Monday, September 16, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Monday, September 16, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Drone Strike in Saudi Arabia: Remember, The World is a Dangerous Place
The biggest news over the weekend had to do with a drone attack upon an oil refinery and associated facility in Saudi Arabia. It is tempting for Americans sitting where we sit, driving how we drive, and frankly considering ourselves rather protected by two vast oceans to underestimate the importance of a story like this. It is taking place a long way away, but that doesn't mean that the issues will stay away. The headlines on this issue came out as fast and furiously, especially yesterday, with the news coming that Houthi rebels within Yemen had claimed responsibility for this attack upon Saudi Arabia's most important refinery facility. It was estimated that at least 10 drones were used in the attack.
If the Houthi rebels are indeed responsible for this, this'll be a significant escalation, not only of the military tensions, but also of what apparently is the technological ability of those rebels in Yemen. The bitter civil war in Yemen grinds on year after year. Saudi Arabia became involved largely because Iran was involved on the side of the Houthi rebels. The attempt by Saudi Arabia to block Iran's interests and expansionism within the entire Middle East is a pattern of longstanding, and they do so with the joint interests of both Israel and the United States of America.
Furthermore, you could say Saudi Arabia has at least quiet allies in virtually all of Europe. The entire world remains dependent upon fossil fuels in general and oil in particular, and the estimate came yesterday that the attack upon this single Saudi Arabian site had led to the disruption of 5.7 million barrels of oil a day — 5.7 million barrels of oil a day. That's a lot of oil, and it amounts to at least 5% of the total global capacity.
A team of reporters for the New York times told us yesterday, "Drone attacks claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia on Saturday, damaging facilities that process the vast majority of the country's crude output and raising the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies."
Now, here's an interesting worldview angle in response to this story. Many in the international media began immediately to speculate about the impact on oil prices and throughout the stock markets and other financial exchanges when they open on Monday morning. The first response of many people, the first instinct was to think in terms of money, of finance, of what this will mean for the markets. This will mean in almost any case, an increase in crude oil prices. That's important because behind that is eventually the price that is paid by Americans and others for gasoline and other forms of oil based energy. But it's also clear that we're talking about 5%. Does that mean that the prices will go up 5%? No, it's a much more variable than that. For one thing, Saudi Arabia has an immediate national interest in trying to get as much of that oil back into production and back into circulation, well, as quickly as possible. That's because if they do not, some other source from somewhere else in the world is likely to fill that gap.
But looking at the deeper implications of what's going on here, we need to note that there are a couple of issues that have very significant worldview implication. One of them is that if we could look at a map of the world in intensity of conflict, it would be hard to exceed the intensity of conflict going on right now in Yemen and expanded out with ramifications throughout the entire Middle East, and beyond the Middle East, virtually around the globe. To put the matter simply, ten drones it is claimed now did this much damage to a facility that deep in Saudi Arabia, and it reveals the fact that the world is incredibly dependent upon oil capacity, and it's not just because of energy. It's because energy is at the base of the entire economy, so a minor disruption in world oil supply can lead to vast economic effects in areas that might at least at first seem to have nothing to do with energy at all.
So just about everyone can leap from a jump in oil prices to an increased cost for a gallon of gasoline, but you also have to factor in that it's gasoline or some other form of oil that basically explains how the ships carrying anything get across the sea, how the trucks and trains get it across the country, how it arrives in your store, and thus a bicycle or cucumbers or a pair of pants will also likely be more expensive if indeed this damage and disruption is what it is claimed to be.
But at a deeper level, we also have to understand that there is a huge vulnerability that is made clear here. The most apparent vulnerability? The air defenses of Saudi Arabia. Now, Saudi Arabia is the richest of the incredibly rich petro-states as they are known in the Middle East. Most of Saudi Arabia is desert, the vast Arabian desert. When the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of the monarchy, the House of Saud was put in place, most people thought that all the kingdom represented was a vast kingdom of sand, but as it turns out, there are vast reservoirs of oil under that sand. Especially over the last 50 to 60 years, that has funded the massive wealth, unprecedented wealth of Saudi Arabia, especially the royal family and those close to that family.
