The Middle East remains a precarious place. We have invested heavily in the Middle East, putting our precious blood and treasure on the line, but as yet we have been unable to bring even a small measure of peace and stability to that troubled region. There are recent developments afoot, including the prospect of a nuclear Iran, which indicate that the Middle East could well slide into an even more precarious place, contrary to our nation’s best interests and to the interest of global security as well. And yet, as ironic as it may seem, the very same existential threats which threaten some of the key players in the Middle East, are also the very same incentives which they have to come together in peace. It is possible to imagine a scenario in which some very common existential threats are configured in just the right way, so as to create a mosaic of mutual self-interest. In this regard, a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, if concluded, could be leveraged to create a strategic/economic alliance which would include the Sunni Arab states of the Middle East, as well as Israel and the U.S. Two things in particular will be needed to bring about this favorable outcome: a Vision of Hope which inspires us to take the lead in this regard, as well as a consortium of top business leaders—Billionaires for Peace—who will work behind the scenes to push the peace process forward, and to help revitalize the entire Middle East for the sake of global peace, prosperity, and freedom.
Many are working feverishly to promote peace in the Middle East, but so far the “business angle” is sorely missing. The world’s top business leaders are perhaps best positioned to help bring peace in the face of countless obstacles, and to revitalize the Middle East by creating good paying jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which weaken the hold of extremist thinking. A new and vibrant Middle East will not only sustain and grow the peace, and help to keep extremist forces in check, but could also become an engine for economic growth in the U.S. and beyond, a new market for our goods and services, while creating good paying American jobs in the process. In short, everybody wins. Given what is at stake for the Middle East, for Israel, for our nation, and for the world as a whole, we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in the search for peace. Billionaires for Peace could be the missing piece that helps give momentum to the peace process by inspiring a few very special visionaries to bestow the legacy of peace to countless generations yet to come.
Billionaires for Peace:
Inspiring the World’s Top Business Leaders to Embrace a Vision of Hope, to push the Peace Process Forward from Behind the Scenes, and to Help Revitalize the Middle East, for the Sake of Global Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom.
The United States, along with a whole host of other countries around the world, have invested untold blood and treasure in the Middle East, and still somehow, peace and order in that troubled region remain illusory at best. At times, our policies in the Middle East seem somewhat muddled, and we often find ourselves reacting haphazardly to random events, as opposed to formulating a clear, concise and convincing vision for the region, and following through in that regard. At the same time, however, we sense that much is at stake in the Middle East, and that we ignore the events there at our peril. We also sense that despite our best efforts, the Middle East may well be drifting, ever so gradually, to a bad, precarious and dangerous place. What if anything can we do to maximize the chances for peace, and to infuse our nation’s foreign policy with a vision of hope for the future, and with a systematic plan to realize that vision?
II. The Danger of Maintaining the Status Quo
There are indications that the Middle East is in a state of flux and that under the right circumstances, the region could easily realign itself in a way that would be contrary to Western interests, and to the best interests of the people who live there. Many of the key players in the Middle East are facing existential threats which could easily overwhelm them and take them in a negative and dangerous direction.
The ascendancy of Iran as potentially a nuclear power, and as a power determined to reconfigure the Middle East as it sees fit, is one of the key destabilizing forces in the region, and is playing itself out in various political arenas. For example, Iran finances Hamas, and Hamas has taken control of Gaza, and yet, much of the leadership in the West Bank is concerned about a Hamas takeover in the West Bank, and sees that prospect as a dead end to their dream for the emergence of a free, prosperous, and independent Palestine. In a similar vein, Israel sees a nuclear Iran as an existential threat on several levels: Iran could attack Israel directly, or indirectly by instigating a nuclear arms race in the region, and by using the protective cover of nuclear capability to destabilize existing regimes using proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah. A nuclear Iran could consolidate its hold on power by suppressing internal dissent. As another example, Saudi Arabia, and many of the other Sunni states, are also gravely concerned about the prospect of a nuclear Iran, especially in the context of a long history of rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis in the Muslim world.
Under these circumstances, allowing the Middle East to drift toward instability would be asking for trouble on a big scale, including inviting a threat to the free flow of oil, and exacerbating the threat of worldwide terror. Further instability in the Middle East would thwart any hope of revitalizing the region in any positive and meaningful way, and would block the emergence of peace and order in the region. Whatever temptation there may be to isolate ourselves from the Middle East should be tempered by our realization of what is at stake for the future of the region, for our nation in particular, and for the world as a whole.
