The Global Power Vacuum
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The Global Power Vacuum
Power vacuum is a term that not that long ago was rarely heard or seen. Lately, however, it’s showing up regularly in headlines, news articles and geopolitical analyses.
Of course, we’re not talking about a “power vacuum” as a household tool used to suck up dirt. We’re talking about a condition when governments or leaders are absent or have lost control, and nothing or no one has stepped in to fill the void.
Can anyone seriously argue that America's withdrawal from world leadership has led to a better, more sane and stable world?
Throughout history, power vacuums have been dangerous. They lead to great uncertainty and apprehension as people wonder what will happen next. Within nations, they sometimes lead to social unrest or chaos, and at times outright civil war, as individuals step forward to grab power. Internationally, they can lead to regional or even world wars as nations see opportunities to gain more for themselves at the expense of their neighbors.
Nature abhors a vacuum
The Greek philosopher-scientist Aristotle (ca. 384-322 B.C.) is thought to be the first person to note that “nature abhors a vacuum,” recording his observation in a collection of discussions about philosophy and the natural world. He proposed that true vacuums don’t exist because something will always fill any void.
Aristotle likely never contemplated that his observation about science would also hold true in the arena of geopolitics and international relations.
Why is this important to us? And how does it explain what we are seeing all around us on the world scene?
To use an analogy, imagine what would happen in an average town if local law enforcement officers hung up their badges and guns, walked off the job and went home, making it clear they had no intention of returning.
The result isn’t hard to predict. We’ve seen it when budget cutbacks or political pressure have led some police forces to stop enforcing some laws—so violations of these grow, right along with more serious crimes.
We’ve also seen what happens when breakdown in government leads to crippling or disbanding of local law enforcement. Criminal gangs and warlords fill the void, and soon it’s every person for himself. People band together and arm themselves to the teeth for protection in a lawless society. It’s a matter of self-interest and self-preservation.
And we are now seeing this on a global scale. In our analogy the whole world is the town, and the United States is the sheriff who's walked off the job—leaving the world to fend for itself. This has created a worldwide power vacuum, and the global gangsters and bad guys are filling the void.
“The world has never seemed as dangerous and leaderless as it does now.”
How serious is today’s world situation? Former U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman, onetime Democratic party vice-presidential candidate and author of the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security, recently described how the world has become much more dangerous as a result of America’s disengagement from its long-held position of world leadership.
“The world has never seemed as dangerous and leaderless as it does now,” he wrote in a recent Washington Post editorial. “Only the extremists and bullies act boldly, and therefore they have seized the initiative . . . There is more instability in the world today than at any time since the end of World War II.
“The threats come from emboldened expansionist powers such as Iran, Russia and China, and also terrorist aggressors such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida. In short, the enemies of freedom are on the march.
“At the same time, the United States . . . has chosen this moment to become more passive in the world. The absence of American leadership has certainly not caused all the instability, but it has encouraged and exacerbated it” (“The Absence of U.S. Leadership Makes the World More Dangerous Than Ever,” Feb. 24, 2016, emphasis added throughout).
“Fundamentally transforming” the United States
In late 2008, shortly before Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, he described his goal of “fundamentally transforming” the country. And transform it he did—not just domestically, but also in the area of international relations.
He soon embarked on what some characterized as a worldwide “apology tour,” traveling to a number of nations in which he criticized America’s previous powerful role in international affairs. He promised to withdraw American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, where long and bloody wars against terror-sponsoring regimes had finally forced Islamic jihadists into retreat.
Most bewilderingly, he dramatically changed course with U.S. allies. As the “Arab Spring” unfolded across the Middle East, he refused to support longtime Egyptian ally President Hosni Mubarak, who was swept from power by the terror-supporting Muslim Brotherhood and its candidate Mohamed Morsi. (Morsi was himself quickly driven from office and replaced by military general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but Obama has remained distant from him as well.)
