Posted from the US
Sorry for the delay - I've been quite busy pushing the envelope on a robotic surgery project.
The recent fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon - and simultaneously between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is to me a dark sign that a large number of old hopes and dreams have been dashed.
About 18 months ago I was able to sit in on a historic meeting in Davos between the top officials in the Israeli government and their Palestinian counterparts (pre-Hamas elections). The atmosphere was friendly, positive, and even Utopian high in the Swiss Alps. The reality of the street, in the nasty, hostile environment which the Middle East has become, is quite the opposite.
I'm 100% positive were Israel fortunate enough to be located in Europe, or near Canada, or adjacent to the U.S., rather than the Middle East today, that they would be fighting with nobody - the country and people would live in peace. They have terrible, awful neighbors. Neighbors so bad that the U.S. feels compelled to try and police the area even though we are thousands of miles away (why else are we in Iraq & Afghanistan?).
How does one try to build a modern, democratic state surrounded by cruel dictatorships, extremists, and Islamist fanatics? It's such a messy place one wishes that Moses perhaps landed instead in Iceland, Alaska, or perhaps the Moon.
Israel is a country that developed ICQ, major tecnologies for Intel & Microsoft - yet has to contend with rocket fire from people who are trying to move the world backwards into a theocractic age of suppression and submission. Israel is really the canary in the cave here for the entire modern Western world - will reason and rational thought prevail, or are we going to plunge into a world of darkness - a Dark Ages again.
The sad thing is that Israel & the Arab world really could get along quite well - if everyone would just lay down their arms and stop shooting at each other. But in the Middle East today a gesture of peace is now taken as a sign of weakness - the olive branch of Gaza was mistaken for a crack in the wall. It now seems Israel needs to reach back and respond with great violence so those who wait to prey on weakness realize the fight will be long and hard and painful. The cancerous minorities who want war bring it upon everyone - in the same way the Nazis brought firebombing upon their fellow citizens, and the Japanese brought nuclear bombs to their cities, so do modern day terrorists.
If you nurture or simply allow these groups to flourish (as the Lebanese have done), you bring about the worst of all worlds - evil from within and attacks from those trying to defeat the evil. Is this a picture of Europe in a few decades? Will Paris become Beirut and London a Gaza strip?
The evil is not Islam. The evil is in the minds of men who wish to kill, manipulate, and control. The underlying issue has found many forms, many idealogies, many countries - and we are all wired with the same potential for it. The irony of Jihad is that what should be a true struggle within one's own mind to defeat this internal evil has become the raw opposite and a public violent bloodlust.
The perfect storm to create WWIII may be only a few steps away - there are madmen with nuclear arms throughout the area (hello Iran & N. Korea). In Aldous Huxley's children's story The Crows of Pearblossom there is a great scene:
"This is serious," he said. "This is the sort of thing that somebody will have to do something about."
"Why don't you go down into the snake's hole and kill him?" asked Mrs. Crow.
"Somehow I don't feel that that's a very good idea," Mr. Crow answered. "Abraham, you're scared!" said Mrs. Crow.
"Scared?" repeated Mr. Crow. "I never said I was scared. All I said was that I didn't think your idea was a very good one...That's why I shall go and talk to my friend Owl. Owl's a thinker. His ideas are always good".
Well this is the sort of thing that somebody will have to do something about - and unfortunately in today's world we lack the visibility to those thinkers.
But I do have hope that they exist - and we need to collectively find ways to bring their voices out of the noise of rhetoric and political chatter.
The worst thing about fighting fanatics is that it makes one a fanatic - it can turns us into those we are fighting. We lose our ability to relate to the other, and we focus on what matters in the moment: our ability to destroy the other.
This is an unstable time - one feels like chaos is unleashing and the 21st century is yearning for blood. We as humans like to fight - we say we want peace but for many fighting is the greater urge. It is only after a major violent release that we sit back and wonder why.
Let's hope we can learn before, not later, and perhaps we can crawl out of the snake's hole alive and well.