Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No conditions, no taboos - Let's just sit down and talk

Yigal Palmor, spokesperson of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, uses Youtube to explain why Palestinian unilateral bid for statehood is wrong and leas nowhere.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Israel as a scapegoat of the Arab World: Nothing new under the sun

Editorial Board Opinion of Washington Post. There is no better way to explain the September initiative of the Palestinian Authority.

Once again, Israel is scapegoated

ISRAELIS WORRY that the Arab Spring is turning from a popular movement against dictatorship into another assault on the Jewish state, and their worry is not unfounded. Last week in Cairo a mob attacked the Israeli Embassy, forcing the evacuation of the ambassador and most of his staff; the previous week the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was expelled. Later this month Palestinians are expected to introduce aresolution on statehood at the United Nations, and Israel could be further isolated if, as expected, a large majority of the General Assembly votes in favor of it.

There’s little doubt that plenty of Arabs and Turks are angry at Israel. But it’s worth noting that, as often is the case in the Middle East, those passions are being steered by governments.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who aspires to regional leadership, has directed a campaign against the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and stoked it with incendiary statements. Mr. Erdogan is furious that a U.N. investigation concluded that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, and thus its intervention to stop a Turkish-led flotilla last year, was legal. He also finds it convenient to lambaste Israel rather than talk about neighboring Syria, where daily massacres are being carried out by a regime Mr. Erdogan cultivated.
The assault on the embassy in Cairo has been condemned by the leaders of Egypt’s popular revolution and by some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both they and Western diplomats blame the ruling military for failing to secure the embassy, and they suspect the omission may have been part of an effort to divert rising public unrest toward a familiar target.
In the West Bank, polls have shown that President Mahmoud Abbas’s U.N. statehood initiative is regarded as a low priority by the majority of Palestinians, 60 percent of whom said the better option was resuming direct negotiations with Israel. But Mr. Abbas fears he may be the next target of popular uprising; the U.N. gambit appears aimed in part at preempting that.
This is not to say the trend is benign. Israel is looking more isolated than at any time in decades. It is more than a hapless bystander: Mr. Netanyahu’s government could have avoided a crisis with Turkey had it been willing to apologize for the deaths of nine Turks during the interception of the flotilla, which the U.N. panel rightly judged to be an excessive use of force. An incident in which five Egyptian guards were killed when Israeli forces pursued terrorists crossing the border helped to trigger the upsurge in tensions with Cairo. And Mr. Netanyahu’s slowness to embrace reasonable parameters for Palestinian statehood provided Mr. Abbas with a pretext for his U.N. initiative.
It nevertheless is in the interest of Western governments, as well as of Israel, to resist the counterproductive and irresponsible initiatives of Mr. Abbas and Mr. Erdogan. In Egypt, the military has cited the attack on the Israeli Embassy as a pretext to apply emergency laws and censor the media; those, too, are steps in the wrong direction. The core demands of the Arab Spring have nothing to do with Israel: They are about ending authoritarian rule and modernizing stagnating societies. Scapegoating Israel will not satisfy the imperative for change.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Get Well Soon!" from Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem

Doctors can also play, sing and dance at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. Very nice use of Youtube, how you'd call it, Health 2.0?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Web 2.0 is a "fait accompli" in France. But what about the French version of Gov 2.0?

"France succumbed to Twitter" - this is today's headline in one of the most popular French newspaper "Le Parisien". Two million French are using Twitter as of today. This number is nothing compared to the true success of Facebook on the French soil. Half (!) of the population in France are using the biggest social network in the world.

The success of social media in France is undoubted. In addition to the global networks, like Twitter and Facebook, there are other networks that  have rather French or European flavor and are also quite popular, to mention Daily Motion (a version of Youtube) for exchanging videos, or Viadeo (a version of LinkedIn) that is used for professional purposes.

The boom of the social media is being felt especially strong in the last few month, due to an extraordinary event that happened in Mai: the arrest of the president of IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The French media was reporting about this event in an obsessive way, only reflecting the shock that struck the public and the political class in France. But what was of particular importance in the aspect of social media is that the first to report about the event was a french student who tweeted the information on his personal account.

The sudden explosion of interest for Twitter was unprecedented. All major newspapers provided Twitter's user guide, as if inviting their readers to follow the reports about the DSK affair on Twitter. Needless to say, most of the French journalists covering this affair in New York were tweeting about it on their personal accounts! This trend, however, was not met with much enthusiasm on the part of the traditional media. Some of them, like TV channel Canal+ asked their correspondents to stop tweeting.

The Web 2.0 revolution is in full swing in France. But what about Gov 2.0 of the French Government? It's true that many politicians opened Facebook and Twitter accounts. The President of the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, has the bigger number of fans on his Facebook page than any other European leader. And even Martin Aubry from the Socialist Party, his probable rival in the next elections, who was quoted saying: "Facebook et Twitter, j'ai horreur de ca" (Facebook and Twitter, I'am horrified by it), recently opened her Twitter account.

However all these examples don't change the reality. One of the French experts of social media whom I met recently, put it this way: "There is no Gov 2.0 in France. It's still Gov 1.0". Unfortunately, the french ministries (with some rare exceptions), state and public employees, representatives of local government still haven't discovered Gov 2.0 - the idea that the modern government could - and even should - use the social media to improve its services and to have direct dialogue with citizens. The idea that social media could be incorporated into the functioning of the government is far from being explored and conceptualized. One of the rare examples is the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs that opened an official Twitter account. However, I've never seen french diplomats tweeting for professional purposes.

What is the reason for this reticent attitude of the government towards social media? From the meetings with my colleagues, diplomats from other European countries, I learned that this attitude exists in other countries as well. At the bottom line, there is a fear of loosing control over official information when state and public employees will enter the social media. These concerns are common for all state bureaucracies, however it doesn't prevent many countries to allow and even encourage Gov 2.0, like in USA, Canada, UK and Australia, Japan and Israel. It looks like in most of the Europe there exist cultural barrier which is very difficult to overcome.

This difference in a mindset was felt during the last G-8 summit in May, that was hold in France, the current president of the Club. The French presidency invited to the forum the most important players of social media, among them Marc Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt. While the French President highlighted in his speech the need of more control of the governments over the Internet, his invitees tended to stress the dangers of the excessive regulation, and repeated their conviction that Internet can be regulated by itself.

