The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

It’s Wednesday, February 8, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

‘A Domain Awareness Gap’: U.S. Military Acknowledges Chinese Spy Airships Have Previously Gone Undetected Over U.S. Airspace

Up first, we continue to pray for the people in Turkey and Syria affected by the massive earthquake and, even as we are looking at that, we’ll be tracking that issue in days ahead, even as we pray for those whose lives are so affected. I also just want to say that I will make comments concerning President Biden’s State of the Union address on tomorrow’s edition of The Briefing, just as a matter of timing. But right now I want to talk about something else that’s a matter of timing and that’s the timing of the U.S. military’s admission that, evidently, previous airships, that’s the Chinese word for it, previous sky balloon incursions had happened over the course of the last several years, and at least some of them were undetected by the American military.

This is now confirmed by the American military, in particular, in comments made by the commander of the Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command that’s often referred to as NORAD. General Glen VanHerck made the comment, “I will tell you that we did not detect those threats and that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.” Now, this has come up again and again in recent days, a domain awareness gap. Now, I’ll just say that that might be a terminology awareness gap for most listeners to the briefing, and so I decided I need to look into what exactly is a domain awareness gap. Now, here’s something about the military. The modern military uses all kinds of terms that you don’t use in everyday life. It also has an extraordinary number of acronyms and that’s true of the larger government, but as you’re looking at all of these units, NORAD just one among them, you understand they have to speak in this kind of shorthand. But there is also a technical and strategic language that is germane to what is called war doctrine or the United States and its National Defense Doctrine.

If you look up the term domain awareness gap, you’ll discover that it is being used a lot but at least until recently it was not officially a part of the American Military Doctrine. But, by the time you look at the comment that was made by this particular general in the last couple of days about previous incursions into U.S. airspace by Chinese spy balloons particularly, well, it turns out to be the kind of language we better look at. Now, domain awareness has to do with your knowledge of your domain. Now, as you’re thinking about this the domain refers, first of all you might say, in a national sense to your territory, but that territory we understand is now a bit complex.

I hope you find this interesting, I did, so if you’re going to be aware of your domain, in a defense sense, you better know what is included. It turns out that the military has defined five domains of which it must be aware and I find this really interesting. The five domains are maritime, land, air, cyberspace, and space. Now, remember that the newest branch of the armed forces is actually a space command and keep that in mind because it might be the emerging science of domain awareness that led to the understanding of why that would be necessary. Those five domains that the American military are now tracking and about which, just to underline this, they want to be aware without a gap.

They are, first of all, maritime, and that refers, most of all, to the United States Navy. Then land, most of all, to the United States Army. Then the air, again, centrally the United States Air Force, although all three of the major branches of the military, the navy, the army, the air force, and then add also the marines, now also add space command, they are all responsible in one sense for some part at least of the domain that might be primarily assigned to another branch because, after all, you’re looking at the fact that at least some kind of vessel, and some kind of land force, and some kind of aircraft are involved in all three branches.

But the other three domains eclipse what we might think of as the primary domain of the navy with the marines as well as the army and the air force, and this would be cyberspace and space. But wait just a minute. As you’re looking at those five domains, maritime, land, air, cyberspace, and space, one of them isn’t actually geo-spatially a space, and that is cyberspace. But that underlines just how important our cyber life is and just how integral to national security the entire domain of cyberspace now must be recognized to be. But the last of these is space, and that means what we might consider both inner and outer space, but there is a distinction between the atmosphere and the air that are assigned to the air force and to space as is assigned to the space force.

But all of this is just a reminder to us of the fact that if the United States has enemies, and we do and we always have, and if it is one of the primary responsibility of our government to be ready to address any challenge from any of those enemies, and if we take the integrity of our domains seriously, then any gap in our knowledge of what’s going on in those domains and any incursion by some kind of enemy, real or perceived in those domains, that turns out to be a highly significant problem. But it’s also true that as you are thinking about this kind of military language, which is important both in strategy and in tactics, it’s a reminder that there’s a bleed over from military to civilian life.

As you are looking at challenges to leadership as you are looking at your own responsibility, it turns out that one of the questions we need to ask is what are the domains of your responsibility, of my responsibility, and are there gaps in our awareness within those arenas of responsibility? If the United States military has now had to admit that it was unaware of previous incursions or at least did not recognize them for what they were, if it’s defined as a domain awareness gap, then all of us have better be asking some questions, what are the gaps in our own awareness, given the areas of our own responsibility? By the way, I really do appreciate the military’s use of language even when it is hard to follow.

