Our enemies are eying us, are we?


IN the art of war, intelligence is your secret weapon. If your adversary learns more about you than you do about them; and if they put their intel to good use, you are way behind. Chances are, you may have lost the game even before it started!

Yes, Information is power. To know about your competitors and enemies well, is to be better equipped to defend yourself and your interests.

We all play this game. A child would know about his mother’s weaknesses before he demands a toy. The mother would know about her husband’s current finances before she asks for that toy — and more! He would find out about his boss’s mood and company finances, before making his case for promotion.

The boss should know better about competitors in the market, and the firm’s inside politics and outside strategies, before expanding into new territories to afford his workers’ job improvement.

The tools are many. Ask the wife how she knew about her husband’s secretary plans to steal him away from her. She must have used smart surveillance, observation and investigation.

Good studies produce good results and recommendations. Successful plans utilize good studies. If you play it better than your adversary, if you could see more into his cards than he could see into yours, you’d have a better chance of beating him, regardless of his superiority.

I am saying this because I have become a bit frustrated with how in the Arab world we fail to see our failure in this regard.

In USA, where I did my higher studies, “think tanks,” as they called them, are more in number and capacity, per capita, than restaurants and cafes in the our world. The same can be said about our stand versus Europe, Japan and South Korea.

Why go this far? In Israel and Iran, there are hundreds of specialized research centers, academic departments and focus groups on the Arab World. How many similar institutions do we have about Israeli and Persian affairs? If we discounted the general-purpose Mideast programs and centers, we may count our fingers for an answer.

The bottom line, we would have no idea what we are facing on the other side of the fence, if we had no clue about their intentions, strategies and current affairs. Being in the dark about our competitors’ profiles and policies, while they know more about our strengths and weaknesses, trends and thinking, than we do, put us very much at a disadvantage.

We certainly need to change — yesterday! Our universities had a lot to do in this regard. The last I checked, few departments teach Hebrew and Persian. Less study on Israeli and Iranian social and geopolitical subjects. The same could be said about the media, research centers, and publishing houses.

Why is that? Lack of vision? Talent? Interest? I tried to find out, and am still trying.

When I put up a proposal to establish a research center for Iranian Studies, I thought it would be applauded and supported. The need was obvious and the logic was apparent.

Iran teaches Arabic in schools, and studies our issues at all levels and in all interested areas — academic, religious, political, media, cultural and intellectual. Their universities, embassies, intelligent centers, and even the military, are tasked with learning more about us.

They are interested in our ethnic, social, political, religious and intellectual composition. They want to know how to strike and infiltrate; where to divide and ignite; and what makes us tick.

To make an impression, to expand influence, to protect and further national interests, you need mountains of analyzed data. This cannot be achieved by intelligence alone. The nation’s collective mind needs to be put to work.

When President John F. Kennedy announced the US strategy to win the space race, and promised to send a man to the moon (1962), a mega research project was put into motion that included all academic and scientific institutions.

Research centers and libraries were networked. References and current studies made available to students, professors, scientists and researchers in every field.

The goal of sending a man to the moon was achieved in 1969, as promised, USSR was defeated in the scientific race, and America won its best prize of all, the greatest research machine in the planet.

We, too, should utilize our academic institutions and research centers to find out more about the world around us. Fortunately, we do have great human and material resources that can be put to good use. All we need is a grand vision and mission.

Our enemies are eying us. The question is: Are we eying them, too? Hope we are!

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi