by mgopin on December 27, 2015 · 0 comments


There is no mystery to evil.
In fact making evil into a mystery,
Is a bad idea.
There are only good ideas and bad ideas.
Anything that brings purposeful, unprovoked harm,
To other sentient beings,
Is a bad idea.
Evil is a bad idea,
In the hands of a leader.
Be a leader only,
With a good idea.
If you must,
Be a follower,
For a good idea.
Be smart enough,
To be aware,
Of your own bad ideas,
And confine them to your head.
If you cannot,
Then you must leave immediately.

The temptation to mystify evil is equal to our bewilderment at humanity, how many good people are led to do the worst things imaginable. The answer is not evil in them, but the evil of bad ideas inside leaders, and the tragedy of human obedience. The one alternative that has always worked is very good ideas in the hands of a proliferation of good leaders that passes from generation to generation.

-Marc Gopin


A Great Sifting of Religions

by mgopin on December 11, 2015 · 1 comment

Has anyone else sensed that global crisis is becoming like a massive sifter of the major religions? It is separating out hate ideology from piety, so that as the sifting increases we are starting to see who in each religion is a charlatan hater cloaked in religious garb, and who is penetrating deeper every day into spiritual authenticity and sacred courage.

See this article. Here is an excerpt:

As Rabbi Rick Jacobs defined it in his December 2013 address at the URJ Biennial in San Diego, “audacious hospitality isn’t just a temporary act of kindness so that people don’t feel left out; it’s an ongoing invitation to be part of a community where we can become all that God wants us to be—and a way to transform ourselves in the process.”  At this moment more than ever, the world needs people like Rivka—those who are willing to uphold the principle of welcoming the stranger.

Rabbi Daniel Gropper, who advocated for Obama to let 100,000 refugees into the U.S., described this for a Westchester News 12 article as “Hear the call, be the call.”  Our call as a Jewish people is to recognize that we have been the strangers, to appreciate the human person in the strangers, and to show the world’s current strangers that we have not forgotten them.

The refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East is the biggest migration crisis since World War II—when we, the Jewish people, were the strangers. (“Refugee Crisis Response.” Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, September 16, 2015.)  Germany and Austria, which have each given refuge to thousands, are at the breaking point and are facing no choice but to close their borders. Right now, when so many need countries around the world to open their doors, they are finding hostile borders instead. This is a worldwide crisis, and we as the people of the United States, as the people of a country with the resources to make a difference, must do our part in creating a home for those who have none.

– See more at: http://www.reformjudaism.org/blog/2015/11/05/human-every-stranger#sthash.pPaxSSbt.dpuf


{ 1 comment }


by mgopin on December 8, 2015 · 0 comments

Light lasts forever, and we are light. If the energy and mass it took to create all of the atoms and molecules that evolved into our consciousness and spirit come from the light and return to it, then the light that the Menorah generates is eternal. To me this is the ancient holiday of Hanukkah.
When this picture was taken that flag reigned terror on the entire world, it was invincible, and the little Menorah was weak as could be. Brutality rises so high but disappears so quickly, while the light lasts forever. My heart goes out deeply to those who took the picture so long ago, I doubt I could have survived. But to me the picture is a triumph of light over darkness, eternity over that passing vapor of empty bullying.


Reflections on recent events

by mgopin on October 21, 2015 · 0 comments

Originally posted here on Oct. 19, 2015.

I am starting to see very clearly that there are those people who have the moral and emotional intelligence to understand two sides of a conflict, two enemies at once, and there are those who need to demonize someone in every situation. There are those who can empathize with their own community and with another, and there are those who at every turn look to demonize one group and whitewash their own. These are two camps of humanity, one with an evolved mind, and one with a primitive mind. Educational levels and graduate degrees having nothing to do with these two camps.

I am horrified by the mob mentality, I am saddened by many people I have helped and defended, not from my own community, who the first chance they get, join virtual lynch mobs.

The fact is that it is easy to demonize, it is the lazy primitive brain’s way out of stress. It takes work to see good and bad existing side by side, in Israelis, in Iranians, in Palestinians, in Americans, in Pakistanis, in African Americans, in Southerners, in Jews, in Muslims, in Christians.

I will never again assume that if someone is from a victim group that they have an evolved moral mind, and I will never again assume that education has anything to do with empathy, balance, and the capacity for making peace between enemies.

I see Palestinians and Israelis working hard, individually and in groups, to stop the killing, to work with each other, to save each other. and then I see primitive minds on the side, like spectators in the Coliseum, looking for blood, looking for guilt and innocence, waiting to pounce in judgment, in hate.