So what that means is that if any country could have and should have afforded the very finest when it comes to air defense systems, that would have been Saudi Arabia. Just remember the fact that President Trump, for example, was explaining just months ago that Saudi Arabia is a billion dollar customer when it comes to American military supplies. At the top of that list is frontline American military technology. How was it, if it's claimed you could have ten drones strike this far, 500 miles into Saudi Arabia, and so spectacularly successfully without being detected? How could that have happened? This gets to a basic truth about human nature, but it also points to the inherent limitations of human wisdom. Nobody stopped this. Presumably, this means that all that high technology didn't stop it. It means that these rebels, perhaps with the backing of Iran as the Trump Administration indicated yesterday, have actually developed technology that means they are far more lethal and thus far more dangerous than had been imagined.
What about the use of this new drone technology? Does it mean that these airborne vehicles were so small that they did not show up on Saudi Arabia's vastly sophisticated air defense system? And Americans should be asking the immediate and obvious question; if this attack could be carried out successfully 500 miles within Saudi Arabia, what does that mean for the national security and the air defenses of the United States of America?
But going back to 9/11, and after all, we have just seen the 18th anniversary of the 9/11, 2001 attacks upon the United States, this reminds us of the fact that we are not able comprehensively to imagine all the threats against us. That was the main problem in the defenses of the United States in 2001. No one had really considered that low tech weapons like razor box cutters could be used to turn passenger airlines into massive bombs flying through the air into buildings.
There's another issue we have to quickly address and that is who is actually behind this attack. As the story unfolded, the Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, and they have plenty of ambitions since Saudi Arabia has intervened in the Yemen civil war and against those rebels, and it has turned into a human atrocity. So that's plausible except for the fact that it doesn't seem plausible that the Houthi rebels on their own could have developed this kind of technology. And who is aligned with the Houthi rebels? That would be Iran, Iran locked into an intractable conflict with the United States of America over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Just to be honest, most Americans aren't giving much attention to this story. It appears far away, and since there are reassurances largely for the comfort of the financial markets that the flow of oil will be quickly restored, most Americans are ready to get on with business. But this headline news story reminds us that we are not as invulnerable as we think in this country. If it can happen in Saudi Arabia, perhaps even using our own defense technology, why could it not happen here?
But then most Americans also fail to understand that this does bring us considerably closer to the risk of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and even potentially between the United States of America and Iran. But that raises another issue that we often don't think about, and that is the fact that sometimes we see an event. It appears to be isolated and of minor significance, but it turns out to have been the fuse that set off a massive explosion. Just consider the fact that if you go back to the year 1914, it was the assassination of an Austrian Archduke in Sarajevo that set off the course of events that within weeks led to World War I; an entire world war that might not otherwise have happened that did happen because of one shooting in Sarajevo.
Generation 9/11: The Cold War Generation Gives Way to Generation War on Terror
But then speaking of memory and morality, next we go back to last week's commemoration of the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States of America — terror attacks beyond the imagination of most Americans and others around the world that led to the deadliest single day of any American terror attack in the nation's history. But over the past weekend in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Garrett M. Graff wrote about the fact that what he calls the 9/11 generation has now come of age. Just think about this: The vast majority of the freshmen, the first year students that showed up this fall in American colleges and universities have no living memory. They are actually not even close to having a living memory. Many of them were not yet born when the September 11, 2001 attacks happened. 9/11 is for them simply a symbol. And it's not just those aged 18. You could also go up as far as age 24 or 25 to find young Americans who really don't have much of an operational memory about 9/11.
They have very little sense of how the world has changed. They have very little understanding of why there are all those barriers outside public buildings, of why so many of those buildings are now being built set back, why there are so many barriers between the public and so many supposedly public facilities, why it is now so difficult and there are such long lines for security at almost any event, and most crucially when trying to get on an airplane. They probably don't understand why, in the very rare event that you are served a meal on an American airline, you are offered plastic cutlery rather than metal. In that essay in The Wall Street Journal, Graff writes, "This week's 18th anniversary can be seen as both the legal coming of age of the cohort born in the wake of Al-Qaeda's assault and the generational passing of the torch from the children of the Cold War to the children of the War on Terror."
That's actually a very keen point of historical analysis: the children of the Cold War succeeded by the children of the War on Terror, such different Wars. In the Cold War, you had a face-off between two superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, and then you had the associated Blocs, spelled B-L-O-C-S. That is a block of nations, allied. So you had NATO in defense of liberty with United States, and you had the Warsaw Pact allied with the Soviet Union, one committed to a communist ideology, the other committed to democratic norms of liberty. But the Cold War came fast on the heels of World War II. The Cold War was called a cold war because it did not lead to a global war, as did World War II, but it was still deadly. The issues were also very clear. The ideological issues became recognizable even on a map or on a globe.
