It is just more than two centuries since Napoleon's arrival in Egypt heralded the advent of a modern Middle East; but now—some 80 years after the demise of the Ottoman Empire, 50 years after the end of colonialism and less than 20 years after the end of the cold war—the American era in the region has ended."
This paragraph begins an article by the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, published in the Financial Times, in the Oct. 17, 2006, issue titled, "A Troubling Middle East Era Dawns."
Mr. Haass was writing at a time of increased discussion of a major shift in U.S. policy on Iraq. There is a growing conviction among many that the war cannot be won. At the same time, U.S. public opinion is increasingly against the war. Amidst all the uncertainty, one fact is becoming clear: The United States will at some point pull out of Iraq.
What the world appears to be witnessing now is the end of the American era in the Middle East, ironically exactly 50 years to the month after the British were forced out of the region in the aftermath of the Suez Canal crisis. Is America following Great Britain out of the region? If so, what kind of a Middle East will be left behind?
Continuing, Mr. Haass wrote: "Visions of a new Europe-like Middle East that is peaceful, prosperous and democratic will not be realized. Much more likely is the emergence of a new Middle East that will cause great harm to itself and the world."
The Bible: U.S. absent from end-time Middle East
The Bible shows us that end-time events will be focused on the Middle East. Luke 21, Matthew 24 and Mark 13 are three chapters in the Gospels that show Jerusalem as the central focus of end-time events. The last three chapters of the Old Testament book of Zechariah also describe in great detail events that will unfold in this part of the world.
Scripture also helps us see that the United States is absent in these end-time events. Rather, we see another major power, comprised of "ten kings" (or nations) that come together in a final resurrection of the Roman Empire.
This end-time "beast power" is prophesied in Revelation chapters 13 and 17. In chapter 17 we read that "the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast… These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them" (verses 12, 14). Clearly, this end-time power will be around when Christ returns.
The Old Testament book of Daniel reminds us that God is behind the rise and fall of nations. "He removes kings and raises up kings" (Daniel 2:21). He told the Israelites that if they broke His commandments and turned away from Him, He would "break the pride of [their] power" (Leviticus 26:19).
The United States and Britain are descendants of the ancient Israelites, specifically the tribe of Joseph (for proof of this, request our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy).
God, through His servant Jacob, or Israel, promised Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph and grandsons of Israel, that they would become, in turn, a great "multitude of nations" and a great single nation. The multitude of nations, the British Empire, came first; the great single nation, the United States, replaced the British Empire and Commonwealth as the world's preeminent power after World War II.
Trigger event begins breakdown of power
In 1956, Britain saw the pride of its power broken in the Suez Canal crisis that led directly to the collapse of Great Britain as a major global power. Britain had been the world's dominant superpower for two centuries. It was a proud nation that had forgotten its God. The same is true of the United States today. Most Americans have failed to look to God since Sept. 11, preferring to rely on U.S. military superiority. But they are now finding that being the world's sole superpower does not guarantee victory.
After the British withdrawal from the Middle East, the United States and the Soviet Union, the two post-World War II superpowers, got heavily involved. Washington became Israel's chief backer and supplier, while Moscow supported the radical Arab nationalist states. The rising tide of Arab nationalism, led by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, swept the former colonial powers away.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States was the only superpower continuing to dominate the region.
Then war with Iraq came, a protracted conflict that has not gone well for America and her allies.
Today it isn't Arab nationalism that is pushing against America. The region's populace has long since tired of the nationalist Arab politicians that overthrew the feudal monarchs in the region. Many of the new leaders have turned out to be far more corrupt than the old were and they are generally more cruel and oppressive.
Today's Middle East is again seeing sweeping changes. This time the rising tide that is engulfing the region is Islamic fundamentalism. Tired of the empty promises of failed politicians, ordinary people are turning increasingly to religious leaders.
Ironically, the United States has given a boost to Islamic fundamentalism by invading Iraq. Saddam Hussein's Iraq, though cruel and despotic, was actually a buffer to Islamic fundamentalism in Iran and Afghanistan. Now the fundamentalists are active in Iraq and nations to the west of the strife-torn country. There seems no end to the spread of the power of radical Islam.
Why has the world's greatest military power failed to win?
Why America hasn't won
The United States of America has been the world's sole superpower since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism almost 20 years ago. For five decades, Israel has been the strongest military power in the Middle East.
Yet both military powers are no longer winning in the same region of the world.
"What are we to make of this?" asks Andrew J. Bacevich in The American Conservative magazine. In his article, "The Islamic Way of War," Mr. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, asks: "How is it that the seemingly weak and primitive are able to frustrate modern armies only recently viewed as all but invincible? What do the parallel tribulations—and embarrassments—of the United States and Israel have to tell us about war and politics in the 21st century? In short, what's going on here?"
"The answer to that question," continues Mr. Bacevich, "is dismayingly simple: The sun has set on the age of unquestioned Western military dominance. Bluntly, the East has solved the riddle of the Western Way of War. In Baghdad and in Anbar Province as at various points on Israel's troubled perimeter, the message is clear: Methods that once could be counted on to deliver swift decision no longer work.
"For centuries, Western military might underpinned Western political dominion everywhere from Asia to Africa to the New World…Through much of the last century, nowhere was this Western military preeminence more in evidence than in the Middle East. During World War I, superior power enabled the British and French to topple the Ottomans, carve up the region to suit their own interests, and then rule it like a fiefdom. Until 1945, European machine guns kept restive Arabs under control in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Palestine."
After World War II, Arab nationalist movements in the Middle East and anticolonial sentiment elsewhere ended the domination of the European powers not only in the Middle East, but around the world.
Suez has often been described as the British lion's "last roar." After the Egyptians seized control of the Suez Canal, a combined Anglo-French-Israeli military force attacked Egypt. Although they won militarily, international pressure against them mounted. When the Eisenhower administration failed to support the military action, the two European powers withdrew. It signaled the end of their once great empires.
U.S. reaching tipping point?
Now the United States seems to be going the way of its predecessor, Great Britain.
In 1956 the British failed to see the broad sweep of history, to understand the thrust of Arab nationalism. The United States made the same mistake a decade later in Vietnam.
To many Americans, the war was a conflict to contain the spread of communism. To many Vietnamese, who had just freed themselves from French colonial rule, Americans were another colonial power like the French, an alien culture trying to impose its will on them. They fought to rid themselves of Western domination, more than to establish communism.
In Iraq, the United States and its Western coalition partners again are failing to see clearly what is happening here. Not just in Iraq, but throughout the region we see the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which began with the Iranian revolution of 1979.
The world's other superpower, the Soviet Union, was brought down by a group of Islamic radicals called the Taliban after a decade of fighting in Afghanistan. The allies of these same people struck a humiliating blow against the United States on Sept. 11 five years ago, and have been striking at Western targets ever since. Whatever low-level presence they may have had in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion, al-Qaeda now operates within the country, gaining followers as it stands up to the Western powers.
Islamic extremism has also been a decisive factor in bringing Hamas to power in the Palestinian territories and in the recent gains by Hezbollah against Israel.
America may spend more on its military than most other nations combined, but this does not guarantee American victory in any conflict. Nor does it mean that the world will continue to be dominated by the United States.
As Mr. Haass puts it in his article: "Force is not terribly useful against loosely organized militias and terrorists who are well armed, accepted by the local population and prepared to die for their cause."
Islamic fundamentalism seems set to triumph across the Middle East, heralding the end of the American era in the region. WNP