Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Wild Card that Could Delegitimize Hezbollah

Elza S. Maalouf
Der-Spiegel reported few hours ago that the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Hariri, believes that Hezbollah is behind this heinous act. We don't know why the tribunal has been keeping this information a secret, especially that this might positively influence the outcome of the June 7 parliamentary elections in Lebanon. In positive I mean that it might tip the scales in favor of the progressives, pro-West candidates and away from extremists.

New Evidence Points to Hezbollah in Hariri Murder

By Erich Follath

The United Nations special tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri has reached surprising new conclusions -- and it is keeping them secret. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, investigators now believe Hezbollah was behind the Hariri murder.

It was an act of virtually Shakespearean dimensions, a family tragedy involving murder and suicide, contrived and real tears -- and a good deal of big-time politics.

The terror attack in Beirut on Valentine's Day, 2005: Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to Hezbollah and not Syria.

The terror attack in Beirut on Valentine's Day, 2005: Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to Hezbollah and not Syria.

On February 14, 2005, Valentine's Day, at 12:56 p.m., a massive bomb exploded in front of the Hotel St. Georges in Beirut, just as the motorcade of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri passed by. The explosives ripped a crater two meters deep into the street, and the blast destroyed the local branch of Britain's HSBC Bank. Body parts were hurled as far as the roofs of surrounding buildings. Twenty-three people died in the explosion and ensuing inferno, including Hariri, his bodyguards and passersby...Read more

Friday, May 22, 2009

Biden's Lebanon SpeechReinforces the Lack of Foresight in US Foreign Policy

Elza S. Maalouf
Joe Biden was in Lebanon today following Secretary Clinton's visit to reassure the pro-Western government (March 14 Movement) that the US is their staunch supporter despite the deals the Obama administration is trying to cut with Syria and Iran. The March 14 Movement formed as a reaction to the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the 5 time Prime Minister. It is widely believed in Lebanon and in Sunni Arab countries that Syrian-Iranian intelligence are responsible for Hariri's assassination.

The March 14th Movement fears that Obama will cave in to Syria's demands and grant the Syrians back the power they once had in running Lebanese internal affairs. To the Obama administration that's hell-bent on getting things done at neck-breaking speed, the thinking is that this move will accelerate the Arab Israeli peace process, and pry Syria out of Iran's tight grip. Knowing that Lebanon was the pawn thrown to the Syrians by Reagan in the place of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese are weary that Obama now is pursuing the same policy that will bring back the Syrians for another 30 years. Prying Syria from the hands of Iran is not only a far reaching and unattainable goal, but one that cannot be achieve since the West cannot offer Syria what it is getting from Iran: $1 Billion in subsidized Gas, the manufacturing of Syrian made cars and all the financing they need for supporting terrorism in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. These activities will keep Syria the uncontested power of the Arab world that the West must deal with.The old Western economic incentive to walk away from terrorism model has lost its luster since China is already making better deals and investments in Syria than the US with its current stance.

Speaking at the Presidential Palace in Beirut, Biden declared that "We will evaluate the shape of our assistance program based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates," a clear message to the Lebanese not to elect the Hezbollah led opposition.

Since the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri , (a close friend of the Bush family and France's Jacque Chirac) the US military aid to Lebanon has exceeded $400 Million, and more than a Billion in infrastructure and humanitarian aid. The military aid was always a source of dilemma for US administartion: on one hand, having strong military might help keep militias at check. On another, most Lebanese who enlist in the military are Shia with loyalty and a soft spot for Hezbollah.

Hezbollah criticized Biden's visit issuing the following statement "The high American interest in Lebanon raises strong suspicion as to the real reason behind it, especially since it has become a clear and detailed intervention in Lebanese affairs." This statement is coming from the same militia that gets its minute to minute instructions from Iran, and who's offices are adorned with pictures of Ayatollah Khamenei not the Lebanese President.

