What Do You Stand For?

Lead an honorable life, so you can die an honorable death
From the March 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

People naturally want to live. Some do just about anything to remain alive—ignore a wounded victim to avoid provoking a violent criminal; betray a friend to comply with a dictator’s unjust demands; surrender to a tyrant rather than wage war.

But in the end, we all die. You need to ask yourself: What cause is worth dying for?

What are your foundational values? Is your sense of right and wrong so wholehearted and elemental that you would stake your life on it? To live a truly honorable life, you need to prove and then be governed by unshakable beliefs that you refuse to compromise, no matter the cost.

Three young Jews had proven for themselves what was true and right. They had resolved to remain faithful to God whatever the consequences. As they faced the most powerful, fearsome man on Earth, who was about to execute them for refusing to worship an idol, they spoke with flinty conviction: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). The outraged king then pitched Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego alive into a blazing inferno. Only then, after proving themselves unbreakable, did God deliver them.

If staying true to your beliefs gets you killed, that is an honorable death. Many of the prophets did so. Stephen did (Acts 7:58). John the Baptist did (Mark 6:27). Almost all of the apostles did. These individuals all await a resurrection to glory. Jesus Christ’s conviction motivated Him to sweat blood in order to avoid sin (Luke 22:44; Hebrews 12:3-4)—and to sacrifice His life so you could live.

It is foolish to assume you won’t have to die for a cause. The world is growing more dangerous. Savagery is spreading globally, even unexpectedly besieging seemingly peaceful areas. The time remaining in this age of man is growing short.

You need to lock down your core beliefs and prove them beyond doubt, or you will soon find yourself in circumstances where they are tested past their breaking point. Winston Churchill said, “Virtuous motives, trammeled by inertia and timidity, are no match for armed and resolute wickedness.”

Consider the example of the United States Navy seals, whose job is to stare down death. If they are not absolutely convicted of the cause, they will not perform their duty when called upon. They cement that conviction in a specific, practical way: by memorizing the U.S. Navy seal Ethos.

This says, in part, “My loyalty to country and team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans, always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. … I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own. I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. … I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. … If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

This shows the power of articulating and codifying such beliefs. These words, burned into a seal’s mind, drive him onward in the most grueling conditions. He commits to them, and proves his commitment through the daily grind of drills, training, labor, sweat and pain. Then, when crisis arises, this guiding ethos is so ingrained into his fiber that he is able to accomplish acts of uncommon valor and grit.

You need this kind of clarity of purpose, and commitment to that purpose. It requires giving serious thought to life’s larger questions.

Take real time to pray and to think earnestly about this. Write down your thoughts on the true guiding principles by which you can make decisions, establish priorities, evaluate your actions, measure success and failure, and assess your life. Think about what you would consider an honor to die defending. This is not an exercise in morbidity, but in clarity.

Don’t be a person who will die dishonorably—or save yourself dishonorably—as your lack of principle is exposed. And don’t be a person who will die quietly, regretting the wasted and unprincipled life left behind. Dig deep until you strike the golden virtues worth devoting your life and death to. Then throw yourself into serving those virtues and fulfilling your life’s purpose, long before it ends.

Then you will be able to stand on the threshold of an honorable death, look back over your shoulder at an honorable life, and say with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6-8: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Russia’s Middle East Invasion

From the March 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Russian President Vladimir Putin lamented the Soviet Union’s collapse as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” It is now clear that the loss he feels is not confined to former Soviet satellite states. It extends to Moscow’s former client states far and wide—even as far afield as the Middle East.

When the Syrian Arab Spring began in March 2011, Russia (and China) opposed every major world power by vetoing United Nations Security Council resolutions that would have condemned the Bashar Assad regime. Britain’s UN ambassador condemned the act as putting “national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians.” Since then, nearly half a million people have been killed in that country.

In 2013, Assad crossed a “red line” drawn by United States President Barack Obama when he used chemical weapons multiple times. Russia seized the opportunity and brokered a deal that would remove Assad’s chemical weapons. From that point forward, Russia became the most influential player in Syria and the greater Middle East.

In September 2014, a U.S.-led coalition began bombarding Islamist rebels from Syrian airspace. One year later, Russia joined the Syrian battlefield with its own air strikes—its first military conflict since the Cold War outside former Soviet Union borders.

Russia established an airbase near the Syrian port city of Latakia and a naval facility in Tartus. Its target list included Islamist rebels and “moderate” rebel groups, groups the U.S.-led coalition was supporting.

