If I had my wish I would make it so every child and teenager in America had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East for an extended visit. It happens to be the most interesting place on earth. Even the hardest to please child would be wide eyed while traveling from city to city.
I have been in awe only three times in my life when I saw a new sight for the first time. The first was walking into the Los Angeles Coliseum when I was in fifth grade, the second was when I first glimpsed the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall during the call to prayer in Jerusalem when I was twenty nine, and the third was when I saw the Burj Kalifa under construction in Dubai when I was sixty two.
The most I’ve been taken back emotionally was when my wife, son and I were invited to have dinner in an Arab bedouin home in the deep desert of the Arabian Peninsula in the city of Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. I felt like I had gone back in time and had inhabited Lawrence of Arabia’s body. It was the most serene I had ever felt.
What if children had these experiences in the Middle East at a very young age? Their lives would be altered. Their imaginations would be set ablaze, their scope of understanding of how modern meets ancient would be planted. They would come home brighter, smarter, and more prepared to succeed In the world.
The only challenge at the moment is this region is now the most dangerous place in the world.
Over the past 35 years I’ve probably visited, worked and invested in the Middle East more than in any other place.
I’ve been traveling there since 1976, and have been in most of the countries; and much of that time, I’ve witnessed continuous violence, war and serious tension.
The single most persistent threat is the terrorist barbarism of radical Sunni Arab Islamists (or jihadists). Jihad means armed violence resulting in the destruction of their oppressors. It’s religion with the goal of securing political power. As an American, I am considered an oppressor to them. To them I represent evil because I bring western culture to the Middle East. I’m an infidel because I am not Muslim. They don’t want me in the Middle East. They would just as soon kill me as tolerate me being there.
Sunni jihadis are all over the place, but presently their seat of power resides in the desert between Syria and Iraq. They claim the city of Raqqa in Syria as their capital, and their stated goal is to set up a caliphate ( a religious/political rule) which will stretch from Afghanistan on the east to Spain and Morocco on the west. That’s the equivalent of the Abbasid Dynasty that existed in the Middle East between 650 AD to 1250 AD.
Today, these terrorists go by the name ISIS.
There are two brands of Islam, Sunni and Shia. These ISIS jihadis are SUNNIS. There are different ethnic Sunnis, these jihadis happen to be radical ARAB Sunnis.
Most all of my business in the Middle East has taken place with Israelis and moderate Sunni Arabs. I have had some business contacts with moderate Shiite Iranians. All these people are easy to deal with. They accept westerners like myself. They tolerate and imbibe in western culture. And by far they are the vast, vast majority of the people who live in the Middle East. It would be a serious mistake thinking all Arabs were jihadis. By no means is this true. Don’t be fooled by the robes and head dressing they wear. It means nothing. Right now most of the time ISIS jihadis are wearing American style clothing so they can fight.
Jihadis want to rid the Middle East of westerner culture (top 40 music, instagram, twitter, surf boards, bikinis, wine, concerts, dancing, etc.), the Saudi Royal family, the mullahs of Iran, the Jews of Israel, the entire government of Egypt, the government of Turkey, all moderate Sunni and Shiite Muslims, all secular governments, Europe, and America. In summary, they want everyone gone who is not a radical Islamic Arab Sunni.
We have no choice. Our enemies are by their choice the jihadis who are warriors comprising young men and sociopaths. ISIS jihadis embrace converts from the west. They not only teach these converts the ways of Allah according to their interpretation, but teach the ISIS political ideology of terrorism to be executed on European and American soil. They are committed to dying violently for Allah. Salvation in heaven is guaranteed if they do. Converts to ISIS jihadist theology are the scariest of all, because they are driven to prove their conversion is total.
Who then are our friends in the Middle East? Everyone else. ” The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” They would include: Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey. Outside the Middle East that would include Europe, Russia, Africa, America, and those of us who are doing business there. They are all our friends, even though we may have disagreements with them.
We have a target, and this target has been consistent for at least 35 years. They come in different incarnations, but it’s always the same thread running through it. RADICAL, ISLAMIC, SUNNI, ARABS.
