Easter – Passover Seder for Christians

A Christian version of the Jewish Seder supper that you can share with your family during the Holy Week of the Easter season. 

My wife Nancy is the finest woman I have ever known, and I rejoice daily that we have shared over 27 years of married life together. One thing about her and her family that I have always found so appealing is how they celebrate holidays. For Nancy, Christmas is not a day – it is a six-week party. Easter is the same way. We feast on Fat Tuesday, pray on Ash Wednesday, keep the Lenten season special, and celebrate the Holy Week, even though we are not Catholic. One important part of our festivities is a Christian version of a Seder Supper. The Seder is an important Jewish tradition, looking back at the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, and looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. As Christians and Messianic Jews understand that the Messiah has come, we celebrate Christ.

Jews might eat roast chicken for the Seder, since lamb was reserved for the Passover. Typically, our family eats lamb (or roast chicken) and unleavened bread. We have bitter herbs (horseradish), sweet charoset (apples, nuts, cinnamon), and grape juice. I am not sure where the following came from, else I would give credit. But I encourage all of our readers to celebrate the Seder, and celebrate the Savior who is the reason for it.

Celebrating PASSOVER: THE SEDER

 

The Candles

Leader (eldest male of the family)                                           

As we light these candles tonight, we pray that God will light our hearts with His Holy Spirit. We want to understand how God has redeemed His people.

The woman of the house (lighting the candles)

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You have your own. We light these festival lights in your Name.

 

The Four Cups of Wine

Leader

When we were slaves in Egypt, God heard our cries. He chose Moses to lead us out of Egypt. These are the four promises that God made to Moses.

Reader 1:  “I bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Reader 2:  “I will free you from being slaves.”

Reader 3:  “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”

Reader 4“I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.”

Leader                                                                                           

We remember these four promises at Passover by drinking from our cup four times. The first is called the Cup of Sanctification, the second, the Cup of the Plagues, the third, the Cup of Redemption, and the fourth, the Cup of Praise.

 

The Cup of Sanctification

Leader (pouring wine into each cup)

(If you elect to fill the cup each time, instruct the, family to drink only one sip when it is time to drink the cup. if you want to drain the cup each time, pour only a small amount into the cups each time you are to fill them.)

This is the Cup of Sanctification or setting apart as holy.

Reader 1:  “I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Family (lifting their cups)

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. (All drink.)

 

The Hand Washing

Leader

We wash our hands to remind us that God is holy. As we come before Him, we too must be holy. As it is written:

Reader 4

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” (Psalm 24:3,4)

Leader (lifting the basin of water)

Let us share together in this hand washing ceremony.

(Pass the bowl. Each person dips his hands and passes bowl to next person.)

Leader

Let us also remember how Yeshua (yeh‑SHOO‑ah, or Jesus) took off His clothes and wearing a towel, washed the feet of his disciples.   In doing this, he showed that he came as a humble servant. We know that this water cannot really make our hearts clean. The only way that our hearts can be made pure and holy is by Yeshua’s greatest act of servanthood, his death on the cross.

 

The Karpas (pronounced KAR‑pas)

Leader

We now remember the tears of our people when we were slaves in Egypt.  As it is written:

Reader 2

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.” (Exodus 2:23)

Leader (lifting the parsley)(Celery may be substituted for parsley)

Passover comes in the spring, when we see new life around us. The karpas, or parsley, reminds us that life is a gift to us from our great and mighty God. The karpas is also like the hyssop plant which our forefathers used to smear the blood of the lamb on the door frame.

(lifting the salt water)

When we were slaves in Egypt, life was not easy.  It was full of pain, suffering, and tears. This salt water stands for our tears.

Family (dipping their parsley in salt water)

Blessed are you, 0 Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth. (All eat karpas.)

 

The Breaking of the Middle Matzah

Leader (lifting the Unity, or the plate which holds the three matzot wrapped in napkins)

At Passover, three matzot are wrapped together. They are called the “Unity”.  Jewish teachers have many explanations for this.  We who know Yeshua look at the Unity and see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Leader takes the middle matzah out of the Unity, breaks it in two, replaces one half and wraps the other half in a linen cloth for the afikomen.)