I think that the states can have some limited role in regulation of the Internet or social media. However, what is more important is that Governments will play its role not as a regulator, but as an active participant in the social media. Governments should be present there and conduct direct dialogue with their citizens. The time of one-way communication is over: the governments must join Web 2.0. This idea is called Gov 2.0. If it doesn't sound well in French, we can think about better translation.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why Palestinian unilateral bid for UN recognition is way to nowhere

“It’s hard to understand, but Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is heading full force into his own collapse, and that of his Authority, in September”, wrote an Israeli commentator Guy Bechor a few days ago.

It’s one thing to make declarations; it’s another thing to bring to their implementation. It’s one thing to use strong expressions like “Israel will face diplomatic tsunami in September”. However in reality, the vote in the UN, if it will happen (with strong emphasis on “if”), could hardly be described even as an “aftershock”. Rather it will prove to be void of any significance, like most of the communication spins promoted by Palestinian Authority and their supporters in the media.

We don’t have to be prophets in order to understand why this outcome of the UN bid is almost inevitable. We just have to be good listeners.

Let’s first listen to somebody who probably has better understanding than the average person, why the unilateral declaration in the UN is useless and counterproductive. Person whom the President of the Palestinian Authority Abbas wants to keep as his Prime Minister -the acting Prime Minister Salam Fayad. In an interview to the AP on June 28, asked what would change on the ground after the UN recognition, he said: “Nothing, unless Israel is part of that consensus”. Fayad also warned against raising false expectations among the Palestinians.

He is, of course, right. Once the Palestinians will see their expectations unanswered, the situation can get out of control. Israel, no doubt, will be the target of this frustration – but also the Palestinian authority. Because PA and its leaders will be blamed for this failure, and Hamas will have another chance to strengthen its influence in the West Bank.  This scenario would be hardly welcomed by the population of the West Bank, after 3 years of economic growth and improved conditions of life. They don’t want to see the green flags of Hamas waving over Ramallah and Bethlehem.

In the Israeli-Palestinian equation there are of course much more players. Let’s listen to our neighbor from East.  Here is what said senior Jordanian official to the UAE-based Al-Bayan newspaper: "Jordan’s top national interests will be in danger if the Palestinian Authority declares statehood unilaterally – especially in everything related to the issue of refugees, water, Jerusalem, and the borders".

And of course it’s not only Jordan who is very skeptical about the new Palestinian initiative. We also hear voices from the Persian Golf, like the one of Abdallah al-Hadlaq in the Koweiti newspaper Al Watan: “All those who hope for real peace in the region must reject these reckless unilateral Palestinian moves that block the negotiation process. The Palestinians must be made to understand that the only way to a permanent peace 
treaty will be through direct talks”.

Palestinian strategy of unilateral recognition won’t work. United States, Germany, Italy, Holland and other European countries already stated that they will not support it. We are sure that France and Great Britain will follow the same path. The position of Russia and China are still not clear, despite the spin the Palestinians are trying to make.

All these strong expressions like “diplomatic tsunami” or diplomatic isolation of Israel are no more than spin whose goal is to pressure Israel. A political tsunami did happened in the Middle East – it started last December in Tunisia, made its way to Egypt, and nowadays takes place in Syria. However, the UN vote on Palestinian State in September won’t even make an “aftershock”. It would be just another vote in UN that will change nothing. Mahmoud Abbas went to the other part of the world to get recognition for his state. He forgot that the distance from Ramallah to Jerusalem is less than 20 kilometers, and that the two-state solution is a way to solve our conflict, not to perpetuate it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Palestinian reconciliation as the first result of Arab revolutions

When 3 weeks ago, on April 22, I wrote about unpredictable things that can happen before September 2011 and change the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I never thought that the change can come that fast. But on April 27 Hamas and Fatah already declared about their reconciliation deal.
Fatah and Hamas symbols
Let’s analyze how this event became possible, once again without slogans or emotions, and try to see what could be the consequences of such a move.

First of all, why Abu Mazen should have accepted the deal? As some reporters and commentators said this “reconciliation” with the organization that is regarded as terrorist by the US and the EU could, in fact, have negative effect for his own image and  threaten his “UN recognition” project. Here are the explanations:

a. Abu Mazen didn’t really have a choice – he gave his consent to this agreement already a year ago, when the Egyptians tried to bring the two Palestinian factions to table of negotiations.
b. He didn’t have choice because the new Egypt's transition government was pushing for the reconciliation. He could not say "no" to his most important Arab ally.
c. Abu Mazen also estimated that given his perfect image of the peacemaker among the European countries, he can use his reputation to silence the concerns about Hamas. His gamble was correct. Just look at the declarations of France and the Great Britain (to mention the main players) that expressed their satisfaction with Palestinian reconciliation. This fashion of legitimizing Hamas will of course play against Abu Mazen in the near future; I’ll elaborate on this later.

More intriguing question is why, out of the blue, Hamas, decided to “reconcile”? Experts provided us with different estimations, so let’s summarize it briefly.

a. In the wake of the revolution in Syria and some anti-Iranian slogans among the protesters, Hamas realized that his presence in Damascus is not safe anymore. The reports about transfer of its headquarters to Qatar and even Egypt came 3 days before the news about reconciliation.  A mere coincidence? You bet. Hamas was pressed and had to respond quickly to a sudden change of the new balance of powers in the Middle East.
b. A few days after the reconciliation Egypt declared about opening the Rafah crossing that will put an end to an Egyptian-Israeli blockade of Gaza. This would be an achievement for Hamas which they can present to the population of Gaza, that started to express its dissatisfaction both with the blockade and the the Palestinian division.
c. The new Egypt, without Mubarak and with the growing influence of the Moslem brothers, the ideological alma mater of the Hamas, is much more comfortable for Hamas.
d. The new Israeli anti-missile Iron Dome system serves as a new deterrence for Hamas which they still have to overcome.

So, Hamas’ position has been weakened, especially because of the new geopolitical equation. Situation in Syria weakens not only Hamas, but also Hezbollah. According to reports from there, in the middle of April Hassan Nasrallah secretly visited Damascus to discuss the situation in Syria. Some other reports mention the transfer of Hizballah’s weapons from Syrian bases to Hezbollah's own bases in Lebanon. When we add to this possible transfer of Hamas headquarters from Damascus to other countries, we understand that the situation is really bad for Assad’s regime.

