DANIEL 10-12: ANCIENT MIDEAST TURMOIL TELESCOPES INTO MODERN TIMES (3C)

(Part 1, Part 2)

Part 3 – Gabriel’s “Telescope” Zooms out into the Distant Future

3-A: “Vile Person” Arrives on the Scene (11:21-23)
3-B: Rise to Power of a Modern “King of the North” (11:24-25)
3-C: Who Are the Kings of the North and South?
3-D: Setback to America (11:26-27)
3-E: Setback to “King of the North” and Turning Point (11:28-30)
3-F: The Great Tribulation (11:31-35)
3-G: Nature of the anti-Christ “King of the North” (11:36-37)
3-H: The “God of Forces” (11:38-39)
3-I: Among the Nations, Earth’s Final War (11:40-45)
3-J: Brief Note on Daniel 12, Summary, and Bibliography

 

3-C: Who Are the Kings of the North and South?

Going by what we have learned so far, it would seem logical that, since Syria and Egypt were the kings of the north and south in ancient times, then these nations might very well re-appear in the End Time as the final kings of the north and south. If we go back to Daniel’s vision and the angel’s message of 14-15 years earlier (Daniel 8), we learn there that a “little horn” was to emerge from one of the four divisions of Alexander’s empire – corresponding more or less to modern Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Greece. But the angel doesn’t tell us which division it is.

This “little horn”, like the “little horn” in chapter 7, was symbolic of the Antichrist. This we know because of the angel’s statement that “the vision refers to the time of the end” and that the “little horn” would arise “in the latter time of their kingdom.” (Daniel 8:17,23) The description of his activities also points to the End Time era of the Antichrist. (8:9-12, 22-25)

Each chapter builds on previous ones, adding more information. So here in Daniel 11, intersecting with chapter 8, there is the same “first king” or “mighty king” (Alexander) whose kingdom gets “divided toward the four winds of heaven”. (8:21, 11:3-4) Then, at that point where Daniel 8 goes on to talk about the “little horn” of the End Time,  in Daniel 11 the prophecy describes the rise of a figure called the “king of the North”. This “king of the North” ends up the big winner, grabbing Israel in all the wrangling that followed the breakup of the Greek empire in ancient times.

Thus, we can easily conclude that this “king of the North” is the same power or person as the Antichrist “little horn” mentioned in chapters 7 and 8. Eventually, but not until “the time of the end”, this “king of the North” winds up getting the whole Mideast under his control, including Egypt. (11:42) He also desecrates the “sanctuary” with his “abomination of desolation” in verse 31, which is a notable feature about the End Time Antichrist that is mentioned several times elsewhere in the Scriptures. (Daniel 8:11, 9:27, Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14, Revelation 11:2)

And thus, chapter 11 answers what these previous chapters had left unanswered, namely, the location from which the Antichrist arises. (Or more accurately, we might guess, the location that serves as his funnel into the Middle East, followed by his conquest thereof, which events in turn catapult the Antichrist into world domination.)

And where is that location? As we read through the progression of events in Daniel 11, it is not hard to see. The chapter starts with the conflict between the “king of the North” and the “king of the South”, the wars between the ancient Greek kingdoms of Syria and Egypt. These were the two superpowers who dominated the Greek world some years after the death of Alexander. So that narrows the Antichrist’s nation down from four possibilities (in Daniel 8) to just two – Syria and Egypt.

As the prophecy telescopes into the distant future in verse 21 (with the “prince of the covenant” phrase in verse 22), the two possibilities narrow down to one. Verses 21-45 employ the same terms; the kings of the north and south are still in conflict. Eventually, in verses 40-45 the “king of the North” becomes the winner in this struggle, and total master of the Middle East, including Israel. In the context of this prophecy, he finishes what the ancient ruler Antiochus Epiphanes did not quite succeed in doing; that is, he doesn’t just conquer Israel, but also Egypt. “And the land of Egypt shall not escape.” (11:42).

Chart showing how Daniel’s revelations progressively unfolded to pinpoint the identity of the “little horn” (the Antichrist)

The question may arise about the Antichrist coming out of Syria because of certain predictions suggesting that the Antichrist would come out of Egypt. Most notable is a vision received by the late American mystic and prophetess, Jeane Dixon, which seemed to point to the Antichrist arising out of Egypt. But it would be hard to understand how the Antichrist could arise out of both Egypt and Syria, when the verses we have just studied show plainly that he will come from the north and fight against Egypt. Well, similar contradictions arose in predictions regarding the first coming of Christ. Three different prophecies stated that he would come out of Bethlehem, Egypt, and Galilee. (Micah 5:2, Hosea 11:1, Isaiah 9:1-2) Anyone trying to figure this out before Jesus’ coming would have been stumped. It could not have been understood until a few years after He came into the world.  So, perhaps it’s the same kind of difficulty cropping up in these seemingly conflicting prophecies about the Antichrist.

