Signs of the Times

Crossing into the latter half of the first decade of the new millennium, we reflect on the most profound events of the past year. Though they would appear to offer little hope of world peace, they do, in fact, point to the imminence of far, far better times to come!
From the January 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Certain profound events in 2005 underscored that the world has entered a period of deep crisis. It is the emerging crisis at the close of one age of man and foreshadowing entry into another. The transition is slated to become the most painful in all of mankind’s history.

Any retrospective on the year 2005 must be viewed within this context of the crisis at the close of the age. It is only within such a context that it all makes sense. Without this perspective, one could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the world is reaching a stage beyond hope, beyond help.

But there is hope—real, genuine, practical hope—in these hugely negative events currently impacting this planet. Sadly, it’s a hope realized by too few, rejected by too many, and denied to most, at present.

Yet for those who have eyes to see, embedded within the events of the year 2005 are real signs of the imminence of the coming of mankind’s great, and only, hope for world peace and an end to all suffering for mankind.

Let us explain by pointing to a few of the most dramatic events that occurred last year, and showing how they are tangible signs of just how close we are to the end of the last hour of this age of man and the dawn of a totally new civilization.

Washington

It was not a good year for the U.S. government or the nation as a whole.

As 2005 drew to a close, the Bush presidency took on a siege mentality. The running sore of Iraq, coupled with the bellicose stance of Iran on its nuclear power potential, kept eyes within the White House and the Pentagon riveted on the Middle East. North Korea faded into a mere distraction, while a rapidly rising China caused White House advisers to pay it closer attention. Russia’s military linkage with China in war games and the potential power Russia can now wield in energy politics deepened the worry lines on the face of U.S. foreign policy.

Massive disasters hitting the deep south of the country, wiping out New Orleans and crippling part of the nation’s key Mississippi ports infrastructure; announcements of more corporate bankruptcies(particularly in the key airline and automotive sectors); escalation in oil prices; further mass layoffs within fading home-based industry—all accompanied by a massive blowout in federal debt of unheard-of proportions and White House staff scandals—had the presidency battening down the hatches. The greatest harbinger of this was the weakening of Republican support for the current presidency. Should this weakening become a rout, the United States is headed for unsteady times in the current year.

The U.S. is still, by far, the most militarily powerful nation on Earth. Yet if the government does not enjoy a reasonable level of support from the public, and if the president’s own party support erodes, then the requisite degree of political will to exert an effective degree of global leadership will render that power of little or no effect(Leviticus 26:19).

London

On July 7, Islamic suicide bombers hit London, proving that city’s current level of security could be easily breached by Islamic youth toting their cruel wares in common backpacks.

London is no stranger to terrorist bombings. During the ira’s insurgency, it wreaked havoc and slaughter throughout Britain’s capital city. But this was London’s first experience with Islamic terrorist attack. Al Qaeda has promised more to come, even announcing a jihad against Queen Elizabeth ii, as British newspapers reported on November 13. Chances are that when future attacks are attempted, they will, like the July bombings in London, be carried out by Islamic extremists of British nationality.

Londoners may not be edgy at this point, given their famous stiff upper lip. Yet having struck once, there can be no doubt that the Islamic terrorists, like their Catholic irapredecessors, will commit more fanatical, religion-inspired attacks on the cities of the United Kingdom.

Signs of coming domestic political turbulence began to emerge when, during the final quarter of the year, Prime Minister Tony Blair was roundly defeated in a motion put to Parliament to enhance Britain’s ability to detain suspected terrorists. Like the U.S. president, Mr. Blair appears to be suffering from diminishing support within his own party ranks. With little competition from an ineffective, divided Conservative opposition, and not much in terms of quality political leadership offering within the incumbent Labor (socialist) Party, Britain maybe home to a very divided and fractious House of Commons during the current year.

In the meantime, stresses increased within British society from the twin challenges of ethnic violence (the legacy of mass immigration from Britain’s old colonies) and the growing “yob” subculture of youth hooliganism tearing at the fabric of traditional British stability. Watch for further ructions from these twin blots on British society in the coming year(Deuteronomy 28:43).

