Hence the further saying, that history tends to repeat itself. (That is, we make the same basic mistakes over and over again.)
|Vultures gathering . . .|
The reason for that is, that, failing to understand the times, we make bad decisions, and often fall for the quack-cures of spiritual, political, education and opinion manipulators (who may be one and the same). Which has destructive spiritual, economic, social, political, legal and geo-strategic consequences. In short, societies that turn their backs on God decay from within and reach a condition where the gathering, watching vultures begin to think that it is convenient to hasten "the inevitable."
Am I simply being a doom-and-gloom naysayer to "progress"?
No, for change is not progress -- that requires change plus genuine improvement (as opposed to decadence and obvious decay). This particular confusion is yet another sign of what is wrong: too many today refuse to heed sound if painful thought, but instead insist on gathering to those who will tickle their itching ears with what they want to hear.
Which is exactly what the Apostle Paul warns of:
2 Tim 4: 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths . . . [ESV]This can actually reach a point where people are so locked up in manipulative myths and warped thinking that the even grimmer words of Jesus become apt:
Jn 8: 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me . . . [ESV]In another place we read the same Apostle:
Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!- 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [ESV]Rom 1 has much the same message, but puts the root and resulting growing pattern of decay more explicitly:
Rom 1: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [ESV]All of this sounds all too familiar in our day, across our civilisation, and increasingly in our region.
Let's just say, that when we are beset by fools who demand that we support them in their sins and call wrong right and right wrong, even wishing to embed such in law, our civilisation is far gone under the consequences of turning its back on God.
Isaiah warns against such:
Isa 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!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!
24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
so their root will be as rottenness,
and their blossom go up like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts,
and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people . . .
26 He will raise a signal for nations far away,
and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
and behold, quickly, speedily they come!
27 None is weary, none stumbles,
none slumbers or sleeps,
not a waistband is loose,
not a sandal strap broken;
28 their arrows are sharp,
all their bows bent,
their horses' hoofs seem like flint,
and their wheels like the whirlwind.
29 Their roaring is like a lion,In short, when a nation decisively turns its back on God and despises his Word it has consequences and if there is insistence on those sins, it will reach the point where there is a perversion of what is deemed right and wrong in the society, especially among the well-off and powerful. Eventually, it will reach a point where the raiders will come from afar, as vultures attacking a dying wounded man even before he has expired.
like young lions they roar;
they growl and seize their prey;
they carry it off, and none can rescue.
30 They will growl over it on that day,
like the growling of the sea.
And if one looks to the land,
behold, darkness and distress;
and the light is darkened by its clouds. [ESV]
In this sense, 9/11 was a harbinger, and the all too common "progressive" reaction that we/they deserved it is a further sign of where things have reached.
Apparently, we have yet to learn the lesson in the proverb, jumping from the frying pan straight into the fire.
So also (picking a relevant current issue to throw a spotlight on the problem) is the current situation with the Benghazi terrorist attack, where the major media -- patently in the interests of their favoured candidate in a US Election -- have for six weeks now first gone along with a patently false narrative and then with suppression of the truth that has emerged in the fringes, bit by bit.
(Part of the reason for this is that for one reason or another, the US' major media constitute a one-party press, with the main exception being Fox News; which is duly derided by the other media. Where also, by and large educated people in the region have been induced to align with the dominant party, on the notion that they are for Blacks. In fact, they are for power and base that power on hegemony of a cluster of interest groups which they dominate and manipulate ruthlessly. But, one of those interest groups is the media and another is the education system. So, had it been an administration of the other main US party that had willfully ignored signs of risk, refused to provide adequate security by denying direct requests, and then refused to bring in urgently requested back-up across a seven hour gun-battle with raiders in reinforced company strength backed up by machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and mortars, there is no doubt that there would have been a major, headline dominating scandal and investigatory hearings with update bulletins by the hour over these past six weeks. And, the rest of the vultures have got the message, I am sure.)
The vultures are circling.
By Spring next year, Iran credibly will irrevocably cross the red line threshold to the creation of nuclear weapons, which will put a Madhism-inspired apocalyptic power with a history of backing up terrorism in control of the world's oil jugular vein.
That has been coming for years, but somehow, there has been a willful suppression of serious discussion of the relevant geo-strategic, global economic and military consequences and what such would force on the world.
More vultures are coming.
