Never has the number zero looked so beautiful. Had the landlord yell up to my bedroom as some mail had arrived addressed to me. It was from Wells Fargo Financial informing me that my minimum payment of $0.00 is due as of Jan 22, 2009. I'd been carrying around this small debt (under a $100) for some months now. While I was never worried about such a small amount, it was a burr in my saddle, a thorn in my flesh if you will.
As you may remember, I was recently laid off from my job of eleven years. From that, I received 19 weeks of pay plus my regular pay. Due to that minor windfall, I was able to pay off two small debts, one directly to Future Shop and the other one mentioned above. When I get a job in the new year, I hope to pay off my car loan as well (approx. $3000). In 2009 I will therefore be in a unique position. Full-time employment (hopefully!) with a better paying job and debt-free. I dare say I'll be in a privileged minority compared to most others in '09.
Not Only Debt Free, But Sin Free As Well
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. (John 3:36)
Having your financial house in order is critical. Few would argue that point, whether they be money gurus or someone balancing the books for their family. Yet who amongst us has been set free from the bondage of sin? For most, we use greater diligence on our yearly vacation plans than we do our eternal destiny. How foolish it would be to gain the world yet lose your soul! Due to His supreme sacrifice on the cross, I know that my sin debt to the Father is paid in full. That my friends, is worth more that any money debt you will ever incur. Please start the new year off right. Heaven awaits your answer!
Happy New Year Everyone!
This is my last post for 2008. How time flies! In February the X-Def will be celebrating it's third anniversary. This humble little blog has come a long way from a lark that I started on a mere whim. In January I'll give my own 'State of the Union' address on what 2009 will be like (Hint: It's going to be volatile). However I'll save that till the new year. In the meantime, I'd like to wish everybody a happy new year and please don't drink and drive. Ciao, 2008!
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Never has the number zero looked so beautiful. Had the landlord yell up to my bedroom as some mail had arrived addressed to me. It was from Wells Fargo Financial informing me that my minimum payment of $0.00 is due as of Jan 22, 2009. I'd been carrying around this small debt (under a $100) for some months now. While I was never worried about such a small amount, it was a burr in my saddle, a thorn in my flesh if you will.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Now it must be said that neither myself or any of my immediate family abuse alcohol. We partake to be sure - I consider myself an occasional drinker - but none of us overdo it. That is not to say that we're better than anybody else. We're not, just that we've managed to avoid this scourge. As we are still in the holiday spirit (pun intended) and there's still New Year's Eve to navigate, I think it's important to discuss alcohol addiction, or in everyday terms, alcoholism.
Denial Is The Greatest Enabler of Self-Destructive Behavior
Rationalizing our sins has become a national pastime. Why do we maintain a lie long after irrefutable evidence has been given witnessing to its corrupt and false nature? The truth stares at us an inch away from our face and yet we still practice denial. 'It cannot be there and it must not be there, therefore it is not there'. Perfect circular logic defeats truth once more. We die for a lie knowing it's a lie because pride prevents us from coming to the truth.
A Litany of (T)Error
- I serve on the city council. Councilman are never drunks.
- I'm a respected member of society.
- I'm the local hockey/baseball/basketball/football coach. Coaches don't show up drunk at a game they coach, do they?
- I make a six-figure salary. Only bums are drunks.
- I've never gotten drunk in public. Only drunks get drunk in public.
- I only drink to be sociable. I never get drunk in private.
- I'm married with kids. My wife and kids love me and I love them back. Does that sound like an alcoholic to you?
- I don't sip out of bottle in a brown paper bag in an alley somewhere.
- I've got a mortgage and bills to pay. Drunks don't have mortgages, do they?
- I'm a church elder. If you're a church elder, there's no way you can be an alcoholic.
- I'm educated and literate. Only uneducated people abuse the stuff.
- I drive a fancy car. Would I risk driving drunk if I have a nice car?
- I need a drink to relax. What's wrong with a some relaxation?
- I wear a suit and a tie. Only people with crappy clothes are alcoholics.
I'm a good person. Good people are never drunks.
Every single one of these statements is false. It doesn't matter how respectable you are or how much money you make. It doesn't matter what your job description is or your family situation. It doesn't matter what car you drive or the clothes you wear. Alcoholism respects no borders or social strata. Not one of these statements carries any legitimacy. They have absolutely nothing to do with alcoholism or substance abuse.
What's The Cure?
Our hearts deceive us. We see ourselves as whole when we're falling apart. We see ourselves as holy and good when we're full of sin. We think ourselves pure when we're corrupt. We've seen those that have gone their own way, living by their own rules and doing their own thing. The world lies and tells us, 'This is freedom!' while we still come to ruin. We live in a world which rationalizes and enables sin in the name of some kind of corrupt freedom. I think that's why people are drawn towards Jesus. He purifies and makes us whole (and holy). Christ did not come to condemn. He came to save the lost. He came to redeem, to show the way of grace and mercy for the lost sinner. That's the message Jesus brings to us each and every Christmas. A message of hope and love. Will you trust Him today?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
No Christmas theme here. Very interesting stuff from stratfor's latest. As it turns out, neither the FBI nor the Washington Post were as altruistic as originally thought. Do we dare call it treason to conspire against a sitting president even if that president is a S.O.B.? Either way you slice it, Felt's betrayal of Nixon (with Woodward and Bernstein being the beneficiaries) had more to do with ego and ambition than patriotic duty. A must read!
The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism
December 22, 2008 | 1659 GMT
By George Friedman
Mark Felt died last week at the age of 95. For those who don’t recognize that name, Felt was the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame. It was Felt who provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post with a flow of leaks about what had happened, how it happened and where to look for further corroboration on the break-in, the cover-up, and the financing of wrongdoing in the Nixon administration. Woodward and Bernstein’s exposé of Watergate has been seen as a high point of journalism, and their unwillingness to reveal Felt’s identity until he revealed it himself three years ago has been seen as symbolic of the moral rectitude demanded of journalists.
In reality, the revelation of who Felt was raised serious questions about the accomplishments of Woodward and Bernstein, the actual price we all pay for journalistic ethics, and how for many years we did not know a critical dimension of the Watergate crisis. At a time when newspapers are in financial crisis and journalism is facing serious existential issues, Watergate always has been held up as a symbol of what journalism means for a democracy, revealing truths that others were unwilling to uncover and grapple with. There is truth to this vision of journalism, but there is also a deep ambiguity, all built around Felt’s role. This is therefore not an excursion into ancient history, but a consideration of two things. The first is how journalists become tools of various factions in political disputes. The second is the relationship between security and intelligence organizations and governments in a Democratic society.
Watergate was about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. The break-in was carried out by a group of former CIA operatives controlled by individuals leading back to the White House. It was never proven that then-U.S. President Richard Nixon knew of the break-in, but we find it difficult to imagine that he didn’t. In any case, the issue went beyond the break-in. It went to the cover-up of the break-in and, more importantly, to the uses of money that financed the break-in and other activities. Numerous aides, including the attorney general of the United States, went to prison. Woodward and Bernstein, and their newspaper, The Washington Post, aggressively pursued the story from the summer of 1972 until Nixon’s resignation. The episode has been seen as one of journalism’s finest moments. It may have been, but that cannot be concluded until we consider Deep Throat more carefully.
Deep Throat Reconsidered
Mark Felt was deputy associate director of the FBI (No. 3 in bureau hierarchy) in May 1972, when longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died. Upon Hoover’s death, Felt was second to Clyde Tolson, the longtime deputy and close friend to Hoover who by then was in failing health himself. Days after Hoover’s death, Tolson left the bureau.
Felt expected to be named Hoover’s successor, but Nixon passed him over, appointing L. Patrick Gray instead. In selecting Gray, Nixon was reaching outside the FBI for the first time in the 48 years since Hoover had taken over. But while Gray was formally acting director, the Senate never confirmed him, and as an outsider, he never really took effective control of the FBI. In a practical sense, Felt was in operational control of the FBI from the break-in at the Watergate in August 1972 until June 1973.
Nixon’s motives in appointing Gray certainly involved increasing his control of the FBI, but several presidents before him had wanted this, too, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Both of these presidents wanted Hoover gone for the same reason they were afraid to remove him: He knew too much. In Washington, as in every capital, knowing the weaknesses of powerful people is itself power — and Hoover made it a point to know the weaknesses of everyone. He also made it a point to be useful to the powerful, increasing his overall value and his knowledge of the vulnerabilities of the powerful.
Hoover’s death achieved what Kennedy and Johnson couldn’t do. Nixon had no intention of allowing the FBI to continue as a self-enclosed organization outside the control of the presidency and everyone else. Thus, the idea that Mark Felt, a man completely loyal to Hoover and his legacy, would be selected to succeed Hoover is in retrospect the most unlikely outcome imaginable.
Felt saw Gray’s selection as an unwelcome politicization of the FBI (by placing it under direct presidential control), an assault on the traditions created by Hoover and an insult to his memory, and a massive personal disappointment. Felt was thus a disgruntled employee at the highest level. He was also a senior official in an organization that traditionally had protected its interests in predictable ways. (By then formally the No. 2 figure in FBI, Felt effectively controlled the agency given Gray’s inexperience and outsider status.) The FBI identified its enemies, then used its vast knowledge of its enemies’ wrongdoings in press leaks designed to be as devastating as possible. While carefully hiding the source of the information, it then watched the victim — who was usually guilty as sin — crumble. Felt, who himself was later convicted and pardoned for illegal wiretaps and break-ins, was not nearly as appalled by Nixon’s crimes as by Nixon’s decision to pass him over as head of the FBI. He merely set Hoover’s playbook in motion.