So far, about the reasons why Hamas and Fatah decided to sign the agreement. Now let's turn to the question what could be the consequences of a Hamas-Fatah deal.

First of all, it should be clear that Hamas didn’t change its nature and goals. It’s only about tactics, and this is definitely is not forbidden, from their point of view, by any religious or political authority. They can speak about 1967 borders, but at the same time to increase the smuggling of weapons through Sinai, as was reported last week.

Second, they are going to enjoy greater legitimacy at least from some parts of the international community. They will probably even stop – temporarily - firing missiles at Israel, and will send “moderate” messages about 1967 borders and the “national responsibility”, so some countries will see them as legitimate partners, not to mention the European media.

Third, Abu Mazen will continue with his UN recognition project, especially as he can say that he represents both West Bank and The Gaza strip. He will try to keep his own reputation of peacemaker and the reputation of his new government in order to gain support from the West and increase international pressure on Israel. He already makes all the efforts to keep Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the government, since Fayyad is highly respected in the West.

Is there any chance for Hamas to reform itself, as some experts assert? Can Hamas go through the same transformation as Fatah 25 years ago? Hard to believe. It’s true,  Hamas is experiencing similar loss of ally in Syria, as in the 80’s the Yasser Arafat saw the weakening of Soviet Union, and had to choose another path. However, Iran, the "bigger" brother of Hamas, is still there. Moreover, unlike Fatah, Hamas is a religious fundamentalist movement. They are religious fanatics. It would be foolish on the part of Israel to build on option that they will change themselves.

And once again, we should remember many things will happen before September. May be even next week, when American president will deliver his vision on the Middle East. And Israeli Prime Minister will do the same a few days later. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

September 2011: Recognition of the Palestinian state. What happens next?

The campaign of the Palestinian Authority to gain international recognition of the state of Palestine is supposed to reach its apogee in September 2011. During the General Assembly of the UN in September the leaders of the Palestinian authority want to get a UN resolution about the establishment of their state. Many countries already declared their support of this initiative. Yesterday the French ambassador to the UN even said that France and the European countries are considering recognition of the state of Palestine.

Some experts say that Israel is expecting her own "black September". Even some of the Israeli politicians call it a "new political tzunami". But let us analyze the situation without slogans or dramatic headlines. What will happen in September, after the adoption of this resolution?

It won't be the first time the UN adopts resolution about the Palestinian state. In November 1947 the UN did not adopt the resolution only about Israel - the resolution dealt with  establishing two nation  states: one Jewish and one Arab. The UN already gave its green light to the establishment of the Arab state in Palestine in1947. It was the decision of the Arab leadership in Palestine, with the support of the Arab states, to reject this resolution. 
It's also worth to remind that in 1988 when Yasser Arafat decided to conduct peace talks with Israel, he asked for the recognition of the state of Palestine, which was declared by a number of states.

In fact the Palestinians are asking for one new recognition of their state, which will be probably given to them once again. But what will change as the result of this new recognition? Is September 2011 will be another repetition of November 1947? 

At first sight it looks different. Today Palestinian Authority demands recognition of its state in the 1967 borders - borders that existed before the 6-day war. In demanding this, the PA wants to create a new legal reality: not just formal recognition of their state but also recognition of its borders.

However, when Abu Mazen demands 1967 borders he is ignoring the existing reality. Today, the Palestinian territories in 1967 borders are not fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority. One third of the Palestinian population living in Gaza is not under control of the PA. It's even worse than that: Abu Mazen cannot even enter Gaza Strip because Hamas who controls Gaza cannot assure his safety there. The resolution in September won't change this reality of de-facto separation between Gaza and the West Bank: Hamas doesn't care about the peace talks, or the 1967 borders, and wants all of Palestine  back to Arabs. And Jews? Jews should better go back to Europe, or to hell.

But it's not only the PA who misleads the world. It's the world who wants to believe that the Palestinians are ready for statehood! The IMF declared that the Palestinians built all the necessary economic and political institutions to declare a viable state. The European countries are also eager to recognize the state of Palestine. 
With this in mind, can anyone in Europe - Great Britain, France, Germany, to name the most active players - explain why they ignore Hamas? Why do they ignore the fact that 1967 borders are already divided between two Palestinian factions - Hamas and Fatah of Abu Maxen? That Palestinians are split - ideologically and politically? Do they understand that recognition of the state of Palestine will mean something completely different? 

So what will it mean? And what will happen in September 2011? The resolution on the state of Palestine will mean that the UN will recognize the state of the West Bank, not of Palestine. Because de-facto Gaza will not be part of this new state. Israel will once again stand against  the Goliath of the international community hoping to explain that one cannot resolve the conflict while ignoring the reality on the ground. 

Abu Mazen already said that he is against violence, but he is afraid of it. Unfortunately his politics of ignoring the problem of Hamas in hope that it will be settled after the official recognition of the state of Palestine, could bring him exactly to the same result he is so afraid of - lost of control and new weave of terror against Israel. And September 2011 could be another repetition of November 1947. Why? Because, as in 1947 the Palestinians are divided, and are not looking for compromise with Israel. They are looking for complete destruction of Israel, in the case of Hamas, or for imposing on Israel another UN resolution, in the case of PA.

Palestinians like to compare their cause to the Israel's. However, the Israelis in 1947 knew to overcome the differences between rival factions, and when necessary to deal with the extremists among them, in order to achieve independent state...Abu Mazen prefers to ignore his extremists, and the Europeans encourage him to do so. A sure recipe for failure.

Is there room for hope? Of course. Because many things could happen before September 2011. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When “Better later than never “ doesn’t work

Two years after the publication of the Goldstone Report that accused Israel in committing war crimes, the Judge Richard Goldstone who wrote the report regrets its conclusion. In his letter in Washington Post he confesses his own naivety in expecting Hamas, the terrorist organizations, to investigate itself. He also describes his expectations from the UN Human Rights Council to condemn intentional attacks of Hamas against Israel. This expectation is also very naive.