For that matter, it seems that by and large we do not know or understand world history and related geo-strategic and economic issues. let's start with a sea-trade flows map that highlights the movement of oil:
|Oil being the crucial global commodity (as energy and energy-using equipment are so pivotal to a technological society), we can best understand the choke-point concept by looking at the flow of oil trade. The obvious numbers 1 and 2 are the straights of Hormuz and Molucca, with the Suez Canal, the Bab el Mandeb leading to the Red Sea (with the Straights of Gibraltar at the other end of the Mediterranean) and the Panama Canal being only slightly less important. The Dardanelles that guard the entry to the Black Sea were very important for good or ill in the First World War, and as they are one of the crucial access points to the world oceans for Russia, may be important again. The seas off West Africa, and the two sides of the British Isles, especially the English Channel, are others, as are the Straights of Denmark. (It is not a coincidence that the last major battle between gun-using battleships happened off Denmark, Jutland in 1916.) The black dots of pirate activity are revealing. (Source: Am. Security Project, fair use.)|
Zbigniew Brezezinski, a major American Geo-Strategic thinker, helps us capture the essential focus, first with the "regional worlds" of old and the contrast with the rise of the post-Columbus sea-borne trade-based empires:
Rome exercised its sway largely through superior military organization and cultural appeal [relative to the surrounding barbarians]. China relied heavily on an efficient bureaucracy to rule an empire based on shared ethnic identity, reinforcing its control through a highly developed sense of cultural superiority. The Mongol Empire combined advanced military tactics for conquest with an inclination toward assimilation as the basis for rule. The British (as well as the Spanish, Dutch, and French) gained preeminence as their flag followed their trade, their control likewise reinforced by superior military organization and cultural assertiveness. [The Grand Chess Board (New York, New York: Basic Books, 1997) p. 19.]In outlining the post-Columbus flow of history he had earlier noted:
After lasting two centuries, from 1206 to 1405, the world's largest land-based empire [The Mongols under Ghengis Khan and successors, who swept out of the great plains of Eurasia to conquer the periphery states from China to the Middle East and on to Eastern and Central Europe] disappeared without a trace.
Thereafter, Europe became both the locus of global power and the focus of the main struggles for global power. Indeed, in the course of approximately three centuries, the small northwestern periphery of the Eurasian continent attained -- through the projection of maritime power and for the first time ever -- genuine global domination as European power reached, and asserted itself on, every continent of the globe . . . .
Broadly speaking, until the middle of the seventeenth century, Spain was the paramount European power. By the late fifteenth century, it had also emerged as a major overseas imperial power, entertaining global ambitions. Religion served as a unifying doctrine and as a source of imperial missionary zeal. Indeed, it took papal arbitration between Spain and its maritime rival, Portugal, to codify a formal division of the world into Spanish and Portuguese colonial spheres in the Treaties of Tordesilla ( 1494) and Saragossa ( 1529). Nonetheless, faced by English, French, and Dutch challenges, Spain was never able to assert genuine supremacy, either in Western Europe itself or across the oceans.
Spain's preeminence gradually gave way to that of France. Until 1815, France was the dominant European power, though continuously checked by its European rivals, both on the continent and overseas. Under Napoleon, France came close to establishing true hegemony over Europe. Had it succeeded, it might have also gained the status of the dominant global power. However, its defeat by a European coalition reestablished the continental balance of power.
For the next century, until World War I, Great Britain exercised global maritime domination as London became the world's principal financial and trading center and the British navy "ruled the waves." Great Britain was clearly paramount overseas, but like the earlier European aspirants to global hegemony, the British Empire could not single-handedly dominate Europe. Instead, Britain relied on an intricate balance-of-power diplomacy and eventually on an Anglo-French entente to prevent continental domination by either Russia or Germany.
The overseas British Empire was initially acquired through a combination of exploration, trade, and conquest. But much like its Roman and Chinese predecessors or its French and Spanish rivals, it also derived a great deal of its staying power from the perception of British cultural superiority. That superiority was not only a matter of subjective arrogance on the part of the imperial ruling class but was a perspective shared by many of the non-British subjects.
