Foreign countries don't look at the United States admiringly in the way they once did. The nation that put men on the moon, that brought an end to the Nazi threat and that came through the Cold War victorious faces increasingly difficult and threatening times as we move well into the 21st century.
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski asks, "Why is America's global appeal waning, what are the symptoms of America's domestic and international decline, and how did America waste the unique global opportunity offered by the peaceful end of the Cold War?" (Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power, 2012, p. 2). These are good questions, and you need to understand the answer!
Clearly many nations now view the United States with ill-disguised contempt. What has happened? Why is the nation not more like the America "chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world," as one former U.S. president put it?
Israel was supposed to be a model nation
Millennia ago God chose ancient Israel to be His law-abiding, model nation as an example to other countries. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, notice what Moses told them:
"Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?" (Deuteronomy 4:5-7, emphasis added throughout).
This is what God wants for the United States today. This is the way it should have been. But just like the Israel of old, America has jumped the tracks of sanity, has rejected our Creator's directives on how to live and is beginning to really reap the tragic consequences of leaving Him out of its life. (For the biblical and historical evidence that the descendants of ancient Israel include America and Britain as well as other Western countries, download or request our free Bible study aid booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)
Being a model nation matters not only in terms of national benefits, but also as a good example to other countries. Of course, they need a country that's worth emulating. In Brzezinski's words, "The world needs an America that is economically vital, socially appealing, responsibly powerful, strategically deliberate, internationally respected, and historically enlightened ... " (pp. 2-3). Yet more than anything the world needs an America that is morally upright.
When a nation that has been divinely blessed as much as the United States increasingly turns away from obedience to God, this calls for divine corrective punishment. Our Creator mercifully forgave a repentant King David for his sins of murder and adultery (2 Samuel 12:13), but at the same time brought severe consequences on him and the nation because of the poor example this normally righteous king had set for enemy nations (2 Samuel 12:14). How other nations assess our behavior concerns Almighty God!
In fulfillment of His sure promises to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God established Israel as a nation for the purpose of bringing blessings to other countries, not because of any inherent righteousness or other kind of superiority of its own (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 9:5; Genesis 12:2-3). From its earliest days God expected the Israelites to be an example to the other nations around them, reflecting the divine blessings that would be poured out on all who worship and obey their Creator (Deuteronomy 14:2).
Clearly God expects similar righteous conduct from the United States.
Other nations take America's temperature
Today other nations are gauging recent U.S. debacles and publicly expressing their fears in anxious anticipation of the disturbing fallout. The Middle East remains a thorny case in point. American foreign policy in this explosive region has so bewildered and exasperated Saudi Arabia that the Saudis have been making loud noises about turning away from the United States to find more reliable partner nations.
Of course, one can debate the wisdom of America being so closely tied to Saudi Arabia in the first place, but it's reprehensible that strain in their relationship would come as a result of the United States being unreliable.
After witnessing America virtually abandon long-time ally Egypt while embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, the Saudis became deeply concerned about the direction of U.S. foreign policy—to the point that on Nov. 8, 2013, the BBC reported that Saudi Arabia, seeing America wasn't serious about preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, had reached an understanding that it could call on Pakistan for access to that country's nuclear arsenal as a counterweight to Iran's.
Likewise, long-time U.S. ally Egypt—seeing Washington treat it with hostility after President Mohamed Morsi, who represented the Muslim Brotherhood, was deposed—announced that it was seeking military aid from Russia because America was no longer a dependable ally.
It's frightening to see how quickly international opinion is turning against the United States. The Chinese and other foreign leaders have loaned America trillions of dollars to finance Washington's spending binge. They are now incensed that the U.S. Treasury is creating billions of dollars out of thin air every month, steadily devaluing the government bonds the Treasury has sold to finance the nation's growing debt. This dubious process used to be called printing money. Now the money is created electronically, by mouse click, and the somewhat deceptive term quantitative easing carries the day.