You had in World War II, the Axis powers against the Allied powers, and then in the Cold War you had the powers associated with the Soviet Union versus the powers associated with the United States of America. But the War on Terror is very different. Military specialists now use the word "asymmetrical" to refer to the War on Terror. That refers to the fact that that bipolar nature of the earlier conflicts was indeed symmetrical, but it's now asymmetrical. It's not just two powers facing off with their allies, you're looking at a very much more confused picture. But something we do have to recognize is that the morality of war is a constant. The morality of military conflict is a constant, regardless of whether the war is declared to be hot or cold, or for that matter, symmetrical or asymmetrical. The reality is that war is deadly, but in the real world we face real threats and nations such as the United States of America, or as we've just seen, Saudi Arabia, if they do not defend themselves, they do not long exist. Just like the world of nature, the human world is filled with predators, and they are looking for prey.
Graff points to another very interesting development, and that is the fact that now 18 years after the attacks, "The first candidates born after those attacks began applying to join the ranks of the New York City Fire Department, still haunted by the loss of 343 of its members on that day."
And then the haunting recognition, "Similarly, military recruits born after 9/11 are now being deployed to the wars that the attacks sparked as well as to Guantanamo Bay, where they will guard Al-Qaeda prisoners captured before the young soldiers were born."
But as we're thinking about this shift to asymmetrical warfare with multiple enemies operating outside, in general terms, the confines of the nation state, we also have to recognize that there is no realistically anticipated clean end to this current conflict. Only the Christian doctrine of sin can explain how something this awful can go on so long, and how even this generation identified as the 9/11 generation may not, probably will not be the last to be engaged in the very same battle in the very long war.
The Horrifying Nature of the War on the Unborn: The Remains of At Least 2,246 Aborted Babies Found at the Home of Infamous Indiana Abortion Doctor
But next, we shift to understand that it's not only war that's deadly, so is the war on the unborn, and there have been several extremely distressing headlines just over the last couple of days. Late on Saturday, it was reported that more than 2,000 fetal remains had been found at the home of a former Indiana abortion doctor. The doctor's name was Ulrich Klopfer, and it is believed that he performed more abortions than anyone else in the history of the state of Indiana. The Associated Press reported Saturday, "More than 2,000 medically preserved fetal remains had been found at the Illinois home of a former Indiana abortion doctor who died last week. The Will County Sheriff's office said in a news release late Friday that an attorney for Dr. Ulrich Klopfer's family contacted the coroner's office about possible fetal remains being found at the home in Northeast Illinois."
This is from the report in the Guardian of London. That also tells you something, by the way. This made headline news in London. I continue, "The Sheriff's office said authorities found 2,246 preserved fetal remains, but saw no evidence that medical procedures were performed at the home." It's hard to imagine what could possibly explain this other than the fact that this was not only an abortion doctor who willingly killed the unborn, but it was also someone who had some kind of macabre fascination with those babies that he had aborted. You'll also note the fact that this is an absolutely specific number of fetal remains. 2,246, not one more, not one less.
We're also told that Dr. Klopfer died on the 3rd of September. He had worked at an abortion clinic in South Bend, Indiana. It closed, we are told, after the state revoked the clinics license in 2015. The Associated Press also reported that the Indiana State Health Department had previously issued complaints against the clinic accusing it of, for example, lacking a registry of patients, policies regarding medical abortion, and "a governing body to determine policies." The Associated Press identified Dr. Klopfer as "Indiana's most prolific abortion doctor with thousands of procedures performed in multiple Indiana counties over several decades." We are also told that the doctor's medical license had been suspended by Indiana's medical licensing board in November 2016, after that professional panel found a number of violations, including, we are told, a failure to ensure that qualified staff were present when patients received or recovered from medications given before and during abortion procedures.
I quote the next sentence specifically. "Klopfer was no longer practicing by that time, but he told the panel he had never lost a patient in 43 years of doing abortions, and that he hoped to eventually reopen his clinics." Now at this point, let's just notice what would be missing if we don't look more carefully at that statement. We're told that this doctor different himself by saying he'd never lost a patient in 43 years of doing abortions, but this came just paragraphs after we were told that the authorities had found the remains of 2,246 human beings at his home. Again, what you see here is the inevitable result of denying the personhood and the human dignity of the unborn. The unborn simply doesn't exist at all in the moral equation here according to this doctor. It was just the fact that he hadn't lost a patient, that is a woman, who had come in for an abortion, as if that's the only question.