In the words of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela: "I was brought up in a British school, and at the time Britain was the home of everything that was best in the world. I have not discarded the influence which Britain and British history and culture exercised on us." [IBID, pp. 16 - 19]In short, exploration and trade led to colonisation, but in a divided western power -- this rather echoes the prophetic dream in Daniel 2, in which the culminating global Iron empire is an iirreconcilable mixture of Iron and clay, partly strong and partly weak -- that had continental and colonial rivalries that ended up with Britain dominant on the seas, and dependent on allies to maintain a balance of power in Europe for a century after Napoleon. However, once Germany rose to power from the 1870's on, it pursued a primarily continental pattern of aggressive domination, and became the new focus for balancing alliances, and in particular it began to build a High Seas Fleet that rivalled that of Britain, forcing Britain to pull home naval resources and depend on sea alliances for the first time in a century. This led to war in 1914, and the draining of enough European blood and treasure that the hitherto isolated and content Americans were drawn in in response to unlimited German submarine warfare.
As a consequence of that, the prestige of European culture was shattered, and emerging educated classes in the colonised South began the long march to independence, which came in a wave after the Second World War, which was triggered in the main by Germany's return to an aggressive stance under the would-be political messiah and global hegemon, Hitler. Unfortunately, across the 1930's a Britain and a France dominated by the memories of four years of bloodletting in the trenches and riven by polarised politics and a failure of vision, failed to stop Germany when it would have been easy to do so.
Sir Winston Churchill's almost lone steady voice of warning on the trends in light of history was largely ignored and in some quarters outright derided and dismissed as the rantings of a mad man drunk on visions of a dead past of colonial glory. This continued while German armies made short work of Poland, then the Scandinavian countries.
|The 1940 Blitzkrieg: the demonstration of the dominance of the tank and the aircraft in concert as the key breakthrough weapons, leading to the rise of a new era of armoured warfare (to today)|
Finally on May 10, 1940, Hitler's Panzers swept through the Ardennes in the epochal Blitzkrieg campaign that defeated France in six weeks and brought Britain to the brink of defeat.
Hitler could only be defeated after he had invaded Russia on June 22 1941, and -- in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour of December 7th, 1941 that decimated the US Battleship fleet -- managed to declare war on the USA, initiating a submarine campaign that torpedoed merchantmen all across the US Eastern Seaboard, the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean and Atlantic. To defeat him took almost four years, and a devastated continent with perhaps 40 millions dead.
After that war, Britain and France alike were drained and broken, leaving the task of holding the seas in the face of the rising power of a nuclear weapon-armed Soviet Russia to the remaining great Western power, the USA.
That led to the Cold War of containment from 1948 - 1991, which issued in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In all of this, the issue of naval dominance of the key trade routes and their choke points was critical. Let me therefore clip Mark Tempest, who puts it well as he ponders a similar global trade map to the above:
There it is, a picture of world commerce. Those are not war ships wending their way across oceans, those are merchant ships moving the goods that make the world go. You might note that there are places where the traffic converges to pass through narrow areas. These are referred to as "chokepoints", "Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes . . ."It is worth expanding from the US Navy's strategic assessment Tempest has cited:
Large ships sail on rigid schedules, carrying parts from Japan to the U.S. or to Europe in such a reliable manner that warehouse costs are reduced by planning for "just in time" deliveries of products.
So, when there is a disruption in the smooth flow of goods, say from the recent earthquake in Japan, there are ripple effects that impact more than the Japanese part manufacturers.
A similar effect is caused by things that interfere with sea lanes. These might be something like a catastrophe that strikes a chokepoint like a closure of the Suez Canal . . . .
I suppose we also have covered why we [Americans], a nation dependent on maritime commerce, have a Navy and a Coast Guard out there keeping the sea lanes open. As noted here:
70% of the world is water, 80% of the world lives on or near the coastline and 90% of our [global] commerce sails across it. Any disruption in that chain caused by instability has a direct impact on American [and global] quality of life.
The Maritime Strategy is about Security, Stability and SeapowerSecurity: Maritime forces are first line of defense with ability to deploy quickly, reach difficult locations.
Prosperity: 70% of the world is water, 80% of the world lives on or near the coastline and 90% of our commerce sails across it. Any disruption in that chain caused by instability has a direct impact on American quality of life.
Seapower: The unifying force and common denominator that enables global security stability and prosperity.
This strategy clearly articulates that our sea services operate across the full spectrum of operations; raising the prevention of war to a level equal to the conduct of war. We believe that preventing wars is as important as winning wars.
Maritime forces will be employed to build confidence and trust among nations through collective security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests in an open, multi-polar world.
Although our forces can surge when necessary to respond to crises, trust and cooperation cannot be surged. They must be built over time so that the strategic interests of the participants are continuously considered while mutual understanding and respect are promoted.
