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Friday, December 15, 2017

The Power of Good Relationships and Thoughts on Building and Maintaining Them

The Simple Dollar, 12 Dec 2017

A few months ago, a friend of mine was reflecting about finishing up his master’s degree in social work. He wasn’t so much worried about finding a job, but more concerned that he was really considering all of the opportunities available to him. Should he try to get a doctorate? Should he work in the field? He was even thinking about things like seminary.

I happened to know three people off the top of my head who had master’s degrees in social work, so I contacted all of them and passed along a bunch of general information about my friend. All three of them took the time to give me a really thoughtful response about opportunities they thought might be of interest to him. I just collected all of those responses and passed them back to him, along with the contact information for those who actually suggested that he could follow up with them.

This simple gesture has seemingly opened some doors in his life and put him on a rather interesting path forward, one that was seemingly strongly influenced by the connection I made. I think it’s a good fit for him and his life is going in a great direction.

Here’s another, similar story. A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with an old friend who told me that his contract was ending and he was about to be out of a job. I asked him if he had anything lined up and he said he didn’t, but he did tell me to look out for any opportunities that might fit and that he really wanted to stay in his career path.

So, I spent about half an hour getting ahold of several people that I knew that might be in a position to hire someone with his skill set. Did they have any openings that they knew of that would match up with this guy?

It turned out that one person did know of an opening. I then spoke of my friend’s virtues and passed along that job opportunity. As of right now, he’s in the final interview group and I’d say that his prospects are really strong.

Let me flip that script a bit. A while back, my wife and I decided that we wanted to try using a bread machine. We make our own bread without a machine sometimes, but we wanted to try out a machine for comparison’s sake. We looked in a few secondhand shops and couldn’t find one, so I put out a request to some friends and family members for a bread machine at low cost. We had three offers to be given one within an hour.

In all three of those cases, lives moved in a positive direction–sometimes small, sometimes big–simply because of that person’s social network. Here, I’m simply saying ‘social network’ as shorthand for the set of positive relationships with others that you have in your life, whether strong relationships or weak ones.

Those relationships come in handy almost constantly and in every sphere of life–professionally, personally, socially, financially, and so on. Having good relationships can save you money. They can open career doors. They can provide companionship. They can directly save you money.

For example, imagine that you’re a person who is in charge of a hiring committee. You have two great candidates in front of you, but a friend gave you a glowing verbal recommendation about one of the candidates and asked for a bit of extra consideration for that candidate. That might just be enough to tip the scales in favor of that candidate.

Imagine that you’re new in town. If you have a large social network, there’s a chance that you already know a few people in this town to meet up with and get the lay of the land, or at least you know people who are familiar with the area and can point you to things of interest. This can make all the difference when moving to a new place.

Imagine that you need to use a piece of equipment that you’ll probably use once or twice ever. If you have a large social network, you can likely just ask around and borrow that item from someone. If not, you’re probably buying (or, if you’re lucky) renting it.

These types of situations pop up constantly, and they’re all steered by human relationships. All of these things boil down to two key elements.

One, relationships are built by freely giving to each other. This is because the most valuable way to build a relationship is to help a person with something they need. Maybe it’s just companionship or a social connection. Maybe it’s something that can save that person money. Maybe it can help a career. Maybe it’s a shoulder to cry on at a key moment. Whatever it is, you’re giving something at a moment of need, and reciprocity is not what you’re looking for here. Your goal is to lift their boat. Maybe someday, they’ll be able to lift yours, but if not, is it a big loss?

Two, the best gifts to give in a relationship are ones where it’s low effort for one person but high value for the other. This is really where it’s at. If you can do something easily, in just a few moments or with a small amount of resources, that really helps someone else out and provides them with far more value than that, then that’s the absolute best way to give. (This isn’t to say that high-effort gifts are a bad thing, but they don’t provide quite the same multiplication of value in the world.)

If you want a strong set of personal and professional relationships in your life, learn to give without expecting reciprocation and particularly look for opportunities to give in ways where the value of what they receive is very high.

This is easier said than done, particularly if you’re an introvert as I am. The ability to build relationships and have strong social connections doesn’t always come naturally, and it took me many, many years to figure out how to make it work for myself.

Here’s the routine I follow when it comes to maintaining the relationships I have and building new ones. This routine isn’t a big time commitment and the time I spend on it is deeply personally meaningful. While this routine might seem a bit mechanical to some, the purpose behind it is straightforward: it’s meant to ensure that I keep the relationships in my life healthy and still keep myself open to new ones.

Make a giant list of all people, personal and professional, whose relationship you value and that you want to keep in contact with. Just sit down and make this list somewhere where you can easily reference it. I used Evernote to do this.

