Pondering the times

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
We were meant to study and seek to comprehend the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John, and there is a blessing given in this: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev 1:3).

Now we know that the “time at hand” was at hand even in John’s day (around 95 A.D.), yet we also know that there is to be “the last epic struggle between the kingdoms of this earth and the witnessing church” (Stephen Smalley, The Revelation to John, p 280; cf, Mounce, The Book of Revelation, p 220), which had not arrived in the time of John. There had been struggles then, and many up through the ages, but there is to be a last struggle, a final one, before the return of the Lord.

When John says there is a blessing to them who “keep those things which are written” he not only means the constant exhortations to be faithful to Christ in the face of temptations to compromise with idolatrous culture and cowardly denial of Him when threatened with loss, pain, or death, but also to keep and meditate upon the prophetic portions that appear to deal with trends, dynamics, and events at the very end of time.

Please be apprised that this discussion is going to be from the Amillennial point of view, and more specifically the eclectic or modified idealist school within that camp, though I may occasionally use non-amil commentators who nonetheless have keen insights into the text, such as Aune, Caird, Mounce, Osborne, etc. When I say modified or eclectic idealist I mean the interpretation of the Book of Revelation is much more than “in a highly poetic and symbolic form the general principles that mark the Church’s history in the world” [SUP]1[/SUP] with no specific correlation whatsoever with events in time and history, as a comparison with related passages in the Gospel and Epistles will bear out. This will be expanded upon below. Please note, this thread is not to be a venue for debate with other eschatological schools – please – but for discussion within the parameters of this particular school. For debate another thread may be started.


The eclectic idealist / amil commentators I will be consulting are,

G.K. Beale, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Revelation, and, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: 1-2 Thessalonians
Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb
William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors
Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation
Kim Riddlebarger, The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the Antichrist, and, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End times
Cornelius P. Venema, The Promise of the Future
David J. Engelsma, Christ’s Spiritual Kingdom: A Defense of Reformed Amillennialism (A shortened online version)
Stephen S. Smalley, The Revelation To John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse
Vern Poythress, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation
R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation
Samuel E. Waldron, The End Times Made Simple
Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Revelation
Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future
Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Revelation
Arturo Azurdia, An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (81 MP3 sermons)
William E. Cox, Amillennialism Today
Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, and, The Theology of the Book of Revelation

These are the major Amillennial writers – though many others may be seen at MountainRetreat.org, Monergism.com, The-Highway.com, etc – and they all concur in the main that Revelation consists of recapitulated visions showing in symbolism realities of the reign of the victorious and sovereign Christ, His messages to the church, the ongoing battle they are in, the final intensification of it, and then the final victory – with more specificity of detail as regards the final climactic end of the age. The Book is more than “symbolic poetry” – it is prophecy (Rev 1:3; 22:7).

I want to introduce – before any Revelation discussion proper – what I call an “Issachar” reading list, to bring information from the very present times into consideration. This is an exercise in possibilities, the looking at trends and developments in our world today. I do not mean “newspaper exegesis” as Dispensationalists are wont to do, but simply discerning possibilities of things that exist and could take place. The reader will understand as he or she sees the books listed.

[SUP]1 [/SUP]William Milligan, Lectures on the Apocalypse, pp 176.

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“Issachar” reading list

Some may find this title a little strange, so I will explain. Here at PB we have astute commentators – some of them serious scholars – with regard to a wide range of church concerns from doctrine and practice to history and textual studies, and more. The Lord has given us – the church – diversities of gifts, administrations, and operations (1 Cor 12:4ff), and I think intelligence (in the military sense) is one of them.

In 1 Chronicles 12:32 it is written of the children of Issachar who joined David’s forces in the wilderness, they “were men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”. This – in part – is what I mean by intelligence.

What things are going on in our times? And what are we to think and do with regard to them? Here is a brief take of mine on the matter:

It appears we could have a full-blown economic collapse within 2 or 3 years (or less?), in part due to greatly increasing inflation and the runaway printing of money by our government, as well as increasing disaffection with us (the U.S.), our financial policies, and the state of our economy by China, India, Russia and other nations, and the present move by some of them seeking to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Our fiat currency (based on nothing really but the confidence of those who hold dollars) is failing, while marketable skills or commodities, or physical gold and silver and other precious metals and jewels, will retain value. Such a collapse will not be conducive to domestic tranquility. Tough times lie ahead.

Even though I am conservative politically and economically, I had earlier thought of liberals in politics as benign if misguided in some policy areas and compassionate and sound in others; but what I am seeing now (at least in the present administration) is a frightening hard-ball socialism / quasi-Marxism, with a moving into place of policies and mechanisms for the control of the population, along with the erosion of our constitutional rights as American citizens. It has even gone so far that to be considered a “constitutionalist” by the authorities brands one with suspicion of being an enemy of the state (per Janet Napolitano to law enforcement officials). That strikes me as bizarre. Controls over all aspects of our lives are being put into place by government machinery, technology, and laws. Not to blame all this on the present administration, for it started in (and before) the Bush years, and will likely continue with whatever administration takes over in future elections.