United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard will act across the full range of military operations to secure the United States from direct attack; secure strategic access and retain global freedom of action; strengthen existing and emerging alliances and partnerships and establish favorable security conditions.Grim, sobering and apt words.
Those whose aggressive interests lie in the direction of choking off or disrupting trade can easily become enemies of humanity, inflicting great and widespread harm.
Indeed, that is the point of the video by Iranian human rights activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi that we have linked a few days ago. In case you didn't watch it, it would be good to pause:
If Iran crosses the Red Line unimpeded, within a few months or so, we may be facing a tyrannical regime with a history of backing terrorism and of threatening genocide that sees itself as the vanguard of the expected world-conquering Islamic end times figure, the Mahdi, now armed with nukes and sitting on the world's no 1 choke point.
But this is not just a global challenge. Here in the Caribbean, sea-trade choke points directly or indirectly control our access to oil, many commodities and even food.
Indeed, it is worth looking at the cluster of Caribbean choke points, which are next to the US Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard:
|Caribbean Choke-Points relevant to the Caribbean "basin" region and the US Gulf Coast, Atlantic Seaboard, and the vital task of switching US naval forces from one Ocean to the next. Indeed this last is why the US connived to get Panama away from Columbia, and to build the Panama Canal. (Source: EagleSpeak)|
Choke points are real and have global geo-strategic significance.
As one benefit, I see that the Jamaican Government is trying to exploit the proximity of Jamaica to the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti, the Panama Canal 1,200 miles S, and the presence of a deep water bay, Cow Bay, East of Kingston, to drive a major industrial transformation based on logistics. This follows a 1960's vision of a great visionary Jamaican, the Hon. Robert Lightbourne. More power to them!
Where, as a consequence (after hundreds of years of war, turmoil and piracy), the Anglo-American oceanic/naval powers dependent on global trade have therefore been the natural protectors of global stability over the past 200+ years in the teeth of piracy, potential naval wars with disruption of commerce, and worse. Yes, they have their own sins (which are legion and have done much harm), but if we are to judge soundly we must see the overall picture. A one sided litany or attitude that pretends that such are the root of all evils in the world and should be suspected and angrily opposed in all they say or do will not help.
Just as, jumping from the frying pan into the fire does not help.
If you doubt me on this, ask the descendants of the Christian peoples of Syria, Lebanon and Egypt or the Balkans about what was the net result of switching from Byzantine control to Islamic domination and dhimmuitude.
Similarly, we seem to have failed to learn the lessons of the consequences of radical revolutions in strategically pivotal regions since 1789: these strongly tend to trigger the rise of ruthless, ambitious, nihilistic, amoral, ideologically motivated power factions and thus lead to massively destructive wars.
The French, Russian and German/Nazi/Fascist revolutions are just the tip of the iceberg on that oft-repeated story.
The 1979 revolution in Iran and the current so-called Arab Spring/Islamist Winter phenomenon are yet another stanza on an old, old tale.
And, the vultures gather, anticipating a feast.
Going further back, I am reminded of Moses' warning on the consequences of complacent decadence and self-congratulatory pride, as Israel was on the verge of crossing into the Promised Land:
Deut 8: 2 . . . you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD . . . .
11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
20 Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. [ESV]These concerns come to the fore as I reflect on the patent decline and outright decay of our civilisation, and especially as I contemplate the mess in the Middle East, on the eve of a US Presidential Election, noting how two of the major warning signs in that turbulent region that point to a very dangerous future are being roundly ignored or twisted so that too many of us patently cannot read the signs of our times.
But in the midst of such chaos, the judgement of the consequences of our insistence on putting darkness for light, we -- as those called to bear witness to the gospel -- have a duty to call men and nations to repentance and reformation under him who is the gracious prince of peace. And, if we do so faithfully in our region, we can help to build an oasis of blessing, a shiny city set on a hill.
Even with that possibility, we have to be clear-sighted on the implications of roving bands of vultures.
Not just those that are obvious, being armed with guns and bombs, but those armed with legal opinions or policy papers or development project proposals and terms and conditions that twist the truth and the right into pretzels, and those -- armed with microphones and cameras, or modems and multimedia software, or printing presses, or the lecturer's podium or even the pulpit -- who pretend that en-darkenment is education, information and enlightenment.
That is why we must be equipped to stand in our increasingly tough times.
More on that another time, DV. END