To make sure I was making a full list, I went through things like the contact list on my phone, my friends on Facebook, my family tree, and the lists of people who were in various groups and organizations I was a part of. I organized people by last name in order to keep them straight.

The goal here is to simply make a master list of all of the personal relationships you care about and that you genuinely want to maintain. It is so easy to let relationships fall through the cracks, not because you want them to, but because you simply overlook them in your busy life. Part of this whole strategy is to make sure that no longer happens.

Add an item to your to-do list each day to keep in contact with a few people on that list. My goal is to have some sort of meaningful contact with everyone on that list on at least a monthly basis. So, what I’ve done is divide that long list up into 30 separate batches, each one with 4 or 5 people in it, and each day I go to the next batch on that list and ask myself whether I’ve kept in touch with that person in the last month. If I haven’t, I do so.

Let’s stop for a minute and visualize this. I have a long list of relationships that I’ve split up into thirty largely random groups. Let’s say I have five in each of those groups–a total of 150 relationships.

I have on my to-do list each day to “Maintain relationships,” so I go check that list for that day. I see five people there that I should check up on. I go through each one and ask myself if I’ve had meaningful contact with this person in the last month. If not, then I contact that person in some way. Is that person doing okay?

It’s straightforward and takes just a couple of minutes. Some days, I’m really feeling social, so I contact people who are coming up or who I am thinking a lot about lately. When their “turn” comes up, I skip them.

Mostly, this whole thing is just a way to make sure that relationships that are important to me don’t fall through the cracks of a busy life. I don’t want to forget to stay in touch with an old friend or a family member or a really great professional peer or a mentor or a mentee just because my life got busy.

For most of the people on my list, I have a few notes about them that I want to remember. Is there some sort of particular concern I want to follow up on with them? Are they in the midst of a job hunt? Are they dating someone seriously? Maybe they’re struggling with an ongoing illness.

Whatever it is, if I have a particular concern about a person or a good reason to follow up, I make note of that in that long list. The truth is that I usually remember those things, but my memory isn’t perfect and, again, I don’t want people I care about to fall through the cracks of forgetfulness.

If you want to imagine what that looks like, imagine that today I go to my list of relationships and I find five entries:

Alan Abernathy–moving to Boston for new programming job in Jan.
Brenda Boxer–dealing with fibromyalgia; caring for mom with Alzheimer’s
Chloe Carson–trying to get paper published on rice genomics
David Dennis–training to break 3 hour marathon time next spring
Elizabeth Eccleston–having a faith crisis and possibly leaving her church

Right there, I have five people I need to contact and a reminder of the big thing going on in their life. I remember all but one of those things anyway, but it’s good to have them there. I just talked to David a few days ago, so I skip him (I move him to another day, actually). I send a text to two of them, a long email to Elizabeth that I’ve already been thinking about, and I call Brenda because I know she’s going to need to vent a little and prefers talking to typing.

That’s it. It takes just a few minutes, but I’ve checked in on five relationships that are important to me.

If you hear that someone you have a connection with needs help and particularly if it’s something you can provide with relative ease, provide it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most of my friends don’t need much most of the time–they just want to chat or hang out or maybe borrow a book or something. Usually, though, there are a few friends that find themselves struggling, and that’s when it’s good to jump in and offer help, especially if you can do so in a way that really multiplies value.

For example, recently a friend of mine had a heart attack, so I immediately told them that their children could come to our house after school for as long as needed. I took them to a few activities, too. It wasn’t a big deal to me, but it took a giant load off of their plate.

Another close friend of mine collapsed at work about a month ago with mysterious abdominal pain and was taken to the ER. He had me down as his emergency contact at work, so as soon as I heard, I grabbed my “portable office” and went to the hospital. I couldn’t see him for a while, so I just worked in the waiting room for a couple of hours. He was dismissed later in the day and I drove him home and took care of a few small tasks for him. It actually didn’t interrupt my work day that much, but I was able to really come through for a friend.

I mention both of those recent cases because they illustrate two points. One, I didn’t–and still don’t–expect anything in return from those friends, other than a vague sense that my social network as a whole will probably help me in some ways if something difficult ever happens to me.

Two, what value I had to personally give up was substantially less than the value they received from my effort. It wasn’t a big deal for me to just work in a hospital waiting room instead of my desk at home for a few hours, and it was definitely not a big deal to have a few extra kids at home for a few hours each evening for a few days. On the other hand, having someone jump in to take care of you and help you get home and take care of a few surrounding issues when you’re sick is tremendously valuable, and having someone watch your kids without even having to lift a finger or worry about it right after you just had a heart attack is also tremendously valuable.

Taken together, those two points strongly nudge me toward helping friends and relatives and mentors and mentees and professional peers whenever I can and whenever they need it.