Putin’s Russia has repeatedly violated an air-safety agreement with the U.S. in Syria, and the threat of a war with Russia has intimidated Washington from imposing a no-fly zone in Syria.

Russia formed a joint alliance with Syria, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah and established an information exchange center in Baghdad. Russia’s relationship with Iran—Assad’s strongest ally—grew so close that in August 2016, Russia launched air strikes from an Iranian airbase, the first time a major world power had done so since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Russia has also strengthened its relations with Turkey. The two countries have conducted joint air strikes against the Islamic State in northern Syria.

As for the negotiations for a political settlement in Syria, Russia has aggressively taken the lead. In December 2016, Russia and Turkey brokered a ceasefire deal for Aleppo and for the parts of Syria not controlled by Islamic extremists. Russia also led Syrian peace talks, which began in Kazakhstan on January 23.

Libya, which borders the western edge of the Middle East, is another former Soviet client state in which Russia has increasingly intervened. When the Libyan Arab Spring and a nato-led military intervention toppled Muammar Qadhafi in 2011, the nation descended into chaos. President Obama later described his intervention in Libya without a plan for the aftermath as his “worst mistake.” The nation now has essentially three separate governments.

Russia has provided direct support to none of these governments, but it has allied with Cmdr. Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army. Haftar’s military organization has been the most successful group in combating terrorists in Libya, but it opposes the only Libyan government recognized and supported by the UN and West.

Twice in 2016, Haftar visited Russia to request support for his military ventures. On January 11, Russia airlifted Haftar from his headquarters in Tobruk to its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. The warship had anchored in the Mediterranean near Tobruk as it was sailing from Syria to Russia. While on board, Haftar conducted a video conference with Russia’s defense minister. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the two “discussed pressing issues in the fight against international terrorist groups in the Middle East.”

Beyond Libya, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, Russia in recent years has also increased its cooperation with or involvement in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as part of its remarkable Mideast offensive.

INFOGRAPHIC: ‘Half of the City Shall Go Forth Into Captivity”

From the March 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

WorldWatch

From the March 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Europe’s satellite navigation system goes live

Europe’s satellite navigation system, Galileo, went live on Dec. 15, 2016. The project is a result of the European Union’s effort to become independent of American satellites and is a step toward it joining the United States and Russia as the only powers to field their own satellite navigation systems.

The milestone comes as the EU makes the military uses of its space program more public.

Satellite navigation is far beyond a simple convenience for travelers. Automated mining, agricultural and other vehicles rely on these systems, and from construction to archaeology and beyond, more uses for the technology are being found.

But the most crucial use for satellite navigation is within modern militaries. The technology is used to track friendly and enemy forces and to guide smart munitions to their targets. This is why just about every major power is working on its own system.

Independence from America has been at the heart of Europe’s efforts from the start. In 2001, French President Jacques Chirac said that without Galileo, EU nations would become “vassals” to America. In 2002, a European Commission report noted that “Galileo will underpin the common European defense policy that the member states have decided to establish.” It said Europe wanted to put “an end to a situation of dependence.”

“If the EU finds it necessary to undertake a security mission that the U.S. does not consider to be in its interest, it will be impotent unless it has the satellite navigation technology that is now indispensable,” the report said. “Although designed primarily for civilian applications, Galileo will also give the EU a military capability.”

The system now has 18 satellites. It needs 24 to become fully operational. It will launch eight more in 2017 and 2018, and is scheduled to field a total of 30, including six backups.

The EU has emphasized that its system is a civilian project, unlike the Russian and American systems. But for all practical purposes, they are the same. Galileo is configured so access can be restricted to European military personnel and emergency services only.

On October 26, the EU released its first-ever space-policy document, which highlights the military importance of its efforts, noting, “Space is also of strategic importance for Europe. It reinforces Europe’s role as a stronger global player and is an asset for its security and defense.” The document states that EU space programs will consider “additional services” to help meet “emerging needs” in Europe’s “security and defense.”

Another major project of Europe’s space program is Copernicus. It was originally touted as a tool to support “environmental security.” But the EU has tweaked the wording so its purpose now is to support “the environment and security.”

The European Parliament’s stated military purposes for the system include “border monitoring outside the EU” and “EU peacekeeping operations”—in other words, European military operations. “It’s already abundantly clear that the system will also be used for military operations and surveillance purposes,” said former EU chief scientific adviser Anne Glover.

The new policy document promised to “assess further the potential” of Galileo and Copernicus to “meet EU autonomy and security needs.”

Watch for Europe to continue breaking free of its military dependence on America.

