Archive for the ‘Foriegn Relations’ Category

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About “Face”—Ottoman Style

March 5, 2010

If anyone has any doubt about the extent of the “face” issue and how it is playing out in today’s world (both political and business), they  merely have to read the latest news about the vote by the House Foreign Affairs on the 100-year old Turkish-Armenian controversy.

The House committee has voted to pass a resolution that states that in the early 1900’s the Turks committed genocide by killing approximately 1.5 million Armenians. The Turks are so upset (even though the atrocities occurred during the Ottoman era) they’ve threatened to recall their US Ambassador. The Turkish pressure to stop the resolution from passing was so intense that President Obama even reneged on one of his campaign promises that stood on the side of Armenia. Apparently, getting Turkey to agree to sanctions against Iran is enough justification to break a campaign pledge.

Secretary of State Clinton weighed in last week warning the committee chairman that the resolution could harm reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia. Maybe the secretary has a new found respect for the issue of “face” after her Pakistan and China forays that created tension and controversy. In Pakistan she accused the government there of not wanting to catch the Taliban and the China/Google hacking issue is still making news.  This is not to say Secretary Clinton isn’t a good and capable chief diplomat; she definitely is, but her American-style bluntness—or disregard for  “face”—has had its shortcomings.  

The Armenian lobby in the U.S. Congress is very powerful and is part of a larger global effort to have the Ottoman era killings labeled by governments worldwide as genocide.  A similar resolution, pushed  by the influential Armenian lobby efforts was passed in 2007, but was prevented from getting a full House vote by the Bush White House (during that time there was a fear that the Turks would prohibit use of a certain military base that was key  to the U.S. Iraq war effort).

This century old issue has not been this hotly debated since the tragedies occurred—it’s an issue that is certainly a resonating indicator of the omnipresent and enduring influence of the concept of “face.”

For a greater understanding of “face” and its global cultural impact, pick up a copy of my book, Lies, Bribes & Peril.

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Child Trafficking or Incredible Cultural Naivete?

February 2, 2010

The current situation involving the 10 jailed members of the Southern Baptist Convention religious organization has a number of root causes. First and foremost, what I like to believe was a well intended group, the cultural ignorance shown by the religious group was pretty astounding.

Not only did the group attempt to move roughly thirty children across an international border without any of the proper paperwork (this in a country that suffers from the blight of real human traffickers), but the most recent development about yesterday’s postponed court date highlights the fact the group embarked on their overzealous mission without possessing an ability to speak French!

Basically, the group ignored any and all cultural, legal, and communications issues. Geeze!

How the situation will evolve and what the outcomes will be is anybody’s guess–as well intended as the group may be their naiveté borders on arrogant indifference. At first blush I thought this might be a case of corrupt Haitian officials making a mountain from a molehill—but the facts are otherwise. This group, whether inadvertent or properly intended, are in real trouble—and unfortunately they should be. Any thought or preparation about what the group might need to succeed in their international endeavor would surely have served as a harbinger.  It’s way too late, but a copy of my book would have certainly kept them from this fate.

Now, I alluded to other causes and they certainly are there. This group’s fervor and zeal was most certainly stoked by the hopelessness and ‘blame oriented’ media coverage beamed out by the likes of Anderson Cooper, and others:

Instead of the coverage recognizing the insignificance and futility of man’s abilities in the face of nature’s awesome—and at times awful—power, there was the wringing of hands over what was inferred as ‘avoidable’ delay and mismanagement of the Haitian rescue effort. There have been many stories from knowledgeable media sources about this ‘blame’ phenomenon and the resultant well doers—like our Southern Baptist group, spurred to ineffectual action, that actually cause more harm while desperately intent on trying to do good.  

Let’s remember, there is no evil at work here—nothing like the needless human tragedy that continues to exist in Darfur.  In Haiti, there are thousands of trained, professional disaster relief personnel struggling to do their very best in a place that is a ‘perfect storm’ of obstacles and challenges.

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Brazilian Custody Fight = All Accommodation – UPDATE to 12/22/09 post

December 23, 2009

12/22 and 23/2009- CNN:  Brazil high court lifts stay, allowing boy to return to U.S. Brazil high court lifts stay, allowing boy to return to U.S

Thank goodness the latest turn of events (as of yesterday 12/22/09) has the Brazilian Chief Justice overturning the ruling last week by his counterpart and requiring the boy (Sean) be returned to his US father David Goldman. While anything can still happen, Face issues—brought by the combination of the absence of any legitimate legal basis and the very serious US political pressure—in this case have outweighed the obvious Accommodation. 

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/12/22/brazil.custody.battle/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_topstories+%28RSS%3A+Top+Stories%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Read my book Lies, Bribes & Peril to get a better understanding about the concept of “Face” and “Accommodation” and other Lessons for the REAL Challenges of International Business.

Happy Holidays!

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Improved US-Russia Cooperation—All Started with a Communication Faux Pas

December 15, 2009

Recent articles suggesting greater cooperation between the US and Russia on various issues like cyberspace security are a nice change in the frosty dialogue that has been status quo between the countries over the past decade or so Implausibly it was all started by a classic Communication blunder on the part of The State Department and Secretary Clinton. (See: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.9ca28ad2530b0d0029e1304762eca18f.8c1&show_article=1).