III. The Opportunity for Change: Using Common Threats to Create a Mosaic of Mutual Self-Interest
Ironically, the same existential threats which are causing instability in the Middle East, are also the very same forces which could be harnessed to bring about positive change in the Middle East. For example, if Fattah, the political party in the Palestinian West Bank, is worried about a Hamas takeover there, it is perhaps Israel which is best positioned and most capable to help stop that from happening, which could be used to give momentum to a peace deal between Israel and West Bank Palestinians. Similarly, if Israel is worried about the existential threat posed by a nuclear Iran, it is perhaps in her best interest to consummate a peace deal with Palestine, at least in the West Bank, and to leverage that deal to reach a peace agreement with the rest of the Arab world, so as to consolidate support against the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran, and by other extremist threats. Along the same lines, if Saudi Arabia, and the other Sunni states, are threatened by a nuclear Iran, it is perhaps in their interest to use a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine as an opportunity to declare peace with Israel, in accordance with the Arab Peace Plan of 2002, and to grow that peace into a strategic/economic alliance, which would include Israel and the U.S., to protect against Iran and other sources of extremism, and to revitalize the Middle East with good paying jobs: jobs which grow their respective economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which weaken the hold of extremist thinking. The marriage of Arab capital and Israeli and American ingenuity could bode well for a new and vibrant Middle East. And finally, if Palestinians in Gaza begin to witness the realization of a Vision of Hope in the West Bank, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom, and if they begin demanding their share from Hamas, then it may behoove Hamas to allow the construction of an industrial zone between Israel and Gaza, which would create some 200,000 jobs, and to use job creation to legitimate its hold on power, using economic growth as opposed to terror.
As such, it is possible to imagine a scenario whereby the existential threats which threaten some of the key players in the Middle East, are in fact used to create a new realignment, a new strategic/economic alliance, based on mutual self-interest, with an eye to bringing peace and revitalizing the entire region. People may come together in this fashion not because they necessarily want to, and certainly not because they love one another, but perhaps because they may finally need one another, and they have no other choice but to come together for the sake of staving off some very common threats. Let them first come together out of dire necessity, and after a while, with people making money together, and providing security for one another, it could well grow into something much more.
IV. The Vision that will be Required: A Vision of Hope
A multi-faceted challenge requires a multi-faceted response. In this clash of civilizations, the clash between parts of the Muslim world and the Western world, the war is being waged on several dimensions by the extremists, but the Western response has been somewhat lacking. The West is being challenged on several fronts, and therefore, has no choice but to respond accordingly. For example, if the extremists are assaulting us on ideological grounds, what should be our ideological response? Do we even have an ideological response? We need a vision which will counter the arguments made against us, and which will help us to beat the extremists at their own game. A good vision for us to embrace will be a vision which puts together all the pieces of a possible solution to our most intractable problems—the Economy, the Environment, and Extremism—which packages those pieces in the most compelling and attractive way, and which allows us to sell that vision to the man on the street. We call that vision Selling a Vision of Hope, which has five parts to it, like the five fingers of your hand. In a very real sense, it could well be argued that the answer to world peace lies in the palm of our hand:
1. Ideology: If the ideological extremist, wherever he is to be found, and whatever religious tradition he happens to subscribe to, uses extremist ideology to consolidate his hold on political power, we will use An Ideology of Common Sense, a new framework for rational discourse based on common sense principles, to speak to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. Universal principles such as The Golden Rule, The Golden Mean, and The Greatest Good will help us to sell a Vision of Hope in the Middle East. In a more perfect world, common sense, the collective wisdom born of shared experience, will inspire our thinking and inform our speech. In our fractured world, common sense is the common denominator.
2. Investment: If the ideological extremist invests in charity to alleviate the suffering of the people, we will invest in jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking. Business creates its own ideological imperative. When we are making money together, when we are all given a place at the table, a stake in our collective future, then we are much less likely to hop on to the bandwagon of martyrdom. Business can create a neutral pathway to peace. In addition, a new and revitalized Middle East could serve as a new engine for economic growth in the U.S. and in the West, as a strong and vibrant market is created for Western goods and services, with good paying jobs created in the process. In short, everybody wins.