France calls for more German militarism

Germany must become more powerful militarily, said a top presidential candidate in France. Center-right politician François Fillon said the Christmas market attack in Berlin and the election of Donald Trump show that Germany can no longer play the role of a “pacifist.”

Fillon said he wants to “remobilize the European Union around strategic priorities: our collective security, defense, innovation and the retightening of the eurozone.” Though he has disagreements with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Fillon agrees Germany and France must form the core of a tighter EU in which Germany assumes more responsibility.

Such talk has become a common French request. France is trying to control government spending while sustaining major overseas deployments against Islamic terrorism. One way to square that circle is to get Germany’s help with the fighting.

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer made a similar call in an article published on January 5. Like Fillon, Fischer believes that “it will fall to its two largest and economically strongest countries, France and Germany, to bolster Europe’s defense.” He notes how a military cooperation once considered impossible is now forging ahead. Fischer concluded: “The old EU developed into an economic power because it was protected beneath the U.S. security umbrella. But without this guarantee, it can address its current geopolitical realities only by developing its own capacity to project political and military power. Six decades after the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community, history and current developments are pushing France and Germany to shape Europe’s future once again.”

Austrian cardinal: ‘We can’t accommodate all refugees’

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, admitted on Austrian television that he was rethinking his stance on the migrant crisis. During a discussion with Protestant Bishop Michael Bünker, the archbishop said an “unbelievable number” of migrants are causing a “feeling of overcrowding” in Austrian society. He pointed to the rise of the anti-immigrant Austrian Freedom Party as a sign that the “country is worried” and said he is no longer convinced that Austria should accept all refugees.

The cardinal stated that Europe needs to develop a common strategy to support nations in Africa and the Middle East so migrants can live peaceably in their own land. In the December 23 discussion, Schönborn said, “Sure, in the beginning, I also said, with [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel: ‘We can do it!’ And many important experts in Austria said, ‘We can do it!’… We then realized that there is another dimension, and we need common European plans; we need more help on the ground. In the meantime, I believe this is clear: We cannot accommodate all refugees. We must first see that they can find and live in their homeland again” (Trumpet translation).

Bünker agreed with Schönborn and added that terrorism was both a cause and consequence of the migrant crisis.

While Schönborn and Bünker were vague about what steps Europeans should take to enable migrants to “live in their homeland again,” they agreed that the long-term solution to the migrant crisis was a united EU response to the turmoil in Africa and the Middle East.

Last September, Schönborn spoke on the 333rd anniversary of the Battle of Vienna, when a Habsburg emperor defended the city from an invasion of Ottoman Turks. He used the occasion to warn about “a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe” if Europeans don’t return to their “Christian heritage.”

Schönborn and Bünker highlighted the need for Europe to deal with the problem of radical Islamic terrorism before it can solve the migrant crisis in a way that will allow Germany to maintain a working relationship with pro-European Arab and Turkish regimes across the Middle East. While this might sound positive, the Bible makes plain that this alliance will ultimately wreak staggering devastation.

Make the Cuban regime normal again?

On January 12, as one of his final acts as United States president, Barack Obama ended a decades-old policy that granted special status to illegal immigrants from Cuba seeking residence in the U.S.

Under that policy, enacted in 1995, Cubans caught at sea while attempting to enter the U.S. were sent back to Cuba or other countries. Those not caught in transit were eligible for residency in the U.S. the moment they set foot on American soil. This “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy treated such Cubans less as illegal immigrants and more as refugees fleeing the brutal regime of the Castros.

“Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities,” President Obama said in a statement. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”

On Dec. 17, 2014, when President Obama announced the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, he ended what he called “an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests.” Two years later and one week before the end of his presidency, Mr. Obama ended the “wet-foot/dry-foot” immigration policy, saying that it had been “put in place more than 20 years ago and was designed for a different era.”

The policy change was “long sought by the Cuban government,” the New York Times said. “The move places a finishing touch on Mr. Obama’s efforts as president to end a half-century of hostility between the United States and Cuba and to establish normalized relations and diplomatic ties with a government American presidents have long sought to isolate and punish” (January 12). The Times noted that the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy was “one way in which the United States tried to weaken Fidel Castro’s government, by welcoming tens of thousands of Cubans fleeing repression.”

“[T]he White House caved to what Castro wants,” said Florida’s Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose family was forced to flee the Castro regime in 1960. “Castro uses refugees as pawns to get more concessions from Washington” (Washington Post, January 13).