Now it is crunch time, when you want to help in situations of war, from Syria, to Israel and Palestine, there is only one way, dispassionate investigation, listening, suspension of quick judgment, discernment, empathy, and an abhorrence of lynch mobs, real and virtual.


 SUNDAY, 18 OCTOBER 2015 (as originally published on Facebook here)
We need a rapid response team, perhaps through an app, of respected observers of violent incidents in both communities, people who know and trust each other, to rapidly investigate and disseminate the facts as best they know them, in order for whatever reactions that occur be based on better knowledge of all the facts. Perhaps the app could be open, but with a respected panel who can immediately detect those on the app with consistent disinformation.
This is a suggestion for a new tactic of precision popular journalism across enemy lines. I know journalists on both sides who are committed to their profession and also to peace, and I know many on both sides who have a firm interest in saving lives always as a priority. I also know the threat of groupthink and obedience. Journalists on both sides often will defer to information from authorities as if it is gospel. This is a universal problem (Just look at the laughable Reuters feed on Russian Syrian targeting, where the authority is the Russian defense ministry).
But in Israel/Palestine we have some very dedicated journalists, both professional and popular, who could work together to correct all the deliberate manipulations and stay with sober but rapid reporting.
The key is rapidity of knowledge transfer that is responsible, to counteract rapidity that is not.
There are those who want this conflict to escalate. There are those who don’t care if it escalates and are happy to take lives and make a point. There are many who do not understand the consequences of their own bullying and violence because, at least when it comes to this conflict, they are dumb bastards. Then there are the rest of us who stand in awe watching. Progressives gather, as they should, and express solidarity and even love across sectarian lines. But I am looking at the rapid way in which opposite narratives develop on each incident and it fuels the fear and the rage, which is sometimes done unconsciously and sometimes deliberately.
We need to find better ways to immediately contain this and counteract it for the millions in the middle who are afraid, and do not know what to do or think, or in the words of Jonah, who do not know their right from their left. This paralysis due to poor facts or groupthink is costing lives. We need to become creative to save lives.


By Marc Gopin

Tom Banchoff’s essay raises important insights and deepens the discussion about the historical relations between organized religion now and in the future with secular forms of power, governance, and authority structures. Banchoff rightly warns that ignoring these trends is a grave mistake in assessing the future, in tracking what kind of balance and shift in balance of powers may be taking place. There is no question that political Islam has had an enormous impact on contemporary history, even though it is too early to say where this will lead.

I want to focus my thoughts and response on two aspects of religion that are often not distinguished sufficiently in terms of our subjects of power and religion as well as secular and religious sources of authority in history and going forward.

There are two essentially different elements of religion as a human phenomenon that often have little to do with each other, are often confused in analysis, and are often at odds with each other. These two have very different and opposite impacts on the course of human history and the perennial struggle for power, for freedom, and the desired ethical, political, and cultural arrangement of society. One is religious power as expressed in organized religion, and the other is religious values with profound implications for the nature of human living on earth.

The essence of the struggle for emancipation from organized religion, from Socrates to the present, has been mostly about opposing the use and abuse of religious power and authority to suppress what are known today as the basic freedoms and basic human rights. The motivations of religious authorities, from ancient times to the present, to engage in these suppressions, I argue, are just as often of a deeply profane or secular origin. They belong far more in the realm of the struggle for power of some human beings over others, and struggle for the control of material resources. The great Biblical prophets exposed this over 2,500 years ago, pitting themselves against the priests of the time who used ritual and religion to control others, to build their own wealth or that of their kings and benefactors, and to engage in theft, murder, and war.

Little has changed in this regard. All societies struggle with the corrupting nature of power, and democrats who are children of the Enlightenment, as well as disciples of many religious prophetic insights, have struggled to create political systems that can effectively cope with the corruptions of power. Those systems sometimes are more strictly secular and sometimes nominally religious, but all are united by an investment in human rights, the importance of every human being’s representation in the halls of power, at least if they are citizens of the state.

This issue of citizen’s rights points to one of the weaknesses of secular constructs of human rights at the present time, and that is that they tend to heavily favor citizens, and heavily ignore the consequences of state behavior for non-citizens within and beyond borders, especially in terms of global commerce, foreign policy and military adventures. Nevertheless, it was Christian Pietists such as the visionary Immanuel Kant who predicted the essential necessity of completing the journey toward enforceable human rights for all human beings—the categorical imperative by a steady march toward global governance, something still in our future but steadily emerging.

