by Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
December 31, 2017
2017 was as busy as usual for the Globalnexter – I began the year in Poland, followed by Baghdad, Germany, Italy, Republic of Georgia, Finland, Estonia, Israel, the UK, Paris, Turkey, the Syrian border, Korea and now, I sit in Athens, Greece writing my final blog of the year. Yes, I know I should blog more. Maybe that will be my 2018 resolution.
And while I’m speaking about it, 2018 celebrates the 10th anniversary of Global Next as an independent organization. Global Next X, as it were – Hmmm, I kind of like that. Yes, you’ll be hearing more clever thoughts like that throughout 2018. 🙂
And as usual, with all the comings and goings around the world, God has been good, gracious and protective. Pretty much acting in His amazing character as always!
There are lots of stories that have cluttered this past year. More stories and more issues than I could ever cover in this space. So what mattered to me this year? Here are the stories and issues that stood out for me. My apologies to other important issues such as devastating hurricanes, pseudo-Russian collusions, cyber attacks and Hillary Clinton’s latest book. But I’ll let someone else cover what I miss. So here are my unfiltered comments on a few issues of the last 12 months – certain to delight some and annoy others.
1.) The Inauguration of Donald Trump – the Great Disruptor. No matter what you think of him – he is certainly the most polarizing and disruptive political figure that I can remember in my lifetime. The media hates him. The progressive elite hate him. But the stock market has never been higher, jobs are up, illegal immigration is down and Trump has struck a chord with Americans who wanted and got something different. Time will tell what his legacy will be – I would’t judge it by what those in power say – as power never likes an outsider unsettling the status quo. But one thing is for sure – what looked like a predictable path of America sliding deeper into liberalism, socialism and globalism – the world has taken a turn for the interesting.
2.) The “sort-of” destruction of ISIS – ISIS has been on the run since Trump declared that he was going to eradicate them. And while they have lost lots of territory and Mosul and Raqqa have been liberated – the ideology of extreme radical Islam continues. (And don’t forget that according to U.S News and World Report, as many as 11,000 civilians were killed in the liberation of Mosul.)
And as I write this, about 30 countries have an ISIS presence and foot soldiers are learning new ways to kill innocent people – all in the name of their religion. So no one is in all-out celebration mode yet.
And just as concerning is Iran’s growing presence in the region. In the void left by a scattering ISIS, Shiite militias from Iran are increasing their reach, from Iran, through Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. At the same time, the year ends with unprecedented protests from the people of Iran, who expected their lives would get better with the lifting of sanctions against their country. We will have to wait and see if 2018 brings any hope to those in Iran that are not part of the religious ruling class.
3.) North Korea and looming nuclear war – American student Otto Warmbier returned home in a coma after spending 17 months in a North Korean prison and died a week later. Several other US citizens are still being held prisoner in the “Hermit Kingdom.” According to CNN, North Korea has fired 23 missiles during 16 tests since February. During 2017, Pyongyang, also tested its most powerful nuclear weapon to date – the underground detonation of a bomb with a 100-kiloton yield – seven times stronger that the bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima during World War 2. It is widely believed that North Korea possesses intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S.
While everyone is afraid that Donald Trump will start World War 3, maybe we should be more worried about a rogue dictator who is playing with nuclear toys while China only tacitly supports what the US is trying to do. This whole thing should have been taken care of several presidential administrations ago.
But 5 years from now, when North Korea has nuclear missiles aimed at Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and San Francisco and suddenly decides to “reunify” the Korean Peninsula, we’ll see how people review history and bemoan what “should have been done” earlier. I think we already know where this story is going to end up.
4.) U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – While the world reacted and threw a temper tantrum, this is not a particularly surprising issue. In 1995, the U.S. congress passed a law requiring the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since 1949. It’s the seat of Israel’s government. It’s where the Prime Minister lives. Israel is a legitimate country and has every right to choose it’s capital.
While there are many different positions on Israel, the Palestinians, Jerusalem and the whole situation in the Middle East, the issue of Israel’s capital is not a new issue or new decision. It’s just that Donald Trump, with his view of principled realism, announced that the U.S would follow through with what it has said it would do – move our embassy.
So, squalling will be had by those who hate the existence of Israel, and more than likely, they’ll get over it. So, Europe is appalled? What’s new? So the U.N. voted to condemn the U.S.’s decisions about Jerusalem? Big surprise. So Hamas is upset? When aren’t they? But I’m not worried about any violent reaction from Israel’s Arab neighbors – because you know, Islam is a religion of peace…
5.) Football and Knees – My general reaction to wealthy athletes taking a knee instead of standing with their hands over their hearts during the singing of the National Anthem before a football game is: “Whatever.” Followed by sort of a “yawn.” And for dessert a big, “who cares.”
Are you rich, play a game for a living and are mad at your country’s imperfections? Find a better way to express your concerns – or productively address those concerns. Yes, we’ve got problems. Yes, we’ve got national issues. Kneeling instead of respecting the flag of the country that gave you so much – including the right to express yourself as ineffectively as you’d like – deserves better. Am I against protesting and expressing one’s views? No, I am always pro-free speech. And that freedom does allows people to express their dissatisfaction or disrespect in a variety of ways. It also allows me to say that I think it’s stupid.
6.) The Las Vegas Shootings – Terror, in general, reared its ugly head across the globe. Accord to StoryMaps, 2017 brought 1127 terrorist attacks and 7586 fatalities – the overwhelming majority of them perpetrated by Islamic extremist groups. But one terror attacks has left the U.S with more questions than answers: The Las Vegas shooting by Stephen Paddock. In what is called the largest mass shooting in US history, 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured at a country music concert in Las Vegas.
And there are still more questions than answers. For example, What happened to Paddocks girlfriend, Marilou Danley? Is she hiding something? Why was security guard Jesus Campos allowed to leave the U.S. for Mexico just days after the massacre? And how many people were with Jesus Campos when he got shot? That number seems to change. Why has the timeline of the shooting continued to change? There are reports that ISIS claimed responsibility – several times. What happened with that? Where was hotel security and security cameras? Where are the surveillance tapes? Why has the media decided stay quiet on this story? How could hotel personnel, including bell boys and chamber maids not have known that so many guns were being brought up to his room? Why are there reports of multiple shooters?
Perhaps all the quiet and mystery can be attributed to all the lawsuits that are being filed – but certainly not to this extent of silence. As often as I scoff at go-to conspiracy theories – in this case, I say, “have at it.” Maybe 2018 will start to shed light on this horrific incident, but something tells me that the story isn’t a lesson about gun control, but about something that must really be worth covering up. And that’s disturbing.
7.) The loss of my dad and the birth of my granddaughter – I had more time to prepare for the entrance of my granddaughter into this world than I had for the passing of my father out of this world. Camila came to us with a crash, upending our world, schedules and hearts. The diagnosis that my dad had stage four stomach and liver cancer also came with a crash, but a different kind. And the time we were “promised” with him didn’t quite live up to the optimism of the medical professionals. He was gone within weeks. One came into a troubled world, and we hope she will make it better in some ways. The other departed a troubled world and we know that he left it better than he found it. The summer of 2017 was the push and pull of emotions. Of embracing, letting go, thinking back and moving forward. It was a summer of hope and promise and of legacy and loss.
And in the way that it always seems to happen when you reduce the word, and joy and pain down to individuals that you actually know – you begin to understand the hope, joy, pain and loss of so many others. But now because it’s happened to you, you can begin to wrap your head around it in a different way.
Here’s hoping that 2018 brings all of us deeper love and understanding of others. And a greater love for this world that remains individually broken for those who have not experienced the redeeming power of God’s love.