In nearby Israel, relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly changed from cool to frosty to hostile. The situation wasn’t helped by revelations of U.S. spying on not only Israel, but other close allies Germany and France.
While punishing longtime allies, President Obama inexplicably began rewarding longtime enemies. He negotiated a deal with Iran—perhaps the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism—that paves the way for Iran to possess nuclear weapons in a decade and rewards them with billions of dollars of funds frozen for earlier international misconduct.
While Obama was negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program, he was also working to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, a communist dictatorship since the 1960s. Cuba gave up nothing in return, and in fact cracked down on pro-freedom protesters just before the president’s March 2016 trip there.
On that trip, he allowed himself to be photographed in front of a huge mural of Che Guevara—a hero and icon of the left, but a man who in reality was an enthusiastic enforcer for Fidel Castro who oversaw or participated in the brutal executions of hundreds of regime opponents.
Later in his trip, on a visit to Argentina, Obama told Argentinian students that there’s little difference between socialism, communism and capitalism—that they “should just decide what works” and choose that system. He followed up by praising Cuba for providing free access to education and health care.
American weakness and disengagement
The picture that has emerged is one of American weakness and disengagement. Time after time America’s foes have sensed lack of resolve and pushed for greater power and influence. Time after time the U.S. response has been weak or nonexistent.
To cite a few examples from recent years: In Ukraine, Russia agitated for Crimea, a strategic Black Sea peninsula, to break away from Ukraine, after which it was annexed by Russia. Russia then supplied other separatist rebels with arms, resulting in a large portion of Eastern Ukraine falling under control of Moscow-allied forces.
In the South China Sea between the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam—through which 40 percent of the world’s merchant ships pass over the course of a year—China has been building new islands out of formerly unoccupied reefs.
Dredging thousands of tons of sand and piling it onto the reefs, China has created space for aircraft landing strips and military fortifications on these new islands and claimed them as Chinese territory to project Chinese power and influence in the region—at the expense of Japan, the Philippines and the United States. U.S. response to date has been negligible.
North Korea has recently repeatedly threatened America with nuclear attack even as it tested a new nuclear device and new, longer-range missiles.
In Syria’s civil war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama’s declared “red line” against using chemical weapons against defenseless civilian populations. Again Obama did essentially nothing, other than open the door to Russia volunteering to remove the Syrian government’s chemical weapons—thereby giving Russia a major role in the Syrian conflict on par with America’s.
Russia soon took on a role far greater than America’s, moving in men and heavy weaponry and beginning massive airstrikes that for now appear to have turned the tide and at least temporarily preserved Assad’s grip on power.
This isn’t the only Mideast area in which Russia has expanded its influence. In addition to this major foothold in Syria, where Russia has built up its presence on the western coast around a major Russian naval base to project power into the Mediterranean Sea, Russia has signed agreements with Iran to help Iran build more nuclear power plants and modernize its military with the latest Russian arms.
Meanwhile, the overall Middle East chaos continues following Obama’s withdrawal of American forces. With the rise of the Islamic State or ISIS, Iraq and Syria may well become the latest failed states. And Turkey has been flooded with hundreds of thousands fleeing these countries, making it a pipeline of refugees to the offshore Greek islands and thence to European Union nations—refugees infiltrated with terrorists.
The EU, desperate to avoid the problems from the massive influx of immigrants, recently agreed to pay Turkey billions of euros to keep refugees there in exchange for giving millions of Turks the right to freely travel to EU countries—from which millions might choose never to return.
Winners and losers
Senator Lieberman, in the opinion piece cited earlier, described the net effect of American inaction, or in some cases the wrong actions, on the Middle East:
“The military and political disengagement of the United States from Iraq after the success of the surge and our failure to intervene to stop the slaughter in Syria have conspired to create a vacuum in the heart of the Middle East. This vacuum has been exploited by the region’s most dangerous anti-American forces: totalitarian Sunni fanatics and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The result is the creation of a terrorist sanctuary of unprecedented scale and Iranian domination over multiple Arab capitals.”