I have taken the middle matzah and broken it in half. One half is wrapped and hidden. This is called the afikomen (pronounced ahfee‑KOH‑men), and it is an important part of the seder which comes after the meal. (hides the afikomen)

 

The Four Questions

Leader:  We now ask and answer the four questions. As it is written:

Reader 3

“When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them.” (Exodus 12:26)

A Young Child:  Why is this night different from all other nights?

1)      On all other nights, we eat leavened bread. On this night, why do we eat only matzah, or unleavened bread?

2)      On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables.  On this night, why do we eat only bitter herbs?

3)      On all other nights, we do not dip our vegetables even once.  On this night, why do we dip them twice?

4)      On all other nights, we eat our meals sitting.  On this night, why do we eat only reclining?

Leader

God has commanded us to answer these questions for our children. But we do so with thankful hearts, for the answers point to the great and mighty works of God.

Leader (lifting one matzah)

On all other nights we eat leavened bread, but on Passover we eat only matzah. This reminds us that when we fled from Egypt, we did not have time to let the bread rise Yeshua often compared yeast, which makes bread rise, with sin. He came to die and take away our sin.

Leader (lifting the maror, pronounced mah-ROAR)

On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on Passover we eat only maror, or bitter herbs. This reminds us of how bitter life was for us in Egypt. It also reminds us of life in slavery to sin.

Leader (lifting the charoseth, pronounced hah‑ROH‑seth)

On all other nights we do not dip our vegetables even once, but tonight we dip them twice. We have already dipped our parsley in salt water. Now we will dip our bitter herbs into sweet kharoset. This mixture reminds us of the mortar and bricks which we were forced to make as slaves in Egypt.

Leader

On all other nights we eat sitting up, but tonight we eat reclining. This is to remind us that now we are free from slavery. On the first Passover, we had to eat in a hurry, with our coats and sandals on, holding our staffs in our hands as we waited to be delivered from slavery. Now we may relax and enjoy this feast at our leisure.

 

The Story of Passover

Leader:  Now we tell the story of Passover.

Reader 1

Long ago, the Lord brought Abraham to the land of Canaan. God promised Abraham that this land would belong to his descendants. Abraham’s grandson Jacob left that land and moved with his family to Egypt to escape a famine. Jacob’s family grew, becoming our people, the Israelites.  Several hundred years passed and by this time, we had become a large nation.  The Pharaoh, or ruler of Egypt, feared that we would join Egypt’s enemies and fight against Egypt.  So Pharaoh decided to make us his slaves.  Even so, God blessed us with more and more children.

Reader 2

This made the Pharaoh even more nervous. He ordered his soldiers to throw every boy baby into the Nile River. One Israelite family hid their baby for three months. When they could hide him no longer, they put him in a basket and floated it out on the Nile River with his sister Miriam watching over him. The daughter of Pharaoh found the basket and decided to keep the baby and raise him as her own son. She named him Moses, which means “drawn from the water.”

Reader 3

Even though Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s court, he knew that he was an Israelite. He saw how we were mistreated by the Egyptians. One day, when he saw an Egyptian being cruel to an Israelite, Moses lost his temper and killed the Egyptian. He ran away from Egypt into a desert land where he worked as a shepherd.

Reader 4

The Lord heard our cries as we suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. He came to Moses in a burning bush and told Moses to go to Pharaoh. Moses was afraid, but he finally agreed that with the help of his brother, Aaron, he would go to Pharaoh and deliver God’s message to “Let my people go!”

 

The Cup of Plagues

Leader

Pharaoh did not want to let our people go. Every time Pharaoh said no to Moses, God sent a plague or disaster to Pharaoh and the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and kept saying no. The tenth time, God sent the most awful plague. This plague caused Pharaoh to change his mind.

Family

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn ‑ both men and animals ‑ and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt; I am the Lord.” (Exodus 12:12)

Leader

It was the Lord himself who passed over us and struck down the firstborn of the Egyptians. In this way he delivered us from slavery. As it is written: On that same night I will pass through Egypt.

Family:  I, and not an angel.

Leader:  and strike down every firstborn‑both men and animals

Family:  I, and not a seraph.

Leader:  and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt;

Family:  I, and not a messenger.

Leader:  I am the Lord.