Woodward and Bernstein were on the city desk of The Washington Post at the time. They were young (29 and 28), inexperienced and hungry. We do not know why Felt decided to use them as his conduit for leaks, but we would guess he sought these three characteristics — as well as a newspaper with sufficient gravitas to gain notice. Felt obviously knew the two had been assigned to a local burglary, and he decided to leak what he knew to lead them where he wanted them to go. He used his knowledge to guide, and therefore control, their investigation.
Systematic Spying on the President
And now we come to the major point. For Felt to have been able to guide and control the young reporters’ investigation, he needed to know a great deal of what the White House had done, going back quite far. He could not possibly have known all this simply through his personal investigations. His knowledge covered too many people, too many operations, and too much money in too many places simply to have been the product of one of his side hobbies. The only way Felt could have the knowledge he did was if the FBI had been systematically spying on the White House, on the Committee to Re-elect the President and on all of the other elements involved in Watergate. Felt was not simply feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein; he was using the intelligence product emanating from a section of the FBI to shape The Washington Post’s coverage.
Instead of passing what he knew to professional prosecutors at the Justice Department — or if he did not trust them, to the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating presidential wrongdoing — Felt chose to leak the information to The Washington Post. He bet, or knew, that Post editor Ben Bradlee would allow Woodward and Bernstein to play the role Felt had selected for them. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee all knew who Deep Throat was. They worked with the operational head of the FBI to destroy Nixon, and then protected Felt and the FBI until Felt came forward.
In our view, Nixon was as guilty as sin of more things than were ever proven. Nevertheless, there is another side to this story. The FBI was carrying out espionage against the president of the United States, not for any later prosecution of Nixon for a specific crime (the spying had to have been going on well before the break-in), but to increase the FBI’s control over Nixon. Woodward, Bernstein and above all, Bradlee, knew what was going on. Woodward and Bernstein might have been young and naive, but Bradlee was an old Washington hand who knew exactly who Felt was, knew the FBI playbook and understood that Felt could not have played the role he did without a focused FBI operation against the president. Bradlee knew perfectly well that Woodward and Bernstein were not breaking the story, but were having it spoon-fed to them by a master. He knew that the president of the United States, guilty or not, was being destroyed by Hoover’s jilted heir.
This was enormously important news. The Washington Post decided not to report it. The story of Deep Throat was well-known, but what lurked behind the identity of Deep Throat was not. This was not a lone whistle-blower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.
Again, Nixon’s guilt is not in question. And the argument can be made that given John Mitchell’s control of the Justice Department, Felt thought that going through channels was impossible (although the FBI was more intimidating to Mitchell than the other way around). But the fact remains that Deep Throat was the heir apparent to Hoover — a man not averse to breaking the law in covert operations — and Deep Throat clearly was drawing on broader resources in the FBI, resources that had to have been in place before Hoover’s death and continued operating afterward.
Burying a Story to Get a Story
Until Felt came forward in 2005, not only were these things unknown, but The Washington Post was protecting them. Admittedly, the Post was in a difficult position. Without Felt’s help, it would not have gotten the story. But the terms Felt set required that a huge piece of the story not be told. The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn’t what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat’s identity.
Journalists have celebrated the Post’s role in bringing down the president for a generation. Even after the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity in 2005, there was no serious soul-searching on the omission from the historical record. Without understanding the role played by Felt and the FBI in bringing Nixon down, Watergate cannot be understood completely. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee were willingly used by Felt to destroy Nixon. The three acknowledged a secret source, but they did not reveal that the secret source was in operational control of the FBI. They did not reveal that the FBI was passing on the fruits of surveillance of the White House. They did not reveal the genesis of the fall of Nixon. They accepted the accolades while withholding an extraordinarily important fact, elevating their own role in the episode while distorting the actual dynamic of Nixon’s fall.
Absent any widespread reconsideration of the Post’s actions during Watergate in the three years since Felt’s identity became known, the press in Washington continues to serve as a conduit for leaks of secret information. They publish this information while protecting the leakers, and therefore the leakers’ motives. Rather than being a venue for the neutral reporting of events, journalism thus becomes the arena in which political power plays are executed. What appears to be enterprising journalism is in fact a symbiotic relationship between journalists and government factions. It may be the best path journalists have for acquiring secrets, but it creates a very partial record of events — especially since the origin of a leak frequently is much more important to the public than the leak itself.
The Felt experience is part of an ongoing story in which journalists’ guarantees of anonymity to sources allow leakers to control the news process. Protecting Deep Throat’s identity kept us from understanding the full dynamic of Watergate. We did not know that Deep Throat was running the FBI, we did not know the FBI was conducting surveillance on the White House, and we did not know that the Watergate scandal emerged not by dint of enterprising journalism, but because Felt had selected Woodward and Bernstein as his vehicle to bring Nixon down. And we did not know that the editor of The Washington Post allowed this to happen. We had a profoundly defective picture of the situation, as defective as the idea that Bob Woodward looks like Robert Redford.
Finding the truth of events containing secrets is always difficult, as we know all too well. There is no simple solution to this quandary. In intelligence, we dream of the well-placed source who will reveal important things to us. But we also are aware that the information provided is only the beginning of the story. The rest of the story involves the source’s motivation, and frequently that motivation is more important than the information provided. Understanding a source’s motivation is essential both to good intelligence and to journalism. In this case, keeping secret the source kept an entire — and critical — dimension of Watergate hidden for a generation. Whatever crimes Nixon committed, the FBI had spied on the president and leaked what it knew to The Washington Post in order to destroy him. The editor of The Washington Post knew that, as did Woodward and Bernstein. We do not begrudge them their prizes and accolades, but it would have been useful to know who handed them the story. In many ways, that story is as interesting as the one about all the president’s men.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Every Christmas shopping season it's the same. Every man (and woman) for themselves and a vacant parking space at the mall is pure gold. I think it's important to discuss the need for a Savior.
The Heart of the Problem
We are still saying 'Peace' when there is no peace. If Man is supposed to be intrinsically good, why all the madness? I do not believe that Man is good. Actually, I believe the reverse is true. Man's heart is incorrigibly wicked and corrupt beyond measure. Can this corruption be neutralized by a better environment, more wholesome programming on the TV or politically correct language? It is not through lack of effort we have tried this.
The Heart of Man
We want to do good and we aspire to do good but we cannot do good because we are supernaturally bound and in darkness. The 'good' that we do is based primarily on self-interest. That is, we do 'good' if it gives us the advantage. Such is our state in an unsaved world.
Scenario One: The Darkened Room
Imagine this. You're bound to a chair in a pitch black and windowless room. The room is a mess and is in dire need of organizing. You're told, 'Clean this room!' (Parents with teenagers apparently have some experience with this). Even if you managed to free yourself, how could you put anything in its proper place? The darkness is complete and so you stumble along trying to do your best. Working harder frustrates you all the more. The situation is hopeless.
Scenario Two: The Lighted Room
You're in the same messy room as above. However, you've been freed from your bonds and the room is now fully lit. Not only that, you've been given an instruction manual on how to properly clean the room. So you get to work. It's tough slogging but after a while you notice some decent progress. How much better off you are compared to the person in our first scenario!
So Which Scenario Are You In?
Would it surprise you that the majority of us are in the darkened room? That I believe is our problem. Moreover it is central to mankind's struggles. Due to the curse of our fallen nature, every single one of us has at some point in time found themselves bound in a dark room in need of organizing.
What Do All These Symbols Mean?
No point offering up a parable of sorts without the explanation. The bonds that envelop us is our sin nature. These are the desires of our flesh and the pride (and self-sufficiency) in our hardened heart. As long as we are bound up no such goodness can come from us. The darkness that we face is our lost state. The light that illuminates the room is our Savior, Jesus Christ. The instruction manual is God's word, the Bible. The messy room is that stuff in our lives - people, places and things. Everybody - and I do mean everybody - inhabits a messy room. See how much easier it is to clean the room when we are free and living in Christ? It's still hard work but now we are working with a plan and a purpose.
The Weight of the Problem
Please understand the severity of the problem. This is not a case where we've stumbled and we simply need to pick ourselves up. Rather we are in a deep pit which cannot be climbed or dug out of. We don't need practical atheism to give us encouragement from the sidelines. We don't need legalistic lectures on the dangers of deep pits. We need someone to rescue us! We'll probably need medical attention and a steady hand too once we're on terra firma. That's the remedy people need to hear. Jesus liberates us from the bondage of sin. Jesus rescues us and steadies us from our pit of despair. Jesus is the light that we need to shine into our messy rooms. Jesus is the Word and our instruction manual. Jesus loves us so much that He went to the cross to pay the penalty for your sin. That's the true meaning of Christmas.
To hell with 'Season's Greetings' and 'Happy Holidays'. God Bless Us Everyone!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
'Permanently laid off due to a shortage of work' was the notice I got last Friday. Yep, I now join the ranks of the unemployed. To say I was emotional was an understatement. Angry, hurt, shocked, embarrassed, humiliated and frightened were just some of the feelings going through my head after I was called into the office. The last time I was this this low was when I totalled my beautiful Nissan Sentra after a mere three months. Now a decade of loyal service to the same employer has come to naught. If there's a silver lining to be found in all this is the fact that this is the best kind of release. A stellar ROE (Record of Employment) to be picked up on Wednesday with a glowing recommendation from my now former boss. What's left of my place of employment likely isn't going to last long. In a way, I've been given a head start over my former co-workers.