But this also points to something else we discussed on The Briefing. You may remember the fact that not long ago the state of Indiana adopted a law that stipulated that fetal remains must be dealt with with respect, and that would mean either burial or cremation. The proponents of abortion said that that would be an unreasonable imposition upon a woman seeking an abortion and upon the abortion industry, but the Supreme Court of the United States in May upheld the right and constitutionality of the state of Indiana to demand that provision. No one could have considered then how it would apply to this particular story. Frankly, it's not clear whether the fetal remains will be covered by Illinois law or Indiana law, because even as the abortions, it is believed, were performed in Indiana, the fetal remains were found in Illinois. Illinois, you may remember, just adopted one of the most radical state laws on abortion, basically allowing abortion all the way up to the moment of birth.
When it comes to the issue of the sanctity of human life, you have two different approaches that are represented by two different states, two adjoining states. They share so much even in geography and culture, Illinois and Indiana, but on the issue of abortion, they represent two different worlds. But they do share that border, and across that border we now know were transported no less than 2,246 human remains. That is, the remains of human beings, of unborn babies aborted in Dr. Klopfer's clinics.
Can Our Society Even Recognize Murder? The Life of the Born Cannot Be Safe When the Life of the Unborn Is Not
But the next story also comes headline from a state of joining Indiana. This one is to the East. It is Ohio. The Associated Press reports a new story with the headline, "Young Ohio mother acquitted of killing her newborn baby but guilty of corpse abuse." How in the world could we end up in such a small area of the United States, just Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, with headlines so absolutely horrible and following so much of the same logic?
In this case, the Associated Press reports, "A young Ohio mother who prosecutors said killed and buried her unwanted newborn in her backyard just days after her senior prom was acquitted of murder Thursday. The remains were found about two months after she gave birth, found in the backyard of her home where she lived with her parents in Carlisle, a village about 40 miles North of Cincinnati."
The Press tells us, "Brooke Skyler Richardson, now 20, began shaking and sobbing while the judge read the not guilty verdicts on aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, and child endangerment charges. She had faced up to life in prison had she been convicted on the most serious charges." But then the story tells us, "Prosecutors contend that the high school cheerleader wanted to keep her 'perfect life,'" that's put in quotation marks, "that included plans to begin classes at the University of Cincinnati. They said she hid her unwanted pregnancy and buried her baby in her family's backyard in May 2017 just after her senior prom. Her defense said the baby she named Annabel was stillborn, and the teen was sad and scared."
Just about all of the mainstream media in the United States have reported the story in much that same way, but so many of those reports do not go on to contain what the Associated Press report does and to its credit. "A forensic pathologist who testified for the prosecution concluded the baby died from homicidal violence. Prosecutors also said Richardson had searched on the internet for 'how to get rid of a baby.' They played video for the jury of a police interview in which Richardson said the baby might have moved and made noises."
But at the end of the day and at the end of this trial, this young woman was found guilty not of murder, not even of involuntary manslaughter, but merely of corpse abuse. According to media reports, she was sentenced to three years of probation on the charge.
But there's a background, or at least there's a backdrop to this story that almost no one wants to talk about, certainly in the mainstream media. It comes down to this, and you've probably already figured out what it is. If indeed this young woman had been found guilty of what she appears to have done, that is, to intentionally have killed her baby, then she would be guilty of murder or at least defined in some way as manslaughter, but the jury did not find this young woman guilty of those crimes despite the evidence. And what we are witnessing as a society unwilling even to draw a clear line concerning the sanctity and dignity of human life at the moment of birth. There is no question that this baby was born.
But perhaps we need to think of it this way, even if the jury wasn't thinking of it this way: if we're a society that will now allow, in so many cases, and at least in several states, the abortion of a baby right up until even the moment of birth, then why does birth make that much difference? Why is the story that much different just a few minutes later after the birth?
This is a hard way to start the week, we all need to admit, with a news story of 2,246 babies' bodies in Illinois having been aborted in Indiana, and then another baby's body found buried in the backyard of a young woman in Ohio. Here's what we know and what we cannot truly not know: every single one of those bodies is a human being made in the image of God. Every one of them is to be mourned by all of us.
But then of course there's some very odd and unavoidable questions that come up in the midst of our cultural and moral confusion. If it is perfectly fine to abort a baby all the way up until the moment of birth, why is there any moral or legal concern whatsoever about what to do with the baby's remains thereafter? If it is wrong, and it is wrong, to disrespectfully treat the human remains of a baby, it is infinitely more wrong to bring about the death of that baby, and that's just a fundamental fact.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'm speaking to you from Nashville, Tennessee, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.