Family:  I myself and none other. (Exodus 12:12)

Leader (filling the cups)

We fill our cups a second time to remember that many people died during the plagues especially the last one, in order that God’s people would be set free.  We also remember what it cost for us to be set free from sin and death – the lifeblood of Yeshua.  As it is written:

Reader 2:  “I will free you from being slaves.”

Leader

Each of the plagues focused on a being that the Egyptians worshipped. As we say each plague, we dip our finger into the cup and drip the liquid onto our plate. Think about how God showed himself much greater than all the false gods of Egypt.

Family (each plague is said loudly in unison while dipping a finger and letting a drop of wine fall onto the plate)

BLOOD! FROGS! GNATS! FLIES! CATTLE DISEASE! BOILS! HAIL! LOCUSTS! DARKNESS! DEATH OF THE FIRSTBORN! (Do not drink the cup yet.)

 

The Dayenu

(Pronounced die‑AY‑noo, meaning “it would have been sufficient”)

Leader

God has been so good to us! We do not deserve His great and numerous blessings. Any one of His acts of mercy would have been enough to show His love for us.

Reader 1

With lovingkindness He redeemed us from Egypt, bringing judgment on the Egyptians and their gods.

Family:  Dayenu.

Reader 2

With awesome power He divided the Red Sea, allowing us to pass over in safety

Family:  Dayenu.

Reader 3

With tender care He protected us in the wilderness, feeding us with manna and providing for our needs.

Family:  Dayenu.

Reader 4

With great goodness He gave us the Law on Mt. Sinai. With triumph He led us into the promised land of Israel.

Family (lifting their cups)

Dayenu! How many are your great blessings to us. For each act of goodness we are abundantly grateful. Most of all, we are thankful for Yeshua the Messiah. In Him we have forgiveness of sins and abundant and everlasting life. Hallelujah! (Drink the second cup of wine.)

 

The Passover Lamb

Leader (lifting the shankbone of the lamb) This shankbone of lamb reminds us of the lamb that each Israelite family killed on the night of the first Passover. God commanded that we take the blood of the lamb and put it on the top and the sides of the doorframe of their house. As it is written:

Reader 1

“Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs.” (Exodus 12:7)

Reader 2

“That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast.” (Exodus 12:8)

Reader 3

This is how you are to eat it; with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.  Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover (Exodus 12:11)

Reader 4

“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)

Leader

We who trust in Yeshua the Messiah believe that He is our Passover lamb. just as it was God Himself who redeemed the Israelites, so it is God Himself, in the person of Yeshua the Messiah, who redeemed us once and for all from sin and death. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Leader (lifting the roasted egg)

This roasted egg is a special Passover offering. It is a symbol of mourning, reminding us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is also a sign of new and eternal life. It is because of Yeshua, our Passover lamb, that we can have eternal life.

 

The Matzah

Leader (lifts the Unity)

Family

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Leader (takes the middle matzah from the unity, breaks it into olive size pieces, and distributes it to the family)

Let us now share the unleavened bread of Passover.

Family (holding the piece of matzah)

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You set us apart as your people and commanded us to eat unleavened bread. (All eat.)

 

The Maror

Leader (Pass horseradish. Each person scoops some onto a piece of matzah.)

Family (lifting matzah with bitter herbs)

Blessed are you, 0 Lord our God, King of the universe, who has set us apart by your Word and commanded us to eat bitter herbs. (All eat.)

Leader

The bitter herb reminds us of our persecution and suffering under the cruel hand of Pharaoh. just as the horseradish brings tears to our eyes now, so then did our great suffering bring tears to our eyes.

 

The Charoseth

Leader (Takes two pieces from the bottom matzoh and puts between them the charoseth, in a sandwich‑like fashion. Pass charoseth. Each person scoops charoseth onto a piece of matzoh)

Leader The charoseth reminds us of the mortar and clay bricks that we made as slaves in Egypt. (All eat.)

Leader

It was at this point in the Passover seder that Yeshua told His disciples that one of them would betray Him. When each asked, “Surely, not I?” Yeshua said that it was the one who dipped his bread into the bowl with Yeshua.

 

The Passover Supper

(Leader offers prayer of thanks for the meal. Supper is served and eaten)

 

The Eating of the Afikomen

(After the meal, the children hunt for the afikomen, the wrapped and hidden matzah from the Unity. The leader ransoms it back by paying money to the child who finds it.)

