One of my mother’s favorite expressions, invariably addressed to me, was “make yourself useful as well as ornamental.” Another helpful bromide, this one of uncertain provenance, is “tell your own story or someone else will tell it for you.” Practical advice for individuals, businesses and governments.
How does this relate to Trump as an actor on the world stage with foreign countries? You know I’m going to get to Israel and Jews, right? Of course. It’s what I do.
If you’re interested in how public policy is made in the United States and how the conventional wisdom becomes the conventional wisdom, the American Jewish Community is not the only game in town but it is, by far, the most effective game in town. They tell their story (and sometimes your story) constantly. They make themselves not only useful but essential.
At a bare minimum we can say that, in terms of foreign relations advocacy, Israel and the American Jewish community are playing three dimensional speed chess while the rest of the world is still reading the instructions for slow motion special ed tic-tac-toe.
Don’t laugh…it’s true.
Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is costly and deadly.
In the field of foreign affairs, let’s look at who has found favor in the Age of Trump and who hasn’t.
ISRAEL. Nobody has received better treatment from the Trump Administration than Israel. Trump never talks about a two state solution or criticizes Israel for additional or expanded settlements in the Occupied Territories …which always impressed me as two parties agreeing to share a pizza while the stronger party eats most of it. The US Embassy has been moved to Jerusalem and Trump gives carte blanche on Israel’s execution, from a safe distance, of demonstrators at the wall separating Israel from Gaza. Unlike our NATO allies, Israel has never fought and died with us and they are regularly the largest annual recipient of US AID, receiving $250 billion, inflation adjusted, since their founding which makes them the largest recipient of US Aid ever.
EUROPE. From Trump, Europe and Canada get the shaft. What does Trump know? Does he actually know anything about Western Civilization, the Magna Carta, our own history with Franklin in Paris and Lafayette at Valley Forge and Yorktown? Two World Wars, Korea, plus more recently Iraq and Afghanistan? In recent history, Canada, England, and France (with the exception of the stupid Iraq war) are always with us fighting and dying. Even little Belgium was with us after 9/11 in Afghanistan. France continues to work with us, on the ground, in Africa. Trump is not impressed. Europe and Canada can’t really help him or hurt him right now with his political standing here at home right now…did I say RIGHT NOW?…with Trump it’s immediate gratification (or pain avoidance) to him or you’re expendable.
IRAN (PERSIA). There are roughly 1 million Iranians (Persians) living in the United States. They are, generally speaking, quite prosperous, well educated, and law abiding. They have zero influence on American policy towards Iran. I couldn’t name three Persians effectively involved in foreign policy advocacy. There are approximately 6 million Jews living in the US. If you were to ask a Member of Congress who has been in Congress for a week or longer if the the State of Israel or the American Jewish Community was active in shaping American policy towards Israel and Iran it might cause the Member to dissolve into a totally disoriented giggle fit causing permanent neurological damage. SERIOUSLY. Watch FOX, MSNBC, and CNN from 5PM to 11PM on an average night and you’ll see a half-dozen hosts and/or guests advocating for Israel and against Iran on one matter or another.
Whenever I take a cab in NYC I ask the driver where he’s from (it’s always been a man). Many are from India, Pakistan, and various countries in Africa. I usually inquire about politics in their country and their opinion of politics in ours. I get in some interesting conversations.
I remember one with a gentleman from Pakistan who was a US citizen and had been in the country for 20 years. We got on the topic of Lobbying…advocacy before government seeking a particular governmental action. To my Pakistani friend, the concept was totally foreign to him. He thought that someone in government should just “do what was right” and “lobbying” was either unnecessary or unseemly. I told him advocacy before government was actually protected by our Constitution (“the right of the people to petition the government for the redress of grievances shall not be abridged”). We didn’t get into the sophisticated aspects of shaping public opinion like establishing think tanks to push a point of view.
Nobody has suffered as much as Iran (Persia) for their failure to tell their story here in the United States. First, their history…they go way back. Maybe 4,000 years. Second, what’s been done to them by the US…giving targeting information for the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. We did that to them. Check it out. Three, and, of course, helping the British overthrow their government in 1953. Fourth, helping the US right after 9/11 both in Iran and Afghanistan costing them loss of life in the process. Check it out.
Final final. There’s one super power in the World…the USA. Any country that does not have a real and continuous presence in the US engaged in full time advocacy is fixing to get its toilet flushed…as they say in polite company…by somebody somewhere.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.