Frankly, this currency inflation amounts to stealing from other countries as well as Americans themselves. Savings are destroyed, and everything costs more since more and more dollars are chasing the same goods. This helps explain why the United States will increasingly incur the hatred and displeasure of especially creditor nations if we persist in such reckless spending and fail to put our financial house in order. As Brzezinski correctly points out, "Americans must understand that our strength abroad will depend increasingly on our ability to confront problems at home" (p. 46).
More of America's friends and allies, such as Germany, France and Brazil, are infuriated that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been caught spying on various leaders in dozens of countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, by eavesdropping on their cell phones, among other things. Of course, the other countries likely spy on allies too but are not able to do so on as large a scale as the United States.
Public ignorance of world affairs
These trends have been reported fairly widely by international news organizations but have received little notice in U.S. media. Far too many Americans pay little or no attention to important current news and trends.
Part of Americans' overall problem lies in an appalling lack of interest in other countries across the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. In far too many cases, Americans neither know nor even care about foreign affairs. The U.S. media must bear part of the responsibility.
As Brzezinski observed, "The uncomfortable truth is that the United States' public has an alarmingly limited knowledge of basic global geography, current events, and even pivotal moments in world history" (p. 52). Some years ago a youth singing group in America cancelled a long-anticipated trip to a Scandinavian country because of a bombing incident in Rome in the far south of Europe some 1,200 miles (2,000 km) away. Europeans laughed. But the matter is more tragic than comic.
A 2002 survey showed that large percentages of young Americans could not locate on a world map such key Middle Eastern nations as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Events of the past 10 years may have improved these percentages somewhat, but Americans' knowledge of geography and current affairs remains in an abysmal state.
Must America continue its decline?
Notable American journalist Charles Krauthammer well knows that the present stakes are very high not only for the United States, but for the Middle East and the world at large. Daniel Johnson, editor of Britain's Standpoint magazine, summed up the current dilemma, stating that these things are happening "at a time when the world needs its only superpower to renew its civilisational mission" ("Decline Is a Choice," November 2013).
In this lead editorial, Johnson extolled Krauthammer's written contributions, saying, "Three times in three decades, Krauthammer has defined America's place in the world." We'll focus on the most recent of these assessments: "In 2009, he summed up the present predicament thus: 'For America today decline is not a condition, it is a choice.'"
And indeed that is what we see—a nation making willing choices to diminish its leadership role in the world—as the U.S. president put it, "leading from behind."
"Last June," Johnson continues, "Krauthammer put the matter even more bluntly: 'Obama is learning very late that, for a superpower, inaction is a form of action. You can abdicate, but you really can't hide. History will find you. It has found Obama.'"
Philip Stephens illustrated the point in the Financial Times: "If the experience first of Iraq and then of Libya shows the dangers of varying types of intervention, then Syria has revealed the awful perils that can accompany inaction" ("America Will Not Easily Escape the Mideast Fires," Nov. 7, 2013).
Stephens began his article stating: "The Middle East is burning, and the US is getting out. There is an element of exaggeration in this observation, but only an element. The dynamics of rising conflict and US disengagement have become mutually reinforcing. The higher the fires burn, the more Washington seems intent on turning away."
Frederick Forsyth adds even more perspective in his weekly column in the Daily Express: "Any suggestion that the West might now help the Syrians in revolt against the tyrant Assad, except with disaster aid, is as dead as the dodo. The reason is simple: virtually the whole of the anti-Assad insurrection has been taken over by the Al Nusrah fanatical extremists and their various allies and fellow jihadists.
"The Free Syrian Army is but a rump, now fighting and losing on two fronts. One is the increasingly confident of victory government army and its Hezbollah and militia allies. The other is against their so-called fellow rebels: the Al Qaeda fighters. The West had its chance 18 months ago, dithered and finally blew it. There was a time when the rebels were winning" ("No Stopping the Syrian Bloodbath," Nov. 8, 2013). Inaction prevailed.