The Goldstone Committee was created by an organization where the major actors are Libya, Syria, Iran and other human-rights loving countries. Iran murdered its citizens in 2009; Syria follows the Iranian big brother these very days. Libya’s Kaddafi regime is bombarded by NATO. So,  Judge Goldstone, my question is this:  How a person of your stance and experience could have received a mandate from such an organization for conducting investigation? You were completely blind, butI believe, at least that was not intentional.

Some people say you've made a courageous step. I don't think so. The damage that your report inflicted on Israel is irreversible. You should be ashamed of the baseless accusations against Israeli army. What Israeli army is doing against Hamas is no different from what US army is doing against Al-Qaida in Iraq, or NATO forces  in Afghanistan. We all fight Islamic terrorism.

Here in France the damage done by your report to Israel's image is also irreversible. Just look at the book of Stephane Hessel who establishes his defamatory discourse against Israel on your "findings". Mr. Hessel uses your accusations in order to go even further. He claims that the use of violence by Hamas against Israel could be "understood". Understood? Did you mean, Mr. Hessel, justified? Your description of Hamas as “beach-loving people” would make laugh even the Hamas terrorists themselves. They never had such a propagandistic success, as with you.

Any person of conscience would apologize for these baseless accusations. However, I am not naive. No, Mr. Hessel, you are not going against the wind. Your scandalous book is too popular and too cheap. Being popular doesn't mean being right. As Gandhi said:  « An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”

Viadeo in France

Before moving to France in the August 2010,  I was already connected already to about 10 social networks, among them LinkedIn. I discovered LinkedIn when working in Los Angeles 5 years ago, and since then enjoyed many useful contacts found through this network.

However, in France LinkedIn is less popular than Viadeo - 5-language social network for professionals. I joined it a month ago and since then was contacted by many experts and even received proposition for joint seminar. Viadeo's structure is similar to that of LinkedIn, even though some features I found less successful. Yet, the most important advantage of Viadeo is that you can find there useful contacts in France.

So, if you are looking for professional networking in France - go to Viadeo.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good night, and good luck

Now it's official: Palestinians don't want peace negotiations. Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator announced that the PA does not believe in the direct talks with Israel, and is looking for international recognition of the state of Palestine in the 1967 borders.

Mr. Erekat refers to the Security Council resolution 242, adopted in November 1967. This resolution calls for the Israeli withdrawal from territories and for establishing the secure and recognized boundaries. By the way, there is no mentioning of the Palestinian state in this document. But this is not the point I would like to make.The point I would like to make goes to the heart of the 242 resolution: withdrawal from territories and the idea of secure borders.

Let's say, Israel will withdraw its army to the 1967 borders and evacuate all the Israelis from the West Bank. Do you really think Israel will have secure borders? Do you think Hamas will not take over power in the West Bank, like he did in Gaza in 2007, just two years after the complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip? Israeli withdrawals without a real willingness of our Arab neighbors to end the conflict never resulted in secure borders. Egypt and Jordan, who wanted to end the conflict with Israel, signed the agreement and fully implemented it. Hezbollah and Hamas never wanted an agreement with Israel.

Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon in 2000 only to receive another war in 2006 in the North of the country. Israel left Gaza in 2005 only to get 12.000 rockets and mortars in the South of the country. If we withdraw from the West Bank, we will get another war in the heart of the country and its capital, Jerusalem. If we withdraw today, Hamas will inevitably take over the West bank. And it's not what we think - it's what the Palestinians think. As Mr. Erekat, as well as Mr. Abu Mazen, know very well, the Palestinians in the West Bank are afraid of Hamas takeover. That's why the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem prefer to stay under the Israeli jurisdiction even after the establishment of the state of Palestine.

Formal borders will not resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians all the time that Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others are asking to annihilate Israel. And all the time that Iran is supporting terrorism against Israel. And all the time that Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews.

So Mr. Erekat, if you look for another unsuccessful adventure, as the famous movie says: "Good night, and good luck". We will be waiting for you at the negotiation table in Jerusalem, or Ramallah. This is for you to decide.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My memories from the Chernobyl disaster

Reports about the nuclear disaster in Japan bring back my memories from what I experienced 25 years ago.

25 years ago I lived in the city of Zhitomir, a city of 250.000 inhabitants, which lies west of the capital of Ukraine, Kiev. One more detail on the geographical location of Zhitomir: it is located about 90 km south of Chernobyl, a town of the famous nuclear station. This geographical fact became extremely important in April 1986.

The reactor exploded during the night between 26 and 27 April. However, we learned the details of what exactly  happened only one week later. I remind you that the year was 1986: those are the first months of Mikhail Gorbachev in power. There are still no reforms in the Soviet Union, no openness, no "glasnost" and "perestroika".The Soviet Union at its best. With this in  mind, it was quite obvious that the media reported nothing. Business as usual.
 It was our neighbor , the wife of an officer, who told my mom that at night all the military officers stationed in the city were urgently called and sent to Chernobyl because "something has exploded." And at the school the next day - I was then 13 years old - children of the officers who were sent to Chernobyl, were proudly telling that their fathers went to "a secret mission." 

Two days after, the rumors spread widely, and fear flooded all the cities in the region. New and frightening details were told by those officers who started to return from Chernobyl for short vacations, and talked about the "cloud", the radiation, the death. But the Soviet government and its media kept silence. Newspapers continued to report on successes of the socialist economy and about the preparations for the celebrations of May 1.

Celebrations of May 1 were supposed to take place as planned, even in the city of Pripyat', the closest to the Chernobyl station.  But then suddenly the truth was revealed. In Pripyat' there were hundreds of people who suffered from radiation. Neighboring countries, Finland and Sweden, asked for explanations from the Soviet Union about the radioactive cloud coming from there. And radio stations "Voice of America" and "Voice of freedom" informed their listeners in the Soviet Union that terrible disaster happened at Chernobyl and that the Communist regime tries to hide the truth.

Suddenly the reality became unbearable. The terrible panic spread in Kiev and nearby cities. What to do with the kids? What to do with schools? And the most important question: in what direction the wind will blow?

The rest is well known. The wind was blowing to the north and hit hard in many areas of Belarus and Russia. To the relief of those who lived south of Chernobyl, like us, these clouds passed over us.  The population of Pripyat' was completely evacuated and the 30-km zone around the station was established. The "liquidators" - a nickname given to people who worked on sealing the reactor, have become heroes, many of them post-mortem. The "sarkofague", a strange and unheard-of word, entered the lexicon on the regular basis, and we all wanted the liquidators to complete its construction.