Another possible key to understanding this may lie in the fact that the End Time superpower will not be ruled by only one person. In Revelation 13, we understand that there are actually two key figures involved, the earth-Beast (False Prophet) and the sea-Beast (Antichrist). In effect, there are two Antichrists, yet they are seen as one because they work so closely together. Judging from the description in Jeanne Dixon’s vision – of a serpent having great wisdom – the False Prophet might be the fulfillment rather than the Antichrist. He is the one equipped with diabolical wisdom, much of which started in ancient Egypt. Perhaps Egypt was his base or home country at one time, or perhaps Egypt, the first of the superpowers to control Israel, just happens to be the place where this ancient diabolical wisdom lies buried and which the False Prophet has been given access to. Well, this is all just speculation, but for sure these seemingly contradictory predictions about the future will in time be understood.

Because the “king of the North” will be the first conqueror since the Greek and Roman empires to subjugate Israel at a time when the Jewish people are actually living there, then that puts him in the same category as the other “beasts” mentioned in Daniel 7, those empires which had conquered Israel in times past. So, undoubtedly, the “king of the North” is the Antichrist. (“Antichrist” is the term applied to the final “beast” to conquer Israel, the one who arrives on the historical stage just prior to the second coming of Christ.)

The logical question to ask now, does this mean that modern Syria and modern Egypt are going to be waging war against each other sometime in the near future? And does it mean that tiny Syria is the Antichrist power that will take over much of the modern world? Well, of course, that latter possibility doesn’t make much sense. So how are we supposed to understand all of this if we want the prophecy to remain sensible and yet maintain a certain degree of consistency – that is, the ancient struggle between Syria and Egypt tying in somehow with the Mid East wars of modern times? Will these two ancient nations serve as staging grounds for the future conflicts between Russia and America? And will these two superpowers fight a proxy war in the Middle East through their client states who might possibly be none other than Syria and Egypt, the modern day nations who once struggled against each other in ancient times? As noted in the previous post, there is a hint of this happening already. With Russia’s intervention into the Syrian civil war, this has brought the northern power into conflict against American-supported rebel forces.

That the “king of the North” represents, not just Syria, but also the superpower of Russia, can be easily understood from Ezekiel 38-39, the companion chapters for Daniel 11. These Scriptures paint a clear picture of the northern power of Russia invading the Middle East and Israel in the time of the End. Since the “king of the North” in Daniel 11 is also pictured as invading the Middle East and Israel in the time of the End, then there shouldn’t be any difficulty connecting Daniel 11 with Ezekiel 38-39 and understanding that “king of the North” represents a much larger entity than just tiny Syria; it includes the great northern power of Russia. Ezekiel 38-39, therefore, pinpoints the superpower from which the Antichrist (called “Gog” in that prophecy) arises, while Daniel 11 seems to pinpoint the area in the Middle East from which he arises to conquer that whole region, including Israel, and thereby catapult himself into world domination.

If it so happens that Syria and Egypt become the main protagonists in future Mideast conflict, and if they continue to be backed by Russia and America, then it will prove to be a remarkable resurfacing of the ancient rivalry in these modern times. It will still be the “king of the North” and “king of the South” waging war, just like old times. What will be different is the background presence of the superpowers of Russia and America who may even try to install themselves in these same territories that once had fought each other for control of the Mid East way back in ancient times. 

It is always difficult to look at the political situations of today and say exactly how things will turn out in the future. About the best we can do is speculate. Nevertheless, the situation in the Mid East does present an eerie closeness  to the prophetic messages in Daniel 11 and Ezekiel 38-39: Egypt has continued as an American ally and is still upholding its peace agreement with Israel; Russia has strengthened ties with her longtime ally, Syria, by aiding the Assad regime militarily in the civil war that is going on right now. Another point to keep in mind: There has always been a certain rivalry between Syria and Egypt that could ignite into open conflict at some future time. To conclude: Beyond these general considerations, however, it is difficult to project much further or go into any great detail on what may or may not come to pass. For a little more concrete information, the news articles in Appendix 1: Clash in the Middle East may provide some helpful glimpses as to where things are heading nowadays in the Middle East.

