Imagine, for a moment, two very different worlds in the coming months.
In the first, U.S.-led military forces quickly drive Saddam Hussein from power. No longer do billions of dollars of Iraqi oil revenue go to support him and his goal to dominate the region through weapons of mass destruction. No longer does Iraq provide support for terrorist movements.
Next door, Iran, fearing it might be next in line for attack if it doesn't change its ways, abandons its own pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and its long support of terrorists. Its religious leaders give up their quest to transform the entire Middle East into a Muslim theocracy.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Syria, another longtime supporter of terrorism, abandons its longtime occupation of Lebanon and accepts peaceful relations with Israel. The Palestinians, seeing the military and terrorist support network provided by their key allies evaporate, elect new leadership and accept Israeli offers of a Palestinian state.
A calm settles over the Middle East. Former belligerent powers begin to use their oil wealth for modernizing their infrastructure, educating their people and diversifying their economies. The world economy, seeing oil supplies and markets stabilize, begins to pick up steam again.
Now imagine some quite different scenarios.
With allied forces massed along Iraq's border, a few well-aimed Scud missiles tipped with chemical warheads-the kind Saddam claims he doesn't have-catch troop concentrations by surprise. Unable to don protective gear in time, the casualties quickly mount into the thousands. In the Persian Gulf, explosives-packed suicide boats roar in among U.S. aircraft carrier groups and detonate. A few of these craft carry an even deadlier cargo, and clouds of chemical and biological poisons envelop the American warships. Several are lost; others are crippled.
Although the invasion of Iraq continues, it slows to a crawl at Baghdad, where Iraq's best-trained, best-equipped troops are dug in. Weeks stretch into months before a costly victory is secured. The nightmare scenarios envisioned by some U.S. military planners have come true. America's military, though the strongest in the world, is thoroughly demoralized.
Throughout the Islamic world, anger at America and its "crusader" allies reaches a fevered pitch. In the oil-rich countries, first one leader, then another, then more are overthrown, viewed by their subjects as being too corrupted by the West. The world oil supply, lifeblood of Western economies, is thrown into chaos. The world economy quickly follows.
On the home front, "sleeper" terrorist cells are secretly activated and quietly spread to attack government buildings, schools and shopping malls with deadly chemical and biological poisons. No American feels safe.
Does this sound too unthinkable to be possible? These scenarios-and far worse-have been extensively discussed and written about by military planners, international observers and antiterrorism experts.
Which of these two vastly different visions might we see in the future? Either scenario, and anything in between, is possible. And they remain possible for the next conflict, as America's war on terror continues.
We certainly hope for a continuing stable world in which the wonderfully encouraging message of Jesus Christ's return to establish the Kingdom of God can be preached (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×). But God alone will determine how long He will allow that mission to continue (Romans 9:28 Romans 9:28For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make on the earth.
American King James Version×).
We also know that today's relatively stable world will not continue indefinitely. In Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×Jesus Christ foretells a terrible time of global turmoil preceding His return: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved . . ."
Which crisis will set this final, unalterable chain of events in motion? And, more important, will you be ready? GN