Given the choice, most voters would rather forget about the Middle East. With so many pressing problems here at home, it is hard to keep worrying about that precarious place. But the Middle East is not easily forgotten. In the first place, our oil supply, which continues to fuel our economy until we find feasible alternatives, requires a measure of stability in the region. And in the second place, John McCain has stated repeatedly that the threat of Islamic extremism is the transcendent issue of our time. So how should Senator Obama speak about the Middle East, so as to inspire Americans with a sense of hope in that regard, and so as to meet the challenges he will face from Republicans on this important issue?
Americans are responding enthusiastically to Senator Obama’s call for hope and change. Along these same lines, there is no reason why a message of hope and change cannot include the Middle East as well. In fact, Senator Obama would be well advised to give substance to his message of hope and change by selling Americans, and people around the world, on a Vision of Hope for the Middle East. In a very real sense, if people can become inspired with hope when it comes to the precarious Middle East, then they could definitely become inspired about a whole host of other issues, which are a lot less contentious. So let the Middle East be the test for the possibility of hope.
Keeping all this in mind, how would you go about inspiring people with a Vision of Hope for the Middle East?
Selling a Vision of Hope
has five parts to it, like the five fingers of your hand:
The thumb is for Ideology
: The world, which is increasingly becoming globalized economically and technologically, is ready for a new ideological framework—an Ideology of Common Sense—based on universal principles of common sense; by which we speak to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. Instead of believing what we want to believe, it is time to start believing in what makes sense. In a more perfect world, common sense will inspire our thinking and inform our speech. How do wed begin to come together? In our fractured world, common sense is the common denominator.
The index finger if for Investment
: We should invest in one another to create good paying jobs which inspire a sense of hope, which protect the environment, and which help to neutralize ideological extremism. If the West is good at anything it is making and investing money. Why not use this strength as part of our strategic arsenal to promote the peace and to defeat extremism? We can use public and private funds to create an International Fund for Economic Development in the Middle East, under the banner, “We stand ready to invest in you, if you are ready to invest in yourselves.” Good paying jobs there could create good paying jobs here at home, by opening up new markets for our goods and services. And with green technology jobs, we could help convert oil profits into green profits, and begin to clean up the environment as well.
The middle finger is for Hope
: We could use an Ideology of Common Sense along with some well placed Investment Dollars to sell 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. 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.
The ring finger is for Public Diplomacy
: Once you sell a Vision of Hope, it becomes important to sustain the vision, 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 Media Campaign, a program to Empower Women, a Student Exchange, a Cultural Exchange, an expanded version of the Peace Corps, and a series of International Conferences on economics, religion, and education.
Take, for example, the program to Empower Women. Empower women in the Middle East, 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 reconstitute their societies consistent with a Vision of Hope.
The pinky is for the willingness to Fight
: If we already have to fight against ideological extremism, and we do, then we should fight, and fight hard, but we should position the fight within a Vision of Hope. We should elevate the fight on the ground to a higher moral plain, by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. People will fight harder once they know what they’re fighting for. We’re not fighting a war against terror. We’re fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There’s a big difference.
By speaking this way, Senator Obama will neutralize any attempt to cast him as soft on terror, while at the same time inspiring a sense of hope for the Middle East. In effect, he will empower our nation to face the ideological extremists head on. Selling a Vision of Hope is a way of beating the extremists at their own game, of doing what they do only better, of co-opting their strategy and thereby marginalizing them in the eyes of their own people.
If the extremists are ideological about violent Jihad, we will be ideological about Common Sense. If they invest peanuts in charitable handouts, we will invest some serious dollars in jobs. If they sell a vision of hope for 72 virgins, or martyrdom, or paradise, or a caliphate, or what have you, we will sell a Vision of Hope for Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom.
At every turn, we will cut them off at the pass, and beat them at their own game. We will marginalize them in the eyes of their own people. They will become pariahs in the midst and will come to know the loneliness of being out of step with the will of the people. The will of the people will not be deterred. In the final analysis, the ideological extremists will not be able to capture the public’s imagination, once people begin to imagine the possibility of a better life for themselves.
Ask yourself this: Where will peace ultimately come from? When all is said and done, peace will come from the heart and the mind of the man on the street. We can win his mind by speaking to him with Common Sense and with a sense of personal dignity. We can win his heart by investing in him—by giving him a place at the table, a stake in his future. And we can win the peace by selling him on a Vision of Hope. Give the man on the street a sense of hope and you will have turned the corner on world peace. Nothing less will suffice, and nothing more is needed.
As Barack Obama is suggesting, start with a vision, a big Vision of Hope. Give it some substance on the ground. And soon enough, the reality on the ground will fill up the space created by the vision. Such is the dynamic for change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East. This may well be the time, before time runs out, to dream the impossible, and to make the impossible come true.
For more information, please visit our website at www.sellingavisionofhope.org