Those news articles are helpful because they explain the different levels of conflict in the Middle East. Because the world has expanded since ancient times, then we should expect that these terms, “king of the South” and “king of the North” should also expand, in these End Times, to include greatly enlarged versions of the ancient kings of the north and south. In a sense, the terms seem to perform double-duty, reflecting both the regional struggles going on in the Middle East and the larger geopolitical struggles going on internationally. We have studied how verses 1-20 describe the ancient conflict, which in those days was “big”, but in the modern world a “big” conflict would have to include much more than just Egypt and Syria. The world stage has grown larger, and it is obvious that the Mid East conflict has this extra outer international layer to it that did not exist in the days of the Ptolemy’s and Seleucid’s.

These two different levels – the regional and the international – are using one other, each to further its own agenda: the regional players require the support of their superpower patrons to fight their wars while these international players need the smaller nations to inject their power and influence into this strategic and wealthy part of the world. Already, we see these forces converging together on the Mid East battlefield, which, like a dangerous powder keg, is bound to explode eventually… and ominously, to drag humanity into another World War.

Now regarding this conflict between the superpowers, there is a comparison we can make here with the World Wars of the last century: World War II was little more than a revival of World War I between Germany and the empires of England, France, and the U.S. And the coming war between America and Russia will be little more than the revival of the Cold War of the last century when America and Russia were constantly vying with each other for influence in the Middle East (and in nations around the world).

What we are experiencing now is a temporary lull in the storm that has been brewing ever since the end of World War II, the war which catapulted the Soviet Union onto the center of the world stage and made her the chief rival to the American superpower. And in these days of late 2015, we can start to foresee that “lull” coming to an end. Now that Russia has joined the fray in the Middle East to protect her ally Syria, this is likely to bring her and America into open conflict, and God only knows how that will end up.

During all those years of the Cold War, the conflict never heated up to the point of turning into atomic war. This fear of atomic war probably kept the lid on things, so that the international situation never got so out of hand that it escalated into a world war. But unfortunately, this kind of a stalemated situation cannot last forever.

Sooner or later, the forces of Darkness, aiming as always to destroy God’s creation, will precipitate World War III and whatever terrible destruction that will bring. According to the prophecies here in Daniel 11 and Ezekiel 38-39, Russia will come out victorious in this future war. But not for long. According to other Scriptures (Revelation 19-20), God will step in at the Second Coming and the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus the Messiah will re-claim the world that has been held captive by Satan and his legions during the thousands of years of human history.

But for now the superpowers are vying against each other, yet trying desperately to avoid direct engagement with each other because of the dreadful prospect that such a confrontation could escalate into nuclear war. Thus, the strategic value of using client states to fight wars by proxy has grown considerably in the warfare tactics of modern times. So, although it may appear to be Syria and Egypt, for example, fighting each other in the Mid East, in reality it would be a struggle between their backers, the major superpowers of Russia and America.

This ancient struggle between Syria and Egypt, however we might want to look at it, was at the least a sort of foreshadowing of events that were to happen in modern times. Just as they had once fought each other for control of the land of Israel and the Mid East, we can easily foresee that the U.S. and Russia will also grapple with each other for control of the same territory. (In fact, it was already happening during the Cold War days and seems to be revving up again in these very recent times.) At present Israel lies within America’s orb of influence, just as ancient Israel was once a client state of ancient Egypt. And just as ancient Syria fought for and plucked Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians, so modern Russia will fight for and gain control over Israel (according to Ezekiel 38-39 and this chapter we are now studying, Daniel 11).

It seems obvious then that the modern superpowers – America and Russia – will battle it out against each other from their client states in the Middle East. (See news articles in Appendix 2: Clash between the superpowers.) We might guess this by the statement in verse 42: “the land of Egypt shall not escape.” It doesn’t say, “the king of the south shall not escape”. This suggests then that the “king of the South” is a larger entity than just the land of Egypt – although Egypt, likely, will be very much a part of the king of the south’s domain – an ally or even a staging ground for the “king of the South”. This would be similar to how the term “king of the North” is a broader designation for, not just ancient (and modern) Syria, but also for the superpower of Russia.

Now of course, there is no mention of America in the Scriptures. Logically, we can deduce that, if “king of the North” includes Russia, then “king of the South” should include Russia’s main rival in the modern world. And who else could that be but the American superpower, along with America’s allies in the Middle East, especially Israel and probably Egypt? In those days 2,500-plus years ago, no one knew about a U.S.A.; there wasn’t any. So how is the angel going to refer to this future superpower? He calls him the “king of the South”, whose domain in ancient times included Israel. In modern times America’s domain includes Israel. As a longtime and ardent supporter of Israel, America seems to be playing a role similar to that of the ancient “king of the South”.