On the other hand, despite the massive superiority of American military power over that of all the other nations combined, we have become dangerously vulnerable to what has been termed (by Chinese military strategists) “asymmetric warfare” – that being the remarkable military advantage of a weaker nation over a mightier one – as a result of unique technological developments, which in this case is the ability of other nations (China and Russia primarily, though there are other players) to penetrate our defenses and weapon systems, our financial institutions, our critical infrastructure (the power grid, water, transportation, food production, communications etc), our commercial sector with its industrial and research facilities, and all of this through the internet. It is in the news weekly how that the Chinese (mainly) have stolen many terabytes of top secret military information either from the Pentagon directly or those corporations under military contract to produce cutting edge aircraft, radar, munitions, missiles, stealth technology, etc, as well as research and development – worth billions and billions of dollars! – of intellectual property from our highly sophisticated industries and research facilities. Not only is it in the news, but regular hearings before congress tell this story over and over again – it has been going on for years! Nor are we only being robbed of our technological edge, but our critical infrastructure has been laden with what are called “logic bombs” and “trapdoors” so that upon command our power grid may be entered and software activated that will shut it down – destroying generators in the process, making it unable to rebound – and shut down the nation more thoroughly and stealthily than an EMP attack. All through the internet and cadres of skilled hackers, or, as some of them prefer to be called, Cyber Warriors.

This isn’t science fiction; nor is it fear-mongering fantasy. It’s been going on for a long time, and a number of highest-echelon former intelligence officials have taken the unusual step (so grave is the danger) of writing books on the matter to wake up the government and the people. At least two of the books I list here envision “cyber-war-game scenarios” to show just how this may play out, and also what the reality of a cyber attack on our infrastructure would look like.

It might even be helpful to forget the Book of Revelation for a moment. Simply consider, as an American citizen (or if you are looking in on this conversation from elsewhere, as an interested observer) the political, military, and societal implications of the information presented.

In part we are vulnerable because, unlike in China, in this country the critical infrastructure is controlled by the private sector, and with its politically powerful and money-doling lobbies effectively resists that level of regulation which could mandate securing the internet-accessible infrastructure. In China – which controls the internet (either directly or through cooperating companies) – the government has the power to completely disconnect the country from the internet in the event of a cyber attack (preemptive or responsive) from the U.S. In America we do not have that capability, and the nation is wide open and vulnerable to devastating cyber warfare. In part also, our military is completely dependent (more than any other nation) on “smart” weaponry and communication systems, and it in great measure uses the main internet conduits belonging to the private sector, and in them can be hacked and shut down. A battle carrier group – perhaps the most formidable concentration of military power in the world – in the South China Sea could have its entire computerized weapons and communications systems disabled in a cyber attack, and be dead in the water, a sitting duck. (The South China sea is one of the most volatile flashpoints in the world as regards the U.S., for China has its eye on territory therein, which the Japanese also claim, and America is committed to protecting Japan. The Chinese chaff at our “meddling” in “their” territory.)

And if our electronic / physical national defense system at home were shut down – the intelligence overseers say it can indeed be done – in a cyber Pearl Harbor of sorts, the greatest military power on earth would then be defenseless against a conventional, nuclear or other form of WMD military or terrorist attack. In Jeremiah’s day – when he prophesied of impending attack and destruction by Babylon on the house of the Lord – they called him a traitor, demoralizer, and false prophet.

What I’ve conjectured so far is an economic collapse, with ensuing domestic disorder – and likely attending martial law – with a government legally and technologically able to monitor and police the ‘homeland” with an iron fist, seeing as it will threats arising from within its borders, at the same time vulnerable to attack from without.

But there’s another angle. It’s bad enough, the picture I’ve painted – the U.S. becoming an oppressive regime to its own people in the name of national security – but there’s worse to come, if what I see is right.

That’s where the Book of Revelation would come in (that source which kooks revel in, and false seers take off from), particularly what is said and shown of Babylon, the great city, the great whore / global purveyor of idolatry. But later for that.

What I want to show are various developments and current events just for the sake of raising awareness of things going on in our times.