Tel Aviv

On September12, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, that strategic coastal strip of land that it won—along with the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and the Golan Heights—in the victorious 1967 war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The Gaza retreat followed the 1982 return of the Sinai to Egypt, with the resultant destruction of previous Israeli settlements on the peninsula. Now that Gaza is being handed over to the stateless Palestinians, there can be no doubt that the highly strategic Golan is next on the list of priorities for takeover by nations hostile to Israel, followed by the West Bank.

Coincidentally, even as the U.S. presidency and the British prime ministership became increasingly embattled in 2005, the year also initiated a period of political turmoil within Israel. During a matter of days in November, veteran politician Shimon Peres was ousted as leader of Israel’s Labor Party and Israel’s Prime Minister Arial Sharon resigned his post as leader of the Likud party, which he helped to found. Sharon’s intent is to forma new party in order to free himself from Likud detractors and ramrod through his vision for peace.

This current domestic political turmoil in Israel comes at a time when the EU has commenced monitoring the Gaza-Egypt border with a team of police and customs officials. Observers see this as the thin end of the wedge for increasing involvement by the EU in Israel’s affairs—the EU already promising to swell the strength of this force of “monitors” in the future.

With the prospect of the EU (which has substantially funded the Palestinian cause against Israel) controlling the Palestinian border at strategic Gaza—coupled with Vatican moves to take over real estate on Mount Zion announced the same month—the average Israeli might be forgiven for feeling more besieged than ever in this small Jewish outpost clinging to the Middle East’s Mediterranean coast.

Watch for a government to come to power in Israel seeking further liaison with Rome and Brussels. Watch for a strengthening of EU and Vatican involvement in Israel’s affairs. Finally, watch for that ancient city Jerusalem to become, once again, a divided city (Zechariah 14:2). Events within and without Israel occurring in 2005 moved things definitely in that direction.

Tehran

One salient fact that guarantees a continuance, even a further heightening, of Islamic terrorism across the world came to the fore in June 2005—the election to the presidency of Iran of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Novice politician though he may be, this individual’s terrorist rhetoric places him at the forefront of extremists around the globe, whose cry of jihad against the whole of Christendom rings louder than ever. This prime motivator of Islamic terrorists unabashedly spews his hatred of the Jews, broadcasting from the minarets of old Persia his call for the tiny nation of Israel to be rolled back into the sea. President Ahmadinejad may not presently enjoy the favor of many of his fellow Iranian politicians, but he is a favorite of the Iranian public and the new mentor for the droves of Islamic terrorist cells scattered across Europe and embedded in Britain, the U.S. and other Western nations. Al Qaeda may have the edge in gaining publicity, but increasingly it is the extremist political voice of Iran’s new leader that motivates Islam’s extremists to unite against the West in global jihad. They bide their time. They await the signal. Suicide attack? Another train station, bus, public utility, oil refinery, government building—or just open slaughter in a nightclub or marketplace?

In the meantime, Tehran thumbs its nose at the world and continues its development of nuclear power apace. This has led former House speaker in the U.S. Congress Newt Gingrich to identify Iran as the single greatest threat to world peace to arise since Nazi Germany. Readers of this magazine will remember that our editor identified Iran as the world’s leading terror threat more than a decade ago.

Perhaps the most amazing phenomenon surrounding Iran was the effort Western nations made to deny the harsh reality of Iran’s declared and open intentions to become a nuclear power. It was as though the non-Islamic governments, their diplomats and largely blinded press and media mounted a mind-control program designed to create mass denial of this starkly obvious reality. Make no bones about it: Iran is advancing on course to become the next nuclear power. This foreign-policy initiative identifies that nation very clearly as beginning to fulfill an ancient prophecy that predicts an explosive reaction to its power potential from the European continent (Daniel 11:40).

Meanwhile, Iran has continued—with great success—to develop ties with and influence within Iraq. After 25 years, relations between Iran and Iraq have begun to normalize, with high-ranking officials from both countries visiting their counterparts during the past year.

