Arming for Armageddon
Our world is gripped by fear. Though violence and wars have always stained man’s history, fears of such have been exponentially heightened in the aftermath of recent and deadly terrorist attacks: September 11, 2001; the bombing of a nightclub in Bali; the bombing of a Russian government building in Chechnya. In this war on terrorism, no one can really know when or where the terrorists will strike. People in Israel and Sri Lanka live day to day never knowing whether a suicide bomber might attack nearby. Similar fears exist in parts of Northern Ireland and South America. The U.S. even has its own color-coded system to keep citizens on alert to when terrorist attacks might be more likely.
The world is responding to these fears. People are beginning to accept this new, more frighteningly dangerous world. They are becoming well-versed as to what to do in the case of a biological or chemical attack. Their nations are forming once-unlikely alliances, diplomatic and military—to create a bulwark against terrorists and other new enemies.
What’s clear in the minds of many world leaders, however, is that they need to have the firepower to deal with the venomous threats to global and regional stability. Nations are building up their militaries, filling their arsenals and modernizing their weapons, as the world hurtles toward greater instability.
Fear Is the Driving Force
It was the fear generated by the final nuclear blows of World War ii on Japan that spawned the anxiety that spilled over into the arms race of the Cold War. But with the Cold War long over, a new arms race is emerging.
And this time, the terrorists themselves, and the rogue nations that sponsor terrorism, have increasingly powerful weapons. The world has never before had to deal with the amount of damage that can be done by one radical terrorist or one fanatical dictator at the helm of a small rogue nation. Poor, Third World cultures are entering the nuclear, chemical and biological arena. These once-minor nations trade arms among themselves: Links have been established, for example, between North Korea and Pakistan, North Korea and Yemen.
Truly, more than at any other time in history, the dramatic scene described in the book of Joel comes clearly into perspective: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong” (Joel 3:10).
Notice that the prophecy describes two main points: First, a nation that possesses plowshares could turn those peaceful tools into awesome implements of war. This is describing an explosive growth in armaments. Second, the prophecy speaks of weak nations proclaiming themselves to be strong. The state of modern nations and the present new arms race parallels the prophecy of Joel exactly.
In this new age of proliferation, we see the world becoming an armed camp. Where is this heated race heading? How long must we live in fear? Most significantly: Is the new arms race leading to the end of the world?
History of the Arms Race
The nature of arms developments changed dramatically in the decades after the demise of Napoleon’s European ambitions. The costs and tremendous upheavals brought about by that struggle (1793-1815) caused European nations to seek peace through the Congress of Vienna. While that meeting settled how to divide the spoils of war among the victors, it did not put an end to armed conflict. If anything, it intensified national and regional border disputes.
This occurred just as the Industrial Revolution was beginning to change the face of arms production. By 1917, the production power of industry was magnified far beyond anything possible during the “gentleman wars” of the old Europe. In contrast to the limited capability of individual manpower, the potential of machinery driven by the steam engine was awesome.
The factory system, revolutionized by Henry Ford in the early 1900s, contributed to the ability to mass produce whatever was needed. Iron could now be hammered into war machinery by huge steam-driven hammers.
Soon military hardware began to come into abundant supply to settle personal ambitions and border disputes.
An arms race got into full swing as Germany also began to learn the lessons of mass production. In the years before 1914, German production multiplied to turn the nation into an industrial giant. Second only to Britain, Germany’s war production figures far outstripped those of even its larger European neighbors, Russia and France, and the specter of Imperial Germany came into being.
By early 1914, all the ingredients for a major European conflagration were in place, needing only a spark to ignite it. That spark came in June 1914 when Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, traveling in a motorcade, became the victims of two shots from a pistol fired by 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip. The First World War erupted in Europe, and the resulting loss of life brought about by the arms race of the time was staggering. In 1917, in the battle of Passchendaele alone, the British army sustained 245,000 casualties. Population losses from the war were horrendous. It is estimated that 8 million men died in actual fighting and over 20 million were wounded—many of whom were permanently disabled. And those figures do not take into consideration the civilian casualties and the huge loss of life from the resultant starvation and disease. Material costs for the First World War are impossible to calculate, and incomprehensible to imagine.