God Is My Provider
That's what 'Jehovah Jireh' means. It appears that God is going to have to be doing a lot of providing for me in the next few months. My regular pay plus vacation pay and severance pay are all due to me. It may give me a month or so before I find something. It may also mean the possibility of having to move back in with my parents. Good Grief! I'm closing in on forty and I'm still dependent on Mom and Dad. I had a feeling 2009 wasn't going to be a good year. Now I have the proof. I think of what's happened to me in the past six months and it hasn't been kind. A computer crash in August lasted for over a month before it was fixed. An involuntary move from my old place where I lived for twenty months - and now this. Strangely enough I've always managed to land on my own two feet. A 'temporary' job that lasted me a decade has come to a close. Will this be a doorway to a better job and a brighter future? I hope so. In the meantime, do pray for me. I'll need it!
Saturday, December 06, 2008
A tragic milestone has been reached in Afghanistan. A hundred of our finest men and women have fallen. Here's my tribute.
A Primer on Military Rank Structure
Pte./Tpr./Gnr./Spr.: Private, Trooper, Gunner and Sapper. Privates are infantry, Troopers are armor, Gunners are artillery and a Sapper is an Electrical Mechanical Engineer (EME). The foundation of any army in the field.
Cpl and MCpl.: Corporal and a Master Corporal. Both are junior non-commisioned ranks. Bombadiers (Bdr.) are the corporal equivalent in the artillery.
Sgt. and WO: Sargeant and Warrant Officer. These are senior non-commisioned ranks. A MWO is a Master Warrant Officer and a CWO is a Chief Warrant Officer.
Lt. and Capt.: Lieutenant and Captain. Junior officer ranks. Major and above are senior officer ranks.
A Guide to the Fallen
A typical entry will look like this:
Cpl. Joe Bloggins - 21 - 1/1
Corporal Joe Bloggins died at the age of 21 on January the 1st (MM/DD). Entries are listed in chronological order from earliest to latest. Multiple deaths on the same day are separated by commas. Thanks to the Toronto Star for their touching tributes to each one.
Our Glorious Dead
2002 to 2005
Sgt. Marc Leger - 29, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer - 24, Pte. Richard Green - 21, Pte. Nathan Smith - 26 - 4/18/02
Sgt. Robert Short - 42, Cpl. Robert Beerenfenger - 29 - 10/2/03
Cpl. Jamie Murphy - 26 - 1/27/04
Pte. Braun Woodfield - 24 - 11/24/05
Cpl. Paul Davis - 28, MCpl. Timothy Wilson - 30 - 3/4
Pte. Robert Costall - 22 - 3/29
Cpl. Matthew Dinning - 23, Bdr. Myles Mansell - 25, Cpl. Randy Payne - 32, Lt. William Turner - 45 - 4/22
Capt. Nicola Goddard - 26 - 5/17
Cpl. Anthony Boneca - 21 - 7/9
Cpl. Francisco Gomez - 44, Cpl. Jason Warren - 29 - 7/22
Cpl. Christopher Wren - 34, Pte. Kevin Dallaire - 22, Sgt. Vaughan Ingram - 35, Cpl. Bryce Keller - 27 - 8/3
MCpl. Raymond Arndt - 31 - 8/5
MCpl. Jeffrey Walsh - 33 - 8/9
Cpl. Andrew Eykelenboom - 23 - 8/11
Cpl. David Braun - 27 - 8/22
Sgt. Shane Stachnik - 30, WO Frank Mellish - 38, WO Richard Nolan - 39, Pte. William Cushley - 21 - 9/3
Pte. Mark Graham - 33 - 9/4
Pte. David Byers - 22, Cpl. Shane Keating - 30, Cpl. Keith Morley - 30, Cpl. Glen Arnold -32 - 9/18
Pte. Josh Klukie - 23 - 9/29
Cpl. Robert Mitchell - 32, Sgt. Craig Gilliam - 40 - 10/3
Tpr. Mark Wilson - 39 - 10/7
Sgt. Darcy Tedford - 32, Pte. Blake Williamson - 23 - 10/14
CWO Robert Girouard - 46, Cpl. Albert Storm - 36 - 11/27
Cpl. Kevin Megeney - 25 - 3/6
Pte. Kevin Kennedy - 20, Pte. David Greenslade - 20, Cpl. Aaron Williams - 23, Cpl. Christopher Stannix - 24, Cpl. Brent Poland - 37, Sgt. Donald Lucas - 31 - 4/8
Tpr. Patrick Pentland - 23, MCpl Allan Stewart - 31 - 4/11
MCpl Anthony Klumpenhouwer - 25 - 4/18
Cpl. Matthew McCully - 25 - 5/25
MCpl. Darrell Priede - 30 - 5/30
Tpr. Darryl Caswell - 25 - 6/12
Sgt. Christos Karigiannis - 31, Cpl. Stephen Bouzane - 26, Pte. Joel Wiebe - 22 - 6/20/07
Capt. Matthew Dawe - 27, MCpl Colin Bason - 28, Cpl. Cole Bartsch - 23, Pte. Lane Watkins - 20, Cpl. Jordan Anderson - 25, Capt. Jefferson Francis - 37 - 7/4
Pte. Simon Longtin - 23 - 8/19
MWO Mario Mercier - 43, MCpl Christian Duchesne - 34 - 8/22
Maj. Raymond Ruckpaul - 42 - 8/29
Cpl. Nathan Hornburg - 24 - 9/24
Pte. Michel Leveaque - 25, Cpl. Nicolas Beauchamp - 28 - 11/17
Gnr. Jonathan Dion - 27 - 12/30
Cpl. Eric Labbe - 31, WO Hani Massouh - 41 - 1/6
Tpr. Richard Renaud - 26 - 1/15
Cpl. Etienne Gonthier - 21 - 1/23
Tpr. Michael Hayakaze - 25 - 3/2
Bdr. Jeremie Ouellet - 22 - 3/11
Sgt. Jason Boyes - 32 - 3/16
Pte. Terry Street - 24 - 4/4
Cpl. Michael Starker - 36 - 5/6
Capt. Richard Leary - 32 - 6/3
Capt. Jonathan Snyder - 26 - 6/7
Cpl. Brendan Downey - 37 - 7/4
Pte. Colin Wilmot - 24 - 7/5
Cpl. James Arnal - 25 - 7/18
MCpl Joshua Roberts - 29 - 8/9
Spr. Stephan Stock - 25, Cpl. Dustin Wasden - 25, Sgt. Shawn Eades - 33 - 8/21
Cpl. Andrew Grenon - 23, Cpl. Michael Seggie - 21, Pte. Chad Horn - 21, Sgt. Scott Shipway - 36 - 9/3
Cpl. Mark McLaren - 23, Pte. Demetrios Diplaros - 24, WO Robert John Wilson - 27 - 12/5
May we never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
I have a very active imagination. Thankfully, this serves me well and I keep out of trouble. So humor me for a little bit. Imagine two people, one is called Michael, the other Johnny. They are at the front of a rather large queue and before them is a man sitting behind a large and imposing wooden desk. It's clear this man is a person of authority and power. Michael, who is ahead of Johnny, steps forward to present himself to the man in charge. The conversation follows:
Man at Desk (MaD): Who are you?
Michael: I'm Michael of course.
MaD: Yes, I'm aware of that. However, I don't have you listed.
Michael: Surely you must! My dossier is sitting right in front of you!
MaD: Yes it is. But I still don't know who you are.
Michael: Have you surely not reviewed it?
MaD: I have indeed. This dossier laying before me contains every single idle word, lustful thought and careless whisper. It contains all the good and bad things about you. Every word ever spoken, every thought that has crossed your mind, every printed word that you've ever written and every deed committed can be found right here. In a way, I know you better than you know yourself. But I still don't know you. Do you understand?
Michael: I'm sorry, I don't follow.
MaD: You see Michael, the world sees what's on the outside. We here have the privilege of seeing what's on the inside. We get the complete picture, warts and all. We know what makes you tick. Upon review, we found that you led a selfish life. We know of your marriage, your business deals and the social circles you attended. Yet the whole thing was lacking because everything you did was based on personal ambition and self-interest. Starting to see the problem?
Michael (Realizing the gravity of the situation): Yes I do.
MaD: Pride and self-sufficiency don't pass muster with us. It really doesn't matter how good you are, rather, it matters more to us the reason why you did it in the first place. Did you encourage and assist others or stand from afar? Even when you did good you did so in order to prove your bona fides to others. Public displays of good works misses the point entirely. It's what's in the heart that ultimately carries weight around here. That's the reason why we don't know you. Please proceed to the left. Next!
(Michael sulks away, ashamed. The man at the desk puts away the old dossier and picks up a new one with Johnny's name on it. He looks up at Johnny and beams.)
MaD: Hello Johnny. I know who you are. Welcome home.
(Johnny, filled with gratitude, weeps tears of joy.)
Johnny: Thank you sir. If it pleases you I'd like to start right away.
MaD: Of course. Follow the line to the right.
There ends the exchange. So which one are you?
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Below is the very lovely Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Swann in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'.
