In the past few months a lot has been said about the importance of drawing a line in the sand in Saudi Arabia.

I must admit, however, to a lot of personal confusion about the current situation in the Middle East, where there is so much sand to draw on and where so many conflicting motives intertwine.When I think of drawing a line in the sand, I can't help but go back to feelings I had as a kid. Confrontation then was much the same as now. In the dirt behind the school, the last thing one ever did was show fear or admit intimidation.

Two kids would face off in tense defiance. Within minutes, a crowd would gather and take sides. The atmosphere was heavy and intense. Taunts were traded as the parties sized one another up. It all seemed so senseless, yet finding a way out seemed beyond consideration.

I see similarities in what is happening now, only instead of a face rubbed in the dirt or a bloody nose, the stakes are higher. Hundreds of thousands of people are facing off with other hundreds of thousands, not with fists, but with the most terrifying armaments ever devised for the purpose of killing.

A week ago in this newspaper, I read a brief story about Tom Clancy, whose novel, "The Hunt for Red October," and other thrillers are noted for their detail of military technology and combat maneuvers.

Clancy is quoted to have said, "There's no law of God or nature that says we have to have conflict anywhere."

The moment I read it, the statement rang true. I do believe that solutions were possible in those agonizing moments when we stood in the shadow of the school and watched classmates face off in vengeance, and especially now, when the stakes of conflict are so high.

I am bothered when I hear on the news that in order to save face, we must not back away from conflict. Seems this is the way it always has been. Historically, war inflicts mass destruction on ordinary people so the pride of a national can be protected, or the ego of a national leader defended.

But what do you do when it is a case of naked aggression? When a bully starts pushing people around, do you just let him have his way? Neville Chamberlain tried to divert a bully in the late 1930s, and it didn't work. But, then, he didn't have the rest of the kids on the block behind him. We know what resulted then. Are we cursed to relive the past and appease the bully, or, on the other hand, to blunder ahead, regardless of the support of our friends, screaming foul and swinging our fists in blind confusion?

I can't come forward with specific solutions. I wish I could. But I do believe there are people who can. I believe it is no longer necessary to kill one another. I question whether it has ever been necessary.

It will take great statesmen to come up with solutions that fit Clancy's proposition that conflict is an unnecessary enterprise.

I have hope that such people do exist. If so, whether they be men or women, I hope they will have the courage to step forward. Such solutions will fly in the face of beliefs we have held from the time our ancestors emerged from caves, clubs in their hands.

- Dennis Smith is an artist and free-lance writer living in Highland.