He went on to explain: “This fits a broader pattern. In too many places in recent years, the United States has treated its adversaries as essential partners to be courted, while dismissing or denigrating its historic allies and partners as inconveniences or obstacles to peace.”
Who have been the big winners as a result of American inaction or wrong actions? In no particular order, Russia, China and Islamic fundamentalism—none of which bodes well for world peace and freedom.
Who have been the big losers? Most notably, the United States, Europe and Israel. Although the ultimate big losers may end up being several smaller nations along the periphery of these countries—weaker nations like Ukraine, the Baltic states, other former Soviet republics, the Philippines, and the long-suffering peoples of the Middle East.
As much or more than anything, what we’re seeing is that we’re suffering from a leadership vacuum. Where have strong leaders such as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher gone? They’ve been replaced by men and women who think the world is a better place when they “lead from behind”—which in truth means not leading at all and squandering the opportunity and obligation to influence the world for the better.
America’s leaders seem to have lost sense of proportion and of what danger truly is and isn’t. While America seems to view its military more and more as a grand experiment in social experimentation (allowing homosexuals to openly serve, aggressively promoting minorities and women, integrating women into frontline combat units, forcing men and women into close quarters aboard ships and submarines, etc.), its power is degraded further and further.
America has become a nation where a major presidential contender can claim that climate change is a greater threat than global terrorism (and even causes the latter!). A year ago political leaders and media reporters obsessed over gay rights, and then moved to the next supposed outrage, currently transgender rights. As one pundit wryly commented, “I’m sure we’ll be talking about transgendered bathrooms when the [Iranian] mullahs nuke us”!
Surveying today’s chaotic and depressing world scene, can anyone seriously argue that America’s withdrawal from world leadership has led to a better, more prosperous, more sane and stable world?
What is really going on—the untold story
But what is really going on with this major shift in global power? Believe it or not, what we are seeing was foretold in the pages of your Bible several thousand years ago.
Between a fourth and a third of the Bible is prophecy, much of it with an astounding record of precise fulfillment. Much of Bible prophecy concerns “the end time,” “the time of the end” or “the end of the age,” referring to the end of this period of man’s misrule over the earth leading to catastrophic conditions just before the return of Jesus Christ to save us from human extinction. (To learn more, download or request our free study guide Are We Living in the Time of the End?)
Many of those prophecies also concern the modern-day descendants of the ancient kingdom of Israel, which was conquered and its people taken into captivity by the Assyrian Empire in the 700s B.C., after which they largely disappeared from history. But long before that happened, God foretold that these same people would be a world-dominating power blessed with incredible material prosperity and military strength in the period leading up to the close of this age.
How is that possible? The remarkable story, revealed in our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy, is that those same people, exiled from their own land and adopting foreign cultures from those around them in their new land, lost the knowledge of their true identity. Migrating westward, they settled in northwestern Europe and the British Isles, from which they spread further to eventually form the nations of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
These nations were indeed blessed with abundant material resources, fertile agricultural lands, great mineral wealth, and inventive and resourceful people who contributed greatly to world culture and civilization in such areas as medicine, technology, education and the arts. They also contributed enormously to world freedom in the face of the Nazi menace of World War II and the communist threat during the Cold War and Korean conflict.
But now, as we see amply demonstrated around the globe, America and its major allies have largely gone into a posture of retreat—having lost their will to win and exert their power and influence in the right way.
The United States has not won a major war since World War II. Korea ended in a truce. Vietnam ended with an ugly withdrawal, followed soon by a communist takeover. The first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ended in quick victory, but the dictator was left in power. The war in Afghanistan and the second war in Iraq also ended in military victories, but America lacked the will to follow through—with the result that both descended into chaos and anarchy.
Why is this happening?