To bring Iraq into its sphere of influence would boost Tehran’s power throughout the Middle East. The Trumpet has long pointed to this eventually becoming a reality in fulfillment of the prophesied rise of an Islamic power; the past year has seen Iran take broad strides in this direction. Iraq has increasingly looked to Iran in the political, energy and military sectors, with major agreements being signed mid-year involving unprecedented military cooperation and energy collaboration.

It also became increasingly clear in recent months that Iran wields significant covert influence in Iraq as reports came to light of Iranian supply of ammunition to terrorists for use against U.S. troops.

Watch: When the U.S. vacates Iraq, Iran will be thereto fill the vacuum.

Moscow

As the chill of winter began to descend upon Russia toward the close of the year, signs appeared of that lumbering bear of a nation finally coming in from the cold. Russia’s long hibernation from real impact on the world scene since the great ussrimplosion in the 1990s may be over. It is already turning up the heat using the massive power of the world’s largest energy corporation, Russian-owned Gazprom, to pressure neighboring nations to return to its fold.

Gazprom is exploiting price control, in addition to its control of cross-border oil and gas distribution networks, as a political weapon to bring Central Asian nations to book in efforts to stem the Westward drift of the former ussr’s old satellite states.

Long knowing that a line would have to be drawn to stem the steady movement of Eastern European nations to the European Union, Russia is ratcheting up the pressure on the EU and Eurasia to force the clear demarcation of just where the EU’s eastern border will eventually be drawn. Energy is Russia’s current weapon of diplomacy.

The EU is a prime customer of Gazprom, heavily dependent upon Russia’s oil and gas resources to energize its collective economy. Russia thus has a powerful strategic tool with which to bring the EU to the bargaining table on any issue of major concern. With the Middle East inconstant turmoil, the EU has sought a more reliable supplier of energy by courting Russia through heavy capital investment. Now Russia, whose industry is recovering, is prepared to start using energy politics through its control of both supply and price in the European energy market. This it intends to do to stem the Westward drift of old Soviet satellite states. The line will probably be drawn at Ukraine. Seeing the writing on the wall, the EU issued a statement in November designed to deflate Ukrainian ambitions toward EU membership.

2005 signaled that Russia is setting its sights on rebuilding a form of empire from those Central European nations that yet remain as the nation’s buffer to the West.

A further stimulus to Russia’s efforts at consolidation is the threat of Islamic incursion from the southern Eurasian states through which Russian oil and gas flow. A number of these states are heavily dependent, economically, on their middle-man status in the oil distribution network. Russia is using the oil and gas weapon, via its monopolistic control of state-run Gazprom, as a geopolitical tool to also meet its regional political goals within nations to its south.

Watch for Eurasia to be a hot spot as nations in that region feel their independence from Russia—which they have enjoyed since the ussr’s failure in the 1990s—being eroded by Russia’s energy politics. Watch for Russia to stop flirting with the West and to give its primary allegiances to the East (Ezekiel 38:1-4).

Beijing

On August 18, Russia and China conducted joint military exercises, declaring the start of an era of unprecedented military cooperation. If this continues, then there may well be competition between the two during the current year to determine just how equal this partnership should be.

Obviously Russia has two strategic advantages—the continuing possession of a far greater nuclear capability than China, and tremendous oil and gas resources. The Chinese are working on catching up with the former. They are still highly dependent on the Middle East and Russia to provide them with the latter. On the other hand, Russia’s economy is still struggling, while China is enjoying unprecedented economic growth. Watch for mutual trade-offs between these two nations as the initiatives for closer cooperation signaled in 2005 draw them closer together, each with the intention of balancing the other’s power.

The trends in China’s and Russia’s diplomacy in 2005 also revealed a movement toward increasing liaison with India, which is rapidly gaining influence in the Far East and Asia.

Crucial also to Chinese foreign policy will be its possession of key strategic seaports over which it has quietly and steadily acquired control during the past 10 years.