3. Hope: If the ideological extremist sells people on a vision of hope for martyrdom, or paradise, or what have you, we will use An Ideology of Common Sense along with some well placed Investment Dollars to sell one another on a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom, on the Arab street, in the Muslim world, and in the world as a whole. Albert Einstein came up with E=mc2. Thankfully, the formula for world peace is a lot simpler: Ideology plus Investment equals Hope, and with hope all things are possible, even the impossible dream of peace.
4. Diplomacy: We can use private diplomacy to convince some of the key players in the Middle East that coming together in peace is the only way of staving off some very common existential threats which loom menacingly right around the corner. In addition, however, once we begin selling people on a Vision of Hope, we can use Public Diplomacy to sustain the hope, by launching a series of Public Diplomacy Programs which are specifically designed to prop the vision up and to carry it forward, such as: a program to Empower Women, a Student Exchange, a Cultural Exchange, a Media Campaign, an expanded version of the Peace Corps, and a series of International Conferences. Take, for example, the program to Empower Women by financing female entrepreneurs and promoting women’s rights. Empower Muslim and Arab women in ways that they deem appropriate and you will have changed the face of the Middle East. Who are women? They are the givers of life and the caretakers of life and as such are uniquely qualified to help reconstitute their societies consistent with a Vision of Hope.
5. The Willingness to Fight: If the ideological extremist wages a war of terror against us, then we will fight back in self-defense, and fight hard, but we will also position the fight within a Vision of Hope. As such, we will elevate the fight on the ground to a higher moral plane by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. People will fight harder against the forces of extremism once they know what they’re fighting for. We are not fighting a “war against terror.” We are fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There’s a big difference.
Selling a Vision of Hope will embolden us to push the peace process forward, to revitalize the Middle East, and to counter each of the individual challenges posed by the ideological extremists, whether those challenges are ideological, economic, spiritual, diplomatic, or military. At every turn, we will cut the extremist off at the pass, co-opt his strategy, and marginalize him in the eyes of his own people. We will beat him at his own game, by embracing a vision which inspires in people a sense of hope. In the final analysis, the ideological extremist will not be able to capture the public’s imagination, once people begin to imagine a better life for themselves.
V. Billionaires for Peace: Giving Substance to a Vision of Hope
Many people are working tirelessly to bring about peace in the Middle East. The current round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians entail the efforts of political leaders, diplomats, academics and others. However, thus far the “business angle” has been largely ignored, even though economic development and job creation are at the heart of what will be needed to push the peace process forward, and to overcome the obstacles to peace which will invariably come up. There is an air of heightened tensions and sensitivities around the negotiating table, and under such circumstances, when so much is at stake, business can be used to create a neutral pathway to peace, and to overcome many of the obstacles that hinder the search for peace.
Billionaires for Peace is based on the idea that a consortium of top business leaders, from Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the greater Middle East, and the U.S., could become inspired to work behind the scenes to push the peace process forward between Israel and Palestine, and to use an agreement in that regard as a springboard to help revitalize the entire Middle East. Business leaders bring a new and fresh perspective to the table, even to the negotiating table, including their boundless imagination and their innate ability to get things done and to create jobs in the process. They can work behind the scenes in a number of ways: negotiate business deals that will create jobs once a peace deal is consummated, use their influence to help the diplomats overcome obstacles and finesse sticky issues, use their vast networks to inspire political leaders and their people with a Vision of Hope for the Middle East, encourage their foundations to launch projects which are geared to sustain the hope, exert pressure on leaders in the U.S. and beyond to adopt policies which are more conducive to the quest for peace, etc.
Business is certainly about making money, and rightfully so, but it could be, and often is, about making a difference as well. In our complex, inter-dependent, and often volatile world, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a strong correlation between peace and security on the one hand, and economic development and job creation on the other. Billionaires for Peace is one modality that can be used to enhance that connection between jobs and peace, and to bridge the ideological divide for the sake of peace. It is inconceivable that a healthy global economy could be sustained without a strong and concerted effort to stabilize volatile regions such as the Middle East. The energy and synergy that will be created by having some of the world’s top business leaders working together in common purpose, to realize a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom, would be invaluable in the quest to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. This is an idea which could inspire people from all walks of life, and could become the rich legacy which a few key visionaries choose to bestow on countless generations yet to come. Some may say that some of these ideas are naïve or a bit over the top. But this may well be the time, before time runs out, to dream the impossible, and to make the impossible come true.