What Biden and the US administration do not get is that their $1 Billion support to the Lebanese Government is surpassed by Billions of dollars from Iran that are going to maintain Hezbollah's military superiority, direct aid to Hezbollah supporters in the form of housing, education, jobs, healthcare and a well run system of micro-lending for the poor.

For our US administration to be truly effective in its support of Lebanon, it needs to replace the vital services that are offered by Hezbollah, support the Lebanese government and pressure it to impose anti-corruption measurements (Lebanon rated high on corruption by Transparency International).

Talking to pro-West Lebanese on the ground, they tell me that they don't trust that the US administration considers Lebanon a vital issue to US' interests in the region. "Look at Syria. It's run by a dictator and hasn't launched a missile at Israel since 1971 even though Israel occupies the strategic Syrian Golan Heights. We are afraid that the US would rather have another dictator in Lebanon, one leader to deal with, in this case Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah, " said Michael a lawyer in Beirut.

Why should Americans and Europeans be interested in Lebanese politics? It is because Lebanon is a mirror, a proxy turf for the internal conflicts in the Muslim world: between Sunni and Shia, progressive Sunnis/Shia and Sunni/Shia Zealots, and the West looking purely towards its own self-interest.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kuwait Elections: A Win for Pragmatists, Not Just for Women

Elza S. Maalouf

As an Arab woman today, I am feeling elated about the four Kuwaiti women who won seats in the Parliament. This is an event that the whole region should be proud of. Four competent, well educated and accomplished women won on their own merit. One of the first MPs is the former Minister of Health Massuma al-Mubarak and the two University professors Salwa al-Jassar and Aseel al-Awadhi in addition to economist Rula Dashti.

Informed by Kuwaitis on the ground, I have been following the events leading up to these elections and searching for the underlying codes that prompted the change to happen. This change included over the years a democratic participation of Bedouin tribes, Shia minority and Islamic extremist movements like HADS (Hizb Al Dusturi Al Islami-Constitutional Islamic Party), Salafis along with the original families of Kuwait who came from Hijaz, and now women. The leaders in Kuwait, influenced by Arab Nationalism (led by Jamal Abdel Nasser at the time) and Kuwaiti visionaries, recognized the change of the dynamics in Kuwaiti society and expanded the representative branch to include members of the new movements. Unlike the other frequently praised democracy of Lebanon which was influenced by the French colonialists -who supported the Maronites- and based purely on sectarianism. The Iranian-Syrian intra-secterian interference in Lebanon is keeping the sectarian parliamentary system in place, and in the process denying Lebanese their quest for a progressive nation.

The women suffrage movement in Kuwait was not initiated by women only, it was supported and led by progressive men as well, who believed in equal participation in public service. It was so recent that they gained the right to vote, yet they historically played a central role in the development of the country.

The Role of Women in Kuwaiti History

A quick look back at the cultural codes that led to creating a stratified democracy in Kuwait, one that fits the value-systems of the state. Along with my readings on this Constitutional Monarchy Emirate to be precise), I was briefed on the critical role that women played in Kuwait since the inception of the Emirate. Kuwaiti men were the early traders of the Arabian peninsula, trading Indian spices, pearls and dates from Iraq with Europe and India. Kuwaiti innovation in the building of ships allowed them to go farther than any traders in the region. Men spent more than 9 months away from home, and women had to be in charge of the extended family which lived together in an extended family compound. These women developed a very effective system to run the large household using humble means to keep the family properly fed, healthy and thriving. Kuwait became a Matriarchal based society out of necessity. With the discovery of oil in the early 50's , girls schools were built next to boys schools and fathers insisted on sending their daughters along with their sons to be educated in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Today, many young Kuwaiti men and women are graduating from Ivy League schools and going back to their country to help run the affairs of their country and start successful businesses.

