Battle over U.S. Supreme Court vacancy
On June 27, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, creating the second Supreme Court vacancy of Donald Trump’s presidency. Given the court’s history of narrow rulings on controversial issues, replacing two judges in a relatively short period of time can have a tremendous impact on American society.
President Trump has selected Brett Kavanaugh, a D.C. circuit court judge, as his nominee. Both Republicans and Democrats are wary of Kavanaugh’s credentials as a Washington insider, and his record is now being scoured for clues as to how he might rule on key political issues, with rampant speculation as to what the ramifications may be.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the United States, is perhaps the most controversial court decision in American history. Conservatives have long hoped for the opportunity to nominate Supreme Court judges who would overturn it, allowing each state to choose its own laws to either allow, restrict or outright ban abortion.
The particular focus on abortion this time around comes not only from the already narrow margin on the court that Kavanaugh could upset, but also Mr. Trump’s statement during a 2016 presidential debate. When asked if he wanted to see Roe v. Wade overturned, Trump plainly said, “I am putting pro-life judges on the court” (“The Final Trump-Clinton Debate Transcript, Annotated,” The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2016).
The makeup of the Supreme Court plays a major role in the national morality. What the court declares legal becomes increasingly acceptable—even if it is utterly detestable according to the highest court of Almighty God.
Activist judges adhering to liberal-progressive ideology—and even somewhat conservative justices who have gone along with them—have helped to push the national morality farther and farther from biblical morality. Against that, staunchly conservative justices who take a constructionist stand of interpreting the Constitution with its amendments according to original intent could perhaps help to slow the liberal transformation of the country.
Of course, justices who might impede or reverse the progressivist agenda are intolerable to those on the left—particularly since they would expand the conservative presence on the court and threaten the continuance of unfettered abortion. Thus, liberal-progressives will do all they can to block any shift to the right on the court.
Moreover, the Democrats are still smarting from Republican senators refusing to allow a vote on former President Barack Obama’s late-term nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy that President Trump later filled with conservative Neil Gorsuch. The left declares Trump’s appointment illegitimate. In fact, many desperately declare the whole Trump presidency to be illegitimate as they go apoplectic over any hint of leftist governance being rolled back.
As Christians, we pray for all of our government leaders to uphold justice according to God’s Word (see Deuteronomy 16:19 Deuteronomy 16:19You shall not wrest judgment; you shall not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift does blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
American King James Version×). Sadly, it appears that the problems are too far gone, and the leftist agenda too entrenched, to be thoroughly undone by man. And even if it could, that would not be enough. We must understand that even the best possible human governance would fall far short of what is truly needed.
We should all earnestly pray for God’s Kingdom, looking ahead to the truly righteous Judge, Jesus Christ, who will finally rule the world with equity. (Source: The Washington Post.)
Europe providing for its defense: unintended consequences?
President Donald Trump’s midsummer trip to Europe for NATO meetings received a lot of publicity for his straight talk to other alliance partners. Mr. Trump insists all other member nations pay their agreed-on share of expenses to maintain the alliance. Each NATO member nation is expected to spend a minimum of 2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on defense spending. The United States is spending close to 4 percent, while some states are paying only token amounts. This must change, said Mr. Trump.
The terms of the pact aside, we might ask: Does anyone read history anymore? Who really thinks a fully armed Europe is a good idea? Every time this has happened in the past, war has broken out and millions have died. We can already see a strategic buildup of arms to counter Russian threats. America has sold Ukraine powerful weapons to counter Russian aggression. Some Baltic States have state-of-the-art weapons put there to discourage Russia from reasserting control over what was once part of the Soviet Union.
NATO has been a major factor in maintaining peace in Europe for more than 70 years. It’s an important alliance, and America’s oversized role deserves much of the credit for the peace. But with calls for Europe to share more of the defense burden, we should again recall what history shows—that an armed Europe usually descends into war. And when this happens the whole world gets involved. There can be unintended consequences to many actions on the world scene.
Europe has enjoyed the umbrella of American protection since 1945, the end of World War II. While the United States did the heavy lifting, Europe developed the art of diplomacy as a means of projecting what is called “soft power.” Yet some feel there is already afoot a shift in posture that in time would radically alter Europe’s voice in the world.
Writing in The Atlantic, Reihan Salam, executive editor of National Review, outlined a future scenario of European interventionism beyond its borders: Just last month, nine of Europe’s NATO members declared their intention to work together on a ‘European Intervention Initiative,’ or ‘EI2,’ that is being championed by French President Emanuel Macron. Since the start of his presidency, Macron has been touting the idea of a pan-European security force capable of intervening in crises in North Africa and the Sahel [the region along the south of the Sahara], and it appears to be inching closer to reality” (“The Coming Split in NATO,” July 12, 2018).
Europe would first have to significantly invest in military capability to project hard power, something it does not presently possess. Salam adds: “If Europe is to truly share in the burden of ensuring global security, it will have to pool its resources and replicate some of America’s existing capabilities. In short, the training wheels will have to come off.”
A more muscular Europe would provide a counterpoint to American power, an unintended consequence unseen at present.
Bible prophecy foretells a Europe-based power attacking North Africa and the Middle East in response to a provocation that threatens to destabilize the world. Daniel 11:40-43 Daniel 11:40-43  And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
 He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.
American King James Version×is not describing American troop movements. It is describing a power not yet on the radar screen for most today. Understanding this future threat requires revelation from God and honest evaluation of history with a biblical worldview.
