Edwin Fesche

Former U.S. President, Richard Nixon, has written a book that gives us the fruits of his 35 years in public life. His experience with affairs at home and worldwide are impressive. This timely volume has been given an apt title, “The Real War.” To Nixon the world is already engaged in World War III; at least we are in the preliminaries. He writes, “There is no mystery about Soviet intentions. The Kremlin leaders do not want war, but they do want the world. And they are rapidly moving into a position to get what they want. Their basic behaviour is ‘Probe with baynets, if you encounter steel, withdraw. If you encounter mush, continue.’” Commenting on the intellectuals that see only the ideals of Communism, Nixon has this to say, “Nothing can defend a society from itself if its upper 100,000 men and women, both the decision makers and those who help to mold the thinking of the decision makers, are resolved to capitulate.” That sounds like there are some around that are thinking that it is better to be red than dead.

The writer tells of his interview with Dr. Edward Telfer (the father of the hydrogen bomb). The famed physicist was asked what he thought the U.S. would be like in the year 2000. His reply was that there would only be a 50 percent chance of survival. When asked whether he meant physical or a system of government he said, “Either or both.” Indeed many of the world leaders are just catching up with one phase of Bible prophecy. At least they are pessimistic, in their way, regarding the future and without any heaven to compensate. The great tribulation is yet to visit our planet that will exceed all former sorrows. The sovereignty of God will order its progress and limits, as the inspired Psalmist writes, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” The believer knows that behind the dim unknown there is a watchful and over-ruling God. He is not going to allow the world to self-destruct itself — the thing the modern scientist fears. Only God will then be purging the world by his judgments in order to usher in a glorious millennium.

To counter the Russians, so Nixon advises, is to keep up with them at their own game. This calls for frightful rearmaments. The reasoning is, “The less that a nation has regard for moral obligations the more it tends to respect physical strength.” Elsewhere the author says, “In order to be able to sit down with the Russians you must first be able to stand up to them.” The ex-President is not adverse to the use of covert actions. (His Watergate downfall). His argument for this is, “World leadership also requires something that is in many ways alien to the American cast of mind. It requires placing limits on idealism. At times matching duplicity with duplicity, and even with brutality. After a century and a half of holding the world at arms length, of declining to be contaminated by contact with its intrigues and its tyrannies, it requires marching into the field and playing the game of power diplomacy. It requires doing so even when the rules imposed on the game are rules that we would not have chosen.” Furthermore, we read, “Moralizing is always easier from behind the lines than it is at the battle front.” This is certainly not from the Bible but rather a little bit from Machiavelli’s, The Prince, an ancient tome of political doctrines which placed expediency above morality. Craft and deceit are countenanced in order to assert a ruler’s authority. The human heart has not changed; the Bible says it “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Surrounded by such a can of worms at home, and far worse abroad, it is hard to see where a really Christian conscience would prevail. The New Testament instructs how church officers are to behave, the ethics for husbands and wives, masters and servants in their Christian orbit, but no admonitions for a Christian ruler. The silence may suggest that such is not contemplated in a world that has cast out Christ. King David must have been referring to his experience whenever he attempted to clean up the political messes of his day. He likens the corrupters of government as “sons of Belial” and as thorns too sharp to be taken with hands. An illustration suggesting that the reformer may get hurt more than the workers of iniquity. They know how to stay beyond the reach of honesty (2 Samuel 23:6-7). World rulers may give scant attention to the account of man’s fall in the garden of Eden, yet they soon discover that human behavior is akin to that piece of human history that Paul endorsed in his day, “For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.”

This book does not fail to observe the significance of the Middle East. Its abrupt rise is occasioned by its vast oil reserves — the West’s jugular vein, as Nixon describes it. Those who interpret Bible prophecy literally see that the world’s interests are to again polarize around Jerusalem and the old Bible lands. Nixon rightly sees that the nation which gains a stranglehold on this area can, because of oil dependence, dictate its terms to the rest of the world. He writes, “Events in the Persian Gulf show dramatically how places that until recently seemed remote and exotic can suddenly present us with a crisis of surpassing urgency: how we can awake to find that a region once celebrated largely in romantic fantasy now holds the fate of the world in its hands — Or, more precisely in its sands.” God may be using oil to remove the world’s gravity centres to the locations where the greatest drama is yet to occur — the culmination of the times of the Gentiles. “The kings of the earth and of the whole world” are yet to be gathered for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” — namely Armageddon (Rev. 16:14-16). The tardy and unrealistic undertaking of the government’s approach to the energy crisis alarms Nixon. He adds, “Nothing is more natural than a depletion of one energy resource, its gradual rise in price, and its replacement by a new source. In our day, however, that transition has turned into a crisis.” The failure to find a substitute for oil will only tend to heighten the importance of the ancient Bible lands.

Reading the book can get one depressed. True, according to Nixon there is still time to turn the tide. The remedies necessary are massive armaments, a sound dollar and increased productivity. Knowing the decadence that has already beset the U.S. and the love of the good life in the democracies generally, one can hardly envision the sacrifices being undertaken, and that voluntarily. There is not much mention of God in this volume. The last chapter does quote from Napoleon’s words, “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” In this the author sees that the U.S. has an advantage over an atheistic adversary. However, Nixon does not get much comfort from the spirit. He laments that conquest from this source takes generations, even a millennium. Therefore, we read, “In that short run in which we all live, the sword is the essential shield of the spirit.” So, to quote from another world leader, was it Oliver Cromwell? “Trust in God but keep your powder dry.” We conclude by feeling that we have been reading, from a secular angle, the Bible’s prophetic picture of the end times. What Nixon is saying, based on his experience and foresight, the Scripture has been saying for two thousand years, “This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1) .