On Monday morning at about 1:30 AM, I experienced the thrill of becoming a grandfather for the 9th time. A baseball team at last! Naturally I wonder what his life will be like. Will he be as tall and athletic as his father, or as competent as his mother? Will he like to work with his hands or his head? But most of all, I am wondering what kind of world this as-yet-unnamed boy will live in.
Technology has accelerated social and political change so much that what took decades 100 years ago takes only years today, and what took years then takes months now. The Soviet Union was here and then it was gone. Russia was a failing state, and suddenly it is reasserting itself on the world stage. Europe is undergoing mass immigration that will change it – is already changing it – beyond recognition.
Or maybe not. There are two possible outcomes for Europe: either its Muslim population will grow past the tipping point, and it will become much more like the Middle East than the Europe we’ve known, or it will be gripped by bloody conflict. The one thing I don’t expect is that it will peacefully absorb its third-world migrants, integrate them, and create a happy, vital synthesis of cultures.
And what about the United States of America? This is really the most interesting story, for me, anyway. It has already, under Obama, withdrawn from its role of world leadership, and retreated into itself where it twists and stews in a pot of controversies about race and gender that the rest of the world views with wonderment and incomprehension. It has just elected a president who will either “make America great again” or be the trigger for the implosion that will shatter it into pieces and end the 240-year experiment of the greatest democratic republic in history.
The Jewish state also faces internal and external threats. The hosts of Iran/Hezbollah are massing, and their intent to destroy our tiny country is crystal clear. It’s hard to imagine those 130,000 (or whatever the number is) missiles in southern Lebanon not being launched some day. There is no precedent for how ferocious Israel’s response will be. It would be nice if the principals could sit down and find a way that this doesn’t need to happen, but the ratchet works only one way, increasing the pressure and the likelihood of war.
My grandson will have a front-row seat to all this. He’ll be able to watch the struggles in Europe and the USA on TV as he grows up, and when he reaches the age of 19, he will be drafted into the IDF, where, if he is lucky or unlucky (depending on one’s point of view), he might be a combat soldier like his uncle. Will the contest with Iran be over by then? Will there still be a standoff – by then it will be a nuclear standoff?
There are lots of scenarios, and most of them end up with a world worse than the one his parents grew up in. But not all. There are possibilities that events will take a positive turn. The pragmatic, tentative and partial alliance of Israel with the conservative Sunni Arab states against Iran is a positive indicator in the Middle East. The weakness of the US and Europe might finally end the pressure on Israel to retreat to indefensible borders (on the other hand, their replacement by Russia, whose ultimate goals are still mysterious, could be worse).
I am not sure what could help the US. American society seems a lot like the San Andreas Fault, tightly locked and way past its deadline. Can the pressure be released gradually, or will it happen suddenly, in a massive shock that will shake the nation to its foundations?
Today is my 74th birthday and I get to give advice – which anyone is free to take or ignore, of course. So here it is:
To Israel: Reduce your dependence on the US. Build up the IDF. Plan for the worst. If you have to fight, don’t pull any punches. Hit them so hard that they won’t get up again.
To Iran: You are a lot weaker than you think, and Israel is stronger than she looks. Don’t be stupid.
To Europe: Accept that you are in a struggle between civilizations, and if you still care about yours, defend it.
To the US: Calm the ideological battles. Your most important goal today is to preserve the union.
Finally, to my grandson: You are fortunate to have been born a Jew in the land of Israel. Please love your country, the land and your people. They love you.