Prof. Carlos Eire said, “Obama has achieved two ends here. First, he has completed the utter betrayal of the Cuban people—a legacy move set in motion two years ago. Second, he has burdened [Donald] Trump with a no-win situation with the potential to seriously tarnish or weaken his presidency right from the start.” nChinese President Xi Jinping is taking more and more power for himself and blocking the promotion of a potential successor, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Jeremy Page and Lingling Wei wrote, “Mr. Xi has taken personal charge of the economy, the armed forces and most other levers of power, overturning a collective-leadership system introduced to protect against one-man rule after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976” (Dec. 26, 2016).

Xi’s consolidation of power has been underway for several years. Now he apparently is also attempting to block the promotion of a potential successor. Page and Lingling said this is a worrying indication that Xi will try to remain China’s leader even after his second term expires. “Now, as he nears the end of his first five-year term, many party insiders say Mr. Xi is trying to block promotion of a potential successor next year, suggesting he wants to remain in office after his second term expires in 2022, when he would be 69 years old” (ibid).

One party official said it is apparent that Xi is seeking a leadership structure “just like the Putin model,” a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has changed the nation’s constitution in order to prolong his rule.

“Concern is rising among China’s elite that the nation is shifting toward a rigid form of autocracy,” Page and Lingling wrote, quoting a retired senior official as saying, “Mao built the nation. Deng Xiaoping made it rich. We’re now in the Xi era, which will make it strong.”

India overtakes UK economy

India has economically surpassed its former colonizer several years earlier than experts projected it would, as India has grown rapidly over the last quarter century and the United Kingdom has suffered economic troubles. Forbes wrote on Dec. 16, 2016, that India’s gross domestic product was expected to surpass the UK in 2020, but the pound’s value dropped nearly 20 percent in the last year. For 2016, the UK’s gdp was $2.29 trillion, and India’s was $2.3 trillion. “Furthermore, this gap is expected to widen as India grows at 6 to 8 percent per annum compared to UK’s growth of 1 to 2 percent per annum until 2020, and likely beyond,” Forbes reported. This is significant largely because it underscores the shifting power dynamics between Asia and Western powers.

Japan increases its military spending again

Seventy-five years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japan—a nation that constitutionally was to “forever renounce war as a sovereign right”—now boasts a military that might be even stronger than it was in World War ii. And it is set to grow bigger still.

Japan’s defense budget for 2017 is expected to hit a record high of $44.6 billion. This will mark the fifth year in a row that Japan’s defense spending has increased. The budget includes plans to develop land-to-sea missiles; upgrade Japanese missile destroyers with American-developed Aegis advanced radar systems; and construct a new type of submarine.

The increase is part of a five-year plan by the Japanese government to increase military spending by 0.8 percent each year until 2018. Japan is currently in the top-10 list of the most powerful militaries in the world. While its pacifist constitution imposed after World War ii forbids Japan to wage offensive war, it has been free to build up a self-defense force. Japan has established one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world, thanks to America bearing the primary burden of defending the nation. John T. Kuehn, a professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, told cnn, “Pilot for pilot, ship for ship, Japan can stand toe to toe with anybody” (Dec. 7, 2016).

North Korea missile could reach U.S.?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un brought in 2017 by proclaiming that his nation has “reached the final stage in preparations to test launch” an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has never tested a missile that could potentially reach the West Coast of the United States. Such a test would violate international law and, if successful, pose a nuclear threat to America.

Pyongyang has repeatedly defied Washington and the global community in developing nuclear and missile capacity. It has conducted test after test in brash defiance of international law and UN resolutions. Preventing a future test would be difficult without a preemptive military strike or a missile interception early in the test.

SocietyWatch

From the March 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Police under attack

The number of police officers killed in ambushes in the United States reached a two-decade high in 2016, according to a year-end report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Of the 64 police officers shot to death in the line of duty in 2016, 21 were killed in ambushes, including five in Dallas, Texas, and three in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This is the highest total since 1995, and represents a 163 percent increase over 2015, when eight officers were ambushed and killed.

After the July 7, Baton Rouge attack, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund president Craig Floyd stated that anti-police rhetoric was fueling violence against officers. Floyd told Newsweek, “If we’re going to spew anti-cop rhetoric, anti-government rhetoric, then we have to realize there could be consequences of the type we saw in Dallas” (July 12, 2016).

Many politicians and media commentators have demonstrably distorted facts and made false accusations against American police in general. They claim that America’s local law enforcement needs to be chastised for racism and brought under federal control. This sharp increase in ambush attacks against police officers is a tragic effect of this agenda.