Unlike the course of history for religious values, which have played an essential role in the evolution of democracy and human rights, in conflict resolution methods and diplomacy from every major religion, the course of history of organized religion in this regard has been utterly dismal until the post-WWII period. But even now we face some catastrophic realities of ultra-violence due to the ease with which states and corrupt clerics in good standing with their organized religions can still work together to fund—openly or secretly—extremism, hate, intolerance, religious warfare, ethnic cleansing and even genocide.

I began to write the first books on conflict analysis, conflict resolution, religion, and diplomacy in the early 1990s. Since then many have joined. Our writings were often based on our experience and experimentation in the field, just as in secular conflict analysis and conflict resolution. I can say categorically that religious values can and do play a pivotal role in the steady march of the planet toward less violence, more equality, more freedom, and more justice.

I can also say categorically that, from what we have seen, there is a sure path to aid religious people and their organized religions to greater and greater contributions to these enlightened values, these psychological and political evolutions of the human mind that were foreseen by many prophets. But it is essential in order to accomplish this states be absolutely prevented from controlling, manipulating, or using religion as a weapon of war or a means of control.

It is also essential that religious values play a role in the great ethical and political debates, but no role as organized political entities. The less power organized religion has, the more its clerics, both lowly and powerful, become voices of conscience and enlightenment. The more power they have, the worse they become, and the more their progress is retarded. This is a constant across the globe and across history. I think we are doing well in that for many decades now it appears that the marriage of many clerics and secular leaders in pursuit of common values is eminently possible. But where states interfere with this process, engage in brutal suppression using religious extremism or extremists (overtly or covertly), the more we will see a struggle between organized religion and secular institutions.

It is clear that different religions and communities are experiencing challenges and changes unique to them, due to an unnatural mix of mundane power and religion that waxes and wanes in different communities and different regions. But the rules are clear. The more religion is abused for power and suppression, the more religion will be a tool of violence—and the more most people, given the chance, will escape its clutches, often pitting whatever they construct for safety, security, and political expression against religion and religious people. But there are ample experiments globally for an alternative to this deadly confrontation.


Originally published here on the Berkeley Center’s forum at Georgetown University on September, 24, 2015.


Nonviolent statecraft is a difficult proposition because policy makers act in the national interest, which will not consider nonviolence as its priority. Nations often pursue war and embrace violent regimes as allies because the benefits economically and politically of the military/industrial complex are irresistible. As a result it is hard for peace-oriented policy makers and bureaucrats to persuade their own institutions to commit to nonviolent statecraft.

Let’s take an example. An oil-producing regime upon which the U.S. economy depends eagerly courts the United States, promises to build free U.S. military bases, offers full cooperation militarily and in intelligence, and offers generous contracts to American companies in a wide range of congressional districts. Aligning with that regime’s interests appears advantageous, but doing so forces the United States to view the oil-producing regime’s adversaries as the adversaries of the United States.

Military Experiments in Conflict ResolutionThat is the bad news. The good news is that we have been making headway in at least some branches of government. There is evidence that more and more senior military personnel recognize the self-defeating nature of warfare waged for the sake of economic gain or due to ideological rigidity. These military personnel will continue to follow orders if the White House is occupied by militant leaders. They will continue to argue for all the funds they can get from a corrupted political system that showers them with unnecessary weapons systems. At the same time, in quiet ways, significant senior military and intelligence officials in the United States, Europe, and Israel have become more keenly aware of the utility of nonviolent approaches to conflict, in terms of statecraft and training. They have seen too much that is self-defeating, especially due to their bitter experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, it is becoming clear that one strategy to evolve the legitimacy of nonviolent statecraft is to harness the lessons learned by senior and former combatants.

It is for this reason that a variety of branches of the military made a decision in recent years to empower a select few of their officers and chaplains to seek higher degrees and certificates in conflict resolution and, under my tutelage, specifically in religion and conflict resolution. This in turn has had a direct effect on U.S. government behavior toward countries ranging from Iraq to the Central African Republic. Key personnel took proactive steps to engage multifaith religious leaders and representatives on the ground in order to prevent outbreaks of violence. This may seem like a small step, but it is not. The entire infrastructure of the military is generally designed for an adversarial role in most situations. This training put different voices at the table of decision-making, and offered commanders a different set of information upon which to make decisions. In other words, the “enemy” became more nuanced, better understood, and often recategorized as no longer an enemy after all.