 To this day Ukraine is dealing with this disaster. And for hundreds of years, the area around Chernobyl will remain closed. This disaster also had many implications in the shorter term. The  policy of openness of Gorbachev was declared a few months after the disaster, and in fact was the direct result of the intolerable situation created during the disaster when the government hid the truth from citizens and left them to deal with uncontrollable rumors and fears. There are also those who claim that the fall of the Soviet Union began with Chernobyl disaster which showed to the world, but especially to the citizens of the Soviet Union, that their government can not rule the country and is in fact afraid of its own citizens.

The Fukushima disaster is of historic scale, and its impact on Japan and the world will be profound and far-reaching. I hope that the Japanese people would cope better with this disaster.  The way the Japanese people and their government are dealing with it gives us real hope for that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Diplomatic blog in Paris - 7 months after the launch

In August 2010 I moved to Paris for my new diplomatic job as the spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel. One of the first things on my agenda was to open "blog of the Spokesperson". Why? I had three reasons in mind. First, the level of social media penetration In France was rising, including the use of the social networks like Facebook and Daily Motion. Secondly, many French journalists and politicians were using Twitter and personal blogs for their professional objectives. Some of them I started to follow before landing in Paris. And third, the French media in general, with some exceptions, is generally hostile to Israeli positions on the Middle East peace process and sees the conflict between us and the Palestinians as the major topic about Israel, while ignoring other stories about Israel. So, we started to develop a communication strategy with a significant role of social media, my personal blog being part of it.

All of the reasons proved to be correct. So, when I opened a blog my target audience was the journalists and people dealing with the media coverage of the Middle East. The blog helped me to be "introduced" to many of them even before our real meeting took place - they visited my blog. Today, in every meeting I have with journalists, I talk about my blog and ask them about their social media presence, which many of them have.

However, my audience became much broader than I could imagine.Here are some numbers after  7-months blogging.

I opened my blog "Ma Parole!" in August 2010. Since then there were registered 23.000 views, meaning about 3.000 each month. At the first 2 months there was a peak of views - more than 4.500 per months, and since then the numbers are around 1.700 views. You can see here the statistics:

What I find especially interesting was the geography of the visitors in my blog. As expected, the most of the visitors to be from France - about 16.000 people. However, people in the French-speaking countries, like Belgium and Canada, are also among the visitors.The visitors also came from the countries where French was traditionally one of the popular languages, like Morocco and Tunisia. These countries don't have diplomatic relations with us, and in fact the contacts on the level of people-to-people are very sporadic after these countries severed their relations with Israel. This opportunity to interact with people in these countries was of special importance for me.

In this graph on the right side you can the top 10 visitors' countries.

Even though it was a personal blog, I defined it as "the blog of the Spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel in Paris". With this I wanted to stress that the positions I was going to take reflect the official positions of the embassy and of the State. However, this ambiguity of personal blog expressing official position led some people to ask me this question again and again: Does this blog represent the official position?

In fact, the positions I expressed in the blog always reflected the broad consensus in the Israeli society and in the Israeli government. In order to have more "freedom of expression" I decided to open a special place where people could put question about official positions of the government, while in other posts I could express myself in a less official way. So I created in the blog a special box called "Questions to the Spokesperson". In the first two weeks after opening the box, I have received many questions. With the time, it cooled down. However, I have no doubt that once there will be some major event related to Israel (which always comes, you know...) - the visitors will come back with all their questions.

One last thing I realized in these 7 months: blogging means self-discipline, persistence and serious intellectual investment and creativity. Diplomatic blogging means greater freedom in expressing the views and expanding the limits of "what you can say" for diplomats. However, it also means that you have to take some risks because reflecting the official position is different from actually representing it word by word. But as the Russian proverb says: "If you don't take risks, you will not drink champagne." In today's world diplomats must have greater risks if they want diplomacy to be relevant and effective.

If you want to visit the blog just click here

Monday, February 28, 2011

The former refusnik Yuli Edelstein comes to Paris this week

At the end of this week the embassy will welcome the visit of Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, in Paris. During his visit Edelstein will meet with the Minister of Justice Michel Mercier, with the heads of the Jewish community of France and with the French media.
What is particularly interesting about Yuli Edelstein is his personal story. Yuli Edelstein was not born in Israel, he immigrated to Israel in 1987, after spending 3 years in Soviet Gulag. Why? Because he was a Zionist - a person who believes in the right of the Jewish people to live in their state in the Land of Israel.

In 1978, as a fourth year student of foreign languages in Moscow, he applied for an exit visa. His request was denied. Mr. Edelstein joined the Refuseniks’ movement and became involved in Zionist activities - teaching Hebrew. He was arrested by the KGB on trumped up charges of illegal possession of drugs. After spending three years in the notorious Soviet Gulag, Yuli Edelstein was finally freed and, together with his family, immigrated to Israel.

In 1995 together with Nathan Sharansky, Yuli Edelstein was one of the founders and leaders of Yisrael ba-Aliya, a new political party representing the new immigrants, mainly form Soviet Union and Ethiopia. In the 1996 elections and won an unprecedented success, becoming part of the government coalition. Between 1996 and 1999 Mr. Edelstein served as Minister of Immigrant Absorption, and from 1999 to 2001 MK Yuli Edelstein served as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. After the elections of 2008 Edelstein was appointed to his present position - Minister of Public Diplomacy.
Edelstein will also brief the diplomats on the current issues of the Public Diplomacy for Israel. Welcome to Paris!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Be patient with democracy: Memories from Soviet Union and reflections on the revolutions in Arab world

In 1988 I was 15 year-old student in high-school in the small city of Zhitomir, Western Ukraine. It was time when the citizens of the Soviet Union started to wake up from the complete passivity imposed on them by 70 year rule of the Communist Party. I will never forget these days, because there was something new in the air, something new and unfamiliar for all of us. It was not the feeling of freedom, no - it was the feeling of the promise of freedom. I remember how I walked to spontaneous meetings and gatherings, hold at the parks, in  squares, on the streets, where people were listening to some courageous journalists and intellectuals who were talking about democracy. I remember the first semi-democratic elections for the Soviet parliament in 1988, when suddenly people get mobilized for the "anti-nomenclature" - non-communist - candidates. I remember how my mom, always afraid of KGB, went to spread the flyers for the only democratic candidate running in our city. I will never forget this.