In the August 2015 Trumpet, almost a year before the Dallas ambush, editor in chief Gerald Flurry warned about this dangerous trend: “America’s law enforcement is under attack. On one side people in communities are developing a mistrustful, hostile, antagonistic attitude, yelling at police, assaulting and even killing officers in some cases. Police are pulling back from doing their jobs for fear of attack, or losing their jobs or going to prison for doing anything that could be perceived as racist. On the other, the federal government is undermining local law enforcement and stripping it of power in an effort to centralize policing power on the federal level. You need to recognize just how dangerous these trends really are.”

Facebook fights ‘fake news’

Facebook announced on Dec. 15, 2016, that it is taking new measures to curb the spread of what it calls “fake news” on its influential social network. The organization will partner with fact-checkers to sort honest news reports from made-up stories that play to people’s preconceived notions. Facebook said it is working with five fact-checking and news organizations: abc News, the Associated Press, FactCheck
.org, Politifact and Snopes. Stories that flunk the fact check will be flagged as “disputed,” making them less visible on the platform’s news feed. Critics worry that the company, besides censoring stories that are objectively false, will censor stories that conflict with the political views of its leaders and its partners. Facebook is the largest social media company in the world, with more than a billion active monthly users.

One in six Americans on psychiatric drugs

About 1 in 6 American adults were taking at least one psychiatric drug in 2013, a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine on Dec. 12, 2016, showed.

Researchers found that 12 percent of adults were using antidepressants; 8 percent were using anti-anxiety medication, sedatives and hypnotics; and almost 2 percent were using antipsychotic drugs. According to the study, those likeliest to report taking a psychiatric drug were women, seniors above age 59, and Caucasians.

“Antipsychotics have become huge moneymakers for the drug industry,” Consumer Reports wrote in December 2013. “In 2003, annual U.S. sales of the drugs were estimated at $2.8 billion; by 2011, that number had risen to $18.2 billion. That huge growth was driven in part by one company—Janssen Pharmaceuticals—and its aggressive promotion of off-label uses in children and elderly patients, relying on marketing tactics that according to the federal government, crossed legal and ethical lines.”

The U.S. has become the world’s most medicated nation by far. Though Americans account for only 5 percent of global population, they consume 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs. This is not because they are unhealthier than other people, but because they hold a cultural belief that drugs will help them escape the effects of their problems without having to address root causes. Instead of addressing the underpinning causes of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems, doctors simply write a prescription for the latest, most heavily promoted psychiatric drug.

In Challenge, Opportunity

From the March 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Donald Trump’s presidency poses a great threat to Germany, but there are major opportunities too.

President Trump’s retreat from the world and criticism of the EU is piling pressure on Europe. He wants the EU to collapse under that pressure—but it could force Europeans to unite. After Mr. Trump’s Times and Bild interview, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, “I think that we Europeans have our destiny in our own hands, and I would very strongly argue that we all stand together.” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “The best response is European unity.”

Talk of nato’s obsolescence is encouraging Europe to pursue its own military force—something Germany has pushed for years. Without America’s security guarantee, the EU “can address its current geopolitical realities only by developing its own capacity to project political and military power,” explained former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Project Syndicate, January 5).

“Hostile inauguration speech,” tweeted the EU Parliament’s lead negotiator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt. “We can’t sit around & hope for US support & cooperation. Europe must take its destiny & security in its own hands.”

Europe was already working on military union with a new seriousness. Mr. Trump’s election is accelerating those efforts.

President Trump’s move toward Russia also contains opportunities for Germany.

No American détente with Russia can last. The two countries have almost no interests in common. Their rivalry has played out throughout history—it’s the classic great land power versus great sea power competition that pit Sparta against Athens, Rome against Carthage and Britain against France. Such powers never get along; they have too many clashing interests. The only interest Russia and America share is opposition to Islamic terrorism, but Putin’s support of Iran reveals his lack of commitment on this front.

Russia and Germany have more common interests, which is why they have forged agreements throughout history. Mr. Trump is paving the way for Germany to move closer to Russia—an alliance Berlin could use to great advantage in the long run.

At the same time, America’s rapprochement with Russia is pushing Eastern Europe closer to Germany. This region knows it cannot stand up to Russia alone, and has spent the last few years struggling to find a patron. With America under Mr. Obama unwilling to confront Russia, and with Europe struggling to devise a coherent foreign policy, the region has been trying to decide which is the least bad option. An America that cozies up to Russia makes Germany—with its much weaker military and its history of striking deals with Russia—that least bad option. Watch for Eastern Europe to shift toward Germany.