Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Three Educated Men, a Conversation and Today's Middle East Thoughts

Three Well-Educated Men

One person we are talking about attended Drew College Preparatory School, a private college-prep high school ln San Francisco.  Afterwards, he attended San Francisco State University where he earned a BA in 1981 and an MA in 1982 in international relations.   At the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies, he obtained a second MA in International Relations in 1984 and a PhD in International Law and Policy in 1988.

Another person we are talking about attended the Fessenden School in Newton, Massachusetts, and later St. Paul's in Concord, New Hampshire, both prestigious preparatory schools. Majoring in Political Science, he received a BA from Yale University in 1966.  Subsequently, after military service, he received a Bachelor of Laws degree from Boston College School of Law in 1976.

Another person we are talking about graduated from Cheltenham High School (a suburb of Philadelphia).  After military service, he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a BS in architecture in 1975 and a MS in 1977 from MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Can you identify these three individuals, all of whom are in some way connected with international diplomacy today?  (Answers appear at the end of this posting.)


A Conversation 

Jack Lippman

”Do you know what time it is?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Why don’t you look at your watch?”

“I don’t have one!”

“Then look at your cell phone.”

“That’s a good idea.  Sorry I didn’t think of it.”

Glancing at the phone he pulled out of his pocket, the man cleared his throat and announced, “It’s just a minute after four.”

“Yes.  And we close at four, so you might as well come back tomorrow.”

“Hey, I was here before four o’clock but you stalled me by asking me if I knew what time it was.”

“According to my watch, it was already four o’clock when you walked in.”

“I think your watch must be fast.  Anyhow, since I’m here, could you please make an exception and take care of me.  I really am in a rush and can’t make it back tomorrow.”

“Ah, you look like a nice guy, so okay, I will.”

“Fine.  Now listen carefully.  I have a revolver in my pocket.  Here’s a shopping bag.  Shove all the bills in your drawer into it, and no funny business with alarms and buttons.”

“What?  I agreed to make an exception if you were here for some normal banking business, but as for a bank robbery, I cannot do that.  We close at four, and if you want to rob us, you have to do that during regular banking hours.  I bet you’re not even a regular customer of ours.  You know, I can get into trouble for handling a normal transaction after closing time, and as for a robbery, that is completely out of the question!  They’d fire me.”

“What kind of schmuck are you anyway?  This is a gun in my pocket.”

“Go ahead and shoot me if you want.  You know I am not a regular teller.  This branch got rid of them a couple of months ago.  I am actually a humanoid robot, built and programmed to look and act like a regular teller.  I am glad you pointed out that my watch was fast.  That means I get to go back to the shop for a few days to get reprogrammed.  But don’t waste your bullets on me.  They’ll just bounce off.  That’s the way I am built.”

With that, the man turned and quickly walked out of the door of the bank into the parking lot.  Terry Murphy, behind the teller’s window, pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. 

"Boy,” he said, “that sure was a close one.  But I do have to reset the minute hand on my watch.”

Alternate ending (It's up to you to choose which one you prefer.)

“Boy,” he said,” that sure was a close one.  But I do have to reset the minute hand on my watch .. watch .. watch ..  watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch .. watch ..


Terrorism, the Money Trail and the Roman Empire
Today, a group of terrorists attacked tourists visiting a museum in Tunisia.  But these  killers are only a part of what many groups throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia and even Europe, are doing  in the name of what they call the Islamic State, in the name of Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Al Shabbab or whatever.  Shielding themselves behind the guise of fighting for Islam, their struggle is really a political one.  Islam does not separate government from theology, so political battles become religious missions.
Traditionally, Western nations have been able to wage war against aggressor nations. But when the “enemy” is not a government, but rather a cause cloaked in theology, doing so becomes difficult.  If we are able to defeat the jihadist movements, who can we get to sign the surrender papers?

The only way for us to defeat Islamic terrorism is to “follow the money” and cut off its flow to terrorists.   Weapons, logistics, training and recruiting all cost money.   Other than what they steal, as ISIS has done in Syria and Iraq, these terrorists have no economy to harness to provide resources to support their activities.  But they are getting money from somewhere.
Western nations should put the highest priority on tracing the source of the financial resources which support Islamic terrorism.  Conceivably, since the purported goal of Islamic terrorism is to spread the faith, some Muslim nations and naive individuals throughout the world are comfortable in providing these groups with financial resources.  They may not agree with their violent means, but they do agree with their ultimate goals, particularly when they are couched in theological terms.  Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States may fall into this category.  Similarly, Muslims interested in the cause of the Palestinians provide financial resources to groups such as Hamas, and other Islamic groups which resort to violence.

This money flow must be meticulously traced and cut off.  Western nations and their banking systems must use this as a weapon to fight Islamic terrorism.  Economic and financial sanctions can be great tools, and with the increase of petroleum resources outside of the Middle East, the financial backers of Islamic terror should be told to cease and desist from doing so immediately.  Let them drink their oil.

And when the Middle East finally settles down, is there a democratic solution for these nations?  Two millenniums ago, this area was ruled with an iron fist by the Roman Empire in cooperation with local despots.  Individual freedoms were sacrificed for a relatively peaceful period known as the Pax Romana.  Would a return to those days be an improvement over what is going on there today?


The three "well-educated men" in this posting's first item are, in the order they appeared in the item: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister (at the time of this writing) Benjamin Netanyahu.  Yes, America is indeed the best place to come for an education.  (Incidentally, both of Zarif's children were born in the United States, and his son, Mahdi, is a graduate of the City University of New York.  The Zarifs spent many years in New York City while he was Iran's United Nations delegate. )

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Jack Lippman 

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