In another situation, due to extensive inroads with certain agencies and branches of government, we were able to achieve, at least for a year, an unprecedented level of networking between Muslim leaders across Afghanistan, who were never allowed to meet before. They in turn were empowered to make the religious case for human rights, respect for women, and nonviolence. No one had ever thought to empower these imams before, despite the fact that they were the major victims of the Taliban assassinations. Our peacebuilding team’s inroads into the government helped a wide variety of official stakeholders in the American government, in the Afghan government, and in the global Islamic community of leaders to recognize the importance of engaging and empowering these imams. Unfortunately the program was short-lived (only two years), but it set a precedent for nonviolent forms of diplomacy and peacebuilding sanctioned in government circles.

It should not surprise us that often it is those with combat experience who have greater sympathy for peacebuilding efforts. Some ex-combatants become the most passionate peacemakers precisely because of what they have done and seen. In fact, some of the leaders in this field and pioneers of interfaith work were deeply involved in some of the most violent aspects of the Cold War and recent outrages in the Gulf. The wisdom of peacebuilding is also embedded in some of the most ancient texts of war, especially that of Sun Tzu. Thus, there is a precedent for our work as peacebuilders to join forces with combatants who have changed. Together we can marshal much stronger evidence for national and global shifts toward nonviolent statecraft.

Resistance from Elected Officials

The tougher nuts to crack are elected officials who fund their campaigns through major investors in the military-industrial-oil complex, as well as those politicians who gain votes by appealing to the lowest fears and prejudices.

Many of us who have been engaged in peacebuilding internationally for the last thirty years have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to persuade government officials of the value of nonviolent statecraft. Some of us have also sought to shape the views of students headed for positions of government authority. We have done this in the hope of making policy more attuned to nonviolent approaches to national interests.

At the same time, we have made inroads by persuading some agencies, such as the U.S. State Department, the European Union, and the United Nations, to implement trainings in nonviolent conflict resolution. The policy makers we have reached include embassy personnel, bureaucrats in governments across the world, and bureaucrats in multilateral agencies such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Even though a sense of the benefits of nonviolent resistance has seeped into many government conversations, only a pittance is spent on peacebuilding in comparison to what is spent on military investment. To bring about a true paradigm shift we need to devote comparable funding to peacebuilding as we devote to violence.

We had immense opportunities, for example, to invest in a nonviolent Syrian revolution. But key American allies on one side, and Russia and Iran on the other, guaranteed one of the worst and bloodiest standoffs in modern history. At the same time, Western governments were woefully unprepared to support nonviolent alternatives before they were overwhelmed. This is true in many regions of the failed Arab Spring. We must push for vastly increased funding to train U.S. personnel in nonviolence.

Investing in Peace

Well before the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, I had been working closely for eight years with Syrian partners on building Syrian skills of interfaith diplomacy and conflict resolution. We made tremendous inroads without any support from governments financially. We ended up having several programs and major reconciliation ceremonies even in the worst period of the American assault on Iraq, which drove millions of refugees to Syria. I even engaged in a formal apology to a victim of Abu Ghraib in the Aleppo mosque, and the story of my apology was circulated in many papers. The Swiss Embassy’s staff members were critical in offering moral support and advice throughout those years in the Syrian dictatorship. They took the members of my peacebuilding team seriously as agents of change and nonviolent diplomacy, which is one of the reasons that we managed to pull off one of a very few experiments in Syria in nonviolent diplomacy.

None of our efforts have anywhere near the funding that war has. That is why war will continue to be the status quo until the forms of peacebuilding diplomacy I have outlined here become the norm. There is a long way to go. We will keep demonstrating the virtues of nonviolent statecraft and nonviolent resistance, but it is hard to dissuade Russia and Iran from arming their allies while the United States itself arms so many problematic allies to the teeth and while Israel continues using U.S. weapons on dense civilian areas of the Palestinian territories. None of this can be easily stopped so long as congressional representatives are forced to fundraise every day from the very companies and lobbies that support the massive weapons and war investments.

We have to encourage government leaders to invest in nonviolent diplomacy, but we must also maintain a healthy skepticism of government promotion of nonviolence, keeping an eye out for the possibility that a government may be appropriating the language or trappings of nonviolence for its own purposes. One has to wonder, for example, whether any state had the Ukrainian people’s best interests at heart when certain Western political figures and government bureaucrats supported the nonviolent resistance on the streets of Ukraine. This should be studied and debated. Intelligent analysts have argued that even though the previous leader of Ukraine was horribly corrupt, the people of Ukraine may not have benefited from the disruption of the unique relationship between Ukraine and Russia.

We have to be very careful to not be used by triumphalist statecraft looking for weak spots in the bellies of adversaries or competitors. I cannot imagine how Americans would react, how much worse it could make racial divisions, if it was discovered that Putin or some agency of Russia had funded something like the anti-racist demonstrations after Ferguson. Our advice on nonviolence and our engagement with states is something we should scrutinize at each and every turn.

