Only 18 months have passed since the events of Sept. 11, but since then we have witnessed a seismic shift in geopolitics. The signs were already there before the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., but it has since become clearer that the world is dividing into three economic and political systems, all competing for universal dominance.
The first system, led by the United States, might be described as a capitalist free-for-all strongly based on individualism, promising unlimited opportunities for the creation of wealth and the acquisition of more material possessions. This force dreams of globalization and the opening up of all markets to enable the world to continue to grow and prosper. Of the three, this force is the youngest. As U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan pointed out when in London recently to receive an honorary knighthood from the queen, this system started in England about 300 years ago.
The second force, resurgent since the fall of the shah of Iran in 1979, is Islamic fundamentalism. While its roots are much older—in fact, its origins can be traced back to Muhammad 14 centuries ago—its most recent incarnation caught the world’s attention with the overthrow of the pro-Western shah and the holding of U.S. embassy hostages for 444 days, finally released only when American President Ronald Reagan came into office.
If anyone had any doubts about where Islamic fundamentalism was headed, the events of Sept. 11 should have made it a lot clearer. This religious movement seeks universal domination, believing that the world will not have true peace until everyone on the planet is a Muslim.
Although not all Muslims are extremists, extremism is growing and Muslims share the goal of a world converted to Islam. They are motivated by such passages in the Koran as Sura 8:40, which exhorts Muslims to “make war upon them [non-Muslims] until idolatry [worship of any god other than Allah, which includes Christianity] shall cease and God’s religion [Islam] shall reign supreme” (N.J. Dawood translation).
The third force has also been in embryonic form for many decades. It also traces its origins back centuries, further even than Islam-all the way back to the days of the Roman Empire. This force has made great strides in the aftermath of Sept. 11, emerging as a serious contender for global leadership. It is the European Union.
These three competing forces do not have clearly defined demarcation lines. There are, for example, Muslims in the EU and United States. The United Kingdom remains a member of the EU but is arguably in the American camp. One of America’s two biggest political parties would be quite comfortable with the EU model while there are those in Europe who would prefer to be more American. In the Islamic world are many peoples who have embraced many of the materialistic values of the United States while remaining followers of Muhammad.
But the lines of delineation between the three competing spheres are there nonetheless, becoming clearer as the three systems confront each other over Iraq.
Divisions in the West
While we see many similarities between the EU and the United States, there are also many differences. As with America, the EU encourages private enterprise-up to a point. The role of the government in each member nation is greater than in the United States, theoretically ensuring a more equitable division of wealth.
One division increasingly apparent is in the area of faith. Americans in general are much more religious than Europeans, with faith influencing U.S. politics in a way that has not been seen in Europe for centuries. One commentator interviewed on BBC radio thought that the strong religious beliefs of both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were a factor in their alienation from other Western nations.
Historical experience and perspective are also different on the two sides of the Atlantic.
Europeans are surrounded by history, with castles and cathedrals that are sometimes more than 1,000 years old. Awareness of history is generally much more widespread than in the United States.
Americans tend not to look back. Europeans, however, are continually looking back, trying to learn from the past before moving forward. With so many wars in their collective history, the nations of Europe are determined to unite their continent in such a way that never again will there be a repeat of the two devastating world wars of the last century.
Conscious of the past, they are also determined that no other nation will bring about a cataclysm to rival those former conflicts. Thus, opposition to war in general is greater in Europe than in the United States.
Remembering the two world wars of the 20th century, and a Cold War in which the Soviet Union threatened to gobble up Europe, Americans tend to see themselves as the saviors of Europe and cannot understand the seeming ingratitude of today’s Europeans.
The perspective in Europe is somewhat different. The French perception, for example, is that America betrayed them twice in the 1950s, in consequence bringing about the collapse of the Fourth Republic in 1958.
Both betrayals were during the Eisenhower administration. The first, in 1954, was the failure of the United States to come through with requested military aid at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, which resulted in a French defeat and the loss of Indochina. The United States, of course, also paid a penalty for this decision, as the Vietnam War was the consequence of French withdrawal.
Two years later, American pressure forced Britain and France to withdraw from Suez after a combined military force had recaptured the Suez Canal, seized by Egypt. This, in turn, led to the French losing Algeria, the home of more than one million French nationals.
The British learned from this that they amounted to little without American support, and thus have been firm supporters of the United States in subsequent decades. The French reached a different conclusion —that they couldn’t trust America (it can, of course, be said that Americans have learned the same about France). This attitude is still a complication for U.S. foreign policy, with France wielding veto power on the UN Security Council.
Closer Franco-German ties
Closer to home, the French have also learned the necessity of a close relationship with Germany. German troops arrived in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 (leading to the fall of the Second French Empire of Napoleon III) and again in 1940. In between these two events, World War I saw massive loss of French lives. After three bloody conflicts in 70 years, they determined it would never happen again.
In a geopolitical context, this means that the relationship between Paris and Berlin is of far greater importance than the relationship each has with Washington or London.
Making the Paris-Berlin axis of greater importance was the reunification of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the more recent transference of Germany’s capital to Berlin. Both events have emboldened Germany to play a much greater role in world affairs, as it has demonstrated in standing up to the United States and Britain in the UN over the Iraq conflict.
Ironically, this attitude has been encouraged by Washington, which, perhaps forgetting the lessons of Germany’s militaristic past, requested Berlin send troops to the Balkans and Afghanistan.
Always fearful of a resurgent Germany, the French are not about to loosen the ties that bind them to their bigger neighbor.