I have no doubt that people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran fell now the same way - the promise of freedom. Of course, Soviet Union is not Egypt or Iran, and Soviet block is not the Arab world. However, there is no doubt, in both cases we have popular revolution against regime that became dis-functional and repressive. Yes, it's about revolution. Is it a democratic revolution? nobody knows. We, or in effect, future generation/s will be able to judge. In fact, the precedents of popular democratic revolutions in the previous century show mixed evidence, with strong possibility of serious regression and anti-democratic counter-revolution. Want examples?

In the last two months we could hear many experts and opinion-makers who compare the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the democratization process in the Central Europe. I think it's a wrong comparison. All of the new democracies in Central Europe were in the orbit of influence of the Soviet Union who suppressed with brutal force all the democratic movements - in Chechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and others. Once the Soviet government showed "weakness" and its unwillingness to intervene militarily, these countries were set free.

I think about more reasonable comparison, if any such comparison could be done, and this is the democratic process in the Soviet Union itself. In August 1991 the group of the communist leaders who opposed the democratic reforms of Gorbachev, organised a military putsch. After three days of the mass demonstrations in Moscow and the refusal of the army to suppress them, the communist regime was defeated. For 8 years Russia was struggling her way towards democracy, but this movement was seriously set back in the last 10 years. When  Mikhail Gorbachov calls the political regime in Russia  "imitation of democracy", one can understand that the democratic project in Russia was not a success story. And when you look at the other former republics of Soviet Union, with the exception of Baltic states, you can see that their journey to democracy is far from being accomplished.

So, what happened? Lack of democratic tradition, economic problems and unsolved ethnic tensions created reactionary movement. The democratic system lost its value and was perceived as impotent to deal with social and economic disorder. In these conditions, the best organized group will always have advantage of coming to power and restoring the rule of strong leader that will dismiss most of the democratic achievements.

By the way, the 1917 revolution in Russia developed in a similar way. In February 1917 the popular movement brought down the monarchy in Russia. However, this movement didn't have strong democratic leadership, and in the socio-economic chaos that followed the revolution it was the tiny Bolshevik party who seized the power. Despite its small size, Bolsheviks were able to mobilize resources, to gain support from within and from outside, and in 9 months organized perfect coup d'etat in Saint-Petersburg. It took them 4 bloody years of war to gradually take over all of the Russian Empire.

And by the way, why limit this comparison to Russian history? Did French revolution of 1789 culminated in the complete victory of democracy? If I am not mistaken, there were months of revolutionary terror, and European campaigns of Emperor Napoleon I, and restoration... And the popular revolts of 1848, and the bloody suppression of 1871 rebellion in Paris... Couple of days ago I heard French historian who said that it took 100 years after the French revolution in 1789 to establish a true democracy in France.

Which brings us back to the revolution in the Arab world. Please, don't have any illusions: it will take years to build democracy in the Middle East. Like in the Soviet Union, these countries lack democratic tradition, have deep economic problems and ethnic or tribal tensions. There are also anti-democratic forces, like Muslen Brotherhood, that happened to be organized better that the popular movements who created and fulfilled these revolutions.

Of course, the risks are high and the future of the revolutions is not clear. However, we should not forget that people in the Arab world woke up , for the first time and against all odds. This movement is irreversible. It will take time, and probably generations, but the expansion of freedom is inevitable.

Probably, the only thing that could help shorten the transition period is the information revolution and social media. And about the role of Facebook in these revolutions you already know...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

“Strike 2.0” in Israel Foreign Service: another opportunity to upgrade Open Government?

One month ago we have experienced in Israel something very unusual – the strike of the Israel Diplomatic service. Diplomats rarely go to strike, as diplomacy is considered an important element of the national security. But this time diplomats protested against the deterioration of their working conditions in the last 15 years, and there was a high level of mobilization among them. The diplomats felt that while praising their difficult work, the government did nothing to provide them with fair salaries. As much as unusual diplomats’ strike could be, after all it was a working dispute in the public sector, which happens often in Israel.

Facebook page of the diplomats' strike' called "Save the Diplomatic Service"

However, what was really unusual, and in my eyes  even amazing - both as a participant in this strike and the firm believer in Gov 2.0 - was the use of social media by diplomats in order to mobilize public support for our struggle.  The public and media support were essential for the success of this struggle, because diplomats didn’t have meaningful leverage on the government or the public: they can’t stop the functioning of the economy, or impact the everyday life of the ordinary citizens. The impact of diplomats’ strike is very limited and could happen only in the long term. That’s why the public support for their demand was so critical.
But why should the public support the diplomats? After all, diplomatic service is considered as a prestigious and exclusive club and has always had an image mixing mystery, luxury and dolce vita. Israelis of course, are no exception and have the same image of diplomacy and diplomats. So why should the public support this struggle? From the very first days of the strike this question was asked by many people in the Facebook, which is very the most popular social network  in Israel, more than Twitter or LinkedIn)

It’s so popular, that more than 50% of the Foreign Ministry employees have their personal accounts in Facebook. That’s why when people started to ask questions about our strike, we started to answer them in Facebook. And then, somebody wrote in the discussion I took part: Why diplomats won’t open their support page on Facebook? I immediately sent this proposition to the strikers’ committee, and on the very next day the new page was already there.

This page allowed us to have direct access to all the news related to the strike. It allowed us to explain why we think our struggle was just and why it’s not us, but the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister who were responsible for this situation. Diplomats showed in Internet  their salary checks, explained conditions of their life abroad, and also diffused through  Youtube videos  that explained this point. The Facebook page  also allowed citizens to come to our page and ask us questions and express their opinion on the strike.
Diplomats also used the traditional media and many of us sent articles to the central newspapers where we explained why we have no other choice but to strike. We diffuse these articles  in Facebook.  We also participated in the two biggest internet forums in Israel: Y-net and Haaretz and made sure that  our messages werepresent  there as well.

Our media action was only part of the effort.  Many official visits to Israel or by Israeli ministers abroad were cancelled because of the strike. We of course diffused reports on these events with the help of social media.
As a result of this outreach, the citizens started to express their understanding of our demand. The traditional media expressed its support as well. The Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Finance were hold responsible for this situation - and after 35 days of strike the government accepted most of our demands.