If there's one thing I've learnt in my Christian walk is not to be afraid of either personal or geopolitical events taking place. God is in control, and He uses all things for His glory. The same God who places a righteous man in office is the same God who installs tyrants. I like to call it 'the mystery of history'. I've noticed recently the irreversible and accelerating slide towards the end of the age. I'd still feel the same way even if John McCain were elected president. All that would've achieved is to buy us some time. Yet the end result would still be the same.
There's Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself!
It's not Obama that concerns me, it's his followers. As I see it, the system guarantees disappointment. Many black Christian supporters will be less than enthralled as gay marriage moves to the front pages. The possibility of American military action against Somali pirates will cause black Christians grief as well. The pacifists will be horrified as American troops move from Iraq into the quagmire that is Afghanistan. Christian Zionists who voted Democrat will see more nonsensical 'Land for Peace' deals placing Israel in greater peril. Will Obama secure America's southern flank, disappointing the Latino vote? To hear from all these Kool-Aid Utopians, on January 20, 2009, America will be delivered from the Devil himself. On the contrary, it will be more like going from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
America is a Mess (and there's little we can do about it)
If America cannot be found in Bible prophecy, what does that tell us? A nation that consumes more than it exports and whose citizens save nothing are destined for rocky shoals. I want to be clear on this. I don't wish to drag the new guy down. But there are some hard realities that need to be faced. The standard by where we are headed must be God's Word. It is considered an absolute amongst humanists that we can (if only we truly believe!), pull ourselves out of this mess through our own man-centered efforts. Yet the Bible paints a much darker picture:
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
I think its one of the greatest lies ever conceived. If all the 'isms' of the world have not brought us peace, why should we expect anything different? It's the very definition of madness: Doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result. I think the very reason why the humanist school of thought is so seductive is because of our pride.
Man's Most Prized Possession Is.....
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
(2 Timothy 4:3-4)
His overwhelming sense of self-importance. And what are the people's treasure? Their biases, their assumptions, their cultural norms and of course, their sensuality and common sense. None of it does us a bit of good if it keeps us from God. Ignorance and apathy is our lot. Civilization is walking the plank and few seem to notice or care.
A Surefire Antidote: Faith and Courage
If trials are to come upon us, what tools do we have at our disposal? The courage to believe in a living God will surely be our most effective testimony. I think many Christians will rue the fact that they failed to capitalize on this unique time in history. Should we become disconsolate and afraid? No, we must not be afraid. We should stand for what we believe in, no matter what the cost.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I have a funny story to tell. Today as I was on my rounds in Newmarket I went into a Price Chopper (Leslie and Davis) store to buy a can opener (not the one pictured above). It was selling for a dollar so I bought it. I left it in the trunk of my car for about two and a half hours before I got it home. When I arrived at Casa Johnny, I went to open a can of apple juice using my new opener and the the thing promptly broke apart. No injury to report but I looked at this piece of crap in my hand and started to laugh. 'Figures', I said, 'You get what you paid for'. Turns out the cheap plastic handles were glued to the metal. As well, the metal itself was brittle to the point where I could bend and break off the lower handle. My one-piece can opener had disintegrated into three inoperable pieces in a matter of minutes. Here's the kicker: Made in China. Later on, I went to the local grocery store to pick up a replacement. Guess what? The exact same can opener was on sale there too! I decided I wasn't going to fall for the same trick twice so I kept looking. Two aisles over I found it. It was beautiful. All metal (with no plastic) and 'Made in England' to boot. Grabbed it and paid $3 for it. There appears to be a few lessons here:
I Hate Getting Ripped Off
Doesn't everybody? I mean, it was only a dollar (plus applicable taxes) right? I felt like a fool for buying such an inferior product. A company ought to stand by their product through thick and thin. In China, keeping the people employed is seen as the highest goal. Other business virtues such as quality assurance, efficiency, profitability and transparency (the enemy of corruption) are therefore relegated. If you have an inferior product, be it made in China or anywhere else, and it breaks on you well before it should - like on the first try for instance - you should go back to the place you bought it and ask to speak to a manager. In a polite tone, tell him (or her) your tale of woe and ask them to remove that product from their shelves. It is impossible for any store to vigorously check each and every item. They lack both the manpower and time to do so. In so doing, your complaint does them a huge favor. An inferior product is removed from circulation and future customers aren't inconvenienced by shoddy craftmanship. That's how a free market works. Individuals show the way, not government hacks or middle men who only care about their cut of the profits.
Entropy Is Very Much A Biblical Concept
Where are all these scoffers that tell us that science and Christianity are irreconcilable? Hogwash! The Second Law of Thermodynamics can be found here:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
That is, things - and people - get run down, get tired, break down and sometimes just flat out fail us. Ever owned a car or truck for an extended period of time? The brakes need fixing. The tires need changing. The battery could die at a most unexpected time. The muffler could be rusty and in need of replacement. The list goes on. So while we put up with life's little breakdowns, be they expensive or cheap, it's clear this world is in a state of terminal decay. Yet when we look at this marvelous passage of scripture we are given hope for a bright future. The passage reveals an inward groaning but ends in our glorious redemption. It's amazing how a simple can opener can show the way to God's truth when we're willing to listen!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
How about a pig for Christmas? Or a goat? Sounds like some cheesy game show doesn't it? In places like India a pig or goat means having a continual source of income and the ability to put food on the table. Please give and help a family in need.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
As it was in King Solomon's day, the same can be said today:
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
What the Election of Barack Obama Really Means
To me, it didn't really matter all that much. I was so overcome with emotion that I yawned, turned off the TV and went to bed, secure in the knowledge that the sun would rise again. As a Canadian-born white guy with a proud English heritage, I can tell you I was pretty much underwhelmed. But I think it's important to realize how much it meant to blacks. The election of BHO wasn't merely a changing of the guard, it was seen as a revolutionary act. Like I said, I tend to be a bit jaded by all this. But I do think it's very important that whites don't act dismissively. I believe the racial divide in America is alive and well, despite the fresh blood being injected into the body politic. Whites refuse to acknowledge the harm they've done and many blacks still carry a torch for slavery reparations. If someone wrongs you, repents and asks for forgiveness and is refused, what's a man to do? Jesus said you should grant and seek forgiveness before making sacrifices at the temple. In other words, confess all your sins and pray one for another. How simple. How beautiful. Yet this prescription will never be filled, leaving me pessimistic about future race relations.
Some Perspective Please!
I loved this Wesley Pruden comment from the Washington Times:
This election will be remembered as the campaign that ignited a religious revival. Never have so many atheists, skeptics, agnostics, secularists, heretics, freethinkers and rationalists hit the sawdust trail to imbibe so much on blind faith, and to make it their religion. Eat your heart out, Billy Graham.
That's the great thing about politics. You will never suffer for lack of material. Or people to mock and ridicule. Again, as with my previous post, none of this is meant as a personal attack against those who voted for the man. Far from it. On the contrary, I wish to engage those who take a more 'progressive' (read: socialist) view of things. I don't want to alienate anyone. But I do want to show the secularists the error of their ways. Let's be crystal clear on this: The secularists would love nothing more than to banish us evangelicals to some distant land, never to be heard from again. I believe this anti-God worldview is going to dominate like never before.
A Checklist Every President Should Adhere To
I wish nothing but the best for the new president. The foreign policy challenges are immense, but not impossible to overcome. Let's start with Israel. Despite the urgings of the Left, do not under any circumstances divide Israel's land. Ariel Sharon paid for giving away Gush Katif (Gaza) with an incapacitating stroke. I fear worse things will happen to Obama if he tries to negotiate away Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Israel has many enemies, Russia being chief amongst them. Recent moves in Libya confirm this. Do not be afraid to confront them and call their bluff if necessary.
Restore consumer confidence. Easier said than done I know, but this will make the difference from being a one-term president to a two-term one. A far-left policy of 'economic justice' would put America into a depression, never mind a recession. Re-engineering a free and open society is the last thing you should attempt.
Lastly, respect God's laws. A nation that willfully disobeys His ways is a nation that is destined for destruction. You serve a God for His purpose and at His pleasure. The God that delivered you victory on election night is the same one who can bring you down to defeat. President Obama, you are both a husband and a father. Don't place marriage and family on the altar of expediency in order to prove some obscure point.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Well, I managed to survive my move over the weekend. Six full truckloads over three days just about killed me. Glad it's over though. The X-Def lives on!
Barack Obama as President
Get used to it for at least the next four years. Possibly eight. Yikes! Here's what I think what happened over the past two years. John McCain lost this election not because he wasn't suitable or ready, but due to hubris. He's basically running as a member of Dubya's Republicans as opposed to running on his own name. The GOP ran out of luck and out of time to correct their mistakes. To be sure, many of the wounds inflicted were of the self-inflicted variety.
The 2003 War In Iraq
Irrational exuberance combined with underestimating the resolve of the enemy guaranteed that no lightning victory would occur. The Bush doctrine, which put forth the idea that free and democratic countries don't start wars, was correct on the strategic level. Lack of discernment hobbled the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts from the start.
McCain's Sisyphean Struggle
Sisyphus was the poor sod doomed to roll a massive rock uphill everyday for eternity. The media was in Obama's pocket from the get-go. Hard to get your message out when no-one wants to co-operate. To be sure, media liberals outnumbered conservative thinkers even in Reagan's day. Still, the Great Communicator managed and led. I think however that Reagan's America is vastly different than the one Bush 43 presided over. Prayer and attending church on Sundays were a given. Today, when a believer mentions God people look at them like they talk to an invisible man in the sky. Marriage was always between a man and a woman. Life began at conception and that was that. Sure there was sin in America in Reagan's day. But we didn't advertise and brag about it, did we? It isn't the demographic shift that should worry us, it's the moral shift away from Biblical values that will pose problems for America.