Following the war, though Germany had suffered terribly in that conflict, two circumstances had not changed. First, World War i ended with an armistice, not a surrender. In fact, when German troops returned home they were welcomed as victors. Second, Germany still retained the industrial potential to be the greatest power in Europe.
Germany began preparing to re-enter the arms race in a way never before seen in history. By 1936, the economic recovery of Germany was spilling over into increased expenditure in the armament industries. The Reich began importing huge amounts of copper, iron ore, petroleum, rubber and other materials needed to feed the voracious industrial appetite of this renewed arms race.
By the late 1930s, Germany was back on top militarily. Its ambitions were again looking toward expansion eastward and westward. Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia in March 1939, and before long he began putting the pressure on Poland. When Russia and Germany entered the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact in August 1939, the fate of Poland was sealed. World War ii in Europe was guaranteed.
In the East, there was Japan. For centuries, Japan had been ruled by feudal warlords in a decentralized oligarchy. Its growth was restrained by lack of natural resources and by the vast mountainous terrain that dominated the land—a lack of industrial potential that continued until the years just before World War i. Still, Japan’s victorious military campaigns in East Asia around the turn of the 20th century proved that the Japanese fighting spirit could inflict horrendous damage.
As the new century developed, Japan had begun to make the changes necessary to bring it into modern competition with other nations—militarily and otherwise. Then, in 1941, it launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing the Pacific into the greater scope of World War ii. The inextinguishable warring spirit of the Japanese, who conquered vast portions of Asia to their west and southwest and eastward through the Pacific, ultimately led to the greatest use of military force by any nation to date: the U.S. dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The world was introduced to a new, more gruesome and deadly force.
After World War ii, an exhausted world began to pick up the pieces of its shattered infrastructures. New peace initiatives were instituted; the United Nations was formed to replace the failed League of Nations. American aid, through the generous Marshall Plan, was provided to underpin the dangerously overstretched economies of Europe.
Paradoxically, Imperial Japan’s World War ii goal of ridding Asia of its Western colonial powers succeeded as Britain, France, Holland and Portugal handed over their Asian colonies to newly independent local administration.
By the mid-1960s, Europe, for the most part, had again been rebuilt. West Germany, although still divided from the East, was once again taking its place as a powerful nation. Japan had become the mightiest trading and maritime nation in all Asia.
The restraints put in place to guarantee world peace, however, were not working. The United Nations had already shown dangerous signs of ineffectiveness in solving world conflict.
The Cold War between the U.S. and Russia escalated the modern arms race to new heights. During the American-Soviet standoff, both sides built up elaborate space and missile programs. Neither nation saw any possibility of reducing its power to react because of basic mistrust.
Not only did Russia and America stay geared for war, but “Both sides, therefore, began a kind of war by proxy, winning allies, extending influence and keeping up pressure on each other by means of arms sales. By the late 1960s, arms sales had become an integral part of the foreign policies of both sides. From 1960 to 1980, worldwide military outlays grew from $100 billion to more than $500 billion a year” (Plain Truth, Jan. 1983; emphasis ours throughout).
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Cold War ended, so too ended the drive for the mutually assured destruction provided by nuclear weapons buildup. The U.S. hailed the end of the arms race as the promise of a new era of peace worldwide.
But is that what has happened? No—in fact it has been just the opposite.
Post-Cold War Proliferation
In 2001, the world spent roughly $840 billion on weapons and other military expenditures. We are in the midst of a full-scale, breakout arms race on a scale never before seen in history.
In fact, the Cold War’s end had a lot to do with the arms buildup among weaker and/or rogue nations that followed. No longer was the world bipolar in its power distribution—with nations aligning with one superpower or the other. Now it was a multipolar world—where many nations shared leadership of the globe—or, as some have called it, a uni-multipolar world—where, while many nations shared this lead, one (the U.S.) was clearly the main superpower. In the post-Cold War arms race, each of these many contenders in the world order worked to build up its own power more avidly—essentially, it was every nation for itself. Arms became necessary either to stimulate an economy or to handle internal, regional or even global threats.