Building on Successful Case Studies

The best approach we have seen in recent years builds on the optimistic evidence of what I call “increments of positive change.” We must demonstrate when and how countries or regions have prospered as a result of nonviolent statecraft. We must present easy-to-understand case studies that become part of the parlance of debate in the halls of power, and we must challenge policy makers and bureaucrats to argue for and fund such experiments in the halls of American power. Look, for example, at the evolution of U.S. policy toward Cuba. At first generations of individuals made pioneering gestures, then forward-thinking politicians reached out, and finally the president of the United States and a newly minted progressive pope ushered in a new era of rapprochement.

The precedents and models exist to make the case for nonviolent statecraft in the United States, but we need to make this case so self-evident that the war options become plainly absurd. The United States would do well to look to Europe, where numerous states have set a clear example of nonviolent statecraft in action. For example, whereas the United States reacted to twenty-first-century hijackings by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean by attempting to hunt the pirates down, European countries tried a different approach: jobs programs in the villages where the pirates were coming from. The jobs programs had a massive effect. Again nonviolent diplomacy, investigation, and rational strategies won the day.

One of the most rational responses to violence is to seek to understand what inspires violence in one’s adversaries. For example, the world’s most extreme terrorists had a much easier time recruiting a global army because of the destruction of Iraq and the abuse of human rights perpetrated by American military personnel under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Extremists tend to hate it when the United States brokers peace treaties, which is what Obama has been trying to do with Iran, because peace treaties turn many potential terrorist recruits away from violence.

Want to know how to dry up interest in terrorism? A major peace treaty signed by Israel, fifty Muslim states, twenty-two Arab states, and Palestine. A peace treaty between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A Marshall plan for the poor of the Middle East, especially disempowered women. That would drive the extremists crazy. But give extremists more senseless wars with lots of civilian casualties, and you feed them. Those who practice nonviolent statecraft understand this. The only thing standing in our way is the narrow drives of the corporations, lobbyists, and violence-promoting “allies” who tyrannize Congress and the White House. We can change this by offering persistent proof that nonviolent alternatives make everyone safer, domestically and internationally.

Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor and directs the CRDC at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University
Follow this link for the original article at Tikkun.org.


I am at 29:15-43:29. and then a lot in the Q and A. Please watch, I was good that day. I highly recommend the whole video, as there were so many inspiring voices from young Palestine and Israel, each one of them a courageous and amazing person. And Mohammed Cherkoui from The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution was really great as well. Mmmm, watching this now this is more organized than i thought. It is funny I speak without notes, and it does not feel organized inside. interesting.



If you cannot view the video on this site, please click here


I was searching for the event of a few days ago, and realized I never saw this video from last year. It is good, except someone should tell the speaker to stop crinking his neck just because he was trying to make a good point. Then I looked back at family pictures and realized that many Gopins do this with their necks in public. genetics is weird, but enjoy the talk  🙂

If you are having trouble viewing the video on this site, please click: here





In recent years I have worked deeply on quiet conflict management interventions from Afghanistan to Iran, but mostly in Syria. I have watched the unnecessary suffering of countless people, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, the greatest civilian displacement in Middle Eastern history, and I have watched it up close through the lives of my students and friends.


As an analyst my job is to study, inquire and reflect. Everything we conflict analysts, peace builders and trainers–Western, Muslim, Arab, Christian and Jewish–are learning from experience in the field, and from our students and friends all over the Middle East, is that we are caught in a deepening maelstrom of violent disasters due to the perpetual state of war between two states with radical philosophies that have been at loggerheads since 1979, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Since 1979, the expansionist threat of the right wing in Iran has been met with a ruthless, massively funded Sunni jihadism on the part of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, aided paradoxically by the mostly Christian West, that made states across the world into battle zones. But it began earlier than even 1979, and it is important to understand this in order to see the way out. The West views one of these states as an ally and one as an inveterate enemy. Neither is categorically true. Both states present dangers and opportunities for those who want to see the truth with dispassion and without corruption. Seeing states in this way is the essence of effective national defense but also true peace building.


One of the greatest disasters to ever hit the Islamic world was the discovery of oil beneath the Middle East Gulf region, which in turn became dominated by a radical way of life unfamiliar to most of the billion Muslims around the world. Islam is a religion that is alternately very liberal and very conservative depending on which adherents you study or meet; it is like all other religions in that regard. But when unlimited oil is given to a most reactionary sect, and as is common in religions, the conservatives take hold of the wealth, then things get strange. When that began to unfold in the 20th century, and the great powers greedily raced in for their oil, many countries began to deteriorate away from nascent modernization, and democratic leanings, and toward both secular dictatorships on the one side of the Middle East and, on the other, extremist religious dictatorships.