Cyber War: The Next Threat To National Security And What To Do About It, by Richard A. Clarke (2010, Ecco), who served in the White House for Presidents George H. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, who appointed him National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism. In 2001 he became the first Special Advisor to the President for Cyber Security. He teaches at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and consults for ABC News. This is a fascinating read, showing as it does how the various Cyber Warfare units of certain advanced countries’ military and intelligence programs operate, including insider knowledge of attacks actually accomplished (though not widely known about), and an in-depth look at the 21st century military strategy known as “asymmetric warfare”, wherein a militarily weaker and less developed nation can gain such an advantage over a far stronger opponent through, in this case, cyber warfare, as to not only disrupt and cripple the stronger nation’s domestic critical infrastructure – throwing the entire nation into chaos and various life-threatening dangers on a massive scale – but as well overpowering the stronger nation’s military capability to the extent that said nation’s military is dependent on computer technology. Clarke enumerates America’s vulnerabilities in this area, and shows the forces at work within the nation that keep it vulnerable, such as the private communications industry – internet, telephone, wireless – refusing to be regulated in such manner that protects them against foreign hackers, whether individuals, terrorist groups, or nation states. China, on the other hand, in the event of a cyber attack on its critical infrastructure or military systems, as it can control its internet connections with the rest of the world, can shut off all access and be sealed against cyber attack. America cannot do this, and industry lobbies will see to it that it remains so, despite the dangers. It is important to be aware of the times in which we live, and the variety of dangers that confront us.

For instance – and I will sort of ramble a bit (in a focused way!) – the days in which we live are rife with complex dynamics . . . in society, government, the economy, with regard to technology, international relations, and adversaries in various realms. Can some of these things be sorted out and discerned for trends which may powerfully impact us, the church in America?

It continues to be in the news – and I doubt those who read the news have missed it – how hackers (cyber warriors, some call themselves), and the Chinese in particular, have infiltrated not only our top industrial and technology corporations, but the large corporations which have contracts with the U.S. military for research and development of weaponry and various war-time vehicles for land, sea, air, and space, and have made off with untold terabytes of priceless intellectual property – of use for both war and peace-time activity and production. But not only this, they have infiltrated the critical infrastructure that runs our country – electrical power, water, banking, commerce, transportation, and the main fiber-optic conduits that carry our internet – and left “backdoors” (so as to reenter these sectors of our infrastructure at will) and “logic bombs” (software programs) that will disrupt or destroy infrastructure on command.

It appears to me that few folks are aware of these things – at least my friends and acquaintances among believers – and, seeing as how such things could greatly impact our and our family’s lives, and the church communities as well, it really behooves us to be abreast of developments in the time in which we live.

Lest anyone think I’ve become paranoid or fringe in my thinking, no, that’s not the case! I’ve long been interested in computer and internet security, and have been reading a number of books on it. Nor are these “fringe” books, but authored by top-notch award-winning investigative journalists or former government officials whose jobs were at the top of intelligence oversight for national defense especially in the areas of cyber war and espionage.

But this is only one aspect of the books I’ve been reading. While in the military 50 years ago I was trained as an ABC monitor (Atomic, Biological, Chemical – now Nuclear, etc); granted these fields were very primitive then, but I retained an interest in them. Here are books in that vein:


Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World—Told from the Inside by the Man Who Ran It, by Ken Alibek (Russian name: Kanatjan Alibekov; 1999, Random House), second in command of the Soviet Union’s Biopreparat, the biological and chemical warfare research, development, and production industry, the massive program that produced enough biological and chemical agents – and had them on hand – to destroy all the Western countries as efficiently (or moreso) than our own nuclear capability could. This is another kind of “asymmetric warfare”, only the weapons made available to rogue nations or terrorist groups are biological and chemical. With the fall of the Soviet Union, great stockpiles of biological and chemical agents have “disappeared”, and many former Soviet scientists from this “industry”, now out of jobs, have been recruited into the service of those who want effective weapons against the superpowers that cannot be confronted directly. Iran has been one of the most aggressive recruiters.


Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad (Oct. 2001, Simon & Schuster). Picking up on the same theme as Alibek’s Biohazard, though with a wider lens, traces the use of biological (germ) warfare from the ancient past into 20th century America and the world. Aptly termed, “the poor man’s atom bomb”, biological warfare (BW) is a weapon-of-choice for small rogue states, terrorist groups, or even individuals who seek to damage or destroy larger, wealthier nations they could not confront head-on.

This book looks at more recent developments in the field since Alibek defected to the U.S. – much of it in Russia – using the new recombinant technology where lethal pathogens – pneumonic plague, Ebola, Marburg, smallpox, etc – can be genetically engineered to combine their effects (such as the Soviet’s splicing Ebola and smallpox together) and greatly increase their potency, contagion, and ability to become invincible to vaccines and antidotes. With the breakup of the Soviet Union thousands of scientists lost their jobs with the shutdown of the massive Biopreparat and other nations began recruitment efforts to retain them for their own countries’ BW efforts, Iran being among the most persistent recruiters.

The Soviets had been able to weaponize “peptides”, the short chains of amino acids that send signals to the central nervous system; these can wreak havoc with health and behavior, including killing, all without being detected. Similar developments – accidentally – have been reported in strictly medical environments, and noted in scientific journals (such as “myelin peptides” in the journal, Nature Immunology). In short, the new biotechnology has created weapons that exponentially surpass the virulence of nature, and this gives new meaning to the words plague and pestilence.


Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (Little, Brown and Co., 2011), by two-time Pulitzer winner, Dana Priest, and fellow Washington Post reporter, William Arkin.

