Yesterday was thanksgiving, and it was a little different than most I remember. My wife and kids were in Paris (not celebrating), my parents and I did not get together (I'd just been there for a funeral last weekend), and I still have guests at my house. Fahiri 'Fred' Somda is the ex Atty General of Burkina Faso, Dolores and Lydia are two of 'Los Chicas Bravas', our women's coop partner for Retroworks de Mexico, Tito and his daughter Maria came by (American of Puerto Rican descent living in Middlebury at my house, doing translation for Las Chicas), and Souleymane Sao was here from Senegal, a computer buyer who is inspecting and testing equipment before it goes on a container for Africa next week. Earlier in the day I was on skype with Hamdy, a business partner in Cairo who is of Palestinian descent. Oh, and an old aqaintence from Fayetteville High School, Sarah, who I ran into at the wake, chatted with me by email. Friendship with Sarah is as surreal as the others to me, I knew her when I was really immature and she was a head cheerleader, so knockout gorgeous I could never muster much conversation. Thirty years later, we are becoming friends from The Big Chill.
Turkey, stuffing, giblet gravy, corn on the cob, broccoli and sugersnap peas, etc.
Late into the evening Soule and Fahiri and I stayed up talking world politics. Souley has a lot of energy, he's married to an American (niece of John Kerry) but lives most of the year in Dakar. He and I had some great arguments, I think he enjoys going too far in vehemence as much as I do, and we were unchained from our better halves who might have added oil to the water.
What I love about argument and dialectic is that it stirs my brain. Even getting a little angry or offended is a shock to the corners of the mind, it stirs the water.
Talking about the photos in National Geographic of the lines to get through the new Israeli wall, Soule was reminded of experiences he has had under Patriot Act, as a citizen, being "profiled" etc. Things he's justifiably pissed about. But I feel the wall is as much a product of the Intifada as if the Palestinians laid the bricks. There were people blowing themselves up in buses. Then there weren't.
Soule felt I was condoning the wall as a "solution". I wasn't but after an hour or two of arguing, here's the position I came away with.
Saudi power has its roots in appeasement with fundamentalist bedouin Islam... I think the Wahabi sect is kind of like the Pentacostal sect in my home in Arkansas. Some Christian evangelicals thought it a good idea to blow up abortion clinics, and some Wahabi thought it a good idea to blow up a broader range of secular targets.
What made the difference between the two is that the Saudi's have the curse of natural resources, a lot of money without a lot of "buy in" from a broad range of people. When you have wealth created by manufacturing or re-manufacturing (repair), it's trade based, and you have face-to-face with clients. You LEARN to really like clients, not just pretend to like them. Even if you think they are obnoxious, when they are doing business and sending you money or product or labor, you mentally rationalize them as friends. With petroleum or mining, you get money from a spigot with virtually no employment or responsibility experience.
The Saudi money, hardline wahabi roots, were used as a tool against the Soviets in Afganistan, of course with a lot of USA assistance.
The USSR was going to fold anyway, it was a house of cards at that point. Nuclear weapons and a space program aside, the economy was overextended. Sending hard line religious extremists in to do the fighting was a tax that hastened a fall.
The veteran jihadists came away with the idea that with divine grace they brought down the USSR superpower.
What would have made all the difference would be if Ghandi had emerged, or an Islamic Ghandi, and opposed the Russians the way India opposed the British rule. If passive resistance had been tried in Afganistan, the USSR would have folded, I think. Or they would have moved south and threatened Iran, and Iran woud be our buddy today vs. th Soviets. But I think Gorby would still have folded his cards.
I think Israeli/Palestinian conflict would have been the ideal place for passive resistance. It could have stopped the settlements.
Now I'm someone who is grateful we invaded Normandy Beach and Iwo Jima, and I think Western Europe and Japan/South Korea are the best testaments to the USA doing vastly unpopular things (entry into those conflicts was opposed by 90% of Americans during FDR's run for office... 70% of Americans were against even sending scrap metal to England to defend itseld during the air blitzkrieg of London). I am not a pacifist.
I just think that the Palestine situation is the ideal place for Ghandi, King or Mandela. The blowing up yourself in a bus or mall tactic led to the wall, and reduced trade (client, employee, other economic relationships).
If you have trade, you wind up with Senegalese muslims staying at your home, helping the Mexican ladies do dishes, talking late into the night with Burkinabe catholic (ex-divinity school student), testing equipment with unemployed Vermonters. I think the "buy local", anti-globalization movement has its place, but we can't save the elephants without dinner conversations with Africans.
Dogon (Fahiri's tribe) of Burkina by the way culturally distains gold. That's an idea would do the planet some good.