Leader (unwrapping the matzoh and showing the family)

We call this the afikomen, a Greek word. Jewish tradition has it that afikornen means dessert, but some scholars believe it comes from a root word which means “I have come.” Yeshua called Himself the bread of life. As it is written:

Reader 1

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.”‘

Reader 2

… I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”‘

Reader 3

“‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day”‘

Reader 4

“‘Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”‘ (John 6:35a, 51, 54, 58b)

Leader

The matzoh is a picture for us of Yeshua and what He did for us. Look at how the matzoh is striped. As it is written:

Family

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Leader:  Look at how the matzah is pierced. As it is written:

Family:  “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” (Zechariah 12:10b

Leader

See how the matzah is unleavened. Leaven stands for sin. Just as this bread is without leaven, Jesus was without sin.  As it is written:

Family:  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9, 1 Peter 2:22)

Leader

The middle matzah from the Unity was broken, just as Yeshua, the Messiah was broken with suffering and death.  We wrapped it in a white cloth, just as Yeshua’s body was wrapped in linen cloth for burial. Just as the afikomen was hidden, so Yeshua’s body was hidden for a short time in the grave. Just as the afikomen was brought out of hiding, so Yeshua arose from the grave.

Leader (lifting the afikomen)

Family:  Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Leader (breaking the afikomen and distributing it to all)

It was then that Yeshua added, “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Let us now eat matzah, remembering the broken body of the Lamb of God who takes awa

Leader (filling the cups)

Now we fill our cups a third time. (lifting the cup) This is the cup of redemption. It stands for the blood of the Passover lamb. As it is written:

Reader 3:  “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”

Leader

It was this cup, the cup of redemption, that Yeshua took after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20).  Just as the blood of the Passover lamb provided salvation for us in Egypt, so Yeshua’s blood provides eternal salvation to all who believe.

Family (lifting their cups)

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Let us drink with thankful hearts, remembering the Messiah’s sacrifice for us.

 

The Prophet Elijah

Leader (lifting the extra cup from Elijah’s place)

This cup is for Elijah the Prophet. In Jewish tradition, one of the children opens the door to see if Elijah will come to the sederAs it is written:

Family

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” (Malachi 4:5)

Leader

We who believe in Yeshua believe that Elijah has already come.  Yeshua spoke of John the Baptist as the Elijah who was to come, and it was John who said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  We set this place for Elijah to recognize that he has come in the person of John the Baptist.

 

The Cup of Praise

Leader (filling the cups)

Now we fill our cups for the fourth and final time. This is the cup of praise. We praise Him especially because of His promise to us:

Reader 4:  I will take you as my people and I will be your God.” (Exodus 6:7)

Leader (lifting the cup)

With the cup of praise, we give thanks to God in the words of a psalm, just as Yeshua did with his disciples. After each phrase of thanksgiving, the family will join in saying, “His love endures forever.”

Leader: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: Give thanks to the God of gods.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: Give thanks to the Lord of lords.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: To Him who alone does great wonders.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: To Him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader:  And brought Israel out from among them.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: To the One who remembered us in our low estate.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: And freed us from our enemies.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: and who gives food to every creature.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader: Give thanks to the God of heaven.

Family: His love endures forever.

Leader:  Lifting our cups, let us bless the name of the Lord together.

Family (lifting their cups)

Blessed are you, 0 Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. (All drink.)

Leader

The prescribed order of the Passover service is now complete. May we remember throughout the year that our redemption is complete by the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua the Messiah.

Family:  Next year in the New Jerusalem!

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US Foreign Policy and Donald Trump

Pundits, politicians, progressives, and prophets panic over Donald Trump’s “failures” in his foreign policy. They may want to reconsider

“Disaster!” media outlets howl when they discuss American foreign policy in the first year of the Presidency of Donald Trump. Some commentators bemoan the withdrawal and even decline of US power, while others rejoice to see the return of a multipolar, rather than a unipolar (US “hyperpower”) or bipolar (US and USSR, or perhaps China, as superpowers) world. Recently the Economist, a British news magazine, announced that Trump has made America and the world less safe.