Through the years they’ve gone by different names but their aim is the same. Here are just some of their names: El Shabab, Al Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Black September ( more political than religious), Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, al Nusra, Al Sham, etc.
Their names change but the result is the same. Some of the things they have been responsible for include: the assassination of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1981, the September 11, 2001 destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, a smaller destruction of the same buildings in 1993, the destruction of the Pentagon September 11, 2001, the 1972 murders of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich, the rocket attacks on Israel this past summer, the destruction of three embassies in Africa (Libya being one of them) and the beheading of journalists and others.
Can we win? Yes. Will we win? Yes. How?
Iraqi, Turkish, Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, UAE and Kurdish resources and ground forces along with French, British, and American special forces and air bombing will “degrade, destroy,” and defeat ISIS. All these folks have a common interest in getting rid of these guys.
We need enduring peace in this region. Of all the places I’ve experienced, the Middle East is the most interesting, the most fun, the most educational, and just about the most lucrative. It deserves a hundred years of peace and cooperation.
If we put our differences aside and compromise, the Middle East will rival any place in the world in economic growth.
Every government in the Middle East, no matter what the disputes and disagreements are between them, have a common enemy who must be taken apart.
Afterwards, these moderate Muslim and western nations must make agreements to continue to work together for the guaranteed peace and prosperity of the region. For example:
– Egypt, Israel, and Palestinian Authority must agree on the dismantling of Hamas ( radical, Islamic, Sunni Arabs ).
– Iraq must have a government made up of moderate Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.
– Iran and America must work out a reasonable nuclear agreement. If President Obama can pull this off, he will go down as one of America’s great presidents. It will be the equivalent of President Nixon going to China, and President Roosevelt’s victory in WW2.
– Saudi Arabia must continue to ensure that Sunni terrorists groups like Hamas and others in Syria are starved of resources to keep horrible atrocities from occurring in Gaza City and in the coastal region of Syria and northern Lebanon where Alawites (Shia) are located.
– Iran (Shia) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni) must continue to find reasons to cooperate. Both claim rights to the leadership of Islam after the death of Mohammad the prophet in 632. Along with Egypt and Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the most powerful countries in the Middle East.
– America must continue to become energy rich, and supply Europe with as much energy as they need.
– Syria must have a more representative government made up of moderate Sunnis and Shiites.
-Turkey, Iran and Iraq must work together to ensure Kurdistan becomes an independent nation.
But, first things first, all of us need to take care of business.
My wife claims I’m a Danish pacifist. She’s right, I’d rather do anything than constantly be at war. This time, however, is an important time to put our particular philosophies to one side, and root out a tumor that is spreading and infecting everyone. Of the thirty five years I’ve been going there, this is an inflection point. This is a strategic moment. This is the equivalent of German Nazism in the 1930’s.
Personally, I want my grandchildren to be exposed to twenty to thirty of the most important cities in the world before they are eighteen years old. Five of those cities are in the Middle East. Jerusalem, Cairo and Istanbul on the west side; Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Tehran on the east side. And in between, maybe Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Jeddah is the closest city to Mecca and Medina – the birthplace of Islam.
I want as many Americans as possible visiting these places. Americans by now realize that they live in a global society.Their future economic prosperity resides in doing business directly with the rest of the world. Travel to different places of the world has to be affordable. It should be written into to curriculum of every elementary, middle and secondary school to be able to go to the Middle East. No citizen should be denied the opportunity of getting ahead because they can’t afford to travel where the business and cultural of the world started. That’s why I want jihadism eliminated.
The Middle East has been very good to me. I want it to be good to you too. I want Americans to be the most educated and rich people on the face of the planet when it comes to knowing the world, especially the world of the Middle East. It is the ancient of ancients, which is working at becoming uber modern and inviting. It is the one place on earth where you can see the past and the future with clear eyes.
But for now, hell’s fury has been unleashed in the Middle East, and evil roams the fields with blood and horror. Jihadism must be destroyed by a coalition of the willing. Unless we do it at this point, it will continue to spread and ensnarl our lives in America in its web of violence, cruelty, and mayhem.