THE world, as the new year dawns, is poised on the brink of momentous change.
Fast-paced events are already unfolding in Western Europe and in the Middle East as the world heads into the. politically storm-filled mid 1980s.
The stage has been set by two major events. The first was the stunning collapse in September of the West German government and the fall from power of its widely respected chancellor, Helmut Schmidt.
The second occurred at the same time. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians perished in a massacre in West Beirut, Lebanon. World opinion turned against the state of Israel, which was held responsible for not preventing the pogrom carried out by its troublesome Lebanese allies.
Let's first look at these events in some detail. Then we can see how these two seemingly unconnected events have set in motion a profound change in world affairs.
Schmidt Era Over On September 17, the 13-year-old national coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in West Germany came to an abrupt end, with the resignation of four FDP cabinet members.
The development, rumored for some time because of irreconcilable differences between the SPD and FDP, also Brought to a close the eight-year rule of Chancellor Schmidt.
After 'an October 1 "constructive vote of no confidence" the opposition conservative parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian affiliate, the Christian Socialist Union (CSU), assumed power once again-linked in coalition with the Free Democrats, who, in effect, swapped partners.
Many political analysts, however, appear to have doubts about the new chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Herr Kohl is a successful though not particularly colorful politician. He has steadily marched up through the ranks of party leadership to become CDU chairman. But he may not have, believe his detractors, what it takes to stand up to expected stiff challenges ahead in the nation, plagued by economic slowdown and increasingly polarized politics.
Labor union leaders, for example, have warned they may order rank-and-file members into the streets to protest planned cuts in social spending. Leftist student groups are certain to protest louder than ever, as the day approaches, Bonn's decision to accept the stationing of new NATO nuclear missiles by the end of 1983.
West Germany has nevertheless taken a decisive step away from 13 years of leftward-drifting socialism. Its leadership is back in the center-right position once again. It will continue to progressively move to the right over the years.
The Social Democrats, now in opposition, are expected to move farther to the left, possibly even attempting to incorporate the so-called Green movement (which is composed of younger Germans who focus on single issues such as the environment, antinuclear power and anti-NATO, among others).
Thus the stage is being set for even more political fireworks in the Bundestag in Bonn. If Herr Kohl fails to provide the leadership needed to meet the challenges ahead, especially from the radical left, there is always Franz Josef Strauss, CSU chairman and Herr Kohl's chief conservative rival, ready to offer his more dynamic style of leadership.
After national elections, perhaps in March, the CDU/CSU hopes to win a clear majority. In that case the weakened FDP would no longer be needed and may in fact disappear on the national level.
At that time, predicts Business Week, Herr Strauss will "emerge, in a purely Christian Democratic government, as foreign minister and power broker." And perhaps also as vice-chancellor, which would be a stepping-stone to the top position denied him in the election of October, 1980.
Europeans Furious at Israel Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Israel's war in Lebanon against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) unleashed an unprecedented amount of criticism from all quarters in Europe.
The governments and the news media of France, West Germany, Italy and other countries have soundly condemned the Israeli military campaign that. led to the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization from West Beirut.
Nevertheless, the Jerusalem government might have escaped relatively unharmed had the massacre of Palestinian civilians not taken place.
Israel was blamed for permitting the carnage, since the Israeli Defense Force had moved into West Beirut ostensibly to keep warring factions apart.
Without a doubt, the Israeli military blundered by entrusting to its Lebanese Falangist allies the job of rooting out straggling PLO soldiers in two urban Palestinian camps. Instead, the Falangists took revenge, slaughtering hundreds of Palestinian women, children and the elderly for the murder of President-elect Bashir Gemayel, their fallen chief.
The Israelis are no longer seen as underdogs in the Middle East as they were in the 1967 war, or even in 1973. They are now Goliath instead of David.