I remember once telling someone here at PB that the views we hold and express here on the forum – even in the non-public areas – may well be monitored by intelligence agencies, and that was dismissed out-of-hand with the remark that there just aren’t enough personnel in the government to do that kind of work. I had posited that possibility due to the fact that Christians who seriously held to end-time views were considered by the Dept. of Homeland Security, along with returning war veterans, and constitutionalists (among others), to be possible candidates for terrorist classification, and all that that entails (surveillance, a dossier, etc). What with the new impetus for stricter gun control (we all know that the real aim of many is eventual eradication of private ownership) I would not be in the least surprised if our members-only “Firearms” forum was watched by authorities. After all, we are a disciplined and knowledgeable board, influencing many beyond our membership.

This is an interesting book, depicting as it does, what has happened in the American intelligence and military communities since 9/11, and the results of that for the United States of America. As noted above, in 1 Chronicles 12:32 it is written of the children of Issachar who joined David’s forces in the wilderness, they “were men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”.

For those in our day who wish to have understanding of the times this is an important entrée, and that for a number of reasons. First, it shows a great national vulnerability due to the disorganization of the intelligence communities, and consequently the military; second, it shows the degradation of American military and intelligence resulting from the love of money over loyalty to country which lures the brightest and most experienced of the top leaders in American military intelligence into the private corporate contractors who are then rehired by the U.S. at phenomenal sums of money – and this during our dangerous financial crisis; third, the money that is being spent to alleviate our government’s fear of terrorist attacks – and spent unwisely and wastefully at that – is wildly exacerbating the monetary crisis; and, lastly, America itself – the homeland – has become a battlefield, seeing as how terrorists are perceived as arising from within our midst, as (possibly newly-converted &) radicalized Muslims, disaffected war vets with military fighting skills, apocalyptic-type Christians who see antichrists among our leaders and enemies in our institutions, right-to-bear-arms advocates etc etc – as all these are also seen as potential agents of terror. The intelligence agencies – both U.S. military and private contractors hired by the military – that are scrutinizing and digitally recording (available instantly by computer) us have become a new dimension of the reality of our lives in the post-9/11 rise of the American security state. The state-of-the-art technology and analytic skill that located Osama bin Laden is focused on the heartland as well, and people can be detained for suspicion of terrorist leanings, as there are different criteria for assessing and apprehending terrorists or would-be terrorists than the legal criteria and restraints which apply to those engaged in normal criminal activity.


America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare (Penguin, 2011), by Joel Brenner, former inspector general of the National Security Agency, and then head of counterintelligence for the Director of National Intelligence. (More articles in the media by him. This is an especially good one: The Calm Before the Storm.)

This is a book about technology put to warfare use, written so non IT people can understand. Brenner first discusses the nature of electronic information and how, in the natural course of our lives in this digital age, so much of it is gathered and available online (Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, etc) in the cyber world. For the sake of convenience we allow and accept it. However, this is a rich field for criminals to harvest, and they do. He lists a number of immense exploits by cyber criminals reaping this information to access credit card accounts, bank accounts, and identity theft.

He then goes into the theft (mostly by the Chinese, though by the Russians, Iranians, and others as well) of vast amounts of technological research and development by the military and industrial sectors, whereby other nations are enabled to produce items which have cost billions of dollars in R&D for a fraction of the cost, way undercutting our prices in both our national and the international markets. It was disclosed by an Air Force general in 2006 that the Chinese stole – electronically – up to 20 terabytes of information from the Pentagon. And how malware-infested flash drives (from the Russians? Chinese?) made available to U.S. military personnel – through various means – compromised even the most supposedly secure top secret systems. Brenner cites documented instances of critical cyber theft from both American firms and from the government, and then states the common sense axiom, “if you can penetrate a network to steal information, you can also shut it down.”

For massive, economy-crippling and military-ordinance theft are not our only concern: attacks on the critical infrastructure – electricity, water, sewage, transportation, communications, finance, etc – are even more pressing! Recently a TV series came out, Revolution, where the world – the U.S. included – was subjected to some sort of (seemingly) cyber attack, and all the lights went out. No more electricity at all for 15 years! That might seem far-fetched to the viewers of this program, or those reading this. But in fact, as Brenner unerringly points out, it is precisely this that adversaries we have, whether they be intelligence units in nation-states, terrorist groups, or lone hackers, are zeroing in on: our critical infrastructure, and particularly the electric grid. If you can bring that down, the entire nation shuts down – is sent back into pre-electricity times.

We have had, on the East coast of America, a brief taste of no electricity lasting a few days to a week, as a result of Hurricane Sandy. No electric = no gas pumps, no heat, light, or refrigeration. Tall buildings with elevators, housing – among others – the elderly or disabled, many left stranded, at the mercy of . . . kind helpers? How would we fare with a much longer shutdown of our electric grid, say in a cold winter, or a hot summer? How would we survive?

