the probable black flag army.) ]
Expanding on the role of the Mahdi, Joel Richardson next cites Egyptian authors Muhammad ibn Izzat and Muhammd ‘Arif:
The Mahdi will be victorious and eradicate those pigs and dogs and the idols of this time so that there will once more be a caliphate based on prophethood as the hadith states . . . Jerusalem will be the location of the rightly guided caliphate and the center of Islamic rule, which will be headed by Imam al Mahdi . . . That will abolish the leadership of the Jews . . . and put an end to the domination of the Satans who spit evil into people and cause corruption in the earth, making them slaves of false idols and ruling the world by laws other than the Shari’a [Islamic Law] of the Lord of the worlds.[Signs of Qiyamah (Islamic Book Service, New Delhi, 2004), p. 40.]
So, while there is a legitimate concern for the longstanding plight of the ordinary Palestinian people [a people whose leadership and allied militants have ever since the 1920's repeatedly led them down roads that run counter to their manifest interests in a reasonable compromise], we must also see that a key reason why compromises have repeatedly failed is that ideology of religiously motivated eschatological global conquest. An ideology that makes the hoped for islamist subjugation of Israel (and, by the way, the associated slaughter of the Jews) the lynch-pin of end-times global conquest by the Mahdi.

An underlying reason that somehow we just don't seem to see headlined or noted or soberly commented on in news and views presented by ever so many news media houses, intellectuals and opinion leaders across the World. The very same media houses, intellectuals and opinion leaders that show little or no hesitation in headlining and condemning the real or imagined sins of Israel, Christendom and the West generally.

In the case of Iran, we may simply observe this Christmas 2007 official statement, to document the declared intent of the Mullahs and their political and military foot soldiers:
[T]he exploitation of the weak, the unjust system of distribution and denial of the rights of nations [i.e. inter alia Iran's "right" to break its former commitments under the Non Proliferation treaty, and access the technologies for the weapons that would equip it to "wipe Israel from the face of the map"], will end with the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS). In the government of the Imam man will witness real economic welfare throughout the world without any discrimination

. . . . Imam Mahdi and steadfast devotees will gather in Mecca . . . . Imam Mahdi sends troops who kill the Sofyani in Beit ol-Moqaddas [i.e. Jerusalem], the Islamic holy city in Palestine that is currently under occupation of the Zionists. . . . Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus [NB: the Islamic end times no. 2 to the Mahdi: Isa, not the Biblical Jesus!] will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world. [Consider here, on many recent illustrations of what such Iranian-style Islamic "justice" too often has meant.] Jesus had himself given the tidings of the coming of God's last messenger and will see Mohammad's ideals materialize in the time of the Mahdi. The seat of the Mahdi’s global government will be the city of Kufa [a Shiite city and centre of pilgrimage in Iraq] . . . .From here he will dominate the east and the west to fill the earth with justice.

If you doubt the above on the implied intended consequences for Jews, kindly read the following cite of a hadith from Clause 7 of the Hamas Charter -- the same Hamas that is backed by Iran and poses ever so convincingly before the world as the victim of Israeli and Western oppression:
"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews). When the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla [= slave or servant of Allah], there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharqad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Now, as recent history has shown, determinedly aggressive ideologies will often cloak themselves in the robes of the victim, the better to persuade those they seek to dominate, to back off while they are yet relatively weak.

By the time those who are asleep at the wheel wake up, it may be too late.

Equally, the lesson of history is that such aggressive global agendas may only in the end be deterred and/or defeated by superior force backed up by the foresight, will and perseverance that will not yield to the blandishments of appeasement or the attempts to blame the intended victims for provoking attack or worse "deserving to be punished" for their sins.

So, Mr Netanyahu -- for all his own real and imagined sins and those of his nation over the years [and, let him among us who is without guilt cast the first stone . . . ] -- is precisely right to observe that “bad things tend to get worse if they’re not challenged early.”

In that light, it is highly significant that the interviewer seemingly has missed the key echo of the lessons drawn by Churchill.

(Instead he unfortunately wanders off into somewhat ad hominem analyses of Mr Netanyahu's father's career as an historian of the persecution of Jews in Spain, and the further family history that it is Mr Netanyahu's brother who was a leader of the Entebbe raid in 1976 who was killed in the act of rescuing hostages on a hijacked British airliner. All of that perhaps lends further personal point to the Israeli PM's views, but here is an elephant in the room that many seem to be pretending is not there: the still living history of the rise of fascism in the 1930's and 40's and the consequences of appeasement and trying to compromise with those who used compromises and solemn treaty obligations only as stepping stones to aggression. )

That brings us to the predicted geostrategic test that is now on the table in front of both the new American and the new Israeli administrations; the one that they had better not fail:

Mr. Netanyahu may be able to convince Mr. Obama that Iran poses an Amalek-sized threat to Israel, but he will have a much more difficult time convincing him that Iran poses an existential threat to America. It is certainly true that a nuclear Iran is not in the best interests of the United States. It would mean, among other things, the probable beginning of a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region, and it would mean that the 30-year-struggle between America and Iran for domination of the Persian Gulf will be over, with Persia the victor. But the short-term costs, in particular, for an American strike — or an American-approved Israeli strike — could be appallingly high.

As the crisis worsens, Mr. Obama will find his options few, and those that exist will require him to bring to bear all his talents of persuasion . . .
But, domination of the Persian Gulf by a state committed to an ideology of global subjugation under Mahdi, backed up by nuclear weapons, is control of the oil jugular vein of the world economy.

With all too easily foreseen and utterly destructive consequences.

Moreover, it is precisely the view that one can simply plead sweet reason, persuade and compromise with those bent on aggressive agendas that threw the world into a spiral to war across the 1930's. (The strategy of containment, sustained across painful and expensive decades -- and in the teeth of sustained, nearly successful attempts to influence the leading global powers to walk away from it -- proved far more successful with the global threat of Communism, from the 1940's - 80's.)

So, have we learned from all too recent and bloodily costly history, or are we now doomed to repeat its worst chapters?

Time will tell, but our duty is to pray for wisdom and to study, seeking clarity and courage to understand our times and then to act with conviction and determination on what the lessons of history have to tell us.

Including, here in the Caribbean.

For, the right thing is almost always apparently harder to do than the wrong or the foolish thing.

Until the foreseeable consequences of folly are reckoned with -- or until they roll in and bash down our front doors. END