Worse yet, they have been compared with a most ignominious event in Jewish history. President Francois Mitterrand of France, for example, an earlier supporter of Israel, described Israel's actions in Lebanon as similar to those committed by the Nazis in Occupied Europe. And he said this before the dreadful events of West Beirut were known.
West German news sources have been exceptionally strong in their opposition to Israel's campaign against the PLO, employing heavily emotive words and phrases such as "war of extermination" and "final solution."
One West German official said that because of the Beirut siege" "Israel has done a lot to remove itself from its pedestal of high moral standing. It has lost — call it — its virginity."
For Israelis, the entire Lebanon campaign has turned out to be a very agonizing experience. With the ouster of the PLO gunmen from West Beirut, Prime Minister Menachem Begin proclaimed that "there is reason to say 'and the land was tranquil' for some years — perhaps 40 years, perhaps 80, perhaps a generation."
Then the "roof caved in" for Israel, and with it her moral standing even among her supporters.
PLO Gains Acceptance More than ever, the "underdog" PLO is receiving favor in Europe. Even the Vatican has extended a cautious welcome.
On September 15, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat was granted a 20-minute private audience with Pope John Paul II in Rome. The reception understandably unleashed a storm of protest in Jerusalem.
After the meeting the Vatican released a communique saying that by granting the audience the Pope "demonstrated his benevolence towards the Palestinian people ... expressing the wish that an equitable and lasting solution be reached as soon as possible to the Middle East conflict, which would, excluding recourse to armed violence in any form and above all to terrorism and vengeance, lead to the recognition of the rights of all people, in particular to those of the Palestinians, to a homeland of their own — and of Israel to her security."
Thus the Pope carefully distanced himself from the PLO's terrorist methodology. But he once again came down squarely on the side of a homeland — he has used the Latin word patria in the past for the Palestinians, not some sort of vague, nonsovereign self-rule.
The Vatican and Israel hold entirely different views on the future course of Middle Eastern affairs. The Holy See stands firm against Israeli claims, based on biblical references, to the West Bank (what most Israelis call Judea and Samaria).
The Vatican is openly opposed to Israeli claims that Jerusalem is the "eternal and undivided" capital of Israel. John Paul supports the idea of Jerusalem as a free city under international rule.
For the PLO chairman the papal visit represented yet another diplomatic triumph following the PLO's military setback in Lebanon. After being ousted from his besieged headquarters in Beirut, the PLO chairman met with Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, receiving full military honors. In Italy, Yasser Arafat was guest of honor at a luncheon given by Italian President Sandro Pertini in the official presidential Quirinale palace. His reception by President Pertini was viewed as another wedge in opening the doors of other Western European leaders to the PLO leader's personal diplomacy.
European Forces for Middle East The two trends detailed above — the change of power in West Germany and the change in Israel's fortunes in the Middle East — are even now leading to a new orientation for Europe in world affairs.
In the wake of the Beirut massacre, the 10 nations of the Common Market unitedly expressed "profound shock and revulsion" and offered to increase participation in a new peacekeeping force, called for by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Such a strengthened force, they said, would show "a will of peace" in the region.
One detects, for the first time, a genuine unified European desire to act in the Middle East. Troops sent to Beirut are being dispatched in the name of the individual European nations comprising a multinational force, not on behalf of the United Nations, which is being totally bypassed in this case. U.N. forces have proven to be totally ineffective in Lebanon for the past four years.
The United States is also involved. But American politicians are showing hesitance at the U.S. commitment. The U.S. Senate may someday — force the President to remove U.S. troops if the situation heats up further — leaving the field to Europe.
Further down the road the Europeans might also insist on the right to move into the West Bank area to enforce a homeland for the Palestinians. Such a military presence will eventually be sent to the vicinity of Jerusalem itself (Luke 21:20).
Europe Must Be More Unified To be in command of events affecting them most directly, such as in the energy-rich Middle East, Europeans will have to act more in union in the future than they are doing now.