Perhaps the gravest of dangers to the U.S. and world economies posed by China is the increasing risk of having that one single nation underwriting America’s huge foreign debt. The U.S.’s loss of self-sufficiency because of its overwhelming and growing dependency upon one single nation for the supply of consumer goods would be risk enough—but for that nation to have declared the U.S. its number-one enemy should scare the daylights out of each and every American citizen. Should tensions escalate between the U.S. and China over, say, the issue of Taiwanese independence, and should such tensions provoke a military response, this interconnection of the U.S. and China’s economies could prove decisive in deciding the outcome. As one commentator put it, “[I]f present trends continue, the Chinese will soon be able simply to pull the plug on our economy—and so we won’t be able to fight …” (American Conservative, Nov. 7, 2005).

A resurgent Russia, in tandem with a belligerent China, is the last thing the U.S. needs with its foreign policy at present fixated on the war on extremist Islamic terror (Revelation 9:16).

Tokyo and Berlin—a Comparison

Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi scored a landslide victory at the polls last September. This cleared the way for the overthrow of the pacifist clause in Japan’s post-World War ii Constitution.

Thus we have a remarkable scenario created within just a few months last year, where the two powers vanquished by Britain, the U.S. and their allies in World War ii are set to change the very constitutions that the Allies drafted in a manner such as to ensure they would never rise as belligerents in any future war.

Sixty years of history of the containment of the offensive capabilities of Germany and Japan is about to end, and it could not come at a worse time.

History demonstrates that no matter how passive a nation may appear under a given set of circumstances that may produce a certain period of collective peace, when circumstances change and nations feel a threat to their security, they simply revert to type. Both Germany and Japan are worthy of study in this respect.

Germany and Japan both feel their security threatened at present. Each of these nations feels that its national identity, sovereignty and integrity have been adversely affected by the post-war intrusion of foreign powers. Neither nation has the type of character that will embrace liberal democracy. Both nations have natural tendencies to collectivism and state worship, which gravitate toward servile acceptance by their respective populations of strong authoritarian rule.

Neither of these nations has long traditions of civil liberties, human rights or political freedoms. Hence the determination of the framers of their post-war constitutions to write in the checks and balances designed to suppress the negative aspects of each of these talented nations should they be tempted to show their belligerent tendencies in the future. That’s all about to end. With it an era will end. With the end of that era, the risk to the security and peace of the world will ratchet up more than just a few notches.

Berlin

The big story in Germany started in May, with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s call for a vote of confidence in his government. Knowing he would lose the vote, he initiated the ploy deliberately to force the calling of a general election in Germany. The outcome, initially a stalemate, morphed into a grand coalition of Germany’s political parties with Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel at the helm. Although this alliance stands on shaky political ground, its results may be far-reaching.

Merkel’s grand alliance isolated to vote away some of the key federalism clauses of the German Constitution that were deliberately inserted to constrain any prospect of, as Stratfor put it, “the re-emergence of a dynamic, proactive German power” (Stratfor, Nov. 10, 2005). If this goes ahead, it could become the second event of greatest geopolitical significance to happen during 2005. If the parties put their imprimatur on these changes to the German Constitution, then with the stroke of a pen the way for the rise of a populist leader possessing power in Germany—such as has not been witnessed since the rise of the führer in 1939—will be a reality! “Mix in an altered federal arrangement in which the Länder[states] are not even consulted on half of the issues over which the Bundesrat (made up of representatives of the various Länder governments) currently holds veto power, and any new chancellor would suddenly have the power and freedom to rule largely as he—or she—sees fit” (ibid.; emphasis mine throughout).

Having a real eye to history and its tendency for repetition on the European continent, Stratfor observed, “And although the Bundeswehr [German army] was not looking for a flat place to march across the last time we checked, Germany’s neighbors have got to be developing a bit of a nervous twitch as their long-occupied-and-divided neighbor begins thinking for itself again” (ibid.).

