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If you were Barack Obama, how would you Sell a Vision of Hope for the Middle East?

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

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Comment by Nissim Dahan on June 24, 2008 at 3:22pm
Adeeb, let me give you an example of the type of help I need, and the type of thing that we have to do as partners.

The Honda corporation just came up with a car, called "Clarity" which runs on hydrogen fuel cells. Japan is investing some serious dollars in the West Bank. What would it take to get a company like Honda to build this car, or at least a part of it, in the West Bank, using Palestinian workers? Who would we have to talk to to, to make something happen along these lines? Do you know anyone we should approach?

This is the kind of project that resonates with hope, and that points in the direction of a solution to our most serious problems: the threat to the environment, the threat from ideological extremism, and the threat from extreme poverty.

A company like Honda may buy into this idea, because the potential benefit in terms of public relations, and profits, and investment capital, including Arab investment, etc, could be enormous.

What are your thoughts?

Regards,

Nissim
Comment by Nissim Dahan on June 19, 2008 at 12:07am
Adeeb, it's a very good idea, but we have to figure out how to make it happen.

If we rely only on people's sense of goodness, we may not get very far, because most people are motivated more by self- interest, than by the welfare of others.

In order to give your idea some real push, we have to find a way to make it in the best interest of people around the world to give substance to your idea. They have to want it out of self-interest.

So ask yourself this: What are people around the world most interested in, or most worried about? I think they are interested in: making money, cleaning up the environment, and neutralizing ideological extremism for the sake of peace.

Therefore, using your idea, if we could start producing and marketing Palestinian products which help to satisfy world wide demand, then we will succeed, not because people want to help us, but because we are helping to fill an important need they have.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday I was watching a TV program by National Geographic. The scientists there were talking about Global Warming, and were predicting that in as little as 50 years, the sea level may rise up as much as 20 feet due to the melting ice caps. If that happens, more than 50% of the world population will become flooded. This would be the greatest catastrophe known to man.

One of the problems is that the polar ice caps are melting, due to high carbon emissions, and as a result there is less ice to reflect the sunlight away from the oceans, and so the oceans warm even more, which melts more ice, and which causes hurricanes. One scientist, as an experiment, placed a white poster board next to a black poster board, and put them both in the sunlight. Within minutes, the black poster board started heating up, and the white one stayed cool. The black board is like the sea, absorbing heat, and the white one is like ice, reflecting heat away.

So I got to thinking. What if we produce a product to simulate ice, which would reflect the heat away from the earth? For example, what if we produce white plastic panels which float on the oceans, and are flexible to roll with the waves. And what if we could create a surface large enough to reflect enough sunlight to make a difference on Global Warming. And what if we produce cars which run on hydrogen fuel cells, like Honda is now doing. And what if these plastic panels and these hydrogen fuel cells are produced in Palestine.

You see where I'm going with this, Adeeb? We would be creating good paying jobs which protect the environment. We would restore Arab pride because the Arab world would become the center of green technlogy. We would be neutralizing extremism by giving everyone on earth a place at the table, a stake in his or her future. We would be converting oil profits into green profits. We would be taking people out of the clutches of extreme poverty. And we would be providing some enterprising businesspeople a chance to make a buck.

This is the kind of thing that needs to happen. It is very much in accordance with your thinking, but it helps to energize your idea by appealing to the basic needs and fears of people around the world. With oil selling at $130 a barrel, there is enough profit margin in there to make going green profitable. What if Palestine, and the rest of the Middle East, could become the "Mecca" for green technology? Think of the possibilities.

Let's see if we can make it happen. What do you say?

Nissim
Comment by Nissim Dahan on June 17, 2008 at 7:32pm
Adeeb, I agree with your idea about the "Capitalist peace making process."

Whatever peace framework we come up with has to be sustainable. We cannot depend on the whims of political leaders. We need to find a way to perpetuate the process indefinitely.

Adeeb, I don't know if you're a Star Trek fan; but remember the Starship Enterprise? There were two giant engines powering the ship. What if one engine were to be called Ideology, and the other, Investment? And what if the ship were to be called Hope?

An Ideology of Common Sense would be self-sustaining because Common Sense is a powerful force, which has been around since the beginning of time, at least since the beginning of our stay here on this good earth.

Investment in one another, to create good paying jobs, jobs which project the environment, and which help to neutralize ideological extremism, is also a self-sustaining "engine," because, as you suggest, the motive to create profits has always been around, and is quickly becoming the central organizing principle in this globalized economy of ours.

The engines of Ideology and Investment could be used to power the Starship Hope indefinitely; and with hope, all things are possible even the impossible dream of peace.

Could I use your help? You bet. I could use all the help I can get. Selling a Vision of Hope is as close to impossible as you can get. But considering the alternative, what choice do we really have but to try?

More than anything, I need contacts. I need to talk to people who know people. I would like to begin by setting up one project on the West Bank, with the hope that a successful project could be the beginning of a movement to Sell a Vision of Hope.

I envision a group of Palestinian and Israeli investors building a factory in one of the four insdustrial zones in the West Bank, to produce a green technology project which would help the world energy crisis in some significant way. Palestinian workers would be hired and trained for good paying jobs. Saudi finanacing would be the icing on the cake because the Saudis would be saying to the world as follows: We are ready to convert oil profits to green projects. We are ready to help neutralize extremism. And we are ready to pave the path toward peace.

So, if you could get me in touch with people who could help us put something like this together, that would be a blessing indeed. So far, here's what I have: a website, a book, a few people interested, a strong contact with a leading Israeli university that has a department on nanotechnolgy for green technology products. The university is willing to work with our investors, to produce and market the product.

If you have contacts, that would be great, such as: business people who want to create a legacy for peace, inventors who want to use their green technology projects for peace, instead of just money, investors who want to make something happen toward peace, and toward the environment. You can see what I mean.

Once a project gets going, we can promote it, and market it, so as to attract a lot of world wide attention. We would offer, as a real example, a possible solution for the three greatest threats to mankind: ideological extremism, the threat to the environment, and widespread poverty. Hopefully, a successful project, will attract a lot of attention, for even more money, for even more jobs, for even more protection of the environment, for even more neutralizing of extremism, for even more chance for peace.

Please let me know what you think. The fact that you are interested is a good beginning.

Best to you,

Nissim
Comment by Nissim Dahan on June 14, 2008 at 4:17pm
I look forward to your reply, Adeeb. And good luck with your exam.

Nissim

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