Swimming with Sharks
What's next? The next president faces immense challenges. Will Russia, with its increasing move towards sovietism, make a move? How about Iran? So many questions. I have a feeling that we'll soon find out. President Obama will be tested, let there be no doubt about that. In the meantime, do pray over President Obama. He'll need God's protection and all of His wisdom to guide a very difficult and complex country.
God Bless America!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Ah yes, the end of the baseball season. Not only does the first snowflake sighting remind me of winter, the real clincher is when the final out of the World Series is recorded. As of right now, Philadelphia leads Tampa Bay 3-1 with Game 5 going tomorrow. I've noticed however that it's been more than baseball players that've been getting chin music more than recently.
America: Land of the Free. But for how long?
There's a definite case of schaedenfreude going around the world as America's finances look a bit wobbly. The Chinese are a prime example. The Russians have got their mojo back and are bumping up their strategic nuclear capabilities. I do fear that however assumes the White House will be walking into a hornet's nest. As Pat Buchanan notes: With U.S. markets crashing and wealth vanishing, what are we doing with 750 bases and troops in over 100 countries? Good question Pat. More importantly, how does this fit into God's plan? It is becoming more and more obvious that America's power is receding. Daniel's vision of a revived Roman Empire must mean that America must fall.
Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
'The people will be a mixture and will not remain united' is the perfect description of Europe. It appears that a new financial order is taking root amongst the EU. A second Bretton Woods (named after a town in New Hampshire) is being proposed that would put greater oversight on American finances. I feel for those investors who've been good stewards of their money only to get hurt in this latest catastrophe. They diversified their portfolio, they've not made hasty decisions and yet still they take it on the chin. Nobody said life was going to be fair! If there's any lesson in this, it is that God and God alone is the only thing that guarantees a return on investment. The things of Man can often fail, such as his monetary policy.
On a Personal Note
I'm moving - again! - to another place in Brampton. This post may (or may not) be the last post for October. As soon as I get my internet connection going at my new place I'll be back at it once more. Therefore there will not be a post next weekend, perhaps mid-week after the election. So much packing to do! I dread moving day. I remember my time as a university student moving from home to Hamilton in September only to reverse the process in April. I definitely feel like a foreigner in a foreign land. When God calls me home, whenever that might be, it will be then and only then I can truly say that I'm home. In the meantime I'm just going to have to suck it up and deal with it on Saturday. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Naturally I'm referring to flurries here, not some other vulgar word. It happens every year. We see strange flakes falling around us and we look skyward, astonished at this white miracle. Raining at first in Brampton, it turned to snow as I was hitting Aurora on my way to Newmarket. 'Winter has arrived' I said to myself. Now apart from driving in really bad weather, I love the cool air that winter brings. I never sleep better at night than I do this season.
Giving Praise to God for Winter
Why not? To believe all the doomsayers we are headed for a climate catastrophe. While we humans love the summer for the good times we like to spend outdoors, think of what the world would be like if the polar regions didn't have their share of winter. The massive icesheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica would melt, flooding our coastal cities. Crops would likely fail, creating famine worldwide. Rain would fall unevenly, drowning some places while drought would create desertification elsewhere. Yet despite all the handwringing, winter arrives as it always does.
Canada: No Wimps Allowed!!
The snow gives the ski resorts a reason to celebrate too. A lot, and I mean A LOT, of tourist dollars flow into southern Ontario and Quebec as skiers and snowboarders flock to our gentle slopes. I think of the winter sports that Canadians love to play. While we still did rather well at the Beijing Olympics, I always look forward to the Winter Olympics to see our men and women strike fear into the hearts of the opposition. Without the snow and ice, hockey wouldn't be played outdoors either. While I myself was more a baseball fan, I did appreciate Canada's unofficial national sport (Lacrosse is our official national sport). Unlike bears, us humans don't have the luxury of hibernating. Yet I wouldn't trade this changing of the seasons for anything!
Speaking of No Wimps .....
Reminds me of my time spent in the army. If it was cold, damp, dark and windy, chances are we'd be out there doing our training. This weather always brings back the memories that I had while I was wearing the uniform. My first exposure was in basic training in Camp Borden before it became a cadet camp. Even though it was summer, crawling out of your sleeping bag in a tent at 5:30 in the morning to put on a t-shirt, shorts and running shoes was a wee bit traumatic. A second belly button followed by a cold shower is not what I had in mind when I joined at CFRC Hamilton. Now I did survive my basic training (it was only six weeks after all), but when I got to my unit it was more of the same. Army weekends. Oh how I dreaded that weekend every month. Now this might not have been so bad if I was in a service battalion (I was a supply technician), but I was in an infantry unit. This had mixed blessings of course. Firing a .50 cal machine gun, lobbing a live grenade, firing a mortar and other cool infantry weapons was something that very few individuals could boast of. But did they make you work! Not only did you have to qualify in your basic fieldcraft, you were tagged to do other support tasks such as meals or ammo pickup. Driving was a chore too. Fridays were bad enough after a long work week but Sundays were worse due to lack of sleep. Unloading the truck, cleaning equipment AND your weapon were chores that awaited us when we got back to Georgetown armouries. Do I have regrets? Thankfully not one. I'm proud of what I accomplished as a reservist over my twelve year tenure. However I'm just as equally glad I'm no longer doing it. So I've learned not to complain this time of year. After all, it could be worse. I could be in Meaford. HA!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I'm actually rather surprised Mr. Harper and the Conservatives did so well. In this article stratfor suggests this win will embolden the separatist movement in Quebec. Actually, that's nothing new. We've been dealing with that problem since confederation.
Canada: Risky Strategies and a Conservative Victory
October 15, 2008 | 1814 GMT
The Conservative Party of Canada has been returned to power, albeit with a much stronger minority, election results released Oct. 15 show. But in his electoral bid, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper might have reinvigorated the cause of Quebec separatism.
The Conservative Party of Canada, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has won Canada’s Oct. 14 election, results released Oct. 15 show. Though the Conservative Party fell short of winning a majority in parliament (which requires 155 seats), the 143 seats (up from 126) it did win give it almost 50 percent more seats than its main rival, the Liberal Party, which placed second with 76 seats. The Bloc Quebecois came in third place with 50 seats, while the New Democrat Party (NDP) placed fourth with 37 seats.
In winning the election, however, the Harper government pursued a strategy that might have far-reaching consequences in Quebec.
After the election, the Harper government has more seats than it had before, and it probably will be able to govern effectively — at least in the short term — as if it were a majority party. By contrast, the main opposition Liberal Party went from 103 to 76 seats and is facing calls for new party leadership. The NDP experienced a sizeable gain (up from 29), but its 37 seats still make it a small opposition party.
Harper’s win will allow him to carry on with existing policies. These include maintaining Canada’s military commitment to Afghanistan through 2011 (whether the Harper government will be able to extend the mission beyond that date remains in question), as well as managing Ottawa’s budget surplus to deal with fallout from the global economic crisis and a slowing economy.
But in the process of campaigning, the Harper government introduced a threat to Canada’s confederal system of government. In an effort to win a majority, Harper campaigned heavily in Quebec, a province whose internal politics are historically dominated by concerns for the survival of the province’s Francophone identity. Harper, an Anglophone Canadian who was born in Toronto and spent his adulthood in the western province of Alberta — a province as decentralist and anti-Francophone as one gets in Canada — aimed to gain the Quebecois vote by appealing to the province’s character as a “nation” (as he did in a speech in Quebec City on July 3).
Identifying Quebec as a nation distinct from Anglophone Canada is the strategy Quebec separatists have used to gain support for their goal of separating the province from the rest of Canada and becoming an independent state. Harper’s recent predecessors from both major Canadian political parties — including Paul Martin, Jean Chretien, Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau — all hailed from Quebec. They took a strongly centralist approach to the province, facing significant resistance from the province’s Francophone separatists.
Harper’s reaching out to the Quebecois “nation” threatens to undermine his predecessor’s legacies of federalism. The separatist-seeking Bloc Quebecois can be expected to use the 50 seats it won as a platform to champion pro-Quebec causes. Should Quebecois politicians propose another referendum on independence (one held in 1995 fell just barely short of a majority), they will have Harper’s usage of the term “nation” — by an Anglophone prime minister no less — to support their campaign.
Harper is not about to govern over the end of Canadian unity. But regionalism in Canada is clearly strengthening. The conservatives themselves had to regroup in the 1990s, bringing together remnants of the former Progressive Conservative Party as well as what was then the Reform Party of Canada (a Western regional party that morphed into the Canadian Alliance) to become a force in Canadian politics after the Progessive Conservative Party’s disastrous loss in 1993 elections. The Liberal Party, which appeals to very few voters west of Ontario province, might have to similarly regroup and create a new coalition to make a credible run for power again. Getting all the factions within the Liberal Party to agree on a new leader will be a first order of business.
The Harper government will likely counter any separatist challenge the old-fashioned way — by throwing money into Quebec and keeping it a loose, first-among-equals province. But that strategy risks having other provinces demand their share of federal monies, or, in the case of energy-rich Alberta, demand greater autonomy and a reduction in the share of its taxes that goes to Ottawa.
