If that prediction seems bold now, how bold would it have been in 1950?
During his long ministry, Herbert Armstrong often told the story of a campaign rally he attended in the autumn of 1916.
The event was in support of Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States, who was then campaigning for reelection. Mr. Armstrong said that during the rally, he stood no more than six feet away from Theodore Roosevelt, who had been president before Wilson.
Wilson’s supporters chanted his campaign slogan: “He kept us out of war!”
It was true that Wilson had kept America from entering the First World War for many months. His primary defense had been a series of handwritten notes to the kaiser, pleading for the German leader to stop sinking American ships and shooting Americans.
At a certain point in the rally, Mr. Armstrong heard Roosevelt utter some contemptuous words that always stuck with him: “If I had been president, I would send the kaiser just one note—and he would have known that I meant it.”
Mr. Armstrong told that story often because it perfectly illustrated a message he repeated for decades after World War ii. The message was that too many of America’s post-World War ii leaders were of Wilson’s weak ilk, and that too few had the kind of pride in America’s power embodied by Theodore Roosevelt.
Mr. Armstrong’s message was that, after World War ii, the United States had lost the will to use its power. He knew, with conviction, that it was true because of understanding that God revealed to him based on key Bible passages. Fueled by this understanding, shortly after World War ii, Mr. Armstrong boldly prophesied that the United States of America had won its last war.
Korea and Cuba
After victory in World War ii, the Korean War was the first in a long line of non-victories for the United States. When hostilities broke out in 1950, President Harry Truman gave command of American forces to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, World War ii hero. From the outset, MacArthur was free to cross the 38th parallel to invade North Korea. But when China’s Communist forces joined the side of the enemy, U.S. forces were sent reeling. MacArthur urged Washington to approve a full-scale attack on China, telling one congressman that “there is no substitute for victory.” But his plea fell on deaf ears. Truman fired MacArthur in 1951, and the war eventually settled to a stalemate with both sides suffering huge numbers of casualties.
The Korean War ended the career of America’s last great general. It also marked the beginning of a new era in American battle strategy: limited warfare.
The Bay of Pigs incident was a good example of this new strategy. President John F. Kennedy kick-started this political-military disaster. In 1961, more than 1,400 Cuban exiles, trained by the Central Intelligence Agency, landed on Cuba’s shores hoping to spark a popular uprising. But without U.S. naval and air support, Castro’s troops easily crushed the rebellion. Nearly all of the U.S.-led invaders were killed in battle or died in Castro’s prisons years later.
After the Bay of Pigs debacle, Mr. Armstrong wrote in the January 1963 Plain Truth that the U.S. should have driven Castro and communism out of Cuba. Since it did not, Mr. Armstrong asked, “Is the United States going to find that, having left Castro and godless communism on the American doorstep, it is going to continue to cause us every kind of trouble and harassment?”
The decades since then have showed that it indeed has.
Mr. Armstrong pinned the blame not on the U.S. military, nor even President Kennedy, but on the American people! He wrote in the October 1961 Plain Truth that “unless or until the United States as a whole repents and returns to what has become a hollow slogan on its dollars: ‘In God we trust,’ the United States of America has won its last war!
“I said that when we failed to win in Korea! … I say it again, now that the United States government endorsed this Cuban fiasco—its president gave the ‘go ahead’—and God, the God America has deserted, gave it its most humiliating defeat! What does the Cuban debacle mean?
“It means, Mr. and Mrs. United States, that the handwriting is on your wall!”
Those were strong words! Yet their full weight and power were not known until the U.S. became involved in its next major conflict.
The Vietnam Spectacle
As early as November 1961, the Plain Truth informed readers that the U.S. would “almost certainly” have to fight a major battle in Vietnam. Sure enough, in 1964, America began sending troops there.
Several analysts at the time realized that a war in Vietnam was imminent, but only Mr. Armstrong was absolutely confident about how it would end. In April 1965, just months after hostilities broke out, the Plain Truth blared this headline: “Why United States Cannot Win Vietnam War!”