What are my conclusions from this amazing social media encounter between the public and the public sector?

First, many public servants are already using Facebook for their personal purposes. They get familiar with its logic and functions.

Second, public sector employees can ask for public support when in need. And if the demands are seen as reasonable, the public support can become crucial.

Third, in order to be convinced, citizens should get more understanding about the public sector. The public sector should be demystified, should become more open and transparent.

Fourth, if this is not Gov 2.0, I don’t know what is. There was a real exchange of opinions, views, ideas and information in all the social media venues. Not a semi-automatic diffusion of messages one-way to the public, but an EXCHANGE.  Diplomats, as well as other public employees ,should multiply these encounters and learn to be more open, more responsive, and, yes, more responsible. I think this kind of encounter is the real way to build an Open Governmentl. And not the “revelations” of Wikileaks, with all due respect …

And finally, for us, diplomats, it was a closed encounter of the third kind with our own public… Because, usually, diplomats work  vis-à-vis foreign audiences when they have to  explain Israel’s policies. This time we had to explain things to our own public. And in fact, it was not that bad…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Egypt is an Opportunity

An interesting analysis by Herbert Meyer on the democratic movement in the Arab world, comparison to the collapse of the Soviet Block, and recommendations for US Administration of how to act in this situation.

February 14, 2011

Egypt is an Opportunity

The lid has finally blown off the pressure cooker in Cairo.  And as the Director of National Intelligence is apparently just now starting to notice, there are a few more pressure cookers on the stove that are beginning to make odd noises.
Alas, in the real world there is no rewind button. 
So while it's tempting to dwell on how ineptly the President and his team have coped with the unfolding revolution in Egypt -- and God knows it's fun, given the breathtaking combination of arrogance and stupidity this administration has displayed -- our nation's security requires that we focus on the future. 
More precisely:
  • Where are we now, in Egypt and more broadly in the Mideast?
  • What is likely to happen next, and then down the road, in this volatile and vital region?
  • What do we want to happen?
  • How can we tip the odds in our favor?
Where We Are Now
Managing a revolution is like leaping across a chasm; it's best to reach the other side in one hop.  When the old regime falls and is immediately replaced by a popular new regime -- which is what happened in countries including Poland and Czechoslovakia at the end of the Cold War -- that country's future usually is stable. 
But when the old regime falls and isn't immediately replaced by a new regime capable of quickly forging a new political structure, that country's future is up for grabs.  This is what happened in Russia in 1917, when in February the Czar was overthrown and replaced by Kerensky and his (fairly decent) Social Democrats, who then fumbled in the Duma and lost control in October to Lenin and his (murderous) Bolsheviks.
In Egypt the House of Mubarak has collapsed, and the country's army is dutifully holding things together until a new political structure can be erected.  So while the jubilation in Cairo's Tahrir Square is understandable, Egypt hasn't had a revolution.  It's had half a revolution, which means the country's future is in play.
What Lies Ahead in the Mideast
In today's world of mass communication and social networking, the uprising in Egypt is likely to spread throughout the region
Indeed, the uprising in Egypt itself was triggered, at least in part, by the recent popular uprising in Tunisia.  And now there may well be popular uprisings in Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and perhaps Iran. There could be popular uprisings in Lebanon, Syria, and even in Gaza and the West Bank. 
 And since information moves around the globe literally at the speed of light, it wouldn't be surprising to wake up one morning, turn on the television, and see scenes of mass unrest in Havana.  (And if we do see a popular uprising in Cuba, wouldn't it be nice if the CIA got its act together -- fast -- and tossed a few banana peels under the Castro brothers' feet....)
In short, we have suddenly entered one of those rare moments in history when the world is about to be remade.
What We Want to Happen
When you study history, it's the story of competing operating systems
Our operating system is Western civilization:
  • We put the individual at the center of life, while separating church and state. 
  • We believe in property rights and the rule of law. 
  •  Western civilization unleashes the entrepreneurial talents of its people, and it encourages intellectual curiosity
  • It's an endless struggle for equality among the races and the sexes. 
Is Western civilization perfect?  Of course not; it's designed and operated by human beings, and we make horrific mistakes from time to time.  But when all is said and done, Western civilization is history's most extraordinary accomplishment; it's the modern world.
In just the last century, there were two efforts by other operating systems to knock us off.  The first of these was fascism, which led to World War II.  The second was communism, which led to the Cold War.
Stand back from history, and there's another operating system that's been with us for a long time: Islam.     In this operating system,
  • church and state are often combined, and
  • the individual is subservient to this church-state combination -- without the option to opt out. 
  • Islam doesn't unleash the entrepreneurial talents of its people, and it discourages intellectual curiosity -- which is why there hasn't been a major scientific breakthrough from the Islamic world in a thousand years.
  • There's one other striking feature of this operating system: it treats women as though they were property rather than people
  • Simply put, this operating system is incompatible with the modern world -- and that's the glitch. 
Why is this a problem? 
Because the most radical and determined leaders of Islam, like their fascist and communist predecessors, wish to impose their operating system on the entire world -- including us.
All we Americans have ever wanted is to be left alone.  We have no wish to impose our operating system on anyone else, and we won't allow anyone else to impose their operating system on us. 
This means that to avoid war, the world's various operating systems need not be the same as ours -- but they must be compatible with our operating system so we can live together peacefully.
What President George W. Bush called the War on Terrorism, and what President Obama calls overseas contingency operations, isn't really an effort to impose our operating system on Islam. 
 It's an effort to push Islam down the road toward the modern world so that we can live together peacefully.  In effect, it's an effort to help Islam develop Version 2.0.
Honorable people can disagree over whether we've gone about this in the best possible way.  What's indisputable is that since 9-11 Islam's operating system has been pushed harder than it's ever been pushed before
 In a sense, Version 1.0 is falling apart and the code for Version 2.0 is being written before our eyes -- in Iraq, for example, and now in Egypt and soon throughout the Mideast. 
Since this is their operating system, not ours, it isn't our business to impose our values on each line of code the Moslem world's new leaders may write. 
But it is our business -- indeed, our survival depends on it -- to assure that whatever new version of Islam emerges is compatible with Western civilizationand willing to live with us in peace
This is really what "the war" is all about.