Unlike in any other Emirate or Monarchy in the region, Kuwaiti women became business leaders and were appointed to high ranking positions in the public sector since Kuwait's independence in 1961. Today, Kuwaiti women enjoy equal pay in the private sector as well.
Of course, Kuwait has its long laundry list of problems starting with the "Bedoun" (In Arabic the word means "the ones without") In this case the ones without a Kuwaiti nationality, limited rights of foreign workers and the list goes on... An article written by Next Generation Fellow Sula Al-Naqueeb at our Center for Human Emergence explains further these complex issues in Kuwait.
Women were only granted the right to vote in 2005 after a long struggle with Islamists' influence. This right has long been denied to women for the fear that women in the Bedouin and Islamist communities will be forced by their husbands to vote for the candidate that the male in the family chooses. That will not be a true win to women's suffrage. In 2006 two women ran for parliament and failed. This 2009 election season each of these four women won by a landslide compared to their next opponent. Islamists lost 10 seats and only held on to 11 from the original 21. The seats held by Shiite MPs -- Shia are 1/3 of the population -- increased from 5 to 9. Liberals won 8 seats gaining 1. Analysts say that this parliament might be dissolved if it shows any signs of adopting extremist views. The Emir has done this a few times before when Islamists and few other MPs wanted to prosecute cabinet members on ungrounded basis in most cases, just to disrupt the democratic process and gain fame.

Islamist Defeat

The Islamist defeat marks a significant tipping point in the conflict between Muslim pragmatists/moderates and the zealots in the Middle East. A behind-the-scenes conflict has been brewing the last two years between Nationalists and Progressive Kuwaitis on one side and Islamists on the other (both Sunni and Shia extremists). Here are some events that shifted power away from extemists:

When Imad Mughnyia, one of Hezbollah's notorious leaders, was assassinated in Syria, two Kuwaiti Shiite MPs organized a commemoration in Kuwait. This act aggravated most Kuwaitis since Mugghnia and Hezbollah were responsible for hijacking a Kuwaiti airliner in 1984, and were setting up secret Hezbollah cells in Kuwait.

Other Sunni-Islamists MPs sided with Hamas during the Gaza/Israel war, and demanded that citizens not celebrate the Kuwaiti National day in alliance with Palestinians in Gaza. That would have been respected by all Kuwaitis, even though they have a bad history with the Palestinians who sided with Saddam Hussein during his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. However, what tipped the situation was that those same Islamists who forbad Kuwaitis from celebrating their national day in the streets, were secretly filmed dancing the Dabkeh (traditional Palestinian dance) with Hamas supporters. (This was seen as hypocritical since Islamists shun any type of music or dance considering it haram -- forbidden). Kuwaitis who saw this footage on Scope Satellite TV, called in the TV's talk shows and expressed their anger at Islamists. One woman suggested that all Kuwaitis take to the streets and their rooftops and shout "Allah Akbar" in objection to Islamists hijaking their country, an act they once performed in defiance of Saddam's invading forces. The next day many people did just that. This same act of defiance against the internal invasion of Kuwaiti freedoms eventually led to the unseating of extremist MP's.

Indigenous Exercise in Democracy

Why am I mentioning these details? In a region in danger of falling prey to extreme ideologies spun by the likes of Al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran, and a failed attempt at democratization by the West, this indigenous exercise in democracy is a model that could be fostered in other parts of the Middle East and the Muslim World and a worthy lesson in Memetics for the West.

For a two week period before the elections, the Emir opened his palace to the people, asking them to share their suggestions for much-needed changes in the distribution of electoral regions. The Emir, like every ruler before him, kept an age old tradition in opening his palace, and visiting the Dywanyias of the founding families of Kuwait. Dywanyia is an added section to many homes in Kuwait where men gather to discuss politics, religion, social issues, poetry, and philosophy -- depending on the inclination of the household. For the first time in recent history, women sought the all-male Dywanyia as one of their platforms to present their agendas. What started as a daring attempt by 2 women candidates in 2005 grew into a synergistic movement in 2009. Massuma Al-Mubarak was surprised to see that many Dywanyias took the initiative to organize events for her. In most other Dywanyias she had to ask. A patriotic super-ordinate goal prompted men to open their sacred Dywanyias to women!

