Philip C. Johnson, Ph.D.
December 24, 2018
Last Wednesday, President Trump announced that we are bringing our troops home from Syria and about half of our troops home from Afghanistan. Politicians, military experts and the media have all reacted like the world is coming to an end. Even all those politicians and media pundits who have constantly criticized America’s involvement in foreign wars. Am I surprised by the reaction? Not really. Overreaction seems to be the only reaction these days.
Even some individuals who support President Trump on a number of other issues have expressed strong disagreement with his decision to draw down troops in the Middle East and Central Asia. Trump’s Secretary of Defense, General Mattis has resigned over the matter. Or maybe – as some are saying, he finished what he was hired to do, and it’s time to move on. There was a lot that was accomplished with General Mattis – so thank you, sir. Either way, Mattis is out. And with all the “White House is in chaos” talk, it’s good to remember that Obama went through at least three Secretaries of Defense.
So, here are a few thoughts on the matter:
1.) President Trump has said before that he’s not interested in the U.S. being involved in foreign wars.
He’s interested in investing in America. It’s his whole, “America First” policy – so what’s all this surprise? Let’s admit that this particular president isn’t what Washington, D.C. is used to – he has said many times that his focus is on jobs, our economy, fair trade deals, resisting foreign entanglements, immigration reform and building a wall to protect our national border. None of what he’s doing should be surprising – except maybe for the fact that a politician is actually doing what he said he would do.
2.) What were our objectives in Syria and Afghanistan to begin with?
I have no idea what we’re doing in Afghanistan anymore- because I’ve been there (and love many of the people who I had the opportunity to teach and become friends with) – but nothing has been made better. Our military has been there for 17 years. And we should know by now that you can’t export Western-style democracy around the world. It’s more like we’re just hanging out – not really fixing anything, not really breaking anything, just spending a lot of money and putting American soldiers in danger. Unless “status quo” is a legitimate foreign policy objective.
In Syria, it seems our objective was to defeat ISIS – in that we wanted to destroy their territorial stronghold – their “Caliphate.”
And that’s been done. Their territory is gone. Is ISIS gone? No. Will they surge from time to time and continue attacks against the U.S. and the West? Yes. Will we ever defeat the ideology that motivates ISIS and other terrorists groups? No.
3.) Will we act if there are future threats against the U.S., U.S. interests or our allies?
Probably. But you do have to question why we have troops in places just to “be there,” and to “police the world.” Either we have obtainable objectives and achieve them – or maybe it’s time to concentrate on things that will make our country stronger, richer, more advanced and safer. Managing instability is not a plan for success. Maybe if we would put as much effort into defending our own borders as we do in dabbling in the affairs of other nations, it might make for a stronger America – a country that could handle any threat, anywhere, at any time. It’s not that the world doesn’t have dangerous people or ideas. It does. And the U.S. should have and support its allies. But stretch the U.S.’s financial and military capabilities too far, and we will be of no value to anyone – especially to U.S. citizens.
4.) The prophetic angle.
Maybe this move – this direction of the president is a big mistake. Maybe pulling out of Afghanistan and Syria will open opportunities for America’s enemies – and the enemies of all freedom-loving people to flourish and to take a stronger hold in this region. I’m sure Russia is happy with our leaving. I am positive Iran with its Iranian-backed Shia militias is thrilled. I am certain Turkey will be happy with us out of the way, so that the Kurds will have even less support (a personal annoyance of mine, as I like and support the Kurds – but Turkey’s president Erdogan views them as a bigger threat than he ever viewed ISIS).
But imagine if pulling our troops from this part of the world does create a vacuum. What if – as I’ve written about and spoken about in numerous conferences, Donald Trump has been allowed by God to be in a position of power for just a “pocket of time.” A period that has provided a pushback against globalism, that has protected the freedoms of those of us who like to speak our minds and express our opinions and to reshape some aspects of America’s future. (Supreme Court Justices for example)
But what if there’s another side to this “pocket of time” and what if beyond politics and beyond foreign policy, we are watching a necessary step in God’s unfolding story? What if Trump’s decisions are setting things in motion for the fulfillment of prophetic events – such as those spoken about in Ezekiel 38 – where the Bible foretells that in the “last days” Russia, Iran, Turkey and other nations will come against Israel – and there will be no one there to intervene, except for God himself. At the end of this coming battle, Ezekiel 38 proclaims that God , “…will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
What if Trump is being used by God to advance the next series of events that have been prophesied in the Bible? When Trump is gone – when he’s no longer president, whether in 2 years or 6, the world will be very different – without America’s constant policing. There will be other leaders – with very different worldviews – in positions to advance their global interests even more aggressively. It’s an intriguing thought- and fascinating to watch as the unexpected continues to happen.
So, whether I agree geopolitically or not – whether or not I see the potential pitfalls and dangers of reducing U.S. influence in the Middle East and Central Asia, I can’t help but be fascinated by the idea that all of this disruption has something to do with a God who has made promises to humanity, who has provided a way to be reconciled to Him, who has told us the future and who has promised the return of the Messiah. Maybe we’re watching God’s working out of promised final events.
And just as a reminder, here on Christmas Eve – God has always had a timing all His own and He uses whomever He wants to accomplish His will. About 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) God used a pompous Roman emperor by the name of Augustus to decree that a census be taken – which required Mary and Joseph to leave their home in Nazareth and journey to Bethlehem to register for the census. (Luke 2:1-5) And of course, this is where Jesus, the Savior of the world was born – in direct fulfillment of prophecy. Augustus was just a thread in the tapestry of God’s story. Donald Trump may also be just a thread in a story that is much bigger than the breath of politics and the breathlessness of the media. God’s story moves forward in surprising and unexpected ways.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thanks for reading me this year!
Phil Johnson – the Globalnexter
December 24, 2018