Tipping the Odds in Our Favor
It's true that history never repeats itself.  But human nature doesn't change, so historical patterns repeat themselves all the time
 For instance, in western Europe during the 1920s and 1930s the communists worked underground to take power in Italy, Germany, France and elsewhere.  When World War II erupted, the Soviet Union itself and also these underground communists formed an uneasy alliance with the Allies to defeat our common enemy, the Fascists. 
When the war ended, both the Soviet Union and its communist supporters in western Europe turned back to the business of revolution through covert operations and, more importantly, through overt political activity. 
 And western Europe was up for grabs.
All we wanted was for western Europe to get back on its feet. 
 President Truman and his great Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, understood that for these countries to find their way forward the communists had to be stopped at all costs.  What we said to the western Europeans was, in effect, you're on your own and best of luck -- but for our own security we're not letting the commies play in your sandbox.  If you don't like our meddling in your politics, too bad.  Work with us, and the sooner we stop the communists the sooner we'll get out of your sandbox.
While most people today think of the Cold War as a nuclear struggle between the Free World and the Soviet Union -- and indeed it was -- the Cold War was also a 45-year ideological struggle for the hearts and minds of western Europe's citizens. 
From the Truman administration through the Reagan administration, we fought this ideological battle at the political level and the diplomatic level.  We fought it at the intellectual level, for example at conferences, in leading publications read by European opinion makers, at swishy embassy dinner parties and over endless cups of espresso with university students in cheap cafes across the continent. 
 At the CIA we fought it out with the bad guys at 3am in the back alleys of cities like Rome, Paris and Berlin.  It was hard going all the way, with more blunders and setbacks than any of us who were involved care to remember.  But in the end, western Europeans themselves rejected communism, the Soviet Union collapsed -- and we'd won.
Just as we kept the communists from hijacking western Europe, we now must keep the radical Islamists from hijacking the Mideast. 
To be precise, we've got to stop the Muslim Brotherhood from getting power, in Egypt or in any other country that will come into play.  This is the great battle that lies before us, and we've got to fight it out in every way -- militarily, diplomatically, intellectually, and covertly.
Among other things, we're going to need a first-class intelligence service.  And while launching covert actions will be part of its job, its most crucial (and most under-rated) responsibility will be to provide our nation's leaders with an accurate picture of what's going on right now in the Mideast and what's likely to happen next. 
  •  Who are the key players, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? 
  •  In each country, whose side will the generals be on when unrest threatens the incumbent regime? 
  •  More importantly -- much more importantly -- whose side will the 22-year-old lieutenants be on when the demonstrators start marching.  (It's the lieutenants, not the generals, who determine the outcome of a revolution because they are the guys with the guns.  If the lieutenants won't shoot, because they side with the demonstrators or, simply, because their brothers and sisters are in the surging crowd, it's over no matter what orders they get from the generals.)
A Word or Two of Advice
On the off-chance that my successors at the CIA are reading this essay, please allow me to offer two pieces of advice:
First, I see that you've just established a 35-person task force to project likely developments in the Mideast.  Better late than never.  But if I were you, I'dreach out -- fast -- to really smart people with proven track records of accurately projecting that region's future
  • Walid Phares comes to mind, and if you haven't already read his brilliant essays at American Thinker or watched the interviews he's given on EWTN -- yes, EWTN -- then do it. 
  • Read the remarkably insightful essays that Fouad Ajami has published in The Wall Street Journal, then call this distinguished scholar and invite him in for lunch. 
  • Get in touch with Michael Ledeen over at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; he knows more about what's going on in Iran than all the rest of us combined, and he has a habit of being proved right. 
  • And when you meet with these gentlemen, ask them who else to talk with and to read. 
  •  (And don't look confused if one of them says, "Spengler".  That's actually David P. Goldman, and his "Spengler" essays on Iran's catastrophic demographics, and on why rising wheat prices are triggering unrest on the Arab street, are just extraordinary.)
Remember, as intelligence analysts your job isn't to know everything; your job is to identify the people who know what the President and his team need to know, and then to pull it all together into a form that policy makers can absorb and turn into action. 
If they can see the future coming at us, soon enough and clearly enough, they can change the future before it happens.  That's why projecting the future is the overriding purpose of an intelligence service.
Second, as you focus on the Muslim Brotherhood don't let yourselves get caught in one of those idiotic "hawks versus doves" arguments. 
 You're all too young to remember this, but during the Cold War the CIA's analysts twisted themselves into pretzels arguing about the "split" between the Kremlin's so-called moderates and hard-liners.  When something happened in the world -- anything, come to think of it -- my in-box would overflow with papers arguing whether it meant that the Politburo's hawks had gained power over the doves, or whether the Politburo's doves were now ascendant over its  hawks.  It was total nonsense. 
 Any time you put three people in a room there's going to be a disagreement about something.  Of course there were disagreements inside the Politburo -- and politics in the Soviet Union being a winner-take-all game, sometimes a member of the Politburo suddenly turned up as ambassador to Paraguay, or dead in an implausible auto crash.  But these arguments were over strategy and tactics, not over the ultimate objective, which of course was the imposition of a Pax Sovietica on the world.
Just like the communists before them, the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders may disagree about how to move forward.  But there's no disagreement among them on where they want to go; namely, to impose an Islamic caliphate on the world. 
Finally -- if you'll indulge me for one more paragraph -- a word of advice to all of you who have kindly taken the time to read this far: 
 It's easy to be a pessimist, and to focus on the mistakes we've made and the setbacks that inevitably lie ahead.  (It's amazing how Fox News keeps finding talking heads I've never heard of before, who spin out one apocalyptic Mideast scenario after another.  It's also getting boring.)
Back in the Cold War years a lot of our deep thinkers were convinced we'd lose.  And we nearly did. 
But then, suddenly, three unlikely leaders stepped onto the world stage: a Polish pope, a woman prime minister, and an ex-actor from California. 
Together they threw the switch from playing defense to playing offense, and within a decade we'd won the Cold War. 
 So don't let the pessimists get you down.  And if you just can't bring yourself to believe we can defeat the Islamists and win this global struggle, stop by my office and I'll let you touch my piece of the Berlin Wall.
Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council.  He is the author of two new eBooks, How to Analyze Information and The Cure for Poverty.