March 20th, 2011
Dubai, UAE
Well-rested from our February foray into Iraq, Peter Ford and I are once again converging on a site in the Mid-East -- not for a Country Council this time -- but rather a large gathering of more than 225 Regional Security Officers, OSAC analysts, and Private-Sector Security Representatives for what represents the next in a long line of successful, jointly-sponsored ISMA/OSAC regional security conferences. Originally the gathering had been slated for Cairo, but for reasons now obvious to most of us, it became prudent to move the location to Dubai, UAE. 
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John McClurg and Peter Ford attend a regional security conference in Dubai, sponsored by ISMA and OSAC.

As ever-changing as the sands that surround it, it did not surprise us that the region as a whole has continued to command our attention over the course of the last few intervening weeks.  Notwithstanding current challenges, many of our corporations continue to harbor hopes of focusing on the region as a viable place from which to securely advance global efforts. 

To that end this joint conference, the 14th in a series of what now represents a well-established tradition within ISMA and OSAC, affords a unique forum within to discuss and devise, mutually validated strategies to deal with the challenges this region poses. Past forums have included such venues as Prague, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Budapest, and Cape Town.

While all of their presentations were characterized, if you will, by the general uncertainty that now pervades the region, they were at the same time universally up beat in the confidence they radiated as to what we as a community can achieve if we continue to work together. To that coordinated end they all universally committed themselves.Given the forces at play this last week in the region, never was there a more appropriate time to convene. I’ve been coming to the UAE almost twice a year for the last 10 years and have noticed, on every visit, marked changes from the time I last visited. In the earlier years, I was taken with over-whelming number of construction cranes (the national bird of the UAE) that dotted the skyline -- more than any other city on the globe that I was then visiting. The decline that subsequently followed was for that reason made all the more dramatic. My sense on this visit, confirmed by the observations of a local taxi driver, was that the city has returned to about 30-40% of that level of activity that once characterized the city at its peak a few years ago…a muted but encouraging sign.

One of the great benefits that the format of these regional ISMA/OSAC conferences affords is that of meeting with various Regional Security Officers (RSO) from around the region. Rather than traveling to each of them individually, which would be costly and inefficient, they come to us.  In this instance seven RSOs from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Amman, Beirut, Baghdad, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi joined us, presented to the group, and then met with us in private sessions in what has come to be called the “Knowledge Cafe.” 

The highlight of the afternoon was a private screening of the film “Killing in the Name,” a  2011 Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary. Carie Lemack, whose mother was one of those murdered on 9/11, presented this compelling voice of the victims of radicalized Islam, reaffirming in a dramatic way Edmund Burke’s proposition that the only thing that allows evil forces to exist unabated is that good men and women do nothing.

This conference wraps up tomorrow at which time we’ll again make our ways home for a respite of only about a month, after which time you will once again be able to join us “On the Track of OSAC” as we make our way to Mexico. The current plan is to convene a large collection of Mexico-based RSOs, representatives of the FBI, other U.S. government agencies, and the Private Sector, the first week of May, at the Baker Institute in Houston where we our goal will be to advance a vision of how to yet engage more effectively, as a community, the intractable security problems of what are no longer just a challenge of the border cites. From Houston we’ll head to Monterey and Mexico City for Country Councils and from there to points south and Country Councils in Rio and Sao Paulo. For exact dates and times of these events please consult Watch for what will be our continuing series of blogs here at where Mark McCourt and Diane Ritchey graciously continue to host us.