The net result of the Oct. 14 election might enshrine Ottawa as the arbiter of Canadian foreign and defense policy, while leaving economic and social policies to be determined at provincial government levels. This means coordination and cooperation among Canadian provinces could begin to unravel.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The question we must pose to ourselves on Thanksgiving is not what we are thankful for, but to whom do we give thanks? Do we give thanks to ourselves or to our government? Not on your life! On this day we give thanks to the Father for His faithfulness.
Here are four reasons why we ought to be thankful. Romans 8:28-39 can be found here.
God Controls Our Circumstances
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
It is true that have free will but the ultimate control belongs to God. Satan is not in control. Though we see his demonic influence on people, God has not surrendered His authority to the evil one. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that everything is going to come up roses once you trust in Him. Whether it be prosperity or adversity, God will use our personal circumstance for His glory.
God Will Meet Our Needs
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31b,32)
There is a great deal of confusion about the difference between what we desire and what God wants to give us. If God gave us everything we asked for, would continue to follow after Him? Likely not. It is abundance and not deprivation that causes someone to no longer depend on Him. If we are asking for something from God and He decides to withhold it from us, He is not being cruel. Two reasons can be given for this. Either it is withheld from us permanently because it will do us harm or the withholding is temporary because we are not ready to receive it. God trains us up according to His purpose in His time.
God is With Us
Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)
We cannot pick and choose which parts of the Trinity we like and which parts we don't like. If we want to know the Father, we must accept Jesus as His only Son and be willing to receive the Holy Spirit. Those CINO's (Christians in name only) who don't know Jesus or followers of other belief systems cannot boast that God is with them. They may be able to recite scripture but if they haven't acknowledged Christ as Lord then they're lost. Our human emotions have little to do with our relationship with Him. Faith that is emotion-based is one that will lead us to error. Though God may seem far off at times those whom He has predestined will receive their glory in due time.
God's Love is Eternal
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
As mature even at the age of 38, I realize there are two kinds of love out there. The first love is human love which is based upon our achievements, the accolades we've accumulated as well as our conduct and behaviour. Act accordingly we get rewards. Act in an untoward fashion and love and affection can often be withheld. A few men I know have felt the sting of a failed marriage precisely because of this reliance on human love. Performance-based love is a love that is doomed to fail. Then there's a Godly love based on His grace. God's love is based on who He is, not on what we are or what we've done.
To Whom (or What) Do You Place Your Confidence In?
We live in a fallen world. Things fail. People, even our own family, can let us down. Even when we exercise good stewardship our wealth can leave us in an instant. Our vitality and strength can be robbed from us at any time in the form of sudden illness or death. Where then do we anchor our confidence? Do we do it just on Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas? No! We should continually deliver our daily circumstance into His loving hands. This is the challenge I put forth to all those who do not know Him. Trust God and He will sustain and guide you, even in perilous times.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I was floored recently when I received my weekly update from sitemeter last Monday. On the 29th I had 389 visits (450 page views) and on the 30th I had 307 visits (354 page views). Now I know for a fact that my last post on the geopolitical tensions in Pakistan wasn't the reason for my recent upsurge in traffic. As you may recall, the Dow Jones fell 777.68 points when Congress rejected the $700 billion bailout. Naturally, people googled the number 777 to see what they came up with. Many came across this post I wrote on June 6th, 2006 (6/6/06):
The Number 666, 777 - Jun 6
In that post both Jesus Christ and the seven churches of Asia Minor (now Turkey) were represented as the number 777.
Was This Financial Catastrophe the Work of God?
Given the fact that the stock market took a precise beating to the tune of 777.7 if we round up, we come across some interesting parallels in the Book of the Revelation. There isn't three sets of seven judgements, but in fact four of them:
The Seven Sealed Scroll (Rev 6, Rev 8:1-5)
The Seven Trumpets (Rev 8:6-13,Rev 9, Rev 11:15-19)
The Seven Thunders (unknown) (Rev 10:3,4)
The Seven Plagues/Bowls (Rev 16)
So instead of a mere 777, you have four sevens to contend with. Taking into consideration that this just so happened around Rosh Hashanah, whose theme is judgement, I found an interesting thing about the date 9/29/08. By adding the numbers together we get 9+2+9+0+8=28. The number twenty-eight can also be represented as 7+7+7+7=28. Four sevens again!
So Deep It's Meaningless: An Academic Rebuttal
What does this all prove? Sadly, not much. No sane judge in a court of law would even consider such speculative line of thinking. Numbers, like language, can be manipulated to prove whatever an individual desires to prove. The truth of the matter is we have no idea whether God weighed in with His divine authority on September 29th. In matters of faith you will never find the bloody thumbprint or other hard evidence to prove your theory. Faith is not silly superstition. It is a mystery standing above and beyond simple human reason.
Here's What I Do Know
That through this God managed to give Himself the glory. Basing my assumption that the sitemeter stats are trustworthy, many now have been exposed to Christianity and the Bible's teachings. Imagine if ten percent of the viewers on Monday and Tuesday gave their heart to Christ because of me! That would amount to 69 new souls being added to the Book of Life by sheer accident! Again, I'll never know. Maybe nobody gave their heart to Christ. Perhaps my figure of 69 is but a fantasy. Yet for those who stumbled upon my blog they now have no excuse. None can plead ignorance before an omniescient Creator.
A Quick Update: 10,000 Visits and Counting
Actually, it's over 11,000. Keeping in mind that I added sitemeter later on it's hard to guess how many have seen this blog - or care to admit to it! I am encouraged greatly by the world-wide participation of those precious individuals who have perchanced the X-Def. As my computer troubles have finally passed I intend to post as often as time allows. So please be patient with me. Doing the Lord's work is never easy!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Without doubt the most dangerous place on earth right now is the Afgan-Pakistani border. So long as Canadian troops are there, the security and stability of Pakistan is paramount. Iran, Iraq, and North Korea seem tame by way of comparison. Below is a picture of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the area of operations.
Pakistan, U.S.: Dangerous Tensions Thursday, September 25, 2008 4:12PM
Pakistani forces fired at U.S. military helicopters along the Afghan-Pakistani border, the Pentagon said Sept. 25. The border dispute highlights the dangers of the high tensions between Islamabad and Washington — tensions that are likely to get worse before there is any hope that they will get better.
Pakistani forces fired upon U.S. military helicopters along the Afghan-Pakistani border, the Pentagon confirmed Sept. 25. However, a Pentagon spokesman denied Pakistani claims that the helicopters had entered Pakistani airspace. Islamabad later claimed that only “warning shots” were fired and later insisted that only signal flares were fired to warn the helicopters off.
This incident — almost a textbook border dispute, complete with each side claiming it was in the right place in an area where the precise border often is not clear, and subsequent revisions of statements — highlights the dangers of tensions as high as they are between Pakistan and the United States. For Washington, Islamabad’s lack of control over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is providing a safe haven for Taliban and foreign jihadist fighters as well as a vector for arms feeding the Afghan insurgency. For Pakistan, the United States’ increasingly overt and unilateral raids and strikes on Pakistani territory are challenging Islamabad’s sovereignty, and with it the support of its people.
Thus, Pakistan has increasingly threatened to forcefully oppose any further U.S. intrusion, though the only casualty so far has been an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that crashed in the region Sept. 23 — possibly for unrelated technical reasons. Indeed, though often flying well above the range of “trash fire” — small arms and anti-aircraft artillery — UAVs make a good intermediate step for Islamabad to demonstrate its resolve on the issue without firing upon U.S. servicemen. Islamabad cannot hope to garner public support for the fight against its own jihadist insurgency while U.S. forces continue to engage in unilateral strikes in the country.
Meanwhile, unless a Pakistani patrol catches helicopters flying low, the danger from small arms fire is not particularly extreme. Nevertheless, should Islamabad begin to employ more capable air defense weapons, the situation could quickly escalate — though Pakistan’s most capable air defense systems will remain committed to the Indian border. Both sides compound the potential for escalation.
On the Pakistani side, the paramilitary Frontier Corps patrols much of the border. The corps harbors more intense local tribal loyalties — likely making any given patrol more inclined to shoot and more likely to be aggressive in trying to bring down whatever U.S. target they might stumble upon, even if it is only approaching the border. The Frontier Corps is also likely to have individuals with conflicting loyalties — a situation that militants can exploit to deliberately trigger a U.S.-Pakistani clash, which would work to their advantage. The Frontier Corps or other forces in the area also have broad direction from Islamabad — compounded by high profile public statements by senior officials that Pakistan will defend its own territory — that they can interpret as they see fit and act on their own at the tactical level. Moreover, an outpost in Mohmand agency was hit June 11 in a U.S. strike that left 11 Frontier Corps soldiers — including a mid-level officer — dead.
On the U.S. side, rules of engagement stipulate very clearly the right to self defense — generally including preemptive self defense when the individual has a subjective sense of imminent hostile intent. Though more professional and restrained in a tactical sense, U.S. forces are likely to act aggressively to defend themselves once fired upon. In fact, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sept 23 told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that the United Nations Charter allowed the United States to act in self-defense against international terrorists in Pakistan if the government was unable, or unwilling to deal with them. Perceptions and misconceptions in such situations — on both sides — often make the situation all too quick to escalate.