The problem with making this drastic vulnerability secure is that the owner-operators of the various power-grid sectors of the U.S. – across the board – have vigorously resisted any sort of government regulation, even that pertaining to standardized security measures. It has proven too convenient to have the benefits of information technology in control of operational technology, and with the info tech completely open to the internet, without any adequate safeguards. In other words, a hacker can get into the power grids’ systems through the fairly unsecured control systems via the internet, for the commercial companies have refused to take the power grid and its controls off internet access, for the small conveniences it gains them. Thus, the ICS (industrial control systems) and the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems which monitor all the dispersed components of the electric grid can be accessed and disrupted.

Brenner relates how that in 2007 an experiment – a project code-named AURORA – endeavored to see if a massive electricity generator from the Alaska grid could be destroyed simply by hacking into its control systems with a computer. The hackers were indeed able to access it, and did blow it up. Yes, this generator had been taken off line – was not connected to the grid then – for the purpose of this experiment. This shocked the industry; but it didn’t produce any meaningful change. We have already discovered hackers who have gotten into the cyber-connected control systems of our power grids, and left malware hidden in them, purportedly to be activated when they chose; we suspect the Chinese in this.

I am no fan of President Obama, but he at least has shown strong concern for the securing of our electric and cyber networks; he wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, seeking to gain support for a bill in the senate mandating standards for security. It was turned down (by the Republicans) at the behest of strong lobbying by the commercial powers in the electric and cyber business world: Cybersecurity bill fails in the Senate - The Washington Post. We are vulnerable – because the big companies do not want to be regulated in any way – it’s a money thing. In China the government has the power – through “cooperation” of all commercial players involved – to take the country off the cyber grid in the event of a cyber attack by a hostile nation, namely us retaliating.

This could really happen to us. If not from the Chinese – who are adept strategists – there are many others who want us to go down. And like a fat duck in the water, we are a sitting target. At this point the nation is not governable so as to effectively fend off an attack. A cyber Pearl Harbor is what astute observers anticipate and fear.

Revolution, the TV show, has intuitively hit on a theme that’s quite possible. Of course, all the junk and phony drama in the show (though hundreds of millions of people died in those 15 years, especially those in the large cities) is just nonsense; yet, if it really happens it will be a terror for vast multitudes here. Do not think it can’t. You think we are favored as a nation by the Lord, and He will prevent such a thing? You have another think coming! Hurricane Sandy showed some on the East coast of our country what life without electricity (and hence without gas) would be like for a little while.

In a very interesting chapter (6), “Between War and Peace”, Brenner looks at the Gulf War in 1991, how that the coalition against Saddam Hussein, and the Americans in particular – who did the fighting – after the 38-day aerial bombing, faced 42 Iraqi divisions (around 650,000 men), backed largely by Chinese tanks, and overran the Iraqi forces in about 100 hours. 3,847 of the tanks, 1,450 armored vehicles, and 2,917 artillery pieces were destroyed. The Iraqi forces suffered 30,000 casualties and 80,000 prisoners; the U.S. forces only lost 184 people, but incurred the enormous cost of $61 billion (data from Chinese calculations).

The Chinese military strategists “were shocked. If the Americans could do that to the Iraqis, what would stop them from destroying the PLA? From the Chinese point of view, the Gulf War ‘changed the world.’ There would be no repeat of Chinese victories in 1950, when waves of Red Army troops swept across the Yalu River into Korea and forced Allied troops under General Douglas MacArthur into retreat. For decades to come, a head-to-head fight with the Americans would be suicide.

“So, like other militaries around the world, the PLA went to school on what the Americans had done and how they did it. And what they saw was a global electronic system of communications, command, control, and intelligence—C3I—that took their breath away. . . . Computerized command and control meant almost instantaneous information, and the Chinese war planners began to understand that control of information was, as they put it, ‘the new strategic high ground’ and the linchpin of the modern American way of war. . . . Who else but the Americans could spend $61 billion on a war halfway around the world with the world’s best armor and weapons supported by a network of satellites and far-flung ground stations? The Soviets had tried—and had gone bankrupt trying. . . . If you could not compete with the Americans economically, you could not fight with them either—at least, not on a grand scale.

“. . . So as the victorious Americans were preening over what they had done, the Chinese were drawing other conclusions. If the Americans could not be directly confronted militarily, at least for another twenty-five years, who said China’s challenge to the United States had to come as a direct military confrontation? There were other ways to weaken the beast. China would arise economically and assert itself diplomatically. It would become an innovator, not a copier (like the Japanese). And if China needed technology faster than it could invent it, China could steal it—electronically. As for the U.S. military, C3I might be its greatest strength, but the Chinese saw that C3I was fragile, so it was also the American military’s point of greatest vulnerability. Just as control of information had been the key to the American victory, paralyzing or corrupting information systems would be the key to preventing American victory. If the U.S. military could be made suddenly blind and deaf, it would be a useless instrument.” (p. 120, 121, 122)

“In 1988 . . . an obscure Chinese lecturer on information warfare announced at Beijing’s National Defense University that the battlefield of the future would be invisible. That battlefield would consist, he said, of ‘information space.’ ” The lecturer, Dr. Shen Weiguang – now considered the founding sage of Chinese information warfare theory – “insisted that the main factor in determining future victors would not be heavy armaments and massed armies, but information. And the objective in warfare would not be killing or occupying territory, but rather paralyzing the enemy’s military and financial computer networks and its telecommunications. How? By taking out the enemy’s power system. Control, not bloodshed, would be the goal. . .