The great powers and Cold War competitors devastated the region by preferring and empowering the worst actors, some of them fascist/secular and some of them religious. This pattern has continued, and now as the secular dictatorships are on the wane (except perhaps in Egypt) religious extremism has become a central feature of both defense and expansion of local states and empires, to the detriment of the entire Arab and Muslim world, and, of course, to Christians and minorities wherever they may be.


The long-term solution is the democratization of empowerment across the Muslim and Arab world, and liberation from the tyrannical use of religion for either military defense purposes or offense purposes. But this will not happen without global economic powers that choose to stop their complicity in this abuse, and therein lays the rub.


There are some time-tested ways to manage the situation that lessen violence across the entire globe. Every day millions of us are heroically engaged in this. There are tried and true methods of violence reduction, such as education, jobs, legal reform, human rights education and advocacy, women’s empowerment in particular, and progressive programs of empathic engagement between minorities and majorities, secular and religious. These all have been proven to work in history and in other regions of the globe today, the evidence grows every day.


It is important for the Western powers and intellectuals to truly understand that these methods also have strong advocates in every single Middle Eastern country and in every ethnic group. The problem is that these forces for good are overwhelmed in the Middle East by the distorting unprecedented financial power of extremist politics, the masking of expansionist and imperial state interests behind religious piety, and the complicity of outside great powers in this abusive reality.


Westerners tend to hold the Middle East and this radicalism in contempt, as if A. they are not implicated by who they have supported as business partners, and B. as if Western culture did not go through the exact same struggles of tyranny and the abuse of religion as a tool of conquest and defense in European history.


This contempt of others is both short-sighted and ill timed. Now is the time for empathy and solidarity with innocents everywhere in the Muslim world, and kindness toward those religious and secular Middle Eastern citizens who are struggling for a better society. It is also self-defeating for Westerners to go on sucking at the breast of oil, and then ridiculing the source.


Americans responded to Middle Eastern extremism at their doorstep since 9/11 with crazy military adventures that utterly failed. Europeans have responded to extremism at their doorstep by banning circumcision, for heaven’s sake! Imagine what they would say if the Organization of Islamic Countries responded to the hundreds of thousands of Muslims dead in Iraq by a Christian American army with the banning of crosses across their 57 states? We are all sectarians at our worst, and enlightened citizens of the planet at our best, but with every one of our political actions we are making that choice.


Too many Westerners at high levels and on the street are panicking and blaming Islam for what are in fact the classic sins of states that steal religion for armor (remember the Protestant/Catholic wars? Crusades?), criminal gangs that use religion (Mafia? KKK? White supremacists?) , and a few criminal families that don the mantle of secularism who have in fact killed far more innocents than anyone else (in Syria and Iraq, among others). Westerners would be as wrong in that blame game as permanently blaming German culture, or Catholicism, for Hitler, for example. Religion was used in Iran to hijack a legitimate youth movement for democracy, same with much of the Arab Spring. The results have been terrible for everyone in the region, whereas extremist versions of religion have been used to poison the minds of millions of Sunni youth in a poor attempt to defend royal families (masquerading as Caliphate) that should be defending themselves in 2015 with jobs and education. Complicit in this abuse of religion by a few oil-soaked funders, the West has undermined the millions of Middle Eastern democrats, both secular ones and religious ones, who we should be encouraging not burying with poor alliances with one side of a vicious set of proxy wars.


The only move that is constructive in this confusing situation is to identify key achievable goals of violence reduction through negotiations, with metrics. Then identify key actors that could forward those goals, and identify a process of coaxing those actors to pursue those goals.


The central method of achieving these goals is through a clear détente and eventual peace process between the Gulf countries, in particular Saudi Arabia and Iran, but must include Qatar as another expansionist state wreaking havoc from Egypt to Syria. Secondarily, there must be a place for inclusion of other key states that have been damaged or destroyed by their proxy warfare, such as Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. The last one is the most immediate human catastrophe because it has been cursed with the worst dictator family in the region.


This process of détente and peace is not being pursued or even suggested at the present time because all of these implicated states are the backbone of the American/Western military industrial complex. The West has billions upon billions of dollars of military contracts with one side of this Middle Eastern conflict, and it is that spigot that cannot allow this war to be turned off or even toned down. Follow the money. It is the contracts, but we civilians are the ones paying the real price. This is not some evil conspiracy, it is just a very effective set of Middle Eastern lobbies for one side of a conflict, combined with the tangled web of institutionalized economic benefits and structures across the West, but mostly in the USA.