Noted historian Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize–winning classic about the start of World War I, The Guns of August, is well worth reading. It reminds us that fully armed nations with guns pointing at each other will go to war. Amid worsening threats, we should reflect on Psalm 2, which says the nations rage and leaders plot vain things against God. God offers wisdom and sound counsel from His Word, but for now it is mostly ignored (verses 1-2, 9-10). Even in the midst of peace, we should recognize that it’s a very hard condition to maintain. (Source: The Atlantic).
Socialism: failure or the future?
Several decades ago Venezuela was one of the bright spots of the world economy. Blessed with some of the world’s largest oil reserves and a stable democracy, it was well positioned for a prosperous future.
Today the picture is far different. “Blackouts are a near-daily occurrence, and many people live without running water . . . schoolchildren and oil workers have begun passing out from hunger, and sick Venezuelans have scoured veterinary offices for medicine. Malaria, measles, and diphtheria have returned with a vengeance, and . . . millions of Venezuelans [are] fleeing the country” (Keith Johnson, “How Venezuela Struck It Poor,” ForeignPolicy.com, July 16, 2018).
The country’s murder rate is among the world’s highest. Oil production has plunged to a 28-year low. The inflation rate may hit 1 million percent this year. Food is so scarce and expensive that Venezuelans lost an average of more than 20 pounds in body weight in 2017.
What went wrong? In a word, socialism.
In the 1970s, Venezuela’s leaders nationalized its oil industry, creating a government monopoly and driving away foreign investment and technological know-how. In 1999 self-proclaimed Marxist Hugo Chavez was elected president and began creating his version of a socialist paradise, nationalizing more industries and spreading around the oil wealth to gain popular support. After his 2013 death, he was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro, who essentially became a socialist dictator.
To those who have studied history, Venezuela’s sad current condition comes as no surprise. It followed a well-worn pattern that has brought untold misery to millions of people. What is sadly ironic is that while tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to the United States, scores of U.S. politicians advocate socialist policies that would lead America down the same disastrous path. (Source: Foreign Policy.)
Islamic State diminished but still deadly
The Islamic State or ISIS has been severely crippled and effectively defeated in some areas thanks to the efforts of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against it and loss of local support, yet it continues to act to spread terror in attempting to regain power.
Reuters reported on July 24, 2018: “Months after Iraq declared victory over Islamic State, its fighters are making a comeback with a scatter-gun campaign of kidnap and killing. With its dream of a Caliphate in the Middle East now dead, Islamic State has switched to hit-and-run attacks aimed at undermining the government in Baghdad . . .
“Disarray among the [Iraqi] security forces has allowed Islamic State to stage a comeback, according to military, police, intelligence, and local elected officials. They said poor coordination, meager support from the central government, and a culture of avoiding responsibility are hindering efforts to contain the group” (Ahmed Aboulenein, “Islamic State Makes Comeback in Iraq With Switch to Guerilla Tactics”).
Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on ISIS advising the Iraqi government, puts the number of active ISIS fighters in Iraq “at more than 1,000, with around 500 in desert areas and the rest in the mountains” (ibid.). It’s further noted that al-Qaeda once held sway over Iraqi Sunni areas until the 2006-2007 surge campaign and that “its remnants hid in the desert between Syria and Iraq and later turned into Islamic State. Some officials fear an even more radical group could emerge if there are gaps in security.”
Many attempts to track down and kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have failed as of this writing, and the group is still active in other Arab states. “In Egypt, it is concentrated in the sparsely populated northern Sinai desert. It holds no territory but conducts hit-and-run attacks. Islamic State has tried to rebuild in Libya through mobile units in the desert and sleeper cells in northern cities” (ibid).
“In Syria,” as Reuters further pointed out, “Islamic State still holds some territory but has suffered militarily.” Yet the day after this was written the group staged a significant attack there. As National Public Radio (NPR) reported on July 25: “Suicide bombers struck an open-air market and other targets in the southern Syrian city of Sweida . . . The four attacks killed dozens of people and injured dozens more . . . in a region where the government has been fighting ISIS militants” (Bill Chappell, “ISIS Suicide Bombings Kill Dozens, Setting Off Intense Fighting in Syria”).
The first attack was from a motorcycle bomber striking just after dawn, with more suicide bombers coming later. “Overall . . . more than 150 people were killed during the day, including at least 62 civilians and more than 90 locals who joined in the fight against ISIS” (ibid.).
Back in Iraq, as the Reuters report goes on to say, Sunni tribesmen who helped U.S. and Iraqi forces against al-Qaeda are now saying they need help “as Islamic State claws its way back . . . Shammar tribal chief Ali Nawaf . . . says he has 1,400 men ready to fight but they need help from the government in Baghdad. ‘Either the government sends more forces, or we raise Daesh [ISIS] flags. If we don’t plug this hole now, entire cities will fall,’ Nawaf said.”
ISIS itself may not make a successful comeback, but another dangerous group or movement could rise from its ashes—as has happened before. An eventual caliphate is not out of the question. And in any case, terrorism remains an awful scourge.
Many of the leading nations’ intelligence agencies have been able to thwart hostile plans by these and other radicals in the past years, but not all of them. The harsh reality is that such attacks require only a few individuals, which make them difficult to prevent.
We pray that God will bring relief and comfort to those who are suffering in this ongoing evil. We also pray that Jesus comes soon to establish His Kingdom of peace. God is fully aware of the atrocities that happen in our world and will intervene when the time is right for mankind to have a receptive heart to His judgment and teaching. (Sources: Reuters, NPR.)