TOPSHOTS A elderly Palestinian man walks past a heavily damaged building following an Israeli air strike before a five-hour truce went into effect, on July 17, 2014 in Gaza City. Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas were observing a temporary five-hour humanitarian ceasefire, both sides said, on the 10th day of conflict between the sides. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABEDMOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: 531713908 / MOHAMMED ABED AFP/Getty Images
With Twitter ablaze with tweets of war and terror, and cable news airing carnage at the top of every hour, it's easy to think the world is unraveling. Especially now, when troubles loom from Gaza to Ukraine and beyond.
My editors surely felt this way in October 1983, when as a young journalist at a very young USA TODAY I was asked to sum up what was then an extraordinary week of news:
‚?Ę First, truck bombs at U.S. and French barracks in Lebanon killed 241 Marines and 58 French soldiers, the mammoth death toll shaking the West.
‚?ĘTwo days later, President Reagan ordered a precision invasion of the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada, ousting a communist-leaning revolutionary government there.
These were in the days when terror bombings and actions by U.S. forces were relatively rare. No one could remember such dramatic events happening so quickly.
So I borrowed someone's Rolodex and called Theodore White, the famed political historian and author of the "Making of the President'' book series, to see if he could recall such a week.
White answered the phone - again, those days were different, weren't they? - and he heard me describe, probably rather excitedly, the amazing week that was.
There was a pause, a long pause, and then he said, "Well, it's not like V-E Day or when Stilwell went to China.'' He left out the derisive, "young man.''
His words were calming, and remain so. Events, after all, only make sense when placed in the context of what came before, and what might come after.
The end of the war in Europe set in place forces that led, many decades later, to the continuing power struggle between Russia and Ukraine.
And Gen. Joseph Stillwell's numerous attempts to unify Asian forces against the Japanese in World War II failed to prevent a communist China in its aftermath. As White said, context.
So where does that leave us today?
One result of the Lebanon bombing more than three decades ago was the removal of U.S. forces from Lebanon, which some analysts say emboldened extremists in the Middle East into thinking the U.S. could be ousted if enough terror was applied. That was certainly Osama bin Laden's belief.
Despite those views, the U.S. is a continuing presence in the region today with technology and sea power just minutes from trouble spots. But none of that is enough to prevent the unending conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. This latest warfare, whether it leads to an occupied but more peaceful Gaza or a new intifada by outraged Hamas, is certain to harden enmity on both sides for years.
The unexpected warfare between Ukraine and Russian-sponsored separatists is centuries old, but it is also attributed by some analysts to a new American president. Whether Obama's sometimes contradictory but ultimately no-boots-on-the-ground foreign policy - in the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq and Afghanistan - is a sign of common-sense pragmatism or exploitable weakness will be left for future Teddy Whites to decide.
For now, I know this week's dizzying events aren't likely to be the end of the world. And though he's long left us, it's comforting to know I still have Theodore White's phone number, just in case.
David Colton is a USA TODAY executive editor.
Read the original story: Voices: Global hot spots need to be put in perspective