And chances are that “king of the South” will also include Egypt, which is still upholding her peace treaty with Israel. It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows, and even in spite of a temporary setback (Egypt’s flirtation with the Islamic Brotherhood government), the pendulum has swung back to where it was before; Egypt has returned to her former pro-American position and may well end up supporting, maybe even fighting on, the side of Israel and America in future Mid East wars.

Continue to Part 3D: Setback to America

Appendix 1: Clash in the Middle East

Threats of war cloud hopes for Middle East
By Liz Sly, Washington Post, February 11, 2012

BEIRUT—Fears of an as-yet-undefined Middle Eastern war are darkening the horizons of a region that only a year ago was celebrating the fall of dictators, the ascent of people power and the promise of a new era of democracy.

        Iranian threats to mine the Strait of Hormuz raise the specter of conflict between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf. Warnings from Israel that it may strike Iran’s nuclear facilities open up the possibility of a region-wide conflict.

        Most worrying of all, as shells rain down on the Syrian city of Homs and TV screens across the region replay gory scenes of casualties captured on videos posted on YouTube, there is now little doubt that Syria is in the early stages of a civil war, one whose potentially profound ramifications provokes jitters far beyond its borders.

        Although a wider war is by no means inevitable, 2012 is already proving a dark sequel to the hope and possibility of 2011, as the demands of ordinary people for greater freedoms collide with the competing agendas of big powers in the region’s most volatile heart.

        “There are two different trajectories in the Middle East,” said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. While “North Africa is moving toward more democracy,” he said, the Levant region—including Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq—is “moving toward confrontation and sectarian conflict. It is a much darker, gloomier trajectory.”

        Despite chaos in Cairo and confusion in Tripoli, the three North African nations of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are getting on with the task, however messily, of building new democracies that may yet work after a year in which authoritarian leaders in each country were deposed.

        But in the Arab heartlands stretched between Israel and Iran, the awakening of democratic aspirations has stirred also ancient rivalries and more recent grudges across a network of crisscrossing fault lines, any one of which could crack and trigger all the rest.

        “It feels like anywhere could explode, without knowing why, at any time,” said Umm Haya, a Syrian living in Baghdad, reflecting the widespread sense of unease among many living beyond Syria’s borders. “The whole region is inflammable.”

        At the center of it all is Syria, whose nearly year-long revolt began as an overwhelmingly peaceful popular uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad but now is being reshaped into a far wider struggle for influence

        Unlike Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, whose relatively limited regional reach ensured that their revolts were contained within their borders, Syria lies at the nexus of a web of strategic alliances, geopolitical interests and religious jealousies that would be upended were the regime there to fall.

        “Libya imploded. Syria will explode,” said a diplomat from a non-Western country interviewed in Damascus. “And it will explode across the whole region.”

        It is not only that Syria’s religious and ethnic makeup complicates an essentially grass-roots uprising against decades of tyranny. Assad’s minority Alawite clan, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, controls most key positions in the security forces spearheading the effort to suppress the unrest, lending a sectarian dimension to a revolt dominated by the country’s Sunni majority.

        Assad’s own record, and that of his father before him, as a champion of anti-Western causes, his alliances with groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and above all his close relationship with Iran also puts his regime on the frontline of a far broader struggle for influence.

        Regime change in Syria would have an impact on the entire region, because Syria has geopolitical importance for Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, everywhere. So every country has its own interest in what is happening in Syria,” said Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is striving to balance Iraq’s delicate sectarian complexity with the unfolding events in neighboring Syria.

        Or as Claire Spencer, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Chatham House think tank in London put it: “The fate of Syria is intertwined with the fate of everyone else in the region, and the fate of everyone else goes through Syria.”

        That the Syrian crisis is escalating just as America’s influence in the region is waning only further complicates the picture. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December and the advent of election-year constraints have sent a clear signal to the region that the United States is unlikely to intervene.

        “The American presence was a form of deterrence,” Zebari said. “Now people feel there is some kind of vacuum, and they are competing to fill it.”

        Among those powers is Russia, which thinks it was tricked by the West in Libya, and has now stepped up forcefully in defense of Assad, letting it be known that it will not stand by while a U.S.-backed alliance works to unseat its chief Mideast ally.

        The Russian and Chinese vetoes of a U.N. resolution condemning Syria, and Russia’s energetic attempts to broker its own outcome to the Syria crisis, evoke Cold War-era memories of an earlier struggle for control of the region that had appeared to end with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S.-led rescue of Kuwait in 1991.

        Underpinning the struggle for Syria, however, is a far older battle for supremacy between Iran and the West, Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Persians, which appeared to have been suppressed by the popular clamor for change that erupted across the Arab world last year but which now has resurfaced as a key dynamic driving the competition for power.