The Emir's public space and the changing roles of Dywanyias are a great model of how Kuwait kept its tribal traditions and included them to serve the progress of the country.

When I read in Western newspapers an open or underlying criticism of the fact that the Emir still appoints the cabinet, I cringe at the sheer ignorance of cultural codes that we so frequently miss in diagnosing young democracies. Kuwait's Parliament is one of the strongest democratic bodies in the Arab world, but when it is manipulated by Islamists who have been gaining more power after the Iraq war, it becomes imperative for the ruler to have the last word. Moreover, this ruler has a system of accountability inside Kuwait represented by the heads of the different clans. Now who wouldn't want a democracy a la Kuwait in Afghanistan?

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Friday, May 15, 2009

June 7th Elections in Lebanon Threaten Christians' Existence in the Middle East

Elza S. Maalouf
That threat does not come from Islam!

It is an existential threat that can jeopardize the progress that Muslim pragmatists (both, Shia and Sunni) have made in the Middle East. In this region of the world where Iran is trying to revive the Persian empire with a new ideology based on their brand of Shiism, power brokers like Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria are forming an unholy alliance that is guaranteed to keep the region behind. On the surface, the message of this alliance appeals to many in the Arab world as the defender of Arab honor against the assault of what is surely viewed as the Zionists and their American sponsors. The disgruntled Arab street that is suppressed by archaic and dysfunctional regimes, is looking for the next step beyond the stalemate of political corruption, high unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. Ahmedinejad has more supporters among Arabs than among Iranians. The Arab street that saw many US administrations siding with Israel and corrupt Arab regimes over many decades, see a hero in the president of Iran.
In Spiral Dynamics integral Memetic speak, the unhealthy Orange value system-(Enterprise) that represented the West's hunger for oil kept Red Arab regimes in power to control the flow of oil. Red-Power centered regimes oppressed their people, offered mediocre education, no jobs and beefed up their own Swiss bank account while the Arab masses in their respective countries lived in abject poverty. Hezbollah, Hamas and even Ahmedinejad represent a much needed Blue value system that gives structure and a sense of purpose while at the same time providing the Red-Pride of identity. Regardless of what the West thinks of these rogue movements, they fill a vacuum that Arab regimes have created themselves by not addressing the needs of their own people while the West looked the other way.
Politics in Lebanon is never local, it is always regional if not international. Lebanese democracy since its inception in 1943 was always a proxy field for the regions' feuds. Now that Khamenei, the Qum spiritual leader of Iran, is aiming to establish Wilayat Al Faquih, or Islamic Imarat in the region, he is achieving his aim through Hezbollah and the popularity of its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah has an army of 50,000 soldiers ready to take over Lebanon at any minute. However, the Hezbollah leader who studied Sun Tzu' the Art of War knows better than to attack his compatriots and loose his popularity. He masterfully formed an alliance with defeated leaders of Christian, Sunni and Druze clans who were rivals of March 14th movement, the pro-government, pro-West alliance. Hezbollah's new allies are lead by General Michel Aoun the former head of the Lebanese Army who lived in exile for more than 10 years. By creating such alliance, Nasrallah was able to split the Christian leadership between loyalty to the Shia crescent Hezbollah-Syria-Iran under Aoun, and loyalty to a Lebanese identity and pro-Western movement under Sameer Geagea.

With Christians facing discrimination in Egypt, and fleeing Iraq and the West Bank, the survival of Christianity in the Middle East relies on one man winning in this election- Samir Geagea. Geagea, a fearsome Christian militia leader during the 17 year Lebanese war, went through a spiritual and philosophical transformation during his 11 years in prison. The pro-Syrian government at the time of his imprisonment offered him a seat in the cabinet or else he was to be prosecuted for his war crimes and go to jail. Since he was a staunch enemy of the Syrians who occupied Lebanon for more than 30 years he chose the latter.