The article said, “The United States is committed not to win in Vietnam! … The late Gen. Douglas MacArthur once stated that unless a nation entered into a battle with victory as its goal, it was defeated before it started. He was right!
“Make no mistake about it—the U.S. and the other nations involved in support of South Vietnam would like to win. But they are afraid to take the action necessary to win.”
A year and a half later, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The United States is not winning. Yet the war has been stepped up enormously during 1966. People see no results. People compare the size and power of the United States to that of North Vietnam—a little country hardly the size of one of our states, such as Florida. They can’t understand why the United States—the most powerful military nation in the world—can’t whip little North Vietnam” (Plain Truth, January 1967).
The war lasted another eight years, ending in the shameful evacuation of American officials from the rooftop of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam. It was the longest war in America’s history, and was the nation’s most humiliating defeat. Historian Paul Johnson called it a “collapse of American power.”
During those years, the Plain Truth often touched on another Vietnam casualty—that of American honor worldwide. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “No military nation can operate a military force by accepting defeat in an enemy attack, on the excuse we wanted to save the lives of men who had offered those lives to protect our honor and our freedom. … How many more lives will yet be lost in future battles because enemies will now be emboldened by this display of weakness to anticipate easy victories over a United States that is afraid to fight?” (January 1969).
Indeed, the war in Vietnam gave America’s reputation as a superpower quite a beating. The Plain Truth pointed this out in February 1978 and then made this stunning prediction: “The days are over when the military might of the United States is used to accomplish what America perceives as correct and proper. … America’s influence and prestige is on the rapid decline. The pride of our power has been broken. The time is fast approaching when the United States will be so weak and so fearful of its own shadow that, as the Prophet Ezekiel predicted, the trumpet will sound the call to battle, but none shall answer (Ezekiel 7:14).”
There could have been no more accurate prediction of the years that followed.
If the Korean War marked the start of the limited warfare strategy, America’s ignominious defeat in Vietnam marked the beginning of its anti-warfare strategy. Nothing illustrated this aversion to danger like the Iran hostage crisis.
In November 1979, a band of Iranian revolutionists stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and captured 52 U.S. staff members. President Jimmy Carter repeatedly demanded that Tehran return the captives, but Ayatollah Khomeini said he was beating an empty drum. “Carter does not have the guts to engage in a military operation,” Khomeini taunted. Carter’s only show of “force” was a bungled rescue attempt in April 1980 that left the bodies of eight U.S. servicemen burning in the Iranian desert. Television cameras captured the images for all to see. It was another humiliating defeat. Iran held the world’s greatest superpower at bay for another eight months after the botched rescue mission. One wonders how Theodore Roosevelt would have handled the situation.
With more conservative leadership during the 1980s, some might argue that America regained some of the pride in its power. President Ronald Reagan sent troops to Grenada in 1983 to stamp out communism from the West Indies. In 1986, he bombed Col. Muammar Qadhafi’s military headquarters in Libya in response to a terrorist act. These small skirmishes, however, hardly qualify as decisive military victories for the United States. (The population of Grenada, after all, is slightly smaller than Fargo, North Dakota.) If anything, they revealed an increasingly gun-shy America willing to use its military might only in small, relatively risk-free conflicts.
Consider Lebanon. In October 1983, an Islamic terrorist rammed a truck packed with explosives into Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. Four months later, President Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops, a move that all but dissolved the Lebanese Christian power structure.
After that fiasco—which was yet another embarrassing U.S. retreat—the Plain Truth was quick to remind readers of what it had been saying for decades. The November-December 1983 issue included an article titled “Why America Has Won Its Last War.” In it, Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy was quoted: “The United States, even still possessing unmatched power, is afraid—fears—to use it, just as God said.”
The Gulf War ‘Victory’
If ever there was a conflict that could have proven Mr. Armstrong’s prediction wrong, surely it would have been the Persian Gulf War. Even Mr. Armstrong’s own church pointed to this war (several years after he died) as justification to back away from the “America has won its last war” prediction. “We were wrong,” wrote Mr. Armstrong’s successor, Joseph Tkach, in a co-worker letter dated March 25, 1991.