The German nation, squarely in the heart of Europe, remains, as always, the key to Europe's destiny. The way West Germany was headed, however, led in the very opposite direction of European unity. The ultimate goal of the left in West Germany was to achieve a reunited, but neutralized, inward looking nation free of all military attachment to its former allies — a Germany essentially having dropped out of the world.
This drift into a political nether world has now been countered. The new conservative leadership will be more pro-American than the outgoing government, but it will not be as subservient to U.S. policy as its post-war counterparts, such as the Adenauer and Erhard regimes.
Frictions with the United States, such as over the Siberia — Western European natural gas-pipeline, are not likely to abate. The Americans are attempting to regain "lost leadership" over their European allies, but this is unlikely to happen.
The die has been cast. Influential and powerful personalities are emerging on the scene who realize that Europe must be in charge of its own destiny, whether that involves vigilance against communist encroachment or the protection of Europe's own vital interests in the Middle East.
In 1965, before West Germany's l3-year-long center-left interlude began, Franz Josef Strauss wrote a book entitled The Grand Design. In it Bonn's former defense minister called for "a Europe growing in stages determined to assert its role in the world, exercising increasing influence and attraction on the Communist satellites, growing in confidence and world importance.
"This Europe," continued Herr Strauss, "could make peace terms with Russia.... We must therefore face the new historical conceptions of Communism... with a new and rival historical conception — that of the reconstruction of the classic role of Europe. This would at one and the same time change the political balance of power in the world and stabilize the military balance of power." (Emphasis ours.)
Other voices, too, are calling for Europe to resume its "classic role" in the scheme of world events. Recently, a prominent Greek politician and delegate to the European parliament, George Voyadzis, said this: "Europe, which has a Greek name, has founded its culture on a combination of the Greek, Roman and Christian spirit. In this synthesis, the Greek spirit has contributed the idea of freedom, truth and beauty. The Roman spirit gave the idea of the state of justice. Christianity offered faith and love.
"The full integration of Europe will be one of the most important political events in world history and will have considerable bearing on the future course of humanity. It is thus that the balance of power will come to an equilibrium in the world while safeguarding the independence of Europe and contributing to the consolidation of world order and peace."
A Royal Appeal An event in Europe escaped the attention of most of the world's news media. Last May 20, King Juan Carlos of Spain was awarded the Charlemagne Prize in a ceremony in Aachen, West Germany (Charlemagne's old capital). This award is given annually to the public figure most advancing the cause of European unity. The King was the first royal recipient of the prize_ Earlier winners have included Winston Churchill, Jean Monnet, Robert Schumann and Konrad Adenauer.
In accepting the prize King Juan Carlos traced, in the present tense, the development of Europe and its need for unity. He placed great stress on the role of Europe's monarchies.
"Over the centuries," said the King, " the resurrection of the Roman Empire under clearly Germanic, and of course Christian, signs is the political dream: the Holy Roman Empire of [the] Germanic Nation. But what is really being created is something else: Europe....
"In the course of European history," continued King Juan Carlos, "the monarchies have been a factor of unification.... And through marriages among the members of ruling families, bonds have been woven between countries which were separated from each other by language, race and customs; they strengthened the recognition to be a unit and to belong to a common reality....
"The unifying of Europe," this ruling monarch said, "had been proposed as the only solution for Europe's problems as early as 1930 — a super nation which had to be raised up — a United States of Europe. And this impulse has not been lost in my country."
Watch Europe's Direction During this new year and throughout the 1980s the process of European unity will accelerate. European leaders, moreover, will turn their attention more than ever to areas of the world, such as the Middle East, where Europe's interests are most affected.
Because of the Middle East connection, watch for the nations bordering on the Mediterranean, such as Greece, Italy and Spain, to play an increasingly important role. Europe's "power center" will gradually shift farther south, with relatively energy-sufficient nations in northwestern Europe playing a less important role.
As the pages of The Plain Truth have warned so often over the decades — watch Europe!