A document on domain awareness by Chief Warrant Officer IV, Robert M. Ryder, of the U.S. Army Reserve, includes this statement, “Domain awareness and domain awareness superiority are the intelligence related concepts supporting information advantage that include kinetic and non-kinetic targeting of our adversary’s ability to also achieve domain awareness superiority.” Now, I guess you might say that’s a very technical military language description of what comes down to the responsibility to know what you need to know before your enemy knows what you need to know, and then knows what you should know but might not know. But it better know if you’re going to have domain awareness superiority, and I guess we better.

Part II

A Direct Assault on the Cause of Life: Minnesota Passes the “Protect Reproduction Options Act,” Which is Both Radical and Deadly

Well, as Christians, we need to recognize that at least one essential part of our domain awareness must be an awareness of what’s going on morally and culturally all around us and, for this reason, on the issue of the sanctity of human life we need to look at two developments, one in particular coming from the state of Minnesota.

The state of Minnesota has now adopted pro-abortion legislation to the extent that there is basically no legal barrier to any abortion in the state of Minnesota at present. It’s not just important as we consider what they refer to as “the Protect Reproduction Options Act,” it’s our recognition of the fact that as we’re looking at the great moral divide in this country and as we’re seeing that divide fall out on an issue as central and non-negotiable as the sanctity of human life, we really are looking at different Americas emerge.

The central claim of this legislation, according to its proponents, and again, it’s known as the Protect Reproductive Options Act, is to state that citizens in the state of Minnesota have the right to make, without just about any barrier, their own decisions about their own, and you know this language is coming, reproductive health. Now, as you’re looking at this you recognize you have other states in the United States that are doing their best to try to restrict abortion, and you have states in the United States, Minnesota becomes a glaring example here, but just consider the most glaring of all examples right now, which is the state of California.

The state of California, even before the Dobbs Decision and the reversal of Roe, was basically so pro-abortion it would be difficult to exaggerate that status. But, using the political momentum in California in outrage to the reversal of Roe, you have California Governor, Gavin Newsom, and the General Assembly there that has passed a raft of other bills, other legislation that simply either codifies or expands a so-called woman’s right to an abortion in the state of California. So at least a couple of the things we need to recognize here is that we are talking about two different parts of the country and in worldview analysis that’s important because Minnesota is not California.

It’s not a coastal state with a coastal culture. It is not like California in some other respects, but it is important to recognize that there is a very strong liberal tradition in a state like Minnesota that had a lot to do with the Agrarian Movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries and, of course, the influence of the Democratic Party throughout many of the decades of the 20th century. It’s also interesting that a distinction is being made in the media between what has taken place now in Minnesota and what had already been taking place in a state like California. In California, statutory issues related to abortion have been passed since Dobbs, but we are told that Minnesota is the first state since the Dobbs Decision to actually address a so-called right to abortion, even using the rights language, and that will be legally significant. It’s also morally significant as we understand.

It’s also interesting to note that California is messaging very clearly the fact that it’s not just seeking in every way to expand abortion rights or they would say to protect a woman’s reproductive health decisions. But, then again, in California increasingly as elsewhere, given the transgender revolution, it’s people who are pregnant more than it is women. But, nonetheless, just leaving that aside for a moment, it’s really interesting to note the extent to which California political leaders are actually inviting other states to follow California’s example, even looking at the expanded California legislation and borrowing the very language and structure of that California legislation in their own states.

Once again, you see that great moral divide in the United States. You got pro-life states saying, “Look, here is pro-life legislation. It works. It passes constitutional muster. You should, in your state, adopt the same restrictions on abortion.” Then you have on the other side the state of California and, to an extent, states like New Jersey and Illinois and New York, and yes, now Minnesota, who are saying, “Follow our example in the opposite extreme.” One of the issues in California, by the way, is the state legislature’s insistence–this is actually by the action of the legislature–that student health centers in California state universities must carry abortion pills and make them accessible to young women.

This is just another example of the fact that the culture of death, in its absolute insistence on the centrality of abortion to the entire liberal progressive worldview these days, actually wants to bring the technology of destroying life in the womb as close to people as it possibly can.