But the fledgling Philadelphia Trumpet magazine did not agree with the Plain Truth’s new message. Instead we clung tenaciously to the forecasts of Mr. Armstrong. “America has won its last war,” we declared on the cover of the May 1991 Trumpet, shortly after the Gulf War ended.
After a short ground invasion, the Bush i administration claimed victory in the war. But Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry firmly challenged that assessment. It is true that, until 1991, the world had never witnessed such an awesome display of technologically advanced firepower. Yet despite this show of force, the Persian Gulf War was not one “that tested the U.S. will,” he wrote.
“The truth is we won a battle in Kuwait. We did not win a war. The job was left unfinished,” Mr. Flurry wrote. “Saddam Hussein is still in power—even stronger in some ways—and has turned Iraq into a killing field. Isn’t [that] a sign we didn’t win the war? That we lacked the will to win as it says in Leviticus 26:19?” What the U.S. did was essentially kick a massive problem down the road. “This will probably plague and haunt President Bush and America for the rest of our lives!” he wrote. A look at the darkening chaos in Iraq today shows that prediction to have been startlingly accurate.
Mr. Flurry was most critical of how, after encouraging the Kurds and Shiites to rise up against Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration abandoned them. Hussein then restarted his murderous rampage against these peoples, creating a humanitarian disaster. Mr. Flurry called this “the greatest betrayal in U.S. history.” “President Bush’s ‘new world order’ has brought some of the greatest shame on our nation’s history!” he wrote. “American leaders say the U.S. has no UN mandate to interfere in Iraq on the refugees’ behalf. This statement alone shows that we lack the will to use our power for a just cause. And if the Iraqi refugee crisis isn’t a just cause, nothing is!”
The following statement—which Mr. Flurry wrote well over two decades ago—powerfully summarizes the trepidation that has saturated America’s foreign policy in recent decades, not just in Iraq, but also Afghanistan, Ukraine and beyond: “America still fears getting bogged down in a Vietnam-type civil war in Iraq. Even after we had them almost defenseless! That is because God has broken the pride of our power—our will to win! … America must come to see they are under a curse from God and repent of their sins.”
The fact that American actions in the 1991 Gulf War betrayed the Kurds and Shiites and left Saddam Hussein in power shows that it was, at best, another stalemate for the United States.
And the years that followed revealed even more powerfully how deeply broken America’s pride in its power is. Remember the U.S.’s “nation building” effort in Somalia in 1993? It only took 29 American casualties to scrap that mission. Then the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, prompted a $353-million retreat further into the Saudi desert. When terrorists blew up U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, President Bill Clinton responded with a wrist slap: a cruise missile strike on suspected terrorist facilities.
The United States even backed away from a conflict in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world. A U.S. naval assault ship was actually held at bay by a small mob of Haitians at Port au Prince in 1993. The U.S. scrapped the mission because it feared casualties.
The War on Terror
On September 11, 2001, the U.S. experienced the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. Islamist terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people and plunged the U.S. into full-blown war.
From the start, this war was doomed to fail. Consider, to begin, the very definition America gave to it. Entrapped in political correctness, and thus uncomfortable with any unfavorable portrayals of Islam, America’s leaders defined it as a “war on terror.” This is confusing. Terror is not an enemy, but a tactic. Failing to clearly identify Islamist extremism and its chief sponsor nations as the enemy is like defining World War ii as a “war on blitzkrieg” so as not to directly implicate Germany.
Characterizations of the “terrorist threat” as vague, shadowy, elusive and ubiquitous were also misleading. The threat emanates predominantly from a few nations, such as Saudi Arabia and, above all, Iran. Just as the collapse of the ussr overnight reduced the communist threat, ending state support of Islamist terrorism would all but end terrorism.
The trouble is, Iran has allies: most notably, Russia and China. Afghanistan was friendless and powerless—so the U.S. selected it (or, more accurately, the Taliban) as the first target in the “war on terror.” In terms of contributing to global terrorism, the Taliban was insignificant compared to Iran, but this is the trouble one runs into after failing to properly define the enemy.