History suggests clearly that most groups and nations at war change and evolve through de-escalation/détente/peace processes, whereas exclusion of one entire side of severe conflict, in this case Iran, is irrational, but mostly it is political pandering to lobbies, foreign and domestic, and the corruption of contracts. To engage all parties is to change all parties. All groups change, splinter, and evolve with engagement, but they solidify, when excluded, and subject to all-out warfare. Therefore everyone should be engaged. Anyone who suggests isolation, such as for Iran, has another agenda of regime change, conquest, and the theft of extraction rights, but we the people, the civilians, the majority of war’s victims, are the one’s to suffer from such foolishness.


Third parties who seek peace must be aware of the exact challenge with each party, and also aware of their own biases that they bring to the table. The greatest danger for Westerners is from their public denial of problems with their own allies, trading partners and military clients, in this case in the Gulf and central Asia (many in Washington have told me that this business dependency is the essential reason why American foreign policy cannot be reformed). At the same time there is Western, particularly American, convenient demonization of enemies that prevents engagement, which is also a business tactic that their allies have demanded. If you really care for the victims of jihadism, if you really care for the victims of Iran’s foreign policy and alliances, then you must get these major powers of the region to the table. It is the only way to stop the bloodshed.


Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have legitimate security needs and fears of each other and of other enemies, and at the same time they display unreasonable violent behavior through terrible proxies that has reached global proportions. The 1979 revolution in Iran was founded upon legitimate grievances and needs, but it did have or was taken over by an expansionist and adversarial agenda. But from the beginning what the United States and Saudi Arabia did to counter this revolution and to counter the Soviet role in Afghanistan has massively destroyed Sunni culture across the globe.


Both trends must be reversed. Iran must withdraw its outrageously destructive role in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the USA must forever foreswear the militarization of radical Islam as a tactic of conquest, and the Europeans must condition their Gulf business on guarantees that their business partners and citizens are not funding genocidal violence against Westerners.


Iran and Saudi Arabia, who have had nonviolent relations in the past, are formidable and dangerous now, especially because they can and do embody a long standing Sunni/Shi’ite rivalry, also a Persian/Arab rivalry, that ignites when it is stimulated. Both have been wounded by the other, and both deserve safety and security for their citizens, but they are pursuing those goals through an unjust abuse and destruction of proxies. One has unlimited financial power to radicalize majority Sunni Muslims the world over, and the other has an indomitable capacity for defense and offense in the region, with a highly resilient educated population that supports many of its foreign policy objectives, at least in terms of legitimate defense. My sense is that Iran is more easily managed because their goals are more objective and rational, in terms of defense and power in the classic ways of ambitious states, but Khamenei is extremely difficult and gives license to a darker side of foreign policy.


My problem with the Saudi/American way is that the militarization of the Muslim masses is an irrational way to defend a state, with uncontrollable results, and it is a toxic method that has gotten far more Americans killed on 9/11 and since, than anything Iran has ever done. That being said, the state-based expansionist military agenda of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has killed hundreds of thousands in Syria and Iraq and stimulated sectarian standoffs in Lebanon and elsewhere. Both sides have a lot of blood on their hands, and that is exactly why any responsible third party must help them come to a new way of dealing with the region.


Both nations need a balanced peace process that exposes their threats to each other and the stability of many states, but at the same time acknowledges and works to address their legitimate security needs and demands. For the West and its allies, at no point should there be anymore any notion of regime change anywhere. It guarantees conflict escalation to nuclear levels. We live in a world today where ultra-violent, antiquated forms of foreign policy, such as regime change, get hundreds of thousands of people killed and change nothing, as we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.


Both parties of the Gulf conflict are highly motivated to engage in a peace process if the West is very insistent and offers serious guarantees of security and normalization at the table. Even the most conservative elements in Iran are tired of a constant state of siege and threat from neighbors near and far, and especially from the United States and Israel. The Saudi Kingdom, having created its own monsters, such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, as well a series of proxy wars with Iran, is not in a great position to guarantee its own longevity unless there is more peace, and in my opinion would welcome the stabilization of the region.


A serious peace process must have as its goal full normalization of relations, an end to all proxy wars, and a return of Iranian and Saudi interests in other states to the realm of A. legitimate nonviolent defense of vulnerable populations, B. business investment, and C. a complete and enforced withdrawal from the worst offenders–ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Assad family–and a taming of other allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.