“Tactics . . . [based on these objectives], he said, could have profound strategic implications if carried out carefully and systematically. They could ‘destroy the enemy’s political, economic, and military information infrastructures, and, perhaps, even the information infrastructure for all society.’ If China could do that, Shen said, it could achieve the greatest of all strategic military objectives: It could ‘destroy the enemy’s will to launch a war or wage a war.’ ” (p. 118)

The implementation of these tactics – in a hypothetical scenario – is the subject of chapter 7, “June 2017”, wherein a confrontation / stand-off between the Chinese navy and an American carrier group in the South China Sea leads to diplomatic conflict and then a cyber attack against the U.S. mainland, primarily against its power grid. I won’t tell you how the scenario ends, but it doesn’t go well for the U.S., which has to stand down, and suffer significant loss.

Brenner then launches into a discussion, and analyses of, a) various aspects of increasing transparency in this information age, both as regards information about individual persons and governments being readily available, b) the U.S. intelligence communities, their structure, modes of operation, and effectiveness, c) the opposition of the commerce and business sectors to securing our critical infrastructure, and d) suggestions for remedying these respective areas of weakness, ineffectiveness, and failure – lest we suffer terrible consequences. It’s a remarkable book!


Fortress America: On the Front Lines of Homeland Security—An Inside Look at the Coming Surveillance State, by Matthew Brzezinski (Bantam Books, 2004). Good research by an investigative reporter (NYTimes, Wall St. Journal). Another attempt to comprehend the repercussions of the failure to see 9/11 within the intelligence, political, and military communities – their reactions to the failure and efforts to prevent such from happening again. “Security risks were now [seen to be] everywhere, threatening the very foundations of an open society.” (p. 14) Some frightening looks at what can happen to ordinary citizens caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and having the wrong name. It makes one realize that the growing Homeland intelligence apparatus can be used against us if the government goes bad. Looking also at various possible routes of assault against the U.S., including germ warfare. Very insightful probing of the intelligence and high-tech sectors vis-à-vis both the thwarting of terrorists, and running afoul citizens.

Would we accept RFID chips – giving up privacy – to protect us against attacks? (p. 82)

Review of various emergency response measures being developed by government agencies to thwart, or if that fails, handle the aftermaths of NBC events.

“Vigilance requires hardened discipline that can be born only from an immediate sense of threat; without it, constant attention is difficult to maintain.” (p. 233)

America’s failure to perceive ongoing threat will result in lowered guard and an eventual successful new terrorist event. Brzezinski sees both the dangers of the “surveillance state” to its citizens, and the failure of it resulting in new attacks.

International opinion of the U.S. has plummeted dramatically, due to its wars in Iraq and elsewhere – and the conduct of its soldiers in these theatres, who are seen to represent the morality of U.S. citizens. (p. 240)


America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism, by Stephen Flynn (HarperCollins, 2004). Flynn is the Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was 20 years a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, served in the White House Military Office in George H.W. Bush’s administration, and was director for Global Issues on the National Security Council during the Clinton admin.

One can see Flynn was a policy advisor, for he thinks big picture and broad coordination of agencies. He notes that while America is projecting military, economic, and cultural power, there is a rising anti-Americanism in many quarters. And while we have a vastly superior and thoroughly overwhelming military capability (compared with other nations), what is called “asymmetric warfare” – smaller powers who can discern vulnerabilities that can be exploited to devastating effect, way out of proportion to their conventional military strength – is being developed as the primary attack strategy by hostile nations, terrorist organizations, and individuals. Cyber warfare is one of these “asymmetric” weapons, seeing as it may effectively be used to disrupt critical infrastructure and cause unimagined havoc through the country.

Flynn notes that containers – the generally 40-foot steel versions (although there are plenty of 20-footers) used to transport goods via ship (and then train, and then truck) from various international ports – are considered by many security experts as the perfect “poor man’s missile”, capable of being loaded with explosives combined with weapons of mass destruction – nuclear or chemical. It is very difficult to monitor the millions of these – in 2004 the two largest container ports in the world, Hong Kong and Singapore, together handle more than a million 40-foot ocean containers a month, with ships able to carry 3,000 of these at a time. And there are many, many more huge ports throughout the world. On an average day 18,000 containers are off-loaded at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach in California – and these are just two of many more ports nationwide. Then there are container trucks coming across from Canada. Inspecting and passing these through security is an almost impossible task, yet it must be done.