        Syria’s three-decade-old strategic alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran places it firmly at the heart of what Jordan’s King Abdullah dubbed in 2006 the Shiite crescent, an arc of territory stretching from Tehran to Beirut, through Baghdad and Damascus, that is governed by Shiite-affiliated leaders sympathetic to Iran.

        If Syria were to be ruled by its Sunni majority, Damascus would anchor what some are already calling a Sunni crescent, stretching from Saudi Arabia to Turkey and severing Iran’s lifeline to the Mediterranean.

        For the Sunni countries of the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia, the unrest in Syria presents a fresh opportunity to push back against Iranian influence, which expanded dramatically into Lebanon and Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion, analysts say.

        Though there is no evidence yet to support Syrian government claims that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been arming the Syrian opposition, that could well change now that concerted international action to resolve the Syria crisis seems unlikely, said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain.

        “Iran remains the biggest actor in the region, and Syria is the convenient battlefield,” he said. “It’s a place where things can be done against Iran, but Iran remains the biggest prize.”

        With Russia already providing arms to the government and Iran offering technical assistance and military advice, according to U.S. officials, the stage is set for Syria to serve as the venue for a messy proxy war that could spill into Lebanon, Iraq and perhaps beyond.

Syria Coming to a Boil
By Eric Margolis, The UNZ Review - March 29, 2011

Libya, in spite of its oil treasures, is strictly a sideshow in the great game of nations. We should be keeping our eyes on highly strategic Syria, a potentially combustible nation of 22.5 million that lies at the very heart of what we call the Mideast.

Sizeable demonstrations have erupted in the Syrian port city of Latakia, Homs, and in three smaller southern towns, including Daraa, where, during World War I, Lawrence of Arabia was captured and tortured by the Turks. There have been small demonstrations in the capital, Damascus. The tough Syrian army has been deployed in many urban areas.

It was inevitable that the revolutions and uprisings sweeping across the Mideast would reach Syria, which has been ruled with an iron hand by the Asad family since 1970. Now, Syria’s neighbors are watching Syria’s gathering storm with a mixture of alarm and uncertainty.

Syria has been isolated for over three decades. Damascus is under siege from the United States because of its opposition to Israel and championing of the Palestinians. US trade and arms sanctions have seriously damaged Syria’s weak economy and military forces.

Persistent hostility from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq, all three dominated by the US, have further isolated Syria among the Arabs. Until recently, Turkey and Syria were also at scimitar’s drawn, but relations have greatly improved.

Israel regularly threatens war against Syria because of the vital support Damascus gives to Lebanon’s Hizbullah movement and Palestinians. Israel’s virtual annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights and expulsion of over 125,000 Syrians from the Heights by Israel in 1967, and land expropriation by 19,000 Israeli settlers, remain inflammatory issues. Israeli heavy artillery atop Golan is within range of Damascus.

Syria’s once powerful armed forces are by now almost totally outdated thanks to US sanctions, the collapse of Syria’s main arms supplier, the Soviet Union, and Damascus’ lack of hard cash to buy modern weapons from abroad. As a result, Syria’s 1980’s-vintage air and land forces face Israel’s mighty military machine that could crush Syria in days. [If a nation is weak militarily, they have to call on the help of someone stronger. As a result Syria could easily become a Russian protectorate, a staging-ground for the “king of the North”.]

Syria is a highly sophisticated nation whose rich, though often tragic history, dates back to the dawn of time. Damascus is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. Syria has always been one of the two poles of the Arab world, along with its rival Egypt. [“king of the North” versus “king of the South”?]

The world-view of Syrians is shaped by the fact that under the Ottoman Empire, Syria, or Shams, as it is called in Arabic, consisted of today’s Syria, Lebanon, parts of Iraq and southeastern Turkey, Jordan, Palestine and much of central and northern modern Israel.

More than half of historic Syria was stripped away by the rapacious French and British during World War I. Syria has never accepted this national rapine.

Syrian-Lebanese relations are particularly fraught because France tore away the Mount Lebanon region from Syria as late as the 1920’s and created the protectorate of Lebanon to maintain French influence on the Levantine coast.

Damascus refuses to accept Lebanon’s independence, insisting it is still an integral part of Syria. The British imperialists did precisely the same thing with the sheikdom of Kuwait, detaching it from historic Iraq. Iraq’s late leader, Saddam Hussein, sought to assert his nation’s historic claim to Kuwait—with dire consequences.