Try to do something once a week to add someone new to your list. In other words, go to some sort of social event or community event where you’re likely to meet new people or have an opportunity to build upon your connection to someone you don’t know well. Make it your goal at that event to really connect with one other person or build a weak connection into a stronger one. Don’t worry about anything else at that event. Try to end your interaction with that new person with some contact information and a genuine reason to follow up, whether it’s to pass along information or to invite that person to another event or something else.

When you get home, follow up with that person. Use the contact information to send some sort of follow-up message pertaining to the event, then add that person to your big list of regular contacts. I usually stick them in about a week down the road so that I’m not waiting too long to follow up again.

Don’t be afraid to prune. You may find that some relationships go into decline. Perhaps that person has intentionally cut you out of their life or maybe your efforts at keeping in touch have been met with little or no response for a while. If that’s the case, it may just be that the other person doesn’t want to maintain a relationship. It’s okay–it happens. When it happens to me, I usually slice that person out of my contact list unless I know there’s an extenuating circumstance.

The thing to remember about this whole strategy is this: it’s a “safety net” to make sure that relationships and connections that are important to me don’t fall through the cracks or die on the vine due to my forgetfulness or lack of effort. I’ve kept a lot of relationships alive due to this effort and it’s made my social network far stronger than it ever has been before and, as was discussed earlier, a strong social network has countless personal, financial, and professional benefits.

This whole system might seem like a chore, but the truth is that I deeply enjoy knowing that there aren’t important relationships in my life withering due to neglect or due to my own forgetfulness, and I actually enjoy keeping up with all of these people in my life.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On My Brother's Death

[This is the message I received from my sister December 6th, 2017. My older brother Bill’s death was close and we were praying for him. Dennis]

(Carol, sister to Billy and Dennis wrote) Today Billy has low blood pressure, a fever, and a high heart rate. The hospice person thinks he'll pass away sometime today.

(Dennis) Thank you, Carol. May the Lord have His way. Billy is going to a better place where there is no more death, nor crying, nor pain, where time shall be no more and God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes. Yes, there are tears in Heaven, when we realise the wrongs we've committed, the hurt we are responsible for, the pain we caused others. But God promises to wipe away all those tears, and even promises that we'll remember them no more, for the former things will pass away and He will make all things new. Jesus is our only hope. All life has to offer is ashes and vanity in comparison. Our prayer is and has been that Billy has made his restitution with God, that he has gotten things right as much as possible, that he has kept his faith in Christ Jesus.

We pray for his family, that this time will help them each to reevaluate their lives and the path they are walking and that they may choose to follow God closer, nearer, every day. That they may choose to deepen their relationship with Jesus, strengthen their commitment with God, and further their knowledge of their Savior, Redeemer, Lover and Friend. We pray this all in Jesus' name, for there's none other name under Heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved, for He is the way, the truth and the life. And whosoever believes on Him shall be saved, for He is the resurrection and the life, and all that believe on Him shall never die, but shall have everlasting life.

That's His promise and it's more sure than anything we can touch or see. And eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered in to the heart of man the things God has prepared for those that love Him. He is the author and finisher of our faith, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. Let us embrace Him, let us draw nigh to Him in these moments of contemplation, these moments of reflection. Let us lift up our hands in praise and thanksgiving that another of His children has returned home. Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast, there no harm shall meet us, there we shall find sweet rest. In Jesus' name, Amen.

(Friend) I found your response comforting.

(Dennis) It's God's truth, written in His love letter to us called the Bible. Feed on it and it will bring life, and light, and strength, and hope, and love, and faith, and guidance, and courage, and instruction, and correction and wisdom and all things necessary for here and hereafter.

(Friend) I realize that its God's plan and the cycle of life. But it’s so difficult to understand the pain for those left behind.

(Dennis) Pain is a human experience and it causes us to seek God for release from pain. May those enduring pain seek His face. He has promised to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who will comfort and enable us afterwards to comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted by God.

C.S.Lewis wrote a short book about pain. I think it is called, The Problem with Pain. I’ll see if I can find a link to it. It might be worth your read.

(Friend) Yes, I’d like that. I’ll find it on Amazon.

(Dennis) Here's a quote from C.S.Lewis on being vulnerable. He wrote, "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the caskit or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."

(Another Friend) I tried that and my life ended up a mess.

(Dennis) But that is why, if you take that mess to Jesus, He can mend the broken pieces and make them useful for His kingdom. "If your heart is breaking, turn to Jesus. He's the dearest friend that you can know. You will find Him standing close besides you waiting peace and comfort to bestow. (Chorus) Heartaches take them all to Jesus. Go to Him today, do it now without delay. Heartaches take them all to Jesus, He will take your heartaches all away. 2nd verse: There is joy for every troubled sorrow. Sweet release for every bitter pain. Jesus Christ is still the Great Physician, no one ever sought His help in vain. (Chorus) 3rd verse: Jesus understands what 'er the trouble. And He waits to heal your wounded soul. Will you trust His love so strong and tender? He alone can heal your wounded soul. (Chorus) Heartaches, take them all to Jesus, Go to Him today do it now without delay. Heartaches, take them all to Jesus, He will take your heartaches all away." Listen to the song here.