Even though this particular incident may boil down to the innocent firing of signal flares, the situation has all the ingredients for significant escalation while politically and militarily — in a strategic sense — both sides remain in limbo. Pakistan does not have the military capability to establish its writ in FATA on its own without reducing its forces opposite India to what it considers unacceptable levels. The United States is not only in mid-stride during the final weeks of election season, but is facing domestic economic troubles and is still formulating its new strategy for Afghanistan.
In short, should things continue on this path, the situation may well get worse before there is any hope of it getting better.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I've been having problems recently with my computer, hence no recent posts in the past two weeks. I intend to get it fixed sometime this week so I can get back to regular blogging. In the meantime, I offer you my humble assessment of the question of illegal immigration.
The Bone-Headed Assumptions of the Far Left
The likes of the ACLU drive me insane. The foundation these lefties rest on is that America is an inherently racist nation and that Americans are mean-spirited. This for not allowing Mexicans to flow across their southern border. Are Americans such horrible lot for depriving illegals of their freedom and a right to make a living? Absolutely not! Here are three reasons why the security of international borders in free nations is of utmost importance.
Open Borders Enables Criminal Activity
In the rose-colored world that leftists occupy, it is inconceivable that some would arrive here with less than noble intentions. The so-called freedom that these malcontents seek isn't a new life, it's often to flee a record or to proliferate their criminal activities. Commodities such as drugs, firearms and alcohol are part of the international trade that crosses our borders each day. And that's just the legal stuff! Rum runners, cocaine smugglers and the sale of military style weapons to thugs are mixed in with the legal movement of goods. Is it racist to suggest that this trade is one that ought to be rigourously monitored and defeated? The answer is clearly no.
Open Borders Enable the Sex Trade
Another dirty little secret the defenders of open borders won't tell you. I would bet with an absolute certainty that a significant number of strippers, massage parlour attendants, escorts and street prostitutes have arrived in the country illegally. Naive women from Asia or Eastern Europe are told they'll be working with children - a nanny for instance - only to be given the cruel 'bait and switch' treatment as soon as they arrive. I'm not talking about lands far away, I'm talking about this going in Brampton and Mississauga! So long as these 'erotic dancers' are young enough (some under the age of 18) and reasonably good-looking she's put to work - no questions asked. Is it mean-spirited to put this to a halt?
Open Borders Enable Human Trafficking
Whereas the sex trade exploits young women in particular, human trafficking is much broader in its scope. Stories of illegal construction workers in the 905 suburbs come to mind. What happens to these workers if they suffer a significant injury on the job? How does a worker refuse dangerous work when they aren't properly qualified or sufficiently equipped to do? Under normal circumstances, labor laws protect the worker from these dangers. In the case of illegals, they have no such protection and are completely vulnerable to predatory employers. Sweatshop owners have the illegal at their mercy with no recourse or appeal. No wonder so many business owners love unsecure borders!
Who's the Open Targets Then?
We are. So are those who come here thinking the streets are paved with gold. Open borders enable human misery, period. Of course, there's money to be made in all this misery. A lot of it. Where there's money, there's competition. Where there's competition, there usually is violence and truly reprehensible behaviour that no freedom-loving society should tolerate. The only thing we are depriving of anybody is dangerous and risky consequences. Americans are not mean-spirited. If anything, they are generous and trusting to a fault. So forgive me if I don't buy the leftist rhetoric on illegal immigration. Will they take heed of my sage advice? Not on your life.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
This is the final part of a trilogy on relationships. Though currently single myself, I feel blessed to share some Godly wisdom when it comes to human relationships. For earlier reference, I strongly suggest you read these two posts before continuing:
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World
The Most Interesting Man in the World
Two Problems: Not Enough or Too Much
What exactly do I mean by this? As I said before, the quickest way to scuttle a courtship is to enforce a rigid and unforgiving equality. It's balance, not 'equality' that men and women seek.
Not Enough! Not Enough!!
Alas men, this happens in the majority instance. Not flattering I know, but we men must face up to reality. Despite the feminist caterwauling that you hear, women want a guy that's confident and assured. A weak man is one that willfully abdicates his responsibilities leaving a frustrated woman in his wake. You don't have to be the strong and silent Clint Eastwood type you see in the movies. Show backbone and be a man of principles and have a stout heart. A weak and indecisive male forces her to be the decision maker. Thus it emasculates him further and the vicious cycle trends downwards. Which leads me to my next point.
Too Much: The Oprah Winfrey Scenario
I feel for Steadman Graham. No man should tolerate such humiliation from a woman. Again, the key word here is balance! Is Oprah trying to be both the man and the woman in the relationship? No wonder Mr. Graham feels overwhelmed! While this is a minority scenario, sadly I see this trending upward. There's nothing wrong with a woman who wishes to take the lead from time to time. Some men may even prefer such a strong women! However, the woman should not lead all the time, every time. Let him have the reigns once in a while! You won't regret it.
Too Much (Part Two): The Marginalized Woman
Guys, listen to me. Make sure that she is fully included in the decision making process. I cannot stress this point enough. The imbalance here is not that the male is not exercising leadership. Indeed, he is exercising too much! Get rid of the 'Little Hitler' syndrome and your woman will be eternally grateful. The woman must be given a place as an equal partner at the table. She may (or may not) defer the decision to her partner, but by making sure she gets a full say - not a partial one - will make her feel as a treasured partner. Her feminine insight is to be sought after and valued. A man should lead a woman by the most delicate of strings, not a heavy chain.
Word to the Wise to Those Who Advance Same-Sex Relationships
Am I about to deliver a homophobic rant? Absolutely not! However, I'd be remiss if I didn't include this. I have often used the term 'balance' to describe the perfect relationship. The problem of a gay marriage is this: It is in a state of permanent and entrenched imbalance. Furthermore, there is no antidote to this problem. Though the courts have given gays the legal right to marry, this doesn't mean that it's right nor does it indicate long-term success. A man cannot complement a man and a woman cannot complement a woman. These are the hard facts, not hate speech! Reality has such a horrible habit of offending delicate secular-progressive sensibilities!
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
I can think of no more frightening phrase uttered in a time of crisis. With thanks to Bush's adventurism we now have a situation where the American military is spread a mile wide and an inch thick. The worst part is everybody - that being the Russians, the Iranians, the Israelis, the Saudis, and al-Qaida - know it. Whoever wins the White House is sure to have their resolve tested in 2009 at a time and place of our enemies choosing.
The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy
September 2, 2008
By George Friedman
The United States has been fighting a war in the Islamic world since 2001. Its main theaters of operation are in Afghanistan and Iraq, but its politico-military focus spreads throughout the Islamic world, from Mindanao to Morocco. The situation on Aug. 7, 2008, was as follows:
The war in Iraq was moving toward an acceptable but not optimal solution. The government in Baghdad was not pro-American, but neither was it an Iranian puppet, and that was the best that could be hoped for. The United States anticipated pulling out troops, but not in a disorderly fashion.
The war in Afghanistan was deteriorating for the United States and NATO forces. The Taliban was increasingly effective, and large areas of the country were falling to its control. Force in Afghanistan was insufficient, and any troops withdrawn from Iraq would have to be deployed to Afghanistan to stabilize the situation. Political conditions in neighboring Pakistan were deteriorating, and that deterioration inevitably affected Afghanistan.
The United States had been locked in a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, demanding that Tehran halt enrichment of uranium or face U.S. action. The United States had assembled a group of six countries (the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) that agreed with the U.S. goal, was engaged in negotiations with Iran, and had agreed at some point to impose sanctions on Iran if Tehran failed to comply. The United States was also leaking stories about impending air attacks on Iran by Israel or the United States if Tehran didn’t abandon its enrichment program. The United States had the implicit agreement of the group of six not to sell arms to Tehran, creating a real sense of isolation in Iran.
In short, the United States remained heavily committed to a region stretching from Iraq to Pakistan, with main force committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possibility of commitments to Pakistan (and above all to Iran) on the table. U.S. ground forces were stretched to the limit, and U.S. airpower, naval and land-based forces had to stand by for the possibility of an air campaign in Iran — regardless of whether the U.S. planned an attack, since the credibility of a bluff depended on the availability of force.
The situation in this region actually was improving, but the United States had to remain committed there. It was therefore no accident that the Russians invaded Georgia on Aug. 8 following a Georgian attack on South Ossetia. Forgetting the details of who did what to whom, the United States had created a massive window of opportunity for the Russians: For the foreseeable future, the United States had no significant forces to spare to deploy elsewhere in the world, nor the ability to sustain them in extended combat. Moreover, the United States was relying on Russian cooperation both against Iran and potentially in Afghanistan, where Moscow’s influence with some factions remains substantial. The United States needed the Russians and couldn’t block the Russians. Therefore, the Russians inevitably chose this moment to strike.
On Sunday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in effect ran up the Jolly Roger. Whatever the United States thought it was dealing with in Russia, Medvedev made the Russian position very clear. He stated Russian foreign policy in five succinct points, which we can think of as the Medvedev Doctrine (and which we see fit to quote here):
First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.
Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.
Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.
Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.
Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors.
Medvedev concluded, “These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy. As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.”
The second point in this doctrine states that Russia does not accept the primacy of the United States in the international system. According to the third point, while Russia wants good relations with the United States and Europe, this depends on their behavior toward Russia and not just on Russia’s behavior. The fourth point states that Russia will protect the interests of Russians wherever they are — even if they live in the Baltic states or in Georgia, for example. This provides a doctrinal basis for intervention in such countries if Russia finds it necessary.