Also consider that after the Soviet Union collapsed, more than 40,000 nuclear weapons, plus more than 1,000 tons of highly enriched uranium and 150 tons of plutonium, were left behind in former Soviet republics. Many of these weapons and devices disappeared from the ex-Soviet countries’ inventories. The black market for powerful weapons, nuclear and otherwise, made it possible for nations that once had little weight on the world scene to become huge contenders.
A New Era
Since World War ii, wars of independence, guerrilla wars, civil wars and terrorist warfare have all combined to escalate the increasingly wide and often covert distribution of instruments of war around the globe.
And now we have now entered another new phase of global history: the post-9/11 age. This current time period, fraught with instability—with fears of nuclear terrorism, the prospect of war in Iraq, and an unstable, nuclear East Asia—has caused many countries to increase defense spending, build up their arsenals and increase arms trades.
The U.S., which has significantly increased its military spending since 9/11, is gearing up for war with a rogue nation with weapons of mass destruction.
The European Union is pushing for its rapid reaction force to be able to deal with the growing threat of terrorism. France, Portugal and Hungary announced substantial increases in defense spending in 2002.
India, on edge about the Pakistanis, with whom it shares a disputed border, increased military spending 13 percent in 2002. Indo-Pakistan relations are particularly troublesome, since both nations have shaken their fists at each other on numerous occasions; now both have nuclear power—and the world wonders how many flare-ups it will take before the situation turns atomic.
Once-weak or minor nations, armed in part by Russia and China, are now capable of holding the world on the edge of its seat. Russia and China have been major suppliers of Iran’s nuclear power program. Iran has also just announced plans to mine uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, claiming that it is merely for energy production—a preposterous idea given the country’s huge oil and gas reserves. Iran could only be using these commodities for a nuclear weapons program.
China, in addition to supplying other Middle Eastern and Asian nations with weapons, has significantly worked toward harnessing its own technological prowess and modernizing its army.
Japan, which has the second largest navy in the world, spends more money on its military than any other nation other than the U.S. The one restriction placed on its military—its post-World War ii constitution which forbids it from using its military—is becoming a mere historical curiosity. In fact, less than two months after 9/11, Japan brought its navy into action for the first time since World War ii to support the U.S. war on terror. Now, it is said that Japan also could become a nuclear power in less than a year if it perceives North Korea as a big enough threat.
North Korea has the fifth-largest army in the world—not to mention that it has held the great U.S. hostage diplomatically by its brinkmanship over the past several months. Here is a country led by a maniacal dictator to whom power is more important than feeding his own people. He wants the bomb, and no Western power is going to tell him what to do—the U.S. especially.
Also fueling North Korea’s drive for nukes is its fear of America and its arms buildup. Pyongyang sees what it calls “U.S. imperialists” throwing their weight around and says it must protect itself (37,000 U.S. troops stand guard at the North’s border with the South). The ironic thing is, while the U.S. tries to prevent these types of nations from having such weapons in their arsenals for fear of global instability, these nations openly build up their military forces for fear of U.S. dominance.
“Let the Weak Say, I Am Strong”
As nations of the world increase their weapon stockpiles (the West included), there comes the cry from Western nations to stop the proliferation of weapons. Those nations being antagonized by terrorist organizations or states are trying to take the weapons out of the hands of the bad guys. Ulster Unionists in Ireland try to get the weapons out of the ira’s hands. The government in Nepal is trying to get the Maoist rebels to give up their guns. President Bush is bent on getting Iraq to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.
Promoting nonproliferation among nations, however, is a difficult task. Harvard’s Samuel Huntington wrote, “The West promotes nonproliferation as reflecting the interests of all nations in international order and stability. Other nations, however, see nonproliferation as serving the interests of Western hegemony” (The Clash of Civilizations). Huntington used the example of the two Koreas—the South not seeing the nuclear North as a threat the same way the U.S. did—and the India-Pakistan nuclear saber-rattling. “India and Pakistan each found the other’s nuclear threat easier to accept than American proposals to cap, reduce or eliminate both threats.”
