This evening another fascinating talk in an excellent series of the 2016/17 Martyr Worthy lectures. This time the speaker (who was introduced by John Lang and Revd Rebecca Fardell) was John Andrews a senior contributing editor for the Economist.
An Arabist trained at Cambridge who has in his time interviewed many of the most powerful of the world’s leaders, John was able (in true Economist style) to give us an overview of a huge range of potential causes of disaster on the world scene under the heading of ‘The World in Conflict’, the title of his new book.
From the end of the Pax Americana due to the victory of President Trump, to the possible collapse of the EU precipitated by Brexit, to the rise of China with the risk of the world falling into the Thucydides Trap (by which a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war), the use of unpredictability by Kim in North Korea and Him in the White House, the chances of a mistaken judgment leading to a major conflagration seem to have increased massively.
Even if inter state conflict is ruled out, asymmetric warfare with cyber and propaganda attacks and little green men invading countries by stealth seems on the increase.
US oil fracking has now made it one of the largest oil producers in the world, meaning its dependence on Saudi oil was much reduced and this could massively shift the geopolitical situation in the Middle East.
The Arab Spring has been a disaster and almost all Middle East conflict could be put down to our own original intervention and ‘we should be careful what we wish for’ – the Afghanistan conflict grew out of US support for Mujaheddin fighting the Russians; Libya is a basket case and of course the Israel/Palestine conflict remains the ‘mother’ of all conflict in the Middle East.
‘Wars are’ John observed ‘part of the human condition’ and as Plato may have written ‘only the dead have seen the end of war’.
On the positive side, the likelihood of dying of terrorism are less than the risk of drowning in the bath and still the world’s destitute want to flock to the United States – it is seen as a major force for good in the world.
It was so fascinating to have a kaleidoscope picture of present world conflict and to see where it might go. Turning to God seems to me to be not only a rational but a likely choice in the circumstances – so I look forward to seeing vastly increased congregations across the Valley!
Thank you to the amazing ladies of Martyr Worthy (the committee members Joanna Lang, Liz Platt, Gilly Greenwood and Verity Coleman) and their husbands and friends who as ever produced an immensely professional, intelligent and enjoyable evening with some fantastic food and drink as well.
Thank you so much for all your hard work which makes such a difference to our parish!
Revd Alex Pease