Part III

Vaccine Skepticism Is Growing?: Some Background to the Controversy

But, at this point, I want to shift to a different issue and I want to tie it to what we discussed on the briefing yesterday, and that was the Satanic worship segment that took place in the Grammy Awards on Sunday night. I discussed that on The Briefing yesterday. I also discussed that one interesting question, one troubling question out of all of that, is who would have been a corporate sponsor for that? And then, once again, I’ll just simply say it was open satanic worship, the open worship of Satan put to music and highly sexualized, connected to the transgender revolution. What major American corporation would put its money behind that? The answer was Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.

Pfizer also comes up in a very different issue, and it comes up in a discussion about a reconsideration of the vaccine related to COVID-19, all of them in one sense, but the Pfizer vaccine in particular. Allysia Finley of the Wall Street Journal has written a very important piece on this with the headline, “Why Vaccine Skepticism is Growing on the Right.” Now, some of this has been driven by social media, some of it has been driven by media personalities. The left just wants to dismiss most of this as nothing but conservative paranoia and social media attention grabbing, but now we’re talking about the Wall Street Journal. If there is any paper that represents the American establishment, including the business establishment, it is the Wall Street Journal. When the Wall Street Journal is taking this kind of vaccine skepticism seriously, well, I’ll just say everybody had better be taking this particular issue seriously.

Now, Allysia Finley points out that there were two different messages that were given, you might say one from the left and one from the right, after the vaccines were developed. And remember, these vaccines were developed in the context of a very threatening pandemic and under the leadership of President Donald Trump in what was called Operation Warp Speed. But one of the dimensions of trying to operate in developing a new vaccine at warp speed is that some hurdles weren’t so much jumped over as they were run around. Allysia Finley points out that, coming from a conservative governor like Ron DeSantis, the messaging back when the vaccines were rolled out was this. “I think the messaging should be, get a vaccine because it’s good for you to do it. It works. You’re not going to have to be doing anything abnormal. You can live your life.”

On the other hand, public health officials of the Biden administration, well, they were messaging differently, “Vaccines are safe and effective. Those who don’t trust us should shut up, period.” Now, I think the columnist is really onto something here. We are talking about two different approaches to the vaccine and, over time, those two different approaches would become two rival approaches very clearly. Speaking of the approach that she summarized from the Biden administration, Allysia Finley writes, “This contempt for the laity helps explain why vaccine skepticism is growing on the political right.” Some of the skepticism, she says, is misguided. In the early months of the pandemic, thousands were dying daily from COVID.

There was a political imperative to roll out the vaccines as soon as it became clear they could prevent severe illness. But, she writes, “Public health authorities have since fueled distrust by overselling the benefits of vaccines, pushing them on children who are at low risk for serious illness, mandating shots while playing down potential side effects, and smearing those who raised concerns as spreading misinformation.” Now, I’ll just state that I have taken a side on this on behalf of the institution I lead. We sued the Biden administration against the vaccine mandate and, by the way, that vaccine mandate was basically nullified by court decision and then the issue, at least politically, went away but here’s where you need to understand it will come back, and this is why we need to pay particular attention to this.

The article in the Wall Street Journal points to another article that appeared last month in the journal, Sell, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was then, of course, the spokesperson for the Biden administration on the COVID issue. It has a long history in public health and a long history of controversy, let’s be clear about that. This particular article was co-authored by Fauci and two others, and one of the points it seems to make is that there was no way to know at the time exactly how future mutations might or might not be covered by the vaccine that was then available. But the point I want to underline here is that the article makes clear that there was a concerted public and indeed governmental effort just to try to tell the American people not to think about their questions related to the vaccine but just to get vaccinated as a patriotic duty.

One of the points made in this article in the Wall Street Journal is that serious questions should have been raised and should have been recognized as legitimate far earlier on in the process than actually took place. I think the very responsible point being made here by the Wall Street Journal is summarized in this article that concludes this way, “Authorities no doubt worry that alerting the public to potential safety risks could discourage vaccination but their lack of transparency and dismissal of critics fuels the distrust in vaccines. Information about potential side effects is inevitably emerging in viral videos and Twitter threads.” Allysia Finley summarizes, “It would be better for Americans to hear it from their government.”

Yes, honesty from our government and treating American citizens as responsible, intelligent persons, that would be a good start for our federal government.