To them, Franco-German ties remain of paramount importance.
They are of importance to Germany as well. Many liberal Germans, mindful of Germany causing two world wars in 25 years, want Germany to be firmly contained within the EU, as do other member nations. As France is the second-biggest nation in the EU after Germany, the French connection is important to Germany. The Germans gain international respectability through this close link.
This is not to say that there aren’t differences. The Germans want a federal Europe, modeled on the German system. The French prefer a confederation with power remaining in the hands of national governments. However, what is important to realize is that both are committed to a full European Union, a superpower to stand up to, and ultimately surpass, the United States.
Economically, it already does in some ways. The EU controls more of the world’s trade than the United States, giving it greater economic clout around the world. One example of this was the recent European demand that Iran abolish the death penalty before any trade agreement could be signed. European Union economic power is set to become far greater when 10 new members join in May 2004.
Largely unnoticed in the United States, the European currency, only one year old in January, recently surpassed the American dollar in value, a reflection of growing international confidence in Europe at the expense of America. Disparity between the two currencies may well widen further, depending on how things go in the conflict with Iraq.
In foreign policy, the Middle East is the area where these two powers are in great disagreement, as evidenced by major disagreements in the UN and NATO. This is partly the result of divergent economic interests, with the Europeans heavily dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf. On the issue of Israel and the Palestinians, European support of the latter stands in stark contrast to American support for the Israelis.
Rising Islamic power
This brings us back to the other force in this geopolitical triad-Islam. Again, Europeans have a different perspective.
Some Americans are aware that the American Jewish community has been a significant factor in determining the course of U.S. elections. What few realize is that the percentage of Muslims in Western Europe is far greater than the percentage of Jews in America, making Islam a major factor in European politics. Fearful of domestic upheaval, European governments tread carefully in dealing with Islamic nations of the Middle East. If European governments support an attack on Iraq, the consequences at home could be disastrous -in the form of domestic upheaval and possibly even major terrorist attacks.
The announced formation of a pan-European Islamic political party in January can only add to the concerns of European governments. In fact, there are now more Muslims in Europe than there are French nationals! Almost all have arrived in Europe since World War II or are the children of immigrants.
Sept. 11 has only increased European fears of Islam, a repeated historic threat to the continent. Muslim Ottoman Turks twice attacked the city of Vienna in the 16th and 17th centuries, while Muslim Moors reached the gates of Paris in the eighth century.
Biblical importance of the three blocs
The Good News magazine has long focused the attention of readers on these three forces now at the forefront of world affairs. How did we know that these competing powers would come to dominate the world scene?
The answer is found in your Bible.
In Daniel 2:28 Daniel 2:28But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these;
American King James Version×we read that “there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets …” In verse 21 we note that God “removes kings and raises up kings.” In another prophetic book we read that “the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7 Amos 3:7Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets.
American King James Version×). Almost one third of the Bible is prophetic, and most of that prophecy relates to end-time events that usher in the Kingdom of God.
Throughout history, nations have continually risen and fallen. No power that reaches the top remains there indefinitely. Before World War II the British Empire was the dominant force in the world and had been for two centuries. Before Britain it was France; before France, Spain. Two thousand years ago the Roman Empire was the mightiest force on earth. God truly does remove kings and set up new ones.
Before the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Bible informs us that another powerful force will arise that is not clearly seen at present. Bible prophecy shows it to be a final resurrection of the Roman Empire, which dominated Europe until the fifth century.
While most Americans aren’t aware of it, various attempts have been made throughout history to restore Rome’s glory. The last failed attempt was under Mussolini, who proclaimed the resurrection of the Roman Empire in 1922. Later, in alliance with Hitler’s Germany, the original “axis of evil” attempted to conquer the world. Together, they succeeded in briefly conquering most of Europe.
Europe is again coming together, this time not by force, but voluntarily. The two dominant nations of the new Europe are Germany and France, recently flexing their muscles by hindering U.S. and British efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. At the same time, they are pushing vigorously for a full political, economic and military union of Europe’s ancient continent, a revived Roman Empire set in motion by the 1957 Treaty of Rome.
Setting the stage
Prophecy shows this end-time alliance of nations coming together for a short time just before Christ’s return (Revelation 17:12-14 Revelation 17:12-14 12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
American King James Version×). This new superpower, more powerful than the United States, will threaten the peace of the world.
Pushing at this prophesied European-centered bloc will be a nation or group of nations led by a “king of the South” (Daniel 11:40 Daniel 11:40And 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.
American King James Version×), possibly soon to emerge as the Islamic world increasingly turns against the West and non-Muslims.
Meanwhile, more and more, the United States and Britain will see the world turning against them, as has been evident in events leading up to war with Iraq.
But why? Unknown to most Americans and Britons, they are in fact the modern descendants of the biblical tribe of Joseph, part of the 12-tribed nation of Israel. Because they have progressively turned away from God and thumbed their nose at the true Source of their national blessings and power, they will soon reap the consequences of their sins. God warns that He will “break the pride of [their] power” (Leviticus 26:19 Leviticus 26:19And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
American King James Version×) and bring devastating punishments if they continue in their sins and refuse to turn to God’s way of life.
The increasing isolation and decline of the English-speaking nations, the rise of a European superpower and the emergence of fundamentalist Islam with increased conflict in the Middle East were prophesied in your Bible centuries ago. The coming together of these powerful forces will set the stage for the second coming of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Where will you be when these things happen? GN