Technological Progress and the Human Condition, a Half-Century after the Moon Landing

December 21 marked the 50th anniversary of the first mission to the moon. Considering this milestone, and the technological developments that have happened since, Meir Soloveichik looks back on the contemporaneous reflections of his great-uncle, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik—one of the premier rabbinic thinkers of his day—and finds them more apt than ever:

The 20th-century quest to “slip the surly bonds of earth” was not, for Soloveitchik, a Promethean intrusion into the heavens; on the contrary, the conquest of space is the greatest manifestation of man’s being made in the Almighty’s image: “Man reaching for the distant stars is acting in harmony with his nature which was created, willed, and directed by his Maker.” Yet for all the biblical grandeur made manifest in the astronaut’s achievement, that reflects only half of our selves. . . .

Soloveitchik foresaw a danger facing the West. America’s celebration of its technological achievements during the space race might ultimately efface the other equally important aspect of human nature, a desire for communion with others: “There, [in the realm of human relationships], not only hands are joined, but experiences as well; there, one hears not only the rhythmic sound of the production line, but also the rhythmic beat of hearts starved for existential companionship and all-embracing sympathy,” A fierce anti-Communist, Soloveitchik no doubt rejoiced in the planting of the American flag on the moon; at the same time, he worried that the West’s focus on its technological achievements alone could lead to the amputation of the other aspect of its identity.

Indeed, we face today, as many have noted, an epidemic of loneliness. We live in an age of stunning technological transformation that has seemingly increased connectedness but helped decrease community. We can cross the entire earth in less than a day; our correspondence can cross the earth in an instant; and yet we have not found the fellowship that we need.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Moon, Religion & Holidays, Space exploration

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security