Whatever one thinks of President Donald Trump, he or she must consider these breathless pronouncements in terms of history and geopolitical reality, not just in terms of modern events. In a speech to the House of Commons (1 March 1848), Viscount Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) said “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”[1] He was right, and the permanent interests of nations are a surer guide to success on the international stage than the vagaries of the news cycle and the panic of political pundits.

Russia and Turkey

Current events – Several articles last fall criticized Trump for driving Turkey into the arms of Russia, thus threatening NATO and by extension the security of the West.[2]

Historical reality – Turkey and Russia have been at each other’s throats for at least 500 years. The fall of Byzantium in 1453 opened up the Balkans to Ottoman armies, and Sultan Suleiman the Lawgiver capitalized on the victory, conquering Hungary in 1526 and even threatening Poland. Until the Ottoman defeat in 1918, the Turks occupied or at least threatened southeastern Europe, the Ukraine, and Southern Russia. From Romania to Crimea to Armenia, Russians and Turks spilled oceans of blood and mountains of gold.

Geopolitical reality – Russian Black Sea fleets are bottled up by Turkish control of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli Straits to the east and west of the Sea of Marmara, and Russia wants the surrounding land. For centuries, Russia has sought a warm water port with access to international sea lanes close to its European economic center. St Petersburg is no good – the Baltic Sea freezes over in the winter and Russian fleets can be halted at the Danish straits of Kattegat and Skagerrak. Vladivostok, on the border with China and North Korea, is too vulnerable and too far away. Further, Russia has historically positioned itself as the protector of Eastern Orthodoxy, the largest sect of Christianity in the Balkans, since the fall of Constantinople and southeastern Europe to the Muslim Turks.

Conclusion – Russia and Turkey are about as likely to become permanent allies as Roy Moore is to marry Hillary Clinton. If Turkey leaves NATO, it will not be because of Trump, but because of Islam.

Israel and the Palestinians

Current events – Trump announced that the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in defiance of the United Nations and most of world opinion. The US State Department has begun to comply, and the Palestinians have rioted.

Historical reality – The label of “Palestinian people” is a construct of the mid to late 20th century. From the Arab Muslim conquest of Palestine in 636 AD, the area has been part of the Umayyad Empire, Abbasid Empire, Fatamid Empire, Crusader State, Ottoman Empire, and British Empire. Only once Israel became independent in 1948 did the Palestinian people become a major political force and the Palestinian state a major political goal. This would seem to bode well for peace efforts, but it has not. Israel and its neighbors are no closer to a permanent peace now than they were 70 years ago.

Geopolitical reality – The desires of Israel and the Palestinians are mutually exclusive and in the current political framework, irreconcilable. Both want all of the historical city of Jerusalem, both want the Temple Mount and the buildings there (including the Dome of the Rock), and both want the best, most arable land. Both sides also want the finest ports for access to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel has built a wall (three-layer, concrete, barbed wire, 10-25 ft high) along its entire West Bank border (708 km), which it claims is for security and the Palestinians argue is a land grab. The 1988 Charter for Hamas, a major Palestinian political movement, called for the destruction of Israel,[3] although a recent manifesto may have partially mitigated that demand.[4]

Conclusion – If Trump’s moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem did nothing else, it changed the political calculus in the region and may have opened up new possibilities for peace.  The move is risky, but tolerating the status quo may be riskier.

North Korea

Current events – Donald Trump has been bellicose and unpredictable in his approach to North Korea and their nuclear arsenal, and he has faced withering criticism as a result. Major media outlets are predicting that nuclear war will result, or at least become more likely.[5]

Historical reality – Expecting Kim Jung Un (1984-) to be rational in 2018 is like expecting Adolph Hitler to be rational in 1938. The same was true for his father, Kim Jung il (1941-2011), and his grandfather, the founder of the North Korean personality cult and dynasty, Kim il Sung (1912-1994). They play by their own rules, but that only works if others are predictable, if North Korea’s adversaries play by well known international rules. This was true during the invasion of South Korea (25 June 1950), and has been true during the negotiations and border provocations for almost 70 years. Leaders from America, Europe, China, and throughout the world have obliged North Korea, until now.

