Current Events & Trends: March–April 2018

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March–April 2018

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Current Events & Trends: March–April 2018

MP3 Audio (22.51 MB)

U.S. military in growing jeopardy

Without restructuring and new equipment, America’s military forces may suffer defeat in upcoming conflicts. As reported in The Washington Times, a new Rand Corp. study titled “U.S. Military Capabilities and Forces for a Dangerous World” shows “that U.S. forces could, under plausible assumptions, lose the next war they are called upon to fight” (quoted by Bill Gertz, Dec. 13, 2017).

“The Rand study recommended that instead of readying military forces to fight two regional wars in overlapping time frames, the military needs to shift the focus toward battling the five main adversaries today: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and Islamic terrorist groups”—with each conflict needing distinct equipment and methods of engagement (ibid.).

Regarding military needs more broadly, the following is excerpted from a Forbes article by Loren Thompson titled “5 Reasons the U.S. Army Must Modernize Faster to Avoid Catastrophe” (Jan. 3, 2018):

“The U.S. Army . . . has been severely underfunded since 2011 . . . As a result, the Army’s combat systems have become increasingly antiquated . . . Army Secretary Mark Esper and Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy . . . are stepping up efforts to explain the looming danger . . . Here, in simplified form, are the five key themes at the core of the Army’s plea for more modernization money while there is still time to adequately equip America’s soldiers.

“1. Army equipment budgets were starved during the Obama years . . . The Army’s active-duty ranks were reduced by about 100,000 soldiers . . .

“2. Likely enemies are catching up with U.S. war-fighting technology. Russia and China have begun matching or surpassing the combat capabilities available to America’s soldiers. For instance, U.S. tanks lack the active protection technology appearing on Russian tanks; Russian and Chinese tactical missiles often have greater reach than their American equivalents; and several countries have fielded targeting sensors with superior range. The Army’s vice chief told Congress last year that Army equipment is ‘outranged, outgunned and outdated.’

“3. New technology allows foes to leapfrog Army capabilities. Several potential adversaries are using unmanned aircraft—drones—to spy on U.S. ground forces or attack them . . . Other enemies are using cheap jamming systems to disrupt U.S. navigation, sensing and communications signals. Cyber attacks against U.S. tactical networks are increasingly common . . .

“4. Enemies have figured out that soldiers are vulnerable . . . Wars are mainly about the control of territory, population and resources . . . [which typically] requires ‘boots on the ground.’ But with the advent of improvised explosive devices, shaped charges and more high-tech options, additional modernization funding is needed for force protection so U.S. soldiers do not become easy targets.

“5. The Army has a limited window of time to get moving on modernization . . . Weapons spending rises when Republicans control the government, and falls when Democrats do . . . Army leaders need to convince Congress to speed up development of new rotorcraft, combat vehicles, networks and the like to assure durable political support as electoral fortunes shift.

“The Army already has identified what its top modernization priorities are . . . If that technology does not reach the force expeditiously, then the risk of mass casualties and catastrophic defeat in America’s next ground campaign will inevitably rise.”

In a Dec. 31, 2017, article at Observer titled “The Year American Hegemony Ended,” former National Security Agency analyst John Schindler described some of the serious challenges facing the U.S. military:

“Our Air Force . . . is shedding pilots at an alarming rate, while it has far too few F-22 fighters to maintain air dominance worldwide . . . Our Navy is in even worse shape . . . Considering the U.S. Navy has been the guarantor of freedom of navigation on the world’s seas since 1945 . . . its sad decline has far-reaching consequences . . .

“Our Army is equally unready for battle against a peer. In its shadow war in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s ground forces have demonstrated killing capabilities far beyond what America and NATO can do . . . The U.S. Army is frantically playing catch-up so it can take on the Russians as equals if it comes to a fight . . .

“Some empires decline slowly, others fall fast after a major defeat; history is filled with both outcomes. Since 1945, Washington has presumed that it can deploy our military anywhere, at the time and place of our choosing, thanks to our dominance of the world’s skies and oceans . . . This should no longer be assumed. The world has changed, American hegemony has collapsed, and if it’s not careful Washington may find out the hard way.” (Sources: The Washington Times, Forbes, Observer.)



Is Putin the new Mideast power broker?

In a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Trudy Rubin describes some of the fallout of America’s withdrawal from global leadership, particularly in the Middle East. “And as the United States pulls back,” she says, “Russia and Iran rush in (along with Turkey and even China),” with the new lead player being Russian President Vladimir Putin  (“In 2017, U.S. Abandoned Role as Global Leader, Mideast Power-Broker,” Dec. 29, 2017).

Rubin illustrates the swing to Russian influence with recent optics, as follows: “Nothing symbolizes this ongoing power shift better than Vladimir Putin’s triumphant visit to Syria on Dec. 11, followed by whirlwind visits to Cairo and Ankara. Putin’s victory lap stands in sharp contrast to the negative international fallout from Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem the previous week.

“The stunning video of Putin’s arrival at Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria rocketed around Arab social media. ‘Visiting Syria, Egypt and Turkey in one day, Putin establishes himself as the only world leader with real influence in the Middle East,’ read the headline in the Israeli paper Haaretz.

“As the Russian president stepped onto the tarmac, he was greeted not by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but by a Russian officer. Putin finally shook Assad’s hand but quickly walked ahead of the Syrian president. Another Russian officer held Assad back when he tried to walk alongside Putin.