The Cold War, he explains, was a case of buildup versus buildup. Now, the arms race is of a different nature:non-Western societies are working to acquire weapons of mass destruction, while the West is attempting to prevent them from doing so—a case of buildup versus hold-down, the outcome of which is somewhat predictable. The hold-down efforts may decelerate proliferation in these societies, but “they will not stop it,” Huntington says. Proliferation benefits these nations—such as Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Israel, South Korea, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Malaysia and India—by giving them greater clout on the geopolitical scene. A U.S. Congressional Research Service report of August 6, 2002, stated that, “During 1998-2001, developing world nations accounted for 65.8 percent of all [arms transfer] agreements made worldwide.”
Truly, as the Prophet Joel said, “Let the weak say, I am strong.”
In fact, analysts use almost the same words Joel did to describe the arms buildup in typically weaker, smaller nations. “Terrorism historically is the weapon of the weak …” wrote Huntington. “At some point, however, a few terrorists will be able to produce massive violence and massive destruction. Separately, terrorism and nuclear weapons are the weapons of the non-Western weak. If and when they are combined, the non-Western weak will be strong” (op. cit.).
Columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote, “True, weapons of mass destruction are not new. What is new is that the knowledge required to make them is no longer esoteric. Anyone with a reasonable education in modern physics, chemistry or biology can brew them. Doomsday has been democratized” (Washington Post, Feb. 14).
Krauthammer continued, “We are in a race against time. Once such hostile states establish arsenals, we become self-deterred and they become invulnerable. North Korea may have already crossed that threshold. There is a real question whether we can win the race. Year One of the new era, 2002, passed rather peaceably. Year Two will not: 2003 could be as cataclysmic as 1914 or 1939. …
“Can—and will—the civilized part of humanity disarm the barbarians who would use the ultimate knowledge for the ultimate destruction? Within months, we will have a good idea whether the answer is yes or no” (ibid.).
Where the Arms Race Is Heading
The significance of the new arms race—of weaker nations becoming the top arms importers, of the world’s stability being so fragile that it depends on the restraint of nuclear-equipped madmen—can only be realized when seen in light of Bible prophecy.
The Bible indicates that major world conflicts will soon erupt involving three global powers, summarized in Daniel 11:40-45. First, the “king of the south,”a group of Islamic nations, will clash with a “king of the north,” a rising European power. The latter power will prevail, and also destroy and enslave America, Britain and other English-speaking countries. Then an Asian conglomerate—combining Russia, China, Japan and other Asian nations—will come against the northern European power.
The new arms race is propelling these blocs to unimaginable power!
The Bible speaks of the clashes between these powers causing millions of deaths. The attack of the Asian hordes against the European power will kill “the third part of men” (Rev. 9:18). In fact, the above-quoted prophecy of Joel is actually referring to when both of these powers prepare to confront each other at Armageddon: “Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong” (Joel 3:9-10).
That is where this current arms race is heading. If unstopped, these two powers would use their mighty weapons to obliterate all life from the planet (Matt. 24:21-22). But thankfully, they will not be permitted to do so, because “those days shall be shortened” (v. 22).
Jesus Christ will return with a new government, to end the age of man’s destructive rule on the Earth. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44).
Jesus Christ’s return will usher in a new phenomenon—a race for peace! In fact, Christ’s reign over the Earth will be characterized by the reversal of Joel’s prophecy: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4). Satan the devil—the diabolical spirit behind all arms races, in his quest to destroy human life—will be stopped! War colleges will cease to exist.
Industry will begin to burgeon under a new world government! Trillions of tons of war machinery—then reduced to so much scrap iron—will be gathered at “recycling points,” broken up, melted down and forged into peaceful farm machinery.
The world will soon live according to a new way of life. Jesus Christ will set the standard for this way of living. You can live that way of life now. You can experience utopian peace in your own life starting today! You can be free from the fear that grips this world. You can be protected from the horrors of the third round of global rearmament. You need to understand how to live that way for the good of your own life and the lives of your loved ones. Request our free book The God Family Vision and learn to live that way of life!