What makes Syria so dangerous and volatile is its repressive and narrow political system. Former strongman Hafez Asad and his son Basher, the current president, come from the Alawi, a small, secretive religious minority from the mountains near Latakia said to be an offshoot of Shia Islam. Sunni Muslims regard the Alawi, who mix Shia and Christian beliefs, as dangerous heretics, even pagans.

In the 1960’s, the armed forces filled up with impoverished Alawis, who had trouble finding work elsewhere. By the time Gen. Hafez Asad seized power in one of Syria’s endless coups, the armed forces and many of the eight or nine secret police organizations, had become dominated by Alawis.

To put down growing unrest to Alawi rule, and attacks by Sunni militants, a draconian Emergency Decree was promulgated in 1963, which remains in force until today. A key demand by protestors in Syria is repeal of this hated martial law that curtails all freedoms and allows summary arrest without trials.

The Asad’s iron hand gave Syria its first and only stable government since World War II. No one knows what will happen if that steely grip is released.

As of this writing, reports are coming from Damascus that President Basher Asad may repeal the Emergency law and amend the constitution which mandates that the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party will be the “leader of Syria’s regime and society.”

Even such an important change might not vent sufficient popular steam to avert a major explosion.

Basher Asad’s challenge is to muzzle the Ba’ath Party Old Guard and enacting important reforms without allowing the lid to blow off pressure-cooker Syria where thirty to forty years of anger, frustration and calls for revenge boil just below the surface.

Some 75% of Syrians are Sunni Muslim. Alawis and Druze, another secretive mountain group, make up about 13% of the population, followed by Kurds, Armenians, Jews, and Circassians, whose Caucasian forebears were victims of Russian ethnic cleansing in the 19th century.

Christian Syrians, who make up 10% of the population, can trace their roots all the way back to the birth of the faith. Many support the Asad regime out of concern their often favored status as part of the commercial elite would vanish under a Sunni-dominated government.

Sunni have long chaffed against rule by “heretical” Alawis, as well as under the two draconian Asad regimes and their feared secret police, the “Mukhabarat.” Islamists have long been active in Syria’s underground, inviting savage repression from the regime.

After invading Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration’s neocon crusaders were eager to attack Syria and overthrow the Asad regime. Israel urged a US attack. Syria was and remains a key ally of Iran, the only Arab one, and Tehran’s beachhead in the Levant. Note that Syria’s Alawi are close to Iran’s militant Shia.

But it soon occurred to even the dullest minds of the Bush White House that if the devil-we-know-Asad is overthrown, who would replace him? The unavoidable answer was the Muslim Brotherhood—and that term frightened Washington a great deal. So Syria was spared.

This time around, if the Asad regime falls, it could just as well be replaced by Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, that may be thirsting for revenge. A bloodbath could ensure, plunging Syria into political chaos and violence and running the risk of drawing Syria’s unloving neighbors and the Western powers, notably France, into the fray.

Events inside Syria are far too complex for Washington to understand right now. Ending sanctions against Syria, restraining Israel’s interventionist hawks, and applauding democrats from the sidelines is the best thing the US can do for the time being. Syria is no place for the usual US bull in the china shop behavior.

[RETURN]

Appendix 2: Clash between the superpowers

The American Empire: A Finale
By Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com - March 23, 2009

Author’s note: The following is the text of a talk given in Paris on March 21, at the “Prendre le Moyens de la paix au XXI siecle,” which I believe roughly translates into “Prospects for Peace in the 21st Century,” a conference sponsored by Bernardins College and the Sorbonne. (Note: Excerpts of long article)

I am not cheered by the subject of my talk here today, which is the decline and fall of the American empire, first, because I am an American, and, second, because the description of America as an empire fits it all too well…

The new leaders of the American government are convinced that government spending is the key to economic recovery, and that includes military spending. A longtime complaint we hear in America is that Americans don’t seem to build real products, anymore: heavy machinery, cars, the big stuff. Yet the military sector is doing just fine, even as the rest of the economy wilts. The military-industrial complex is making record profits, and this indicates a growing trend in the international division of labor. If China is the global factory, South and Central America the agricultural hinterlands, and Europe the historical repository of the Western tradition, then America seems fated to become the world’s military arsenal, a natural development of its role as the self-appointed global cop. Like the Romans, the Americans will keep the peace and provide a ready market for consumer goods produced by its colonies, protectorates, and allies, in exchange for pledges of loyalty to the imperial center and tribute passed under the table.