(Friend) crying

(Dennis) Like the Scriptures say, "All things work together for good to them that love God." The key is for us to learn to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the first commandment, and the second is like unto it, love thy neighbor as thyself. This is what we are here to learn. It's all a process of drawing us closer to our Creator, the one who made us, made this beautiful world, came into it to literally show us the way, and died so that we could freely enter into relationship with Him.

He's the author and finisher of our faith, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, the very "I Am that I Am." If we seek Him with all our heart and mind and soul, and strength, we will find Him and He will come to us and be our Comfort, our Lover, and our Friend. He is the All and All of everything, and anything we put before Him will never satisfy us no matter how much we try.

Spend time talking to Jesus today. Go for a walk by the beach or along a river and as you're absorbing the tranquillity of His creation, talk to Him. Pour out your soul, your complaint and then listen. Let Him talk to you. Pick up your Bible and read some psalms. Then read something from the New Testament and begin to renew your relationship with Jesus through His word. It's a love letter to you.

(Friend) Thank you

(Dennis) Abraham Lincoln said, “In regards to this great Book [the Bible], I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to man.All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are found portrayed in it.”

(Another friend) I saw Carol's post about Bill's passing. Sorry for your loss, I hope you have warm memories of him. My thoughts are with you Dennis.

(Dennis) Thank you. Death is a great equaliser and a sober moment of reflection. We ask, "What have I done with my life?" "Have I done what God has called me to do?" "Have I loved sufficiently?" "Have I been generous and kind-hearted?" My brother said he had no regrets and was happy for the life he had lived. I think we all want to face death's door in confidence that we have done what we could to make the world a better place, even if only in our small circle of influence. My brother's friend's comments are his greatest testimony. His step-daughter's comments are his greatest testimony. In the later years of his life he was working as a janitor in a grammar school and loved to help the little kids when he could. Although my own relation with my brother was distant from living outside the States for so many years, nevertheless we can see he loved and was loved. 

"Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found thee!
Ah, at last I’ve found the reason for it all!
Ah, ‘tis love and love alone the whole world yearns for,
And ‘tis love that bids us heed Thy call!"
—Rida Johnson Young (1869-1926), “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” (adapted)[1]

 Long live love!

Here's another poem by Franklin E. Belden, 1892.

’Tis love that makes us happy,
’Tis love that smoothes the way;
It helps us mind, it makes us kind
To others every day.
God is love; we’re His happy children;
God is love; we would be like Him.
’Tis love that makes us happy,
’Tis love that smoothes the way;
It helps us mind, it makes us kind
To others every day.
This world is full of sorrow,
Of sickness, death, and sin;
With loving heart we’ll do our part,
And try some soul to win.
And when this life is over,
And we are called above,
Our song shall be, eternally,
Of Jesus and His love.[2]

The following are some of the beautiful comments about my brother from the people who knew him the best! 

Debra Addy wrote,
Dearest Aunt Pat and Jillian, words cannot express how sorry for your loss I am 😢. I will always treasure my memories of Christmas Eve with both you and Uncle Mo singing Christmas Carols 🙂. Let’s not forget spinach dip! There was never ever a visit without Uncle Mo making it for me and of course for him, lol. He was such a good man, always so calm and would give the best advice! I’m so thankful to have been able to call him Uncle Mo 😢😘 May he finally be at peace 😢 Please find comfort in the fact that it was so obvious that you both were his pride and joy, he loved you both so much! I will always miss my Uncle Mo 😢

Linda Veit
Dearest Patty and family, My thoughts and prayers have been and will remain with all of you. My heart hurts for all of you during this sad and difficult time, however I know that Mo is now at peace and is resting with our Lord. I will miss my friend and "Yankee Buddy" but have wonderful and special memories as I look back over the many years of our friendship. I will always remember our trip to the original Yankee stadium and will cherish the thoughts and memories of that day with you and Mo. Please know I am here for you and during the difficult times let the Lord hold you in the palm of his hand. My sincere condolences to you, Jillian, Dan, Danny, and all of Mo's family and friends. With sympathy, peace, and love, Linda

Susan Merriam
Dear Patti & Jill and family, We are so sorry for your loss and would like you to know that in the short time we have known Mo and you as our neighbors, Mo definitely left an impact on us with his special sense of humor, his quick smile,witty remarks, and friendly easy style . He was one of a kind and always ready to invite us over to his sports