But why? Why is this happening? Why can’t the world’s most powerful and advanced military force defeat rebels armed with little more than AK-47s and improvised roadside bombs?
The answer, if we have the heart to understand it, is sin. The same God who so greatly blessed the descendants of Israel and promised them national greatness also warned of what would happen if they turned their backs on their Creator. Notice what He said in Leviticus 26:
“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit . . . I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid . . . You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you . . . I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you . . . I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people” (Leviticus 26:3-12).
For the last few centuries the major English-speaking peoples that descended from ancient Israel received these great blessings. For the most part they understood where these blessings came from and gratefully acknowledged God as their source. The United States and Canada even established national holidays for this purpose.
But then astounding societal changes began taking place. In 1962 and 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court declared school-sponsored prayer and Bible readings in public schools to be unconstitutional. In 1973 the same court legalized abortion, which has led to the murder of tens of millions of unborn babies. In 2015 the court declared homosexual marriage legal.
All four decisions overturned long-held moral and societal standards enshrined in state laws for many decades. All four declared the judges’—and society’s—contempt for God and His Word.
With God banned from public life, and murder and perversion legalized as the law of the land, it’s no wonder that hostility toward God has grown by leaps and bounds. Now all too often those who stand up for biblical standards of morality are condemned as bigots, homophobes and “haters.”
We reap what we sow
As these examples show, some want to will God away or pretend that He doesn’t exist. But what is God’s response? “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7, New International Version 1984).
Yes, America is reaping what it has sown in denying God and willfully rejecting His laws. And yes, the consequences are growing more evident by the day.
We read above of the blessings God promised to pour out on His people for honoring and obeying Him. But He also promises that curses will follow denying and rejecting Him.
He warns in Leviticus 26: “If you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you . . .” (Leviticus 26:14-16).
The list of curses that follows sounds remarkably like our headlines on any given day!
“I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it” (Leviticus 26:16).
How often do we see the word “terror” in our headlines? God foretold this nearly 3,500 years ago! What about strange diseases that consume us and bring heartbreak? The Zika virus is one of several frightening new maladies affecting us. Our hospitals are plagued with strange new infections that are impervious to most antibiotics. Long-vanquished diseases like tuberculosis are making a comeback—often due to our own government bringing or allowing in thousands of infected immigrants.
“I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you” (Leviticus 26:14-16).
Why has the United States so suddenly lost so much of its respect and world standing? Why do our enemies not only no longer fear us, but mock us? Terrorists and terror states like North Korea and Iran openly threaten to attack America and its allies with weapons of mass destruction. Even Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former longtime dictator, mocked and ridiculed President Obama barely a few days after his visit to Havana!
God further says: “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power . . . And your strength shall be spent in vain . . .” (Leviticus 26:18-20).
As noted earlier, America possesses the world’s most advanced and powerful military capabilities. Yet it hasn’t won a major war in decades. In the last decade it’s again been worn down by outgunned and outmanned guerilla fighters. America still has great power, but it simply no longer uses it—for reasons of fear, of guilt, of political correctness, or just because its leaders no longer believe in the rightness of its cause.
And the result is an incredibly dangerous power vacuum into which the forces of chaos and darkness are rushing headlong!
What will you do?
None of this makes any sense—until you realize that powerful spiritual forces are at work, including spiritual laws that, when broken, break the lawbreakers. We are indeed reaping what we have sown—and denying it doesn’t do away with the terrible consequences!
America is heading down a dark and dangerous path, and so is the rest of the world. Bible prophecy reveals where this path will lead—to a terrifying conclusion where, if not for God’s direct intervention, human life would be exterminated from all the earth (Matthew 24:21-22).
You don’t need to tread this same path. You’re offered a much different way, a far better way, revealed in the pages of this magazine and your Bible. Instead of a vacuum of purpose in your life, you can fill your life with the understanding and real power that comes only from God.
We hope and pray that you’ll choose wisely!