This coalition may be inherently weak. It may be short-lived. But should these sweeping proposals to change the German Constitution be enacted, the legacy of Germany’s latest grand alliance will be to have paved the way for the rise, one more time, of a Teutonic—dare we say Bavarian—dictator as savior of the German nation within a time of increasing domestic and global crisis.

Rome

On April 19, the Bavarian Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope. A confidante of his predecessor, John Paul ii (to the point where he personally drafted many of that pope’s encyclicals during the last five years of his papacy), this German pope has wasted no time in creating a new image for himself. Bedogged by such appellations as der Panzerkardinal, the pope’s enforcer and the like, the pope took the title Benedict xvi under which to forge a public image quite different from that of an extreme right-wing hatchet man.

Whereas the media-savvy John Paul ii used mass media to his advantage to promote his performances in the public arena, early indications are that Benedict—himself having gained much from the mass broadcasting of his greatest public performances to date (John Paul’s funeral, his own enthronement and the youth rally in Cologne)—may use the media to establish a much more intimate contact with the public. He has already given the first of many intended interviews on camera, to be viewed worldwide—something unprecedented in Vatican history. Over 100 requests for televised interviews awaited his attention by the close of the year.

Observing that Benedict’s first visit outside of Italy was to Germany—and that to address the Catholic Church’s youth convention—some pundits drew intriguing conclusions as to the combination of his very Germanness and of his past as a member of the national youth fraternity of his age, the Nazi youth movement in the 1940s. The extent to which his ethnicity and youthful experiences still influence this pope’s thinking remains to be seen. Yet the fact that Joseph Ratzinger has a tender spot in his heart for both the land and the state of his birth—Germany and Bavaria—itself leads to intriguing considerations in relation to the future direction of Europe.

One invitation Benedict received early in his papacy he enthusiastically embraced—an invitation by Israeli President Moshe Katsav to visit Jerusalem. Slated to take place during 2006, this visit will serve to strengthen ties already established by Pope John Paul.

The connections between these Vatican initiatives and the European Union’s recent moves to mount a security task force in the Gaza Strip will leap into focus in the near future as an increasingly Vatican-influenced EU moves to extend its security force clear on into the very heart of Jerusalem. Not for nothing did the previous pope announce the Vatican’s intention to move its headquarters eventually from Rome to Jerusalem. That dream of John Paul iicould well become a reality during the papacy of Benedict xvi.

Bavaria

Last November, German politician Edmund Stoiber, leader of the Christian Social Union, headed a delegation to Rome. This followed hard on the heels of his rejection of direct involvement in grand alliance talks with other political party leaders following the German election stalemate.

At that point, many predicted the fall of the “pit bull” of German politics, claiming he was a has-been. Indeed, on the surface, Stoiber’s refusal of the Ministry for the Economy in a grand coalition government appeared political suicide. To the contrary, rather than suicidal, this action by the protégé of former Bavarian strongman Franz Josef Strauss will prove to be his saving grace. Stoiber has cleverly distanced himself from the imminent failure of what is destined to be a short-lived, muddling at best, deeply divisive at worst, coalition government. “Frustration, uncertainty and fear” dominate the coalition being led by Germany’s first-ever woman chancellor, Angela Merkel (Spiegel Online, Nov. 15, 2005).”Public opinion and inner fears are no lasting glue to keep the coalition together” (ibid.).

Stoiber knows that Germany is not alone within Europe in evidencing the lack of anything to provide the “lasting glue” to bind its government together. This is a problem that bedevils the future of the entire European Union. And that’s where Stoiber’s eyes are set.

Brussels

The year was not a good one for the European Union.

Both France and the Netherlands rejected the much-touted European Constitution, causing that document to fade quickly from public attention.

The Franco-German engine, which has driven the expansion of the EU to 25 member nations, sputtered almost to a halt under the combined effects of the evident failure of the European public to lend their support to the constitution, and the domestic distractions that each of those nations found itself drawn to focus upon. Political turmoil in Germany, social disruption from France’s migrant community, and economic woes in both countries all served to work against the previous binding solidarity that had enabled these two nations to force their agenda on other members of the EU for so long.

