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End Times

End Times             Gerry O'Shea     December 2017

While visiting Rome in the 12th century to give an account of his diocese of Armagh, St Malachy had a vision of all the popes who would serve until the end of time. He prophesied that there would be 112 in all before the world ends. Francis is the last of the 112.

Most of the experts who have studied Malachy's writing are skeptical about the credibility of his visions. Although the story is told that when the cardinals met in 1958 to elect a successor to Pius X11 that New York Cardinal Spellman showed his knowledge of the prophecies by sailing on the Tiber with sheep on display in his boat.

 Malachy had predicted that the new pope would meet the description of  pastor et nauta, pastor and sailor, and the New York cardinal wanted to stake a claim  that the Irish saint had him in his sights 800 years earlier! Pope John XX111 was elected and, in fairness, pastor et nauta described him very well.

Some serious commentators looking at the signs of the times, viewing current events and the conflicts in the world, wonder if humanity can survive another generation. They have good reason to worry about possible cataclysmic happenings that would support Malachy's doomsday predictions.

Is there a way out of an awful war in the Korean Penninsula? On the one side you have North Koreans who hate America and are led by a man whose rhetoric and personality strongly suggest he has no intention of giving up or even limiting his nuclear stockpile. On the American side, the President publicly scolded his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, for his efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, strongly hinting that only military force would work with Kim Jong-un.

President Trump, like his recent predecessors in the White House, refuses to accept North Korea as a nuclear power with ICBMs that can reach the American mainland. The problem here centers on the fact that they almost certainly have these weapons now and they have no intention of giving them up. That is the crux of the problem. It has all the appearance of a "High Noon" confrontation where each side will not give an inch.

Sanctions and political pressure only seem to strengthen Pyongyang's determination to hold on to their nuclear weapons, and nobody believes that if, somehow they were persuaded to come to the negotiating table, that removing these weapons would even be on the agenda.

In his speech to the UN on September 19th President Trump warned that if provoked "we will have no choice but to destroy North Korea." And in his recent Asian visit, he made very clear that he will use military force rather than accept a nuclearized North Korea.

 Kim Jong-un doesn't seem to worry about provoking his enemies. For instance, he told Japan, an American ally, that it "will be sunken into the sea by a nuclear bomb."

While North Korea is well-armed and has a million-man army, it could not hope to defeat the United States, which is by far the strongest military power ever. But imagine the consequences of an American bombardment of North Korea with or without nuclear weapons.

Some top military analysts think that in this scenario an attack by the North on Seoul, a city of more than twenty million, would mean unmentionable numbers of deaths. Suppose Pyongyang  has the capacity to strike targets in the United States as they claim to have, the ensuing mayhem would be so destabilizing that such a war would spread far outside the Korean Penninsula.

President Trump talks a lot about a military solution to the standoff. I wonder what would victory look like and would the new political situation be worse than what prevails at the moment. How many people would be killed in this war that could easily develop into an unpredictable nuclear conflagration? Millions dead! Where would it stop?

In 1964 Senator Goldwater, the Republican nominee against then President Johnson, stated his openness to using nuclear weapons to win the war against the Vietcong. He was roundly defeated in the presidential election partly because the nuclear option was deemed an extreme position and unacceptable to most Americans.

And we should add that America - then as now the world's most formidable military power - lost in Vietnam and many would say that our invasion of Iraq was a similar disaster. Military might divorced from broad strategic planning and humanitarian considerations definitely does not augur well for battlefield success. One clear lesson of recent American history is that a huge military - industrial complex and the inevitable hubris that goes with it do not predict military victory.

We need to get back to basics. America is a great country not because it has the military capacity to destroy the world but because it welcomed emigrants from all over the globe and because it provided good education to the highest level for many of its citizens. In its laws it champions freedom of worship and the right of the press to report and comment without fear, even when it offends the powerful. This culture of openness and inclusion made the country great, not trumpeting our war-making prowess.

North Korea presents a major challenge for the West and requires long-term strategic thinking that must include deescalating the threats of war and gradually opening up channels of communication.

St. Malachy  predicted Armageddon in our time. The Korean nuclear standoff beckons in that direction.




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