Some of the vulnerable targets in the U.S. containers can be used to attack are, energy pipelines, power generation and distribution systems, communications, financial sector, IT infrastructure, food and water supplies, public health systems, toxic chemical production, transportation and use (as chlorine in waste disposal plants). Many of these are directly connected to the international internet conduits and are vulnerable to being hacked and disrupted or entirely taken down.

We have built a society on foundations we did not foresee the need to keep secure – back when we built them. We did not realize everything would be interconnected via a vulnerable internet.

One response to this awareness of vulnerability is the rise of a national surveillance capability. We can see how the push for “security at any cost” can go terrible wrong, as when after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor 120,000 Japanese-American citizens and resident aliens were herded off to remote detention camps in the Rocky Mountains until January 1945. They had to leave their homes, jobs, everything. If there is some terrorist attack – whether from abroad or homegrown – by some ethnic or other identifiable group – what measures might be taken today? The surveillance networks have expanded exponentially since 9/11, and we are all on their grid.

There is the great danger – under the rubric of “security at any cost’ – of sacrificing the American ideals of liberty and justice for the sake of an imagined safety. It is also a given in the realities of today’s world, that terrorist acts will remain a fact of modern life. What kind of social realities will such things give rise to?

This book was written in 2004, yet is very current in terms of security issues and how they can affect our lives.


The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State, by Shane Harris (Penguin Press, 2010). Shane Harris “writes about electronic surveillance, intelligence, and counterterrorism for National Journal in Washington, D.C.” (from book). He recently had an Op Ed article in the NYTimes: Giving In to the Surveillance State, or Who’s Watching the N.S.A. Watchers? (see also here).

This fascinating study of the development of surveillance technology – and its current capabilities – in the U.S. government and its intelligence agencies is, in one regard, a study of the life of John Poindexter, as well a few of the other key players in the field, both political and technological. But Poindexter is central as he is the father of “total information awareness” (TIA) theory.

There is a fear of a “digital Pearl Harbor” as well as the WMD terrorist attacks in the government, and the Total Information Awareness program was developed to search out pertinent “digital footprints” – among everyone’s digital footprints – to prevent being taken by surprise again.

On the one hand, I think it better to give up a large amount of privacy – what have I to hide? – to be able to detect attacks; but on the other, I also see developments in the government that will eventually turn this Great Eye on those who will protest (and some will forcibly resist – by arms) such encroachment by government – it matters not whether Democrat or Republican – as to cancel American liberty and freedom as we know it. I foresee Christians especially being thus targeted, at some point in the future.

This book traces the development of the conceptualization of, and then the construction of, technology that will allow intelligence agencies to discern those “signals” in the vast ocean of data harvested in the digital sweep of all electronic systems that will betray the presence of and the plans of – terrorists plotting another attack. Though many have serious doubts the technologies will perform as desired – to thwart terrorists before they act. Perhaps the most important aspect of this search is for analytic tools to discern patterns in the signals such as will give the agencies not only real-time information, but before-it-happens information. There was a global cyber sweep and analyze program operating a year or two before 9/11 called Able Danger, that was zeroing in on al-Qaeda and bin Laden, actually seeing that a threat was forming from them, and already having ground in the U.S., but as the sweep caught U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens as well as foreigners – contrary to surveillance laws – the head of the program was forced to delete all data collected, or go to jail! Who knows what might have been prevented had Able Danger been allowed to continue?

This book also surveys – chronologically – the give and take of the gov’t intel agencies and the civil libertarians over the issues of privacy. It’s pretty current, noting the Foreign Intelligence Court of Review’s decision of Jan 2009 supporting the Protect America Act to require information from a major telecommunications company which had refused to comply with the broad electronic monitoring through its system on the grounds it would violate its customers’ privacy. “The judges ruled that the executive branch is exempt from the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirements in certain circumstances. If the surveillance involves national security and the collection of foreign intelligence, then the government need not name the specific places, or people, it wishes to monitor.” That would be, in effect, warrantless surveillance on a broad scale.

A very interesting book to see what gov’t capabilities are, and what is now allowable by law. Well written, and it reads almost like a novel.


And finally, a good recent NYTimes article on these things by current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: Panetta Warns of Dire Threat of Cyberattack on U.S.

-------

I’ve pretty much finished my reading project in this vein, yet I remain mindful of all these things. I do not mean to be an alarmist bringing them to light, but why would we not want to be aware of things that are going on, or may possibly go on?
 
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arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Reminds me of my favorite show, Person of Interest (which comes on tonight...), about surveillance systems.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Here is an item of interest from the NYTimes: Extreme weather world-wide. I am not saying this is a “sign of the end” or anything like that, but it is unusual; and a phenomena that bears watching. If it increases greatly, it may bear further consideration.

I gather that pondering the times we are in is not of such great interest as I thought it might be; I wonder why that is? A quote from one of the books noted above may afford a clue: "Vigilance requires hardened discipline that can be born only from an immediate sense of threat; without it, constant attention is difficult to maintain." (Fortress America [reviewed above in post #1] p. 233).