Geopolitical reality – North Korea is bankrupt and starving, while South Korea is thriving. The North no longer has the muscle to challenge the South with conventional military forces – their only trick is a nuclear one. But with the capital and most populous city in South Korea, Seoul, only 30 miles south of North Korean forces on the DMZ, a nuclear attack would be devastating.

Conclusion – North Korea may implode in flame and ash, but such an end may signal catastrophe for its neighbors. More likely, the state will linger for decades and gradually decline. Trump’s high stakes game is risky, but by taking away America’s predictability, it has already borne fruit. North and South Korea have started talking again, and will march together under a unified flag in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam

Current events – Pakistan has been an unsteady US partner, the word “ally” is far too strong, since the Afghan war began in 2001. Pakistan has alternately fought and supported the Taliban and other Muslim extremists. As a result, America has suspended military aid. Pakistan has turned to Russia and China,[6] and the press has accused Trump of another foreign policy disaster.

Historical reality – Since their split in 1947, Pakistan and India have been at each other’s throats, and China has been a close ally of Pakistan. Why not, as India and China have fought over their shared border for half a century? China has also fought Vietnam for millennia, most recently in 1979, and Vietnam is a close ally of India.

Geopolitical reality – India and Japan are the only nations that can challenge China as regional powers in Asia. Combining their economic, demographic, technological, and military strength, India and Japan, together with Vietnam, can isolate the Chinese dragon. China, India, and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.

The Strait of Malacca is a 550-mile long strategic waterway (1.5 miles wide at its narrowest and 82 feet deep at its shallowest) between Malay peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is the busiest shipping lane in the world, transporting 25% of the world’s cargo, including oil. Closing down the Strait would cripple China and Japan, since the detour around it is thousands of miles. India could close the western end, and Vietnam the eastern end, with existing forces. China’s reply is twofold –

  1. Build a superhighway, a new Silk Road, from eastern Chinese centers of industry across western China, into central Asia, to the Middle East, and beyond.[7] Important branches will travel south into Pakistan, which is well west of the Straits of Malacca, but the road will bypass India. Such a road will allow China to position forces to threaten India’s western regions, and minimize the danger to China if the Straits of Malacca are closed.
  2. Occupy and fortify the “South China Sea”, bringing their own air and naval forces closer to the critical strait and threatening Vietnam.

Conclusion – China and Pakistan are friends for their own historical and geopolitical reasons, and will be for the foreseeable future, regardless of US presidents or policies. India and Vietnam are the same. As each of these powers begins to flex its muscles, the world is seeing the largest rebirth of Great Power politics since before World War 1.  Trump can ride the wave, but he cannot make the wave.

Europe and NATO

Current events – Trump’s consistent criticism of the NATO has earned him opprobrium from both sides of the political aisle.[8] When he called the alliance “outdated” and implied that he would scrap it, pundits swooned.

Historical reality – Europeans once dominated the world with their products, fleets, and armies. But today these descendants of the conqueror Charlemagne not only cannot rule others, most cannot defend themselves. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) emerged from the ashes of World War 2. It was effective in defending a prostrate Europe from the Soviet Union, but seemed to lose relevance at the end of the Cold War. Behind the shield of hundreds of thousands American troops, and shaded by the US nuclear umbrella, postwar Europe traded regional security for domestic programs. Britain lost its empire but gained the National Health Service, and Germany lost its self-defense but gained a short work week, long vacation, and generous unemployment benefits. Currently, only five of NATO’s 28 countries spend the agreed-upon 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on military expenditures.[9] Germany spends only 1.19%, and as a result they now have an air force with planes that cannot fly[10] and a navy with ships that cannot sail.[11],[12]

Geopolitical reality – While much of Europe has been in a sweet sleep for almost 30 years, Europe’s challengers have been wide awake. The most obvious threat, Russia, has abandoned even the pretense of democracy, invaded South Ossetia (2008), the Crimea (2014), and the Ukraine (2014 to present). The Baltic states fear they may be next. To the southeast, Turkey under Reycip Erdogan has grown more Islamic, more powerful, and more aggressive.[13] India and China rattle economic, diplomatic, and military sabers at each other, and to the world. These realities, along with Trump’s suggestion that Europe could no longer rely on American protection, have begun to rouse these children of Charlemagne from their stuporous slumber.