I myself was never a Geagea supporter, nor a supporter of Aoun. As a resident of the Bekaa, I always felt that the Maronite militias of Beirut and Mount Lebanon did not care about the rest of the country. But this is 2009, and the fight is no longer among local parties and militias in Lebanon. It is the nuclear threat of Iran against peace and progress in the region. These regional and local dynamics that are directly destabilizing Lebanon's democracy and the role that progressive Christians and Muslims play in the development of the country and the whole Middle East.

Nasrallah, speaking at a university graduation ceremony in Beirut said "I tell those who are betting on the [Hezbollah-led] opposition's failure during elections: The resistance that defeated Israel can govern a country that is 100 times larger than Lebanon." He was speaking of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah where Israel destroyed Lebanon's infrastructure and Nasrallah sacrificed the lives of 1000 Lebanese. With Hezbollah's ideology of death and power-god mindset, my brother in Lebanon warns me "prepare to wear a hijab when you arrive to Beirut's airport next time, if Hezbollah wins."

When we talk about elections Lebanon style, we are talking about bought elections. More than 10,000 Lebanese from the diaspora were issued plane tickets mostly by Hezbollah to go to Lebanon and vote for the opposition. A single "paid" vote can represent a full month's salary for some families. Paying for medical supplies, children's private school tuition, and providing a guarrantee for employment is how you get votes in Lebanon. Of course, cash is always king and the candidate who shows the voter the most, wins. I couldn't help but laugh when I read that the envoy of the UN in Lebanon, Michael Williams, assured the only woman candidate from my t
own Zahle in the Bekaa valley-the hub of Hezbollah- that he will make sure the elections are fully transparent. The woman candidate herself , Magda Breidi a competent lawyer, is paying more than 1 million dollars to secure a seat in the Parliament.

Former Secretary of State
Madelein Albright, visited the leaders of March 14th last week to convey the support of the Obama administration, and promised to come back and monitor the elections. Secretary Clinton also made a stop in Lebanon on her way from Iraq to assure Prime Minister Seniora the US' full cooperation with the pro-west movement.

My fear is that the hearts and minds of more than half of the Lebanese are with the opposition. Again, because they are not getting the services they need from their government in a country beaten down by years of wars and constant Syrian-Iranian interference.

Does our US administration understand the Memetic dynamics in Lebanon? Do they understand that voting is not based on principles in most cases, but based on which Zae'em (Feudal leader) puts their son in school, helps them get the loan they need, secures jobs for their college graduates and paves the roads they drive to their house...
Why should the world care about Lebanon in memetic speak or about the progressive Christians and Muslims? It is because Christian thinkers originally brought Blue-Nationalism to the Levant area, and now progressive Christians, Muslims and Druze are the one who are keeping Blue-Nationalism and Orange-Enterprise alive!
Time for the West to understand Memetics and start intervening in the region based on what the region needs developmentally to help it emerge. The responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of Middle Easterners themselves, but the West must work with them systemically to pry the region out of the hands of these false prophets.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Natural Design principles for Madrasas in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Elza S. Maalouf
On today's Fareed Zakaria's show, GPS, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted that power alone will not achieve the US' goals in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. In the Secretary's speech to the National Defense University he stressed that "Our National Defense Strategy is BALANCE..." Included in this strategy is counter-insurgency operation manuals, Special Forces and Navy programs and "A variety of initiatives are underway that better integrate and coordinate U.S. military efforts with civilian agencies as well as engage the expertise of the private sector, including NGOs and academia."

