Imagine the unimaginable: The president, in the White House, the vice president, at the National Observatory, and all Cabinet members, in their respective agency headquarters, are killed in a terrorist attack on downtown Washington. So are all members of Congress, except the few who happen to be out of town.
"What happens to the Republic? At the moment, the answer is alarming: chaos."
So began a disturbing article in the Dec. 10 Washington Post.
Continuing, the writer added: "The Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent release of anthrax on Capitol Hill have left many lawmakers and constitutional experts concerned that the federal government does not have adequate succession and continuity plans in place to recover from a catastrophic terrorist attack on Washington."
Pause for a moment and consider: What would the world be like without America? Can you imagine what our lives might be like without the superpower on which the world relies so much?
A world without America
The world has not been the same since Sept. 11. The possibility of an even deadlier terrorist attack on Washington in the foreseeable future cannot be ruled out. If such an attack were to take place, it is difficult to imagine how the United States could continue to be the leader of the free world. The consequences would be unimaginable—except that the Bible prophesies such a time.
The biblical book of Revelation reveals that the world will come under the domination of a union of 10 "kings" (rulers or heads of state) immediately before the return of Jesus Christ (Revelation 17:12-14). What could precipitate the transfer of dominance from the United States to this European-centered group of nations, which "will give their power and authority" to a leader the Bible calls "the beast"?
Since World War II the United States has been the undisputed leader of the Western world. Before the United States, the British Empire was the world's leading power for well over a century. The United States and Great Britain share similar values. Nobody alive can remember a time when one of these nations was not the major force in the world.
Certainly neither the United States nor Britain has been a perfect world leader. But it is equally certain that domination by other nations would have made the world an entirely different place. A look at fairly recent history well illustrates this.
Before the supremacy of the English-speaking powers, the major Western player was France, whose King Louis XIV (1643-1715) vainly declared, "I am the state." The concept of the divine right of kings was essential to centralized state power. Before France, Spain was dominant. "His Most Catholic Majesty," the king of Spain, saw himself and his country as instruments of God in spreading the faith of the "one true catholic church" to the four corners of the earth. If people did not willingly convert, then there were other means of persuasion.
England and her colonies were to struggle against these forces of despotism for more than 250 years, from the time of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) until the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Napoleon's dreams of world conquest were finally defeated.
A century later Germany's kaiser and later Hitler made further attempts at world conquest. Japan was also set on imposing her will on the world. Afterwards, Russian and Chinese communism threatened the peace of the planet.
For most of this time a "multitude of nations" (Genesis 48:19), biblically prophesied though rarely recognized as such, was the primary force that defended liberty. After Pearl Harbor that was to change, with the United States taking over from Great Britain and its Commonwealth associates the role of the leading military power. However imperfectly, both Britain and America based their political, economic and religious systems on the value and freedom of the individual.
In contrast, most continental-European nations historically have placed little value on individual freedom; they have subscribed instead to variants of Louis XIV's famous dictum emphasizing strong central government at the expense of individual liberty. In Western Europe this has been tempered since World War II during America's period of supremacy.
A post—Anglo-Saxon world is frightening to contemplate. Whoever takes over as the dominant power will not share the values of the United States and Britain. Maybe some of those principles would remain, but certainly not all.
How it might happen is a topic for another discussion. But, for the moment, imagine the unimaginable—Washington gone. What would happen?
Who would lead the West?
"The West" is an all-encompassing term that goes back to the Western Roman Empire. When the military and political empire collapsed in the fifth century, the church became the empire. As historian Paul Johnson put it in his 1972 book The Offshore Islanders: "The Church was the continuation of the empire." He added: "Politics and religion were inseparable."
The Roman Empire was the fourth empire of Daniel's vision of Daniel 2 and one of the four beasts of Daniel 7. For 12 centuries, from the time of Emperor Constantine (306-337), when the Roman church became the state church, until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the Catholic Church was a powerful force in the history of the West.
During the Protestant Reformation, England broke with the church of Rome. Theoretically it was now free to act independently of Rome. But, until its ascendancy was fully realized, England had to defend herself against continental Catholic powers that were willing to use force to subdue her. In the course of time Britain became the dominant Western power. Her multitude of nations girdling the globe were to become the defenders of the West against the French emperor Napoleon and Germany's kaiser and Hitler. America was to continue that role as the leader of the free world.