America’s subsequent attack on Iraq (or, more accurately, Saddam Hussein) was even more problematic, because it eliminated the single greatest check on Iran, virtually guaranteeing the eventual ascendancy of the Islamic Republic.
As a result of America’s failure to correctly define the enemy, in the years since 2001, the U.S. has effectively done nothing to target Iran or degrade its support of terrorism. The “war on terror” has actually left Iran stronger. Iran has directed, funded, armed and personally assisted in the Hamas and Hezbollah attacks that transformed Israel and Lebanon into battlegrounds.
Iran tests weapons capable of carrying nuclear payloads and regularly calls for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Yet the United States still tries to reason and negotiate with Iran. As a senior official from the Israeli prime minister’s office said, “While the world is discussing where and when the next meeting with Iran will be, Iran is rapidly advancing towards obtaining a nuclear bomb.”
Even if the U.S. had won a decisive victory in its campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, it would still be far from winning the war on terror. As long as the chief sponsor of Islamist terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is still in business, the war on terror has not been won.
But the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were far from victories for the United States. In Afghanistan the Taliban is making a comeback, and the U.S. is even involved in peace talks with the regime it tried to overthrow. Worse, the Taliban has taken over great swaths of Pakistan, putting the entire country, and its nuclear arsenal, in danger. It was in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, that U.S. troops found and executed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and top terrorist on the U.S. most wanted list. Bin Laden’s death may be cause for celebration for many, but it doesn’t leave the world any safer. Bin Laden was the head of al Qaeda, not of global terrorism.
On May 27, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan would officially end in December 2014. A small residual force would temporarily remain in the country for training purposes, he said, but all U.S. forces would be removed from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
In Iraq, America’s loss is even more apparent. Washington actually pursued dialogue with Iran, soliciting its help in bringing the bog in Iraq under control by reining in the Shiites. It also has considered joining forces with Iran in order to combat the Islamic State, the Sunni terrorist group now in control of great swaths of Iraq and Syria. In order to tidy up its business in Iraq, the “superpower” United States requested aid from the world’s top state sponsor of terror!
In fact, far from winning the war on terror, America is in the process of surrendering Iraq to Iran!
“The most powerful [Muslim] country in the Middle East is Iran,” Mr. Flurry wrote in an article titled “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” in 1994. “Can you imagine the power they would have if they gained control of Iraq, the second-largest oil producing country in the world?”
Far from winning the war on terror, America has built up a terrorist-sponsoring superpower!
Even more shameful has been America’s foreign policy in Europe. Its myriad infirmities have been well documented in both the Trumpet and the Plain Truth.
Just four years after World War ii ended, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “But while trusting, gullible Uncle Sam, always unable to see more than one enemy at a time, has been busy worrying about Russia, the real menace has been making diabolical and rapid headway—under cover—in Europe!” (Plain Truth, November 1949). In the June 1952 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong likened America’s bungling foreign policy in Europe to creating a Frankenstein monster that would eventually turn on its maker.
Gerald Flurry used that same analogy in the September-October 1995 Trumpet. He wrote about how the U.S. strongly opposed the recognition of the breakaway Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia in 1991. Yet, in the face of German pressure, the United States caved in, and offered its tacit approval. America’s recognition of those two states was the spark that ignited a succession of wars within the Balkan region during the 1990s.
Croatia sided with the Nazis during World War ii. The Croatian leader that Germany supported in 1991, Franjo Tudjman, was himself well documented as being a Nazi sympathizer. When war erupted, Croatia proceeded to rid its territory of Serbian people. Carl Bildt, former European Community mediator in the Balkans, called it the “most efficient ethnic cleansing we’ve seen in the Balkans.”
America had effectively given its full support to the wrong side—and few commentators besides the Trumpet said anything about it.
The Trumpet has been blaring this warning for some years now. During the war in Kosovo, we exposed a further breakdown of U.S. willpower: “Given the apparent lack of will to effectively deploy its military might to actually win a victory [for the right side] in its numerous military adventures in recent years, why bother to deploy force at all …?” (Trumpet, May 1999). The U.S.-led bombing campaign, in the long run, will end up hurting America far more than it did Serbia. This trend for America to often support the wrong side will have a disastrous end, according to biblical prophecy.