We return to Daniel Johnson's editorial: "True, Obama has chosen decline. Last year, the voters chose Obama—again. Does this mean that America has irrevocably chosen decline? Or is there still hope that America may change course?" In his concluding remarks that follow, this magazine editor shows that he believes the United States will survive and see off its enemies.
But it remains for a Higher Power to ultimately decide America's fate.
Repentance is a choice
The second of Johnson's questions above haunts us all: "Is there still hope that America may change course?" To one degree or the other, most Good News writers have struggled with this same question. I am no exception.
Does God have a tipping point or a point of no return, however one wishes to express it? Clearly He does, as shown from Scripture itself. Twice in the book of Ezekiel our Creator sternly addressed the people of Israel, warning of disaster to come on the land if its inhabitants refused to repent: "Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness, says the Lord God" (Ezekiel 14:14, compare Ezekiel 14:20).
God is talking prophetically to the modern-day descendants of ancient Israel here, the lost 10 tribes (our Bible study aid The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy will show you where they are today). Few people understand that Israel had already gone into captivity well over 100 years before Ezekiel wrote his prophetic book. So this prophecy had to have been written for the descendants of Israel at the time of the end. But this prophecy itself does not specify exactly when that tipping point will occur. Only God can decide that.
Clearly real national repentance has to occur at some point if the United States is to survive as a viable nation.
Former Treasury and State Department officials Roger Altman and Richard Haass wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine: "The post-2020 fiscal outlook is downright apocalyptic ... The United States is fast approaching a historic turning point: either it will act to get its fiscal house in order, thereby restoring the prerequisites of its primacy in the world, or it will fail to do so and suffer both the domestic and the international consequences" ("American Profligacy and American Power: The Consequences of Fiscal Irresponsibility," November-December 2010).
However, greed, financial scandal, stealing funds and money mismanagement are only starters. As a nation we have broken God's basic spiritual law, the Ten Commandments, across the board. No commandment has escaped our personal and national violations.
Another warning to repent
Having sent the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity over 100 years before, God was faced with the degrading sins of the other two tribes forming the southern kingdom of Judah. Finally He said to Jeremiah in exasperation, "Do not pray for this people, for their good" (Jeremiah 14:11). Toward the end their conduct was even worse than the previous behavior of the inhabitants of the northern nation, then already defeated and banished from their land for their many sins.
What do you do with a people gone badly awry, continually increasing in ungodly behavior? God's emotions toward them had run the gamut. Previously He had said through Jeremiah, "Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem ... and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her" (Jeremiah 5:1).
You have to read the entire book of Jeremiah to get the full picture. In another place God said, "In vain I punished your people [the population of Judah]; they did not respond to correction" (Jeremiah 2:30, New International Version). The prophet himself saw this and cried out to God: "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Lord, correct me, but with justice; not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing" (Jeremiah 10:23-24).
Part of being a Christian is to seek God's correction. As Hebrews 12:9-10 tells us: "We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness" (NIV).
America needs divine corrective punishment—remembering that He is the merciful God of the Bible and that He takes no pleasure in punishing people.
He listened to Abraham's persuasion and agreed that if there were only 10 righteous people left in the wicked city of Sodom, He would not destroy it. Alas, not even 10 could be found, but God did spare Abraham's nephew Lot and his two daughters. Similarly, Moses persuaded God not to destroy the Israelites after they had made and worshipped a golden calf, sinning grievously even after God had delivered them from a harsh and cruel captivity with many astonishing miracles.
We cannot answer the question as to when the tipping point or the point of no return will occur. But the nation cannot continue forever to cavalierly play Russian roulette as if there was no God or He simply didn't care one way or the other.
God has deep feelings for His children just like any of us who are parents do. After all, we were created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) to be part of His family. As a loving Father He wants only the best for us, which includes turning from our childish, rebellious ways and turning toward Him in heartfelt, genuine repentance.
Why put off personal or national repentance? This is an important part of the message of The Good News magazine!