The American writer Chalmers Johnson paints a more detailed and updated picture of how the American version of this system works. Huddling under the American military umbrella, and an arrangement that allows protected colonial industries full access to American markets, our overseas provinces are nominally “independent,” as in Roman times, yet allow the presence of American military bases on their territory. An American empire of bases spans the globe and gives the U.S. military the ability to strike anywhere with a fair amount of speed. The Bush doctrine of preemption wasn’t just empty talk: America, as crippled by spasms of economic pain as she is, retains its status as the hyperpower, in purely military terms. The empire may have reached–and passed–its apogee, but there is no telling how long it will take for the whole massive edifice to come down.

The ruling elite is naturally consumed by a desire to avoid the complete economic collapse of their system, which is founded on fraud and coercion. Their reaction, so far, has been to pursue precisely those policies which led to the crisis in the first place: they have embarked on a spending spree, with the big banks getting the largest share of the loot, and the rest going to bread and circuses for the commoners. This, however, will lead inevitably to hyperinflation such as we saw in Weimar Germany, or as we see today in Zimbabwe. These are extreme examples, but is it necessary to remind you that we are living in extreme times?

In America, we are already seeing the rhetoric of war applied to the economic realm: we are fighting a “war on recession,” our elected leaders tell us, and their media echo chamber repeats the phraseology, as anyone who opposes the “war on recession” and the economic policies of the current administration is deemed unpatriotic. Republican supporters of the Iraq war were constantly invoking a similar mantra during the heyday of the Bush years, when they accused the Democrats of wanting Bush to fail–with the more fanatic neocons labeling all antiwar voices as treasonous. Today a right-wing radio talk-show host is vilified as a traitor for wanting President Obama to fail as he moves to extend the power and reach of government in the economic realm. I can guarantee that this sort of intimidation will shortly make inroads in the international sphere.

It will be suddenly discovered, if it hasn’t already, that the real problem is global in scope and can only be solved by international economic regulators with the power of force behind them. The current crisis is bound to produce a crop of would-be visionaries with endless schemes for a global fix. We’ll hear all kinds of non-threatening phrases like “global governance,” “multilateral integration,” and doubtless other harmless and even benevolent-sounding euphemisms for what amounts to a world government.

The neoconservatives also have their own version of “global governance,” but theirs is a markedly more ideological–and militaristic–version. Both American liberals and conservatives have signed on to the proposal made by presidential candidate John McCain that America and its allies should form a “League of Democracies.” Admission to this League would be open to Georgia, a country where it is dangerous to criticize the president, but not Belarus, where it is also dangerous to criticize the president. It would amount to an American version of the Warsaw Pact.

Barring that somewhat grandiose flight of fancy, however, we are left with NATO, Obama’s chosen instrument of multilateral military action. While most of the action is likely to take place, initially, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the entire ring of former Soviet states bordering the battlefield will take on new strategic significance as the central arena in America’s endless war on terrorism shifts eastward.

This means an all-out confrontation with Russia, and the groundwork has already been laid for that. You’ll note that the Obama administration, while critical of their Republican predecessors on the Iraq question, are following in the path of Bush when it comes to the Russian question. It was Vice President Dick Cheney, you’ll recall, who first took out after Vladimir Putin, after the neoconservative guru and “dark prince” Richard Perle demanded that Russia be thrown out of the G-8 for the “crime” of opposing the neocon agenda in the Middle East. Under Bush, a provocative missile shield was begun with American aid in Poland and the Czech Republic.

With NATO troops stationed practically at the gates of Moscow, and NATO’s massed armies protected by a missile shield, Putin is staring down a gun barrel. Vice President Joe Biden came to Munich a couple of months ago to let the Russians know that we aren’t dropping our gun, but we may be willing to deal. Yet Putin is unlikely to cooperate in isolating Iran, abandoning Syria, and allowing Georgia to invade its neighbors and kill UN-sanctioned Russian peacekeepers at will. The price of dropping that gun to his head is that he must forget about forging an independent foreign policy in a multi-polar world, because that is what represents a real threat to the imperial restoration project undertaken by the present American administration.

NATO is their chosen instrument, and the history of this alliance underscores a libertarian insight, which is that no government program ever ends, once it’s started–it merely develops a new rationale and a new title. Or sometimes the old title suffices, as in the case of NATO. Here is an institution that was founded in the fear of a Communist invasion, led by the Soviet Union, with Stalin at its head.

The implosion of the Communist empire in 1989 ended whatever rationale NATO may once have had, and yet still, like the immortal vampire, the beast lives on! Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan are actively seeking NATO membership, and it is only the reluctance of some of the Europeans that prevents each country in Europe, in addition to the U.S., from being embroiled in the endless ethnic disputes roiling a very troubled part of the world. President Obama has expressed support for extending NATO’s tentacles into the Caucasus, and our present policy doesn’t look all that much different than the expansionism of the Bush years.