We in America live in such comfort (save for the homeless, ill, unemployed, and the poor working class – I should also include the elderly retired on barely-sustaining fixed incomes), we do not have “an immediate sense of threat” and so see little need for vigilance, despite Jesus saying, “Watch* therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt 24:42), and “Watch* and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt 26:41).

The word “watch” that Jesus charges us with also means “be vigilant” – and yet, strangely, we have no sense of threat, despite being in a terrific combat with the world, the flesh and the devil. Many of our brothers and sisters abroad know this too experientially for comfort. We here in the West are as though asleep. Wonder why that is? Can it be we are drowsy with the wine of Babylon? Hear her lullaby, “O ye saints, be at ease, all is well, ye are justified and secure in your Savior. Know ye not His word, ‘Peace, peace; sleep on now, and take your rest; My sheep shall never perish. Your warfare is already accomplished.’ ?”

Anyone know why the book of Revelation was written with such startling, horrific and often grotesque images? To wake up the saints who were asleep in the first and second centuries. The book was a shock to them. More on that shortly.

_______

* [SIZE=+1]grhgoreu,w[/SIZE] gregoreuo (from 1453 [SIZE=+1]evgei,rw[/SIZE]), to keep awake, i.e. watch (literal or figurative): — be vigilant, wake, (be) watch (-ful); attend to, be cautious, take heed lest danger prevails [Strong’s Greek 1127].
 

Christoffer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I gather that pondering the times we are in is not of such great interest as I thought it might be; I wonder why that is? A quote from one of the books noted above may afford a clue: "Vigilance requires hardened discipline that can be born only from an immediate sense of threat; without it, constant attention is difficult to maintain." (Fortress America [reviewed above in post #1] p. 233).

We in America live in such comfort (save for the homeless, ill, unemployed, and the poor working class – I should also include the elderly retired on barely-sustaining fixed incomes), we do not have “an immediate sense of threat” and so see little need for vigilance, despite Jesus saying, “Watch* therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt 24:42), and “Watch* and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt 26:41).

I didn't notice this thread until today. But I agree wholeheartedly. I think the west as a whole is in for huge trials. We are not used to wholly relying on God, since our material well being has sort of insulated us against many things.

I think God is about to teach us, through wicked government, to cling to Him alone. The more freedoms one has grown accustomed to, the greater the change will be. I think mentally, yes, we ought to prepare ourselves.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
To add one other thing: I see the American establishment, at least the upper tiers, as a Secular Erastianism. Even if anti-Christ is another figure, I would be surprised at an Anti-Christ(ian) manifestation and working from the National Cathedral in D.C.
 

Curt

Puritan Board Graduate
Steve, thanks for this post and list. I, too, was trained more than 50 years ago in an allied area (crypto-field) while in the Navy. I have retained an interest in such things and keep up with some of my old shipmates on some of these issues. This is a good reminder to be aware.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Jacob, speaking of the National Cathedral in D.C., here is an article in The Blaze on just that: HISTORIC WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL TO PERFORM GAY MARRIAGES. This exemplifies the antichrist spirit John talks about in his first two epistles, which was in the world even in his day. B.B. Warfield thought this was the only manifestation we were to see of "antichrist" – Kim Riddlebarger interacts with BBW in his book, The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the Antichrist, and irenically refutes this view – yet the value of Warfield's take is that if we focus only on the appearing of the very end time person antichrist we may miss, i.e., be oblivious to, the satanic flood of antichristian teaching and doctrine inundating the church in every age, and, need I say, particularly our own in this second decade of the 21st century.

The denial of the rampaging antichrist spirit in the churches today​ will allow the evil to proceed unchecked. The liberal churches are indeed bastions of the spirit of antichrist, yet we see it making headway even in our conservative and once sound Reformed churches.

How did Paul put it . . . "
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come" (2 Tim 3:1). They were perilous in Paul's stage of "the last days", and far moreso in ours, for in ours they shall be universal, as we approach the little season (Rev 20:3) when satan is loosed to deceive the world to take action against "the camp of the saints" (Rev 20:9).

But if I understand it aright, God will take action against Babylon before the devil's intended "final solution" against the saints
– and in this final battle to crush the testimony of the witnessing church, when all seems lost from a human point of view, the Lord with fiery indignation and devouring wrath shall appear to take vengeance for the wrongs done His beloved bride. And then the Judgment, and the two destinies . . .


This is the vision, the house, and Him whose life lights it
into eternity, past the resurrection of all bodies,
and the two destinies: the House of Light, and its counterfeit,
whose death-door leads to terror lake, dump of follies.

This is the vision, that one chooses one’s destination
according to the sight and the love given one’s heart:
to abide under Death-Spell, with this world’s decaying rations
one’s fleeting joy, or seek the light breaking in this art.

[from the poem, DECLARING THE VISION]​
 
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