What, then, is the West?
To people in Britain and the United States, as well as the peoples of northwestern Europe, the emphasis is on freedom of the individual, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, democracy, human rights, economic freedom and property rights. Neither country has been perfect in these areas, but this is where most people would put their emphasis.
But, in a wider sense, the West comprises all the nations that can trace their history and culture back to the nations that were once part of the Western Roman Empire. England and some other countries of northwestern Europe separated themselves from the Western church in the 1500s. These states went on to embrace democratic systems of government, with emphasis on basic freedoms for individual citizens.
Most of the other Western nations, however, maintained their loyalty to the "mother church" and, until well into the 20th century, retained strictly hierarchical, monarchical forms of government.
But their common cultural heritage goes back to Rome. Interestingly, the 1957 Treaty of Rome began the long and arduous process of bringing most of these nations back together in the European Union.
These nations make up the majority of Western nations. They have tacitly recognized the American leadership of the West since 1945. But, if America were to suffer devastating setbacks, what would these nations do? Would they sit back and let themselves be defeated by the forces of militant Islam, a force that has threatened them previously in their history? Would they wait and see if somebody else replaced the United States as leader of the "free world"? What is the free world, anyway?
Uppermost in their minds would be the need to preserve their independence, economic well-being and way of life. Western nations are trading nations. They depend on trade, business and the prosperity of the capitalist system. Never mind freedom of religion or freedom of the individual. Historically, those values became important only during Britain's and America's preeminence. With America gone, who would care about such expensive niceties? The security of the state would be of paramount importance.
Jobs and the economy would be next on the list.
Daniel 11 states that, at the time of the end, a powerful force known as the king of the South will push against or attack the king of the North (verse 40). This threatens the security and prosperity of those under the king of the North. They react with massive military force, suggestive of advanced technology, which is not possible without wealth.
The United States and Canada are presently in alliance with the other Western nations. But they will not be a part of the 10 nations that come together in the prophesied revival of the Roman Empire. These nations most likely will come from the same geographical area as the nations that made up the original Roman Empire, nations that have signed the Treaty of Rome, the economic union that is rapidly being transformed into a political and military union.
An ever-closer union
In recent months some of these countries have made a dramatic and unprecedented change—the replacement of their national currencies with one multinational currency, the euro. Of the 15 European Union (EU) nations, 12 have become a single market to a greater degree than ever before. At the same time, the 15 are busy negotiating with 10 other European nations that are likely to be members of the EU by 2005. France and Germany have proposed a new European constitution that would also unite the EU nations politically.
Militarily, a significant step has been taken as a direct consequence of the events of Sept. 11. To the surprise of everyone concerned, all 15 members of the EU agreed to send troops as part of the international security force for Afghanistan. This is unprecedented. Three of the 15 are neutral countries. Never before have all 15 agreed on anything militarily. This is a reflection of the dramatic shift that has changed thinking around the world since the terrorist attacks on America.
At the present, most of the nations of the EU are also members of NATO, the military alliance that links North America and Western Europe.
After Sept. 11 the United States asked NATO to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. This enables any member country to claim the military support of other members when attacked by a nation from outside the alliance. Originally this was intended to help any European nation attacked by the Soviet Union or its allies. Article 5 had never before been invoked. It is of supreme irony that the first nation to request the invoking of Article 5 was the United States, until now the ultimate guarantor of the freedom of the other member states.
It has often been said since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that the world will never be the same. Yet it will be some time before the implications and consequences will be fully realized.
Sept. 11 is frequently compared to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, America's second-biggest loss of life in one day. That attack awoke a sleeping giant, the United States. By the end of the war less than four years later, America was the world's greatest military power.
Could it be that one of the consequences of Sept. 11 will be the awakening of another sleeping giant, the European Union, out of which will rise the final resurrection of the Roman Empire? We shouldn't rule out this possibility. Make no mistake about it, the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation concerning the rise of a new end-time superpower will come to pass. It's our responsibility to watch world trends and events so we will not be caught unprepared. GN