Conclusion – Forces larger than Trump, or even America, are at work. We can only hope that these once-great nations can find the political will to become forces for peace and stability on the world stage. Trump’s challenges probably help, not hurt, the situation.

Africa

Current events – Calling something or someone a “shithole” is not likely to endear them to you, or your country. President Trump endured withering criticism after allegedly using that word to describe several African nations during a recent meeting about immigration.

Historical reality – The US military has been heavily involved in Africa since the wars against the Barbary pirates (1801-1815). Our military and diplomatic involvement skyrocketed during the Cold War, and have not slackened. America was pivotal during the decolonization of Africa, often opposing our own friends (like Britain and France) who wanted to hold on to pieces of their empires. The US has been the largest benefactor of Africa, through the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, foreign direct investment, and many other venues. The US government and other groups have bases, laboratories, and scores of other facilities in Africa, along with thousands of people working alongside Africans. While China has recently increased its dealings with Africa, it cannot touch America’s record over the decades.

Geopolitical reality – Many parts of Africa are rapidly developing, but the continent still has far to go. Meanwhile, it faces deadly threats in the form of Islamic terror groups (Al Shabaab – Somalia, Boko Haram – Nigeria, Ansar al Sharia – Libya), ISIS, al-Qaeda, and many others. Tribal conflicts in South Sudan, Rwanda, and elsewhere, including groups that claim to be Christian, and disease epidemics like Ebola, continue to flare. Africa needs a lot of help to catch up with the rest of the world, and is not likely to jettison old friends over idle words.

Conclusion – Trump probably used that phrase, or something like it, but judging from the media reports the outrage seems far greater in Chicago than in Cairo, or in London than in Lagos. It was probably an honest blunder, and an opinion shared by millions of Americans, Europeans, Indians, Chinese, and others too polite to say it. The incident is not likely to have any lasting effect, bad or good, on anyone except people who hated him anyway.

Conclusion

Liberals and America-haters have begun to achieve what they say they have always wanted; the decline of American hegemony and the rise of a multipolar world. No world system is perfect, but multipolarity didn’t work well in 1618, 1812, 1914, 1939, or at any other time in history. Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, and Pax Americana will start looking a lot better in the decades to come, at least for those willing to see.

Politicians, pundits, and progressives differ on how they feel about Donald Trump and the new American foreign policy. Detractors say that his relationship with the rest of the world has been an unmitigated disaster. This is both unfair and untrue. Trump’s foreign policy is certainly unorthodox, but it does not suggest a deranged or deluded mind. The President’s bravado, pugnaciousness, and unpredictability may be his greatest strengths on the international scene. Trump is playing a high stakes game, and it just might work. Time will tell.

[1] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Henry_Temple,_3rd_Viscount_Palmerston, accessed 30 Jan 2018

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/12/world/europe/turkey-russia-missile-deal.html, accessed 29 Jan 2018

[3] http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/pdf/PDF_06_032_2.pdf, accessed 31 Jan 2018

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/jan/12/israel, accessed 31 Jan 2018

[5] http://www.businessinsider.com/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-miscalculation-preemptive-strike-trump-2018-1, accessed 30 Jan 2018

[6] https://timesofislamabad.com/30-Jan-2018/pakistan-s-recalibration-of-foreign-policy-towards-russia-china, accessed 30 Jan 2018

[7] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/why-china-is-building-a-new-silk-road/, accessed 30 Jan 2018

[8] https://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/trump-nato-new-york-times-225942, accessed 31 Jan 2018

[9] http://www.businessinsider.com/nato-share-breakdown-country-2017-2, accessed 31 Jan 2018

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/11057330/German-fighter-jets-unable-to-fly-and-mechanics-forced-to-borrow-spare-parts-claims-magazine.html, accessed 31 Jan 2018

[11] https://www.wsj.com/articles/german-engineering-yields-new-warship-that-isnt-fit-for-sea-1515753000, accessed 31 Jan 2018

[12] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/02/german-navy-experiences-lcs-affect-in-spades-as-new-frigate-fails-sea-trials/, accessed 7 Feb 2018

[13] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rahimkanani/2014/03/05/the-rise-of-turkey-the-twenty-first-centurys-first-muslim-power/#288105856507, accessed 31 Jan 2018