The fifth point is the critical one: “As is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests.” In other words, the Russians have special interests in the former Soviet Union and in friendly relations with these states. Intrusions by others into these regions that undermine pro-Russian regimes will be regarded as a threat to Russia’s “special interests.”
Thus, the Georgian conflict was not an isolated event — rather, Medvedev is saying that Russia is engaged in a general redefinition of the regional and global system. Locally, it would not be correct to say that Russia is trying to resurrect the Soviet Union or the Russian empire. It would be correct to say that Russia is creating a new structure of relations in the geography of its predecessors, with a new institutional structure with Moscow at its center. Globally, the Russians want to use this new regional power — and substantial Russian nuclear assets — to be part of a global system in which the United States loses its primacy. These are ambitious goals, to say the least. But the Russians believe that the United States is off balance in the Islamic world and that there is an opportunity here, if they move quickly, to create a new reality before the United States is ready to respond. Europe has neither the military weight nor the will to actively resist Russia. Moreover, the Europeans are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas supplies over the coming years, and Russia can survive without selling it to them far better than the Europeans can survive without buying it. The Europeans are not a substantial factor in the equation, nor are they likely to become substantial.
This leaves the United States in an extremely difficult strategic position. The United States opposed the Soviet Union after 1945 not only for ideological reasons but also for geopolitical ones. If the Soviet Union had broken out of its encirclement and dominated all of Europe, the total economic power at its disposal, coupled with its population, would have allowed the Soviets to construct a navy that could challenge U.S. maritime hegemony and put the continental United States in jeopardy. It was U.S. policy during World Wars I and II and the Cold War to act militarily to prevent any power from dominating the Eurasian landmass. For the United States, this was the most important task throughout the 20th century.
The U.S.-jihadist war was waged in a strategic framework that assumed that the question of hegemony over Eurasia was closed. Germany’s defeat in World War II and the Soviet Union’s defeat in the Cold War meant that there was no claimant to Eurasia, and the United States was free to focus on what appeared to be the current priority — the defeat of radical Islamism. It appeared that the main threat to this strategy was the patience of the American public, not an attempt to resurrect a major Eurasian power.
The United States now faces a massive strategic dilemma, and it has limited military options against the Russians. It could choose a naval option, in which it would block the four Russian maritime outlets, the Sea of Japan and the Black, Baltic and Barents seas. The United States has ample military force with which to do this and could potentially do so without allied cooperation, which it would lack. It is extremely unlikely that the NATO council would unanimously support a blockade of Russia, which would be an act of war.
But while a blockade like this would certainly hurt the Russians, Russia is ultimately a land power. It is also capable of shipping and importing through third parties, meaning it could potentially acquire and ship key goods through European or Turkish ports (or Iranian ports, for that matter). The blockade option is thus more attractive on first glance than on deeper analysis.
More important, any overt U.S. action against Russia would result in counteractions. During the Cold War, the Soviets attacked American global interest not by sending Soviet troops, but by supporting regimes and factions with weapons and economic aid. Vietnam was the classic example: The Russians tied down 500,000 U.S. troops without placing major Russian forces at risk. Throughout the world, the Soviets implemented programs of subversion and aid to friendly regimes, forcing the United States either to accept pro-Soviet regimes, as with Cuba, or fight them at disproportionate cost.
In the present situation, the Russian response would strike at the heart of American strategy in the Islamic world. In the long run, the Russians have little interest in strengthening the Islamic world — but for the moment, they have substantial interest in maintaining American imbalance and sapping U.S. forces. The Russians have a long history of supporting Middle Eastern regimes with weapons shipments, and it is no accident that the first world leader they met with after invading Georgia was Syrian President Bashar al Assad. This was a clear signal that if the U.S. responded aggressively to Russia’s actions in Georgia, Moscow would ship a range of weapons to Syria — and far worse, to Iran. Indeed, Russia could conceivably send weapons to factions in Iraq that do not support the current regime, as well as to groups like Hezbollah. Moscow also could encourage the Iranians to withdraw their support for the Iraqi government and plunge Iraq back into conflict. Finally, Russia could ship weapons to the Taliban and work to further destabilize Pakistan.
At the moment, the United States faces the strategic problem that the Russians have options while the United States does not. Not only does the U.S. commitment of ground forces in the Islamic world leave the United States without strategic reserve, but the political arrangements under which these troops operate make them highly vulnerable to Russian manipulation — with few satisfactory U.S. counters.
The U.S. government is trying to think through how it can maintain its commitment in the Islamic world and resist the Russian reassertion of hegemony in the former Soviet Union. If the United States could very rapidly win its wars in the region, this would be possible. But the Russians are in a position to prolong these wars, and even without such agitation, the American ability to close off the conflicts is severely limited. The United States could massively increase the size of its army and make deployments into the Baltics, Ukraine and Central Asia to thwart Russian plans, but it would take years to build up these forces and the active cooperation of Europe to deploy them. Logistically, European support would be essential — but the Europeans in general, and the Germans in particular, have no appetite for this war. Expanding the U.S. Army is necessary, but it does not affect the current strategic reality.
This logistical issue might be manageable, but the real heart of this problem is not merely the deployment of U.S. forces in the Islamic world — it is the Russians’ ability to use weapons sales and covert means to deteriorate conditions dramatically. With active Russian hostility added to the current reality, the strategic situation in the Islamic world could rapidly spin out of control.
The United States is therefore trapped by its commitment to the Islamic world. It does not have sufficient forces to block Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union, and if it tries to block the Russians with naval or air forces, it faces a dangerous riposte from the Russians in the Islamic world. If it does nothing, it creates a strategic threat that potentially towers over the threat in the Islamic world.
The United States now has to make a fundamental strategic decision. If it remains committed to its current strategy, it cannot respond to the Russians. If it does not respond to the Russians for five or 10 years, the world will look very much like it did from 1945 to 1992. There will be another Cold War at the very least, with a peer power much poorer than the United States but prepared to devote huge amounts of money to national defense.
Four Broad U.S. Options
Attempt to make a settlement with Iran that would guarantee the neutral stability of Iraq and permit the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces there. Iran is the key here. The Iranians might also mistrust a re-emergent Russia, and while Tehran might be tempted to work with the Russians against the Americans, Iran might consider an arrangement with the United States — particularly if the United States refocuses its attentions elsewhere. On the upside, this would free the U.S. from Iraq. On the downside, the Iranians might not want —or honor — such a deal.
Enter into negotiations with the Russians, granting them the sphere of influence they want in the former Soviet Union in return for guarantees not to project Russian power into Europe proper. The Russians will be busy consolidating their position for years, giving the U.S. time to re-energize NATO. On the upside, this would free the United States to continue its war in the Islamic world. On the downside, it would create a framework for the re-emergence of a powerful Russian empire that would be as difficult to contain as the Soviet Union.
Refuse to engage the Russians and leave the problem to the Europeans. On the upside, this would allow the United States to continue war in the Islamic world and force the Europeans to act. On the downside, the Europeans are too divided, dependent on Russia and dispirited to resist the Russians. This strategy could speed up Russia’s re-emergence.
Rapidly disengage from Iraq, leaving a residual force there and in Afghanistan. The upside is that this creates a reserve force to reinforce the Baltics and Ukraine that might restrain Russia in the former Soviet Union. The downside is that it would create chaos in the Islamic world, threatening regimes that have sided with the United States and potentially reviving effective intercontinental terrorism. The trade-off is between a hegemonic threat from Eurasia and instability and a terror threat from the Islamic world.
We are pointing to very stark strategic choices. Continuing the war in the Islamic world has a much higher cost now than it did when it began, and Russia potentially poses a far greater threat to the United States than the Islamic world does. What might have been a rational policy in 2001 or 2003 has now turned into a very dangerous enterprise, because a hostile major power now has the option of making the U.S. position in the Middle East enormously more difficult.
If a U.S. settlement with Iran is impossible, and a diplomatic solution with the Russians that would keep them from taking a hegemonic position in the former Soviet Union cannot be reached, then the United States must consider rapidly abandoning its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redeploying its forces to block Russian expansion. The threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War was far graver than the threat posed now by the fragmented Islamic world. In the end, the nations there will cancel each other out, and militant organizations will be something the United States simply has to deal with. This is not an ideal solution by any means, but the clock appears to have run out on the American war in the Islamic world.
We do not expect the United States to take this option. It is difficult to abandon a conflict that has gone on this long when it is not yet crystal clear that the Russians will actually be a threat later. (It is far easier for an analyst to make such suggestions than it is for a president to act on them.) Instead, the United States will attempt to bridge the Russian situation with gestures and half measures.
Nevertheless, American national strategy is in crisis. The United States has insufficient power to cope with two threats and must choose between the two. Continuing the current strategy means choosing to deal with the Islamic threat rather than the Russian one, and that is reasonable only if the Islamic threat represents a greater danger to American interests than the Russian threat does. It is difficult to see how the chaos of the Islamic world will cohere to form a global threat. But it is not difficult to imagine a Russia guided by the Medvedev Doctrine rapidly becoming a global threat and a direct danger to American interests.
We expect no immediate change in American strategic deployments — and we expect this to be regretted later. However, given U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip to the Caucasus region, now would be the time to see some movement in U.S. foreign policy. If Cheney isn’t going to be talking to the Russians, he needs to be talking to the Iranians. Otherwise, he will be writing checks in the region that the U.S. is in no position to cash.
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