“The message was clear: The new master of Syria, whose air force (along with Iranian ground forces) saved Assad, was demonstrating who was now in charge. The spoils include large and long-term Russian air and naval bases near the Mediterranean Sea . . .

“’Now the feeling is that Putin is the king of Syria and the United States is in retreat,’ I was told by former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.’” Rubin concludes that “Putin is on his way to becoming the major power broker in the region, the man whom leaders from Riyadh, Cairo, Libya, Ankara, Ramallah, and Jerusalem—and even Tehran—must consult to work out new geopolitical arrangements.”

We certainly need to keep our eyes on the Middle East as a major focus of powerful empires, just as the Bible foretells of the end time. (Source: Philadelphia Inquirer.)



Doomsday Clock edges closer to midnight

Last year, 2017, opened with the big news that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists updated its “Doomsday Clock,” which reflects the scientists’ estimation of how imminent the threat of a global nuclear catastrophe is. The clock’s hands were at that time moved forward to read “two and a half minutes to midnight.”

The beginning of 2018 brought another announcement from the Bulletin, which pushed the clock forward to two minutes to midnight, the closest it’s been to midnight since the introduction of hydrogen bombs in the early 1950s.

The Bulletin’s president, Dr. Rachel Bronson, explains the reasoning for the adjustment: “The nuclear landscape takes center stage in this year’s Clock statement. Major nuclear actors are on the cusp of a new arms race, one that will be very expensive and will increase the likelihood of accidents and misperceptions.

“Across the globe, nuclear weapons are poised to become more rather than less usable because of nations’ investments in their nuclear arsenals. This is a concern that the Bulletin has been highlighting for some time, but momentum toward this new reality is increasing” (Jan. 25, 2018).

Whether or not the Bulletin’s estimations are based in reality, they do reflect a climate of pessimism for the future. Potential nuclear war is only one stressor in today’s world. Economic uncertainty, political upheaval and threats from hostile nations stalk the citizens of many countries.

The Doomsday Clock then, more than a measure of geopolitical realities, serves as a look into the global psyche. That may, though, provide a better look into what’s to come than mere statistics. Of course, only God can tell us the future, as He does through Bible prophecy. And prophecy does reveal the coming use of terrible weapons of mass destruction, apparently including nuclear weapons. (Source: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.)



U.S. national debt continues to worsen

After the previous presidential administration and Congress gave us the largest national debt increase in history, it is disturbing to see increases in the debt ceiling continuing. America’s debt currently sits at an unimaginable $20.5 trillion and is rising—a bit larger than the entire U.S. economy at 106 percent of GDP. This, writes American Free Enterprise fellow Desmond Lachman, “is a level that is widely considered by economists to be in the danger zone” (“Point: Increase the Public Debt at Your Peril,” InsideSources, Jan. 7, 2018).

An article in The Week points out: “Overall, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects the national debt to surpass $30 trillion by 2028, as Medicare and Social Security costs soar to cover aging baby boomers. Outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has warned that the country’s growing debt load could eventually become unsustainable. ‘It’s the type of thing that should keep people awake at night,’ she told Congress in November” (“The National Debt, Explained,” Jan. 13, 2018).

Historically low interests rates have helped the government to continue to pay interest on the debt. But interest rates are expected to rise in the coming years. Some maintain that this is no big deal, as government can keep printing money forever, but that would lead to massive inflation.

Most of the debt is owed to American investors holding Treasury securities—companies, local governments or individuals—and back to government trust funds like Social Security and Medicare, with investors benefiting from interest paid. About 30 percent is owned by foreign investors. “America’s biggest foreign creditor is China, which holds about 5 percent of total debt, followed closely by Japan. This could become a problem if the U.S. ever damaged its credit rating, but for now American debt is still considered one of the world’s safest assets” (ibid). That could change, of course.

Lachman comments: “Those who are unconcerned by our increased reliance on foreign financing seem to turn a blind eye to how heavily indebted our country’s government already is to countries like China, which are not particularly well disposed to us. One would have thought that such considerations would have dictated that, far from further increasing our reliance on such foreign sources of finance, we should have been making every effort to reduce our external economic vulnerability by paying down our debt.”

Scripture warns that “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). And God told the Israelites that they would be cursed for disobedience by foreigners rising higher to lend to them while Israelite lending to foreigners effectively ceased (Deuteronomy 28:43-44). It’s a very serious matter.

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas recently wrote: “Before he ran up the debt more than any other president, Barack Obama criticized George W. Bush for increasing America’s debt. While a senator from Illinois and during a debate about whether to raise the debt ceiling, Obama said, ‘The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.’ Debt rose by $3.5 trillion in Bush’s first five years in office, partially the result of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. During Obama’s two terms, the debt increased by $8.9 trillion . . .

“One of the reasons empires and great nations have collapsed throughout history is burdensome debt. No individual can keep spending as if there is no tomorrow, so why would anyone think that a nation can continue deficit spending and still expect a tomorrow? Companies that consistently spend more than they take in usually go bankrupt. Nations that consistently spend more than they take in and continue borrowing to keep the illusion of prosperity going usually just collapse. There is always a day of reckoning for such irresponsible behavior. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when” (“China’s Big Favor,” The Washington Times, Jan. 15, 2018). (Sources: InsideSources, The Week, The Washington Times.)