Last March, in a Communication lesson straight from my book Lies, Bribes and Peril, Sec Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov with a box possessing a large red button and a Russian word thought to translate as “Restart.”  In a scene that couldn’t have been written better by one of the comedy news shows and is another real life parody off the web site www.engrish.com, Minister Lavrov pointed out the word in Russian actually said “Overcharged.” Sec Clinton attempted a weak joke about the faux pas, but then went to the real intent of the meeting. I think Minster Lavrov got a chuckle out of the mistake and no harm was done.  Why not? This situation should have been disastrous! As I point out quite simply in my book, most foreigners are usually pleased with the attempt, by anyone at any level, to communicate in their native tongue. The attempt is more important than being correct—even at a meeting this lofty.

The real point to drive home from this wacky situation (or “moment” as I say) “turn the ordinary into the bizarre”—and this kind of translation issue  is very, very common and occurs all the time. Here you have a situation where the entire State Department—I mean the whole damn thing is at Sec. Clinton’s disposal—got the word wrong!  Once more, the State Department’s sole purpose on this earth is: foreign relations –for gosh sakes!

Ok, the point here is not to embarrass, but more so to draw attention to the fact that, heck, if the State Department can get something like this wrong, a translated word involving a superpower, then the rest of us will make faux pas’ for sure.

I’ve had it happen many times all over the world–some hilarious, but some just as potentially devastating as this Restart situation.  It just flat-out happens all the time and ways how to best deal with and to realize when they  (there are a number of ways this ‘translation issue” can pop up) happen—are in my book.

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Shamelessly copying the tradition of ESPN’s PTI program, here’s a ‘Shout Out’ to Lara Logan

December 14, 2009

Colbert Report, December 10, 2009. Guest Lara Logan

Not only have I had a yearlong crush on Lara Logan, the beautiful, intelligent correspondent for CBS & 60 Minutes, but I’ve admired her desire, her apparent eager willingness, to go into the worst places on earth. The traveling I’ve done and the places, the perils, I’ve faced have nothing on Lara (the genesis of my fascination I think–this amazing broad seeks out areas and situations that, even in my bulletproof twenties, I’d have been reluctant to jump into).  I’m not sure there’s anything she could learn from my book Lies. Bribes, & Peril but I do think (ok, hope) she would wholeheartedly relate to its cultural lessons and perspectives.

Now, the suspicious naysayer in me (c’mon, admit it, our cushy existence leaves us way too much time to think like this occasionally) thought it was just about her career,–an easy way (as long as really dangerous places don’t bother you) to get ahead. How wrong that thought was.

After watching her appearance on the Colbert Report last week, my crush on Lara Logan evolved to include a very deep respect. I now understand why I was attracted her in the first place. It had nothing to do with the pretty face and sexy South African accent.

During Logan’s appearance on Colbert she very eloquently argued why Afghanistan is no Vietnam (those on the very political left will feel horribly betrayed by one they would normally embrace as their own) and explained her personal sense of motivations– heartfelt thoughts I think would be a benefit not only to most Americans but Westerners in general. Teased by Colbert about how her danger-seeking was self-indulgent, she spoke about how being in areas like Afghanistan, seeing and actually living the line that defines the essence of existence, made her so much more appreciative of the everyday things in her life, a good meal, relative security, a warm place to sleep–that not a day or event goes by that she is not thankful. 

Well, here’s the shout out Lara…extremely well said. If more people could only experience, witness, or at the very least gain an appreciation for, this struggle for existence; where the day is spent totally consumed with obtaining the barest necessities of life, and understand the happiness and pride that those that live life in this way derive from it, well, it just flat engenders a humility and gratefulness that is not only profoundly moving, but life altering–as it obviously has been for Lara. 

A notable outlook engendering the very best of the human spirit for the Holiday Season.

Happy Holidays 2009 Everyone!

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The Knox Affair—A “Serious Trial?” Not to any American…

December 11, 2009

For sure, a system that

  1. allows 14-15 hr abusive interrogations
  2. allows a prosecutor, Mignini, under indictment for prosecutorial misconduct & abuse of power to head the case (and a prosecutor that speaks to dead priests and follows the advice of a satanic “expert”)
  3. stands by while that prosecutor puts forth the exact same crazy motive as attempted in another high publicity case (and then abandons it in final arguments)

… is not a ‘serious’ legal system from an American point-of-view and that is the important distinction.

From an American point-of-view perception is reality and the perception is, unquestionably, that Mignini is all about Mignini and the facts, evidence, logic are merely inconsequential to his opinions. Mignini is obviously a devout follower of the Steven Colbert “truthiness doctrine”—but the problem is, no one is laughing in this case.

The story is not about whether Knox is guilty or not.  This is about a foreigner, an American and her family, dealing with a strange, often termed inept and corrupt, Italian legal system.  Now (and not to be judgmental) the system is perhaps fine and acceptable to Italians, but terribly flawed to any American dealing with it.  Nevermind the unfathomable prosecutorial issues, no American would have expected the procedural shortcomings and delays that have transpired.

Right from my Legal Lesson (in my book) American travelers need to understand and be forewarned!  Perhaps if Knox had been forewarned she would have fled immediately (as she should have) after the murders, thereby requiring extradition from the US. This would have prevented the abusive interrogation she endured and would have added an intense layer of both legal and diplomatic scrutiny.

Maybe then the Italian government would not have allowed this case to proceed in this way and oh, don’t think for a second that might not have happened! The “Law of the Land” was and is in effect here requiring a completely different approach than one might take in the US. That’s the vitally important learning experience any American needs to take from this unfortunate affair. 

No one will ever have a clear idea of whether Knox is innocent or not—-that alone is a shame. But again, an American trapped in that system HAD to understand the “Law of the Land” and react accordingly.