By the time the Ukrainian crisis erupted in 2014, America’s broken military will was on full display for the entire world to see. In the early 1990s, Ukraine had one of the most advanced nuclear arsenals in the world. With some 5,000 weapons, it was the third largest on the planet. But that changed in 1994 when the leaders of the U.S., UK, Ireland and Russia signed an agreement with Ukraine: Kiev agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a promise from these countries to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Article i of the Budapest Memorandum says, “The United States of America, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine … to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” Those “existing borders” included the Crimean Peninsula, as well as Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine’s east. When Russia annexed Crimea in the spring of 2014, and actively worked to destabilize the other two regions, it directly violated this deal. And the U.S., by failing to use its power against Russia, failed to live up to the spirit of its promise. Nuclear-free Ukraine is now defenseless.
So, was Mr. Armstrong right to declare after World War ii that “America has won its last war”? Looking from Korea to Cuba to Vietnam to Iran to Lebanon to Somalia to Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan to Ukraine, the answer is clear. All these episodes constitute clear American political and military defeats.
Blessings and Curses
There is a reason Mr. Armstrong correctly forecast after World War ii that America would lose the will to use its power and never again win a war. He knew that when God threatened in Leviticus 26:19 to “break the pride of your power,” He was referring primarily to Britain and the United States in this modern age.
The irony is that the same God who promised to break our pride is the one who gave this tremendous power in the first place. God blessed America with unprecedented material wealth because He promised it, unconditionally, to Abraham. He did so because of Abraham’s obedience to God’s laws. That is why, up until World War ii, our peoples were richly blessed. (All of this is thoroughly explained in The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Request your free copy for further explanation.)
Today, however, because of rampant sin and disobedience to His law, God is turning those blessings into curses. God gave us every imaginable good, but what have we done with those blessings? Let Mr. Armstrong explain: “Like Rome, we’ve grown fat and prosperous and lazy. … We’re the wealthiest, as compared to any other nation, and we are fast growing lazy and soft, seeking luxury and pleasure, and excitement, idleness and ease, labor-saving, step-saving devices and gadgets” (Plain Truth, February 1956). That applies today far more than it did in 1956!
Amid all this material prosperity, we have forgotten God. In fact, we increasingly see examples of active, intentional, malicious hostility toward God—a movement to systematically eliminate God from public life—to establish godlessness as the state religion! But even during those instances in which God receives a token mention, He is never acknowledged as a lawgiver, or even as a moral authority. In modern society, we feel accountable only to ourselves.
This is the reason God is now cursing the peoples of Britain and the United States. America’s string of military-political defeats since World War ii is proof of those curses! America has indeed won its last war. It was true in 1950—and true all the more so now.
Our immense wealth added to our broken will is a dangerous combination. As Mr. Armstrong wrote in the June 1954 Plain Truth, aggressor nations covet that wealth. Seeing our weakness and reluctance to use our power only intensifies the desire of these aggressor nations to take that wealth—as soon as they are strong enough to do so.
That will happen—and much sooner than you might think. That is what Herbert Armstrong foresaw.
Mr. Armstrong concluded an article in the October 1954 Plain Truth with these words: “How any American—any English-speaking inheritor of God’s choicest material blessings—can, in face of such stupendous, overwhelming fulfillment of prophecy—such awe-inspiring demonstration of the power and might and faithfulness of Almighty God—accept and partake of these blessings, and then carelessly ignore God’s warning that our sins today are increasing, or fail to get to his knees before the great Almighty, and repent, and intercede in heart-rending prayer for all Israelite nations, and help in every way he can to warn our people now of their impending peril, seems impossible to conceive.
“God warns us through prophecy that our sins are fast increasing. And now the day of reckoning is here! The foreign sword already has attacked us. In this fearful awesome atomic age, World War iii will start with atomic bombs dropped on [such cities as] London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh—without warning!
“God help our nations to wake up before it’s too late!”
It is clear now that our broken-willed nations will not wake up to these ever more imminent threats. But you, as an individual, still can. ▪