In the Syrian case, the evidence from the ground, based on our experience, is that if the Gulf state interests, both Arab and non-Arab, are modified and tamed, the secular and religious populations have great potential to achieve a post-Assad Syria that will neither be extremist, genocidal, or status quo ante. Even if Syria must be divided, the constructive role of Iran and Saudi Arabia in that process will be the best guarantee of success.

There should be achievable goals set for a peace process and a step-by-step de-escalation of tensions on a number of fronts, from Syria to Yemen. Both sides will have to demonstrate, in a way that is clear to intelligence agencies, that they are steadily reducing their support for violence through proxies in the region. Iranian complicity in the horror on the ground in Syria is well known and has been a major stimulus for Sunni jihadi recruitment, and the same with militias in Iraq. By contrast the relationship between the ultra-violent forces of Sunni jihadism and Saudi funding is very clear and traceable to any researcher whose institution allows him to research it. If I were an Iranian rational actor, I would want clear evidence of a new era of Sunni/Shi’ite cooperation from Lebanon to Iraq to Bahrain, as the basis for concessions and commitments. The Saudis will come with their demands in turn. Both will commit to step-by-step evidence of de-escalation.


There are those in the West who have never been terribly upset when rivals in resource-rich regions are at each other’s throats. At the most crass level it is good for business, and good for election cycles. But it is quite clear that this is in fact an antiquated, barbaric way of thinking and doing business. A highly interconnected world can no longer afford it. Nor should Arab and Muslim elites tolerate the continuation of a permanent state of proxy wars between the most powerful Muslim Gulf countries. This has held back so much progress for average people and has been such a major embarrassment for decades.


The logic of this direction of peace process is incontrovertible, but it is time for the United Nations, for the major moral authorities of the world, for the people of the world, to demand a push for this peace process from their governments and elites. We face a unique situation where Iranian, Saudi, and Qatari citizens have not yet been directly killing each other on a battlefield, so that the populations could easily be brought into a peace process. The urgency, however, is not just for their sake, but rather for the sake of the tens of millions of victims of the proxy wars who these major Gulf powers have used and abused, for the sake of the Syrians in particular whose civilization has been utterly destroyed. The world needs to get busy with vigorous diplomacy to make this happen, so that the bloodletting can finally cease, so that the children can rest and live once again.

{ 1 comment }

adobe premiere free download

buy cheap creative suite adobe reader download portable adobe flash direct download cheap adobe reader download 5 download adobe flash 9 for h264

adobe rider download

buy cheap adobe illustrator CS5 adobe page maker full download download and install adobe flash onto my computer cheapest free download adobe rea adobe in design 2 download

adobe photoshop 8 free download full version

buy cheap adobe after effects adobe pagemaker trial version download adobe photoshop cs3 extended download for free buy cheap adobe photodeluxe download adobe photoshop cs download osx

adobe 8 crack download

adobe acrobat x cheap can i download adobe filter factory adobe golive cs2 download buy cheap adobe nine flash player download free adobe photoshop 6 download

adobe flash player 9 cannot download to internet explorer 7

cs5 master collection cheapest free adobe pdf maker download adobe creative suite 3 download cheap download adobe cs3 free p2p adobe photoshop tutorial download

adobe acrobat pdf download free

buy cheap creative suite 5 adobe after effects cs2 download adobe flash psp download buy cheap adobe illustrator 8 download adobe illustrator cs3 crack download

adobe acrobat 6 free download

buy online creative suite 5 download adobe illustrator cs2 trial adobe live motion download buy online adobe cs3 free download pdf and adobe and download

download adobe photoshop elements 5tutorial

adobe incopy buy online free download adobe acrobat professional 6 free adobe illustrator cs2 download cheapest adobe photoshop trial download free adobe photoshop elements download

adobe photoshop 8 free download adobe photoshop cs3

adobe creative suite 5 cheap adobe download site adobe indesign download cheapest download adobe photoshop 8 cs adobe acrobat download warez

free download able adobe

cheap photoshop lightroom 3 download adobe pdf writer 4 adobe after effects demo download cheapest adobe photoshop 8 free download pdf and adobe and download

adobe flash player download for vista 32 bit os

cheapest cs5 master collection adobe flash offline download iran download adobe photoshop buy online download adobe photoshop download cracker adobe acrobat

download adobe reader 5

buy online adobe premiere pro adobe acrobat writer download adobe premiere free download buy online is download for adobe flash player free adobe file converter download

free adobe illustrator cs3 download full version

adobe web premium cheapest download add on error with adobe acrobat download adobe after effects 5 buy online free adobe photoshop elements download free download of adobe photoshop cs2