There can be no doubt that the U.S. has been engaged in a long-term project to encircle the former Soviet Union and make inroads where opportunity presents itself–or can be created. That’s what the so-called color revolutions were all about. Funded and supported politically by U.S. government agencies, and given plenty of cover in the international media, these supposedly “spontaneous” rebellions that installed pro-U.S. governments from in Georgia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, were and are a direct threat aimed at Moscow, with the ultimate color revolution meant to take place in Russia itself. “Soft power” is a phrase we should expect to hear a lot more of in the age of Obama: it’s much more comforting and pacific-sounding than “regime change” or just plain old “war,” yet it is a war executed sometimes with violence but most often by other means.

This soft power, however, has its hard counterpart in the growing size and scope of the U.S. military machine. America’s so-called defense budget is currently larger than all the military budgets of all the other nations on earth combined–and still President Obama has said he means to increase it! It is never enough, not if you’re the hyperpower. There is no security at the top of the world. Our uneasiness and fear arises from the very fact of our supremacy–and our certain knowledge that it cannot last forever.

The fear that the end is upon us, that the entire economic structure of the West could come tumbling down, has our ruling elites in a panic. And yet even as the banks fail, people are thrown out of work, and the economic gears stop turning, still the machinery of empire will continue, albeit somewhat less efficiently than before.

That’s because our rulers are held captive by their own mindset–they are still living in the heyday of their power and cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that an era is coming to an end. They are determined to hold on to the insignia of power, even if their ramshackle empire is a bit frayed around the edges. They are still living inside the bubble of fake prosperity and breathing air permeated by their own hubris. Like drug addicts who cannot and will not kick their habit, the leaders of the American government, my government, are too far gone to ever change. Their very idea of themselves is imbued with a sense of entitlement and aristocratic noblesse oblige. They feel that they are doing us all a very great favor by consenting to rule over us and determine the fate of entire peoples, indeed of the entire globe.

There are those of us, in America and elsewhere, who would rather they didn’t do us this favor, and would prefer that, instead of favoring us with their schemes to save the world, they would retire to private life and tend to their own gardens, rather than meddling in everybody else’s.

Times of economic turmoil always produce demagogues, of the Right and the Left, and some who defy all political categories. Europe has already seen what hyperinflation can do to a nation’s politics: the history of Weimar Germany tells us all we need to know about the horrific possibilities. An impoverished people who have once known prosperity is prey to all sorts of demonic explanations for its plight: there are plenty of scapegoats, hate-objects whose existence is pointed to as the source of our plight. When people feel buffeted about like feathers in the wind, helpless to control their fate, that’s when they turn to leaders, to mass movements, to anything to which they can surrender their individual will and find glory–however phony–in something greater than themselves. This is invariably the state, the race, or some other collective construction, such as the proletariat, or the common people–choose your poison. In any case, these movements are authoritarian, by their very nature, and very often outwardly aggressive. War is the essence of their foreign policy, very often, because it is necessary for the governing party to direct the anger and frustration of the people outward, rather than inward, at themselves.

Extreme nationalism is historically the given a great impetus by economic hard times, and the greater the crisis the more unreasoning and violent the movement becomes. Economic protectionism is always a feature of these eras, and there is another fuse waiting to be lit, because if goods don’t cross borders, then armies soon will. Trading partners don’t make war on each other: the moment trade barriers go up, the prospects for armed conflict rise.

In times of economic stress, the authority and power of the central state tends to expand, and this provides the War Party with the perfect war-making instrument. As Randolph Bourne, the great American liberal opponent of World War I put it: “War is the health of the state.” War provides the framework and mindset that cedes all authority to the state and gives it free reign over the destiny of individuals. A command economy is organized along military lines, and anyone who disobeys orders–or, worse, questions the mission –is a traitor, to be cast out. As governments accrue more power to themselves, they seek out ways to expand and complete their control–and war is the perfect pretext, the ideal atmosphere in which to enforce this type of mindless conformity.

Now I have been saying two things: (1) that the American empire has reached the end of its tether, and (2) that its rulers continue to act as if nothing untoward is happening. We are barreling forward, on the power of sheer momentum, along the same path set for us since the end of the Second World War. Having reached the pinnacle of power, we are still the hyperpower, albeit a bankrupt one–that is, America is a power that can yet do a lot of damage in the world. We may be going down, but we’re sure to take more than a few of you along with us.

The end of the American empire has been proclaimed many times, yet it has always defied the prophets of doom. This time, however, there is a difference–because this time the crisis is real.

[RETURN]

Continue to Part 3D: Setback to America

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