Part IV

So Who Decides? California Elites Fail Attempt to Outlaw “Misinformation”

But next, I want to turn to another very important angle that also was given light by the Wall Street Journal, in this case, in its editorial column with the headline, “California Loses on Medical Censorship.” This really is a big issue and it also should be a big issue that it doesn’t appear to be a big issue to the rest of the mainstream media.

In this case, the editors of the Wall Street Journal are pointing out that Governor Gavin Newsom and the California government just received a setback from a judge there in California against what they were trying to do to punish doctors that the state government accused of spreading COVID “misinformation.” As the editors explained, “Democrats last year passed legislation empowering the State Medical Board to discipline doctors licensed in the state who ‘disseminate misinformation or disinformation that contradicts the contemporary scientific consensus or is contrary to the standard of care.'”

The editors wrote then, “The law’s goal was to enforce a public health orthodoxy among doctors and silence dissenters.” Now, thankfully, a federal judge, in this case, Judge William Chubb, he went on to recognize that if you are actually telling doctors you have to tow a party line, you are violating not only freedom of speech, you are violating the ethical practice of medicine. Who gets to decide what is information and what is misinformation? In a fallen world, this is where the entire American experiment is based upon the understanding that the best way for all of this to settle out is to let rival arguments be made and then also evaluations on the basis of expertise and knowledge. You would think that medical doctors would rightly be recognized to have more authority to speak to medical issues than, I don’t know, someone whose profession has nothing to do with medicine, but it is really chilling in the battle of ideas of our time for us to recognize that the entire category of misinformation which we as Christians understand is real.

We understand there’s a distinction between information and misinformation but we also understand the Orwellian threat here, that if there are elites and if there are government bureaucracies that decide what is information and what is misinformation, then you really are looking at a very different form of government than Americans believe ourselves to possess in our constitutional order. If you have elites who are able to say, “Look, that’s misinformation, here’s the party line.” If you’re going to practice medicine, you have got to repeat the party line. You deviate from the party line, then you can be censured or there can be sanctions brought by the medical authorities there in the state. If you are telling doctors you can’t say this to your patients based upon your own medical expertise, then we really are looking at the state control of medicine or, in this case, maybe one step away from the state.

The state’s passing the legislation but the authorization of some elite, whether it’s a professional association or others, to basically decide what is information and what is misinformation. Now, let me just tell you why the threat of that is so huge. What if the issue here isn’t medicine? What if it’s theology? What if it is preaching? What if it’s the Bible? What if there is some kind of power to say, “Here’s information, here’s disinformation. Well, the elites, in theological and in moral terms, are dramatically more liberal than the other portions of our society and that is easily documented.” And so, if you have elites deciding, “Oh, here’s the official theological line. Oh, here’s the official preaching. Here is the official political science. Here is the official ideology to be taught in the public schools.”

Well, you understand why the closer we look at this kind of logic the more troubling it appears to be because there is a valid judgment that this is extremely dangerous, not only to the integrity of information but it is also just very dangerous because it’s putting in the hands of an elite the power to control authorized information.

Part V

Monogamy Isn’t For Everyone?: USA Today–Once Again–Reveals How Our Culture’s Moral Universe Has Been Flipped Upside Down

But finally, as we’re thinking about moral change in the United States, I just want to point to what was not intended to be a major news article by USA Today. I’ve remarked before that USA Today is turning itself into one of the most liberal journalistic sources imaginable.

I just wanted to point to how vast changes, moral changes have to have taken place in our society for USA Today to decide that they would put on the front of their life or lifestyle section an article with the headline, “Examine Needs in Exclusive Relationship,” that’s by Sara Kuburic. Here’s how the article begins, “Monogamy isn’t for everyone but, for those who want or need it, becoming exclusive with a dating partner is a big step.” I am not going to take the article further. But the point is, it is insinuated in this article that if you are committed to monogamy it must be because, pathetically enough, you have some kind of psychological or emotional need for it.

There’s nothing more to it than just a matter of personal choice, and it is just reflective of those who have a need for monogamy and the presumably more psychologically healthy who have no such need. Every once in a while you look at something like this and you think, you know, most Americans just threw this away and, by the way, that’s the right thing to do with this article. But before you throw it away too hastily, just recognize a vast moral change in our landscape had to take place for this kind of article to make sense published anywhere, but in this kind of media real estate this article tells us that we really are living in a world in which the entire moral universe is being turned upside down.

But, then again, I’ll say that’s for reality, for those who have a psychological need for it, reality, that is.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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