The EU ship drifted in 2005. Yet Brussels beavered away still, crafting regulation upon regulation designed to shore up the leaking European ship of state.

“In a sense, [the EU] has become the organizational equivalent of a headless chicken, fully capable of motion but lacking in cohesion and purpose. … What is left is a bureaucracy still tottering through the barnyard of Europe while the brains of the operation—the member states—grope about for some sort of new, more functional arrangement” (Stratfor, Nov. 22,2005). What’s missing is the “lasting glue” to bind this European Union together.

That which Germany presently lacks is no different from that which the entire European Union presently lacks to bind it together for its moment in history. This magazine has constantly pointed to the only single factor that has ever, and consistently in past history, bound Europe’s divisive nation-states together: a shared ideology, Europe’s dominant religion—the religion of Rome!

Where Rome and Bavaria Meet

On that sunny day in Rome last November, addressing the delegation that Edmund Stoiber had led to the Vatican, “Pope Benedict xvipaid homage to the cultural patrimony of his native Bavaria on November 3 as he met with a delegation of parliamentarians from the Christian Social Union, led by Bavarian Minister-President Edmund Stoiber. Bavaria, the pope said, ‘unites a heritage of generosity and a rich religious harmony: elements which hold real promise for the future’” (Catholic World News, Nov. 3, 2005).

As the Trumpet pointed out last month, “No relationship may be more necessary to watch than that nurtured on this November 3 visit.” We believe that this event, given little publicity in the world’s media, has greater potential than any other occurring in the year 2005 for impacting the immediate future of the world!

Watch Pope Benedict. Watch Edmund Stoiber. Watch for a connection between these two leading figures in Europe, the one being Europe’s spiritual figurehead, the other, his political career cast in the mold of Franz Josef Strauss’s Grand Design for Europe, biding his time for the call to rescue Germany from crisis.

No leaders in Europe, other than Ratzinger and Stoiber, are so well positioned to take advantage of Germany’s and Europe’s present crisis of leadership. No other team comes close to these two Bavarians in terms of having the power potential to provide the “lasting glue” to unite both Germany an d the papacy in one great final, yet short-lived, resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire!

Three-Way Collision

In summation, given all that happened on the volatile world stage of the year 2005, three specific events stand out that are destined to coalesce in a grand smash climax at the close of this age. Each event surrounds a personality: the election of Pope Benedict xvi, the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency of Iran, and the outcome of the German elections.

The increasing belligerence of Iran under its latest populist leader is bound to echo across the whole of Europe, raising the prospect of further outbreaks of violence such as occurred in France last November. This will fuel the sense of besieging crisis that already is rising within Europe, most particularly in Germany.

Add to this the deep concern that the European Union has to limit the prospects of the Islamic nuclear potential, as witnessed by its tortuous efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear power capacity during 2005,and we already see reaction mounting against a perceived foreign-policy “push” by Islamic Iran against a largely Catholicized Europe.

One can hardly escape comparing this mounting tension between the Catholic north and the Islamic south of today to those tensions that led to the crusades of both the Ottoman and Holy Roman Empires of old.

The twin pressures of hoards of agitated Islamic migrants at home and threats of an Iranian manufactured nuclear device coming from abroad are bound to affect German foreign policy heavily in 2006. This, at a time when Germany sadly lacks decisive leadership.

In the wings one man awaits his call, the Bavarian Edmund Stoiber.

Will the year 2006 see a third powerful personality rise, within Germany, in tandem with the vicar of Rome, to turn and stem the tide of Islamicism sweeping its crescent ever northward? Will this all stir the Eastern nations into a closer alliance, destined to clash with the victor between the “king of the north” and the “king of the south” in a final climax at the close of one civilization, and the dawning of another?

Keep watching world events. Watch these personalities. And as you watch—pray! But let your prayer be a prayer of rejoicing! For as these events unfold, as the Savior of the world has admonished, “And when these things beg into come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws nigh.”