I did not expect the Secretary of Defense in his speech at NDU to go into details on how to integrate military and civilian efforts. This lack of specificity has been a theme with Clinton, Gates and even Zoellick, president of the World Bank. They all talk about integrated efforts, smart power and societal issues as a complementary part to their strategies, a kind of a by-product that they stumbled upon when their initial strategies did not work. These societally-fit and culturally-fit strategies should be an integral part of our defense, diplomacy and development strategies. In light of the failures we face — economic, political and military — the central theme of our Foreign policy has to change to include at its center a comprehensive understanding of the underlying codes of the cultures we operate in.

This is the basis of the value-based concept of Innovations in Memetic TechnologiesIMT® for short. I have been developing these value-based technologies throughout the years of my work in tribal and feudal cultures, from the early days of being a community organizer and attorney in the Middle East, and later framed by my work with Dr. Don E. Beck on his Large Scale Branch of Psychology.

One of the most effective tools we use in IMT® is based on the framework of Natural Design Principles (Graves-Beck) which in its simplest form asks the following questions in order of importance:

  1. WHERE (Geo-Social Landscape) are these people we want to lead/teach/reform?

  2. WHAT is the overarching goal of this project or intervention?

  3. WHO are they? What are their capacities? Their Value-systems? their belief-systems? their history? religion? tribal loyalties etc....

  4. After assessing these essential element of our systemic strategies for change, we now decide on HOW to implement this change? and Change from WHAT to WHAT?

Reforming Madrasas Based on these Principles:

Madrasas' Islamic education has been an important part of the educational system in Afghanistan and became increasingly important in Pakistan, especially after 9/11 as it became a fear-based defense of Islam against the "onslaught of the West." Madrasa literately means "school" in Arabic, but in the context of these two countries, it is translated in a strict adherence to the study of the Quran and to extreme teachings of Islam. A good Muslim is encouraged to memorize the Quran, and sadly the feudal tribes and strategic exploiters use such nobel purposes to manipulate students into their self-serving ideologies and to fulfill their dreams of a radicalized brand of Islamic Imarat.

These Saudi-financed madrasas operated in poor areas where there was no access to education, and many of the Taliban were educated in these institutions that teach the Wahhabi brand of Islam. Wahhabism was initiated in Saudi Arabia to rid Islam of innovation and bring it back to a literal translation of the Quran. Initially, the Saudis used the Madrasas to counteract the Soviet spread in Afghanistan. A good idea at the time (maybe) that turned toxic and focused on extremism and hatred of the West. Unfortunately, neither the Saudis nor the successive US administrations at the time had social scientists or psychologists to help analyze how such institutions will affect future generations in tribal and feudal cultures.

Now, with hundreds of books and volumes of research written about this subject, the issue we're facing is what to do about these madrasas:
Do we shut them down and restart the educational system with weak governments and weak security forces? if not, how can we deal with the new generation of Taliban that these madrasas are producing?
Using the above stated steps, we start by looking at the Life Conditions surrounding these madrasas: poor neglected areas with cult figures of Taliban giving a sense of identity and a sense of purpose to kids who know they would have amounted to nothing unless they belonged to a powerful clan like the Taliban. "Going to heaven and meeting the 72 virgins" is not the main attraction in many cases. It is unfortunately money. Making a living, supporting their parents and later their families, and having a status in the community are the biggest attractions to these young men. In a culture where the cast system is prevalent, having a status in society by any means is important. The governments in these countries, like in many developing countries are consumed by corruption and most politicians put self-interest ahead of National interest. Billions of dollars in aid over the years, have been re-directed to leaders personal bank accounts abroad, and donor countries always failed to avoid these pitfalls. (This is a very similar situation to Hezbollah's rise in Lebanon.)

Considering these facts and other external/Western factors that contributed to the rise of fundamentalism, it would be wise to keep the already existing madrasas and start with subtle changes led by religious authorities who are passionate Muslims, but not antagonistic to development and progress. The religious structure of madrasas and mosques can serve a great purpose in the lives of Pakistanis and Afghans if imbued with the right content of teachings.

I recommend the initial steps for change to be the following:

  • Lincense the madrasa teachers. A program to license the teachers of madrasas with higher wages and cash bonus incentives. Licensing would mean that they adhere to a common curriculum that teaches the true spirit of Islam, and can be monitored by community leaders and the council of elders. Tribal communities hold a lot of respect to their elders, and reject outside interventions from police and government. (This would help honor the traditions of the tribes and clans while subtlly changing cultural implications and creating an open society)

  • Draw from the legacy of Muslim scientists and history. Adding Math and Science to the exclusively religious content, based on the work of great Muslim scientists like Averos (Ibn Sina) and Al-Bayruni whose contribution to physics and mathematics give Muslims a lot of pride.

  • Add Music curricula for brain development. Music should be an essential component of these schools: since the Taliban despise music, maybe religious chanting with the use of simple instruments can be a place to start.

  • Call on the grandmothers. Kids at the age of 5 and 6 years old from these madrasas are now joining the Taliban, and are taught not speak to women; which makes it hard for women in those circles to have much influence. However, grandmothers are always respected and feared and, if well informed, they can positively influence the minds of these young boys.

A comprehensive plan should be designed for such change to happen, one that coalesces the efforts of our Defense Department, State Department, local governments, NGOs and local community programs. I have only touched on key points that might start the process. This is to show that we cannot keep throwing money at the Pakistani military (the US gave more than 10 Billion to the Pakistani army in the last 8 years), without having an equal strategy to change the habitat that is creating those extremist cells. That is the "balance" that needs to take place along with the military, counterinsurgency and economic strategies to help that region. If such coalescence takes root our entire Foreign policy will be redefined to be more effective, respectful and sustainable.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Hillary Clinton's 100 days in the Muslim World

Elza S. Maalouf
Secretary Clinton said, "Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology. …We must use what has been called “smart power”: the full range of tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural – picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy.”

I salute the Secretary for a well thought out concept of 'Smart Power' vs. hard power or soft power. She has no doubt started a new era of diplomacy that might go beyond what her husband was able to do with foreign policy. My hope is that will be a combination of both soft and hard, plus insightful power. However, Clinton's definition of "smart power" misses the viewing lenses through which we want to design our diplomatic, economic, military....and cultural interventions.

It is not enough to use principles and pragmatism, we need to use stratified strategies that are designed to meet the underlying codes that shaped each culture throughout history and the new elements that are shaping these codes now. This is what we call Integral strategies: WHY do they think or behave this way? How are they incorporating 21st century technology with thousands of years of tribal traditions? It is not enough to use "the tools" that are available to us, but also to know HOW to Fit these tools, to help these people, living in those life conditions.

  • How can we help Afghanis and Pakistanis build an educational system that will not collide with the widely accepted Madrassas? (Check my blog tomorrow about this subject)
  • What kind of modern indigenous architecture should we encourage NGOs and governments to use in building their new hospitals, schools and living quarters in these emerging countries?
  • What is the role of women in these cultures? do we want to liberate them in our Western style? Or listen to the intelligences in the culture and help them design a system that suits their needs? My experience for many years working with bright Palestinian, Syrian and Muslim women from different countries, taught me that these bright women (who might not speak English) know exactly what is needed to move their culture to a better place. They can be the architects of development of their own countries. Here's a example from Build Palestine Initiative, a grassroots movement I have been helping design in Palestine since 2005 that takes into account the integral principles and processes and the importance of starting with the codes that are shaping the culture. In this article and video we show an example of the dangers we face when not designing for the culture, from costing our tax payers million of dollars to prolonging the effect of conflicts and not bearing results: here Palestinian women speak about the clash between USAID's idea of women's abstract empowerment and our Palestinian women's idea of practical and sustainable empowerment Click here for more...
  • How can we coalesce the efforts of Gen Y leaders in the region while trying to support their efforts in changing their countries? Why should we help their governments and NGOs design a comprehensive plan to provide a 21st century education, 21st century jobs and encourage innovation. This is the kind of prideful endeavors that these young Muslim men and women are looking for.

In an ever increasing "Flat world" where more colliding value systems and mindsets are meeting at airports, in businesses and on the internet than ever before, and underlying clash of cultural memes and codes is rising every minute and everyday, not and epic clash of civilizations. My hope is that Secretary Clinton can widen her definition of 'Smart Power' to include the essential memetic elements that will define the new paradigm of our foreign policy.

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Obama's first 100 days in the Muslim World

Elza S. Maalouf
"United States of America is not at war with Islam" president Obama boldly declared in Ankara, Turkey and went on to visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, one of the largest of its kind outside the Arab Peninsula.

The president's strategy to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world is off to a good start.

Here's the Good Start:

In his inauguration speech the President stressed the use of"mutual respect," as a key phrase with a culture that has been feeling demonized for many internal and external reasons.

The first interview he gave to and an international TV network, was with Al-Arabiya a moderate network (dare I say pragmatic) that counteracts the sensationalism and inflammatory reporting of Al-Jazeera (however, al-jazeera produces excellent documentaries on the Muslim world). Obama's interview was well received, and promised to "not only promote an American Agenda, but also to help develop the region." Leaders and pundits in the Arab world praised him, but had a wait-and-see attitude. His Nawruz address to Iran was a good conversation starter with the Iranian people, especially the majority that opposes Ahmedinejad's reckless statements and governing style.

Realizing that Pakistan presents more of an explosive problem than Afghanistan, his administration along with the Japanese secured $ 5 Billion in commitments to Pakistan "to bolster the country's economy and help fight terror and Islamic radicalism" within the country.

Closing Guitmo, was not only an ethical decision based on the Geneva convention and that "the US does not torture," but also a winning strategy against Al-Qaeda's propaganda machine.

Here's where more complexity is needed:

His promise to pull out from Iraq in mid 2010 might be a clever message that might appease the fears of Iraqis and the Arab world, but is not a realistic strategy according to many generals in the Pentagon and in view of a weak Iraqi government and an escalating conflict between Iran and Israel. To most Iraqis this government is considered an American puppet and if history of Iraq tells anything, the power lords in Iraq will not rest until they are ruled by an iron fist. My hope is that any autocratic regime that will appear when the US leaves will be one that is more open to the West.

Sending 18 or 20 Thousand more troops to Afghanistan without systemically addressing the complex underlying problem, will never produce the intended results. The build up in troops must be equally and systemically accompanied by efforts to strengthen the government and security forces while building the culturally-fit institutional, educational and economic infrastructure. Short of doing that, we will repeat the same mistakes that the Carter administration committed in that country.
In their testimony on the Hill, four veterans who served in Afghanistan and managed to establish good relationships with the tribes, complained about the rotation issue of the soldiers. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Genevieve Chase, who served as an intelligence soldier with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan in 2006, said troops should be allowed to extend their tours, if requested.“In a culture where a man’s trust and respect is earned with time, loyalty and devotion to a cause, we rotate out units every six to 12 months,” she said.

The other major issue for that country is that the Afghan security forces' loyalty is to their tribes and clans not to an almost non-existing nation; which makes it harder for our troops to train them.

Obama's administration does not yet have a comprehensive plan on how to address the Swat Valley issue in Pakistan and now the spread of Taliban in the Punjab province - the most economically viable province in Pakistan with half of the Pakistani population living in it. I did not expect our president to find immidiate solutions to such a gynormic problem in the first 100 days of his presidency. However, I did expect to see a systemic framework that includes simultaneous strategies to help resolve this pressing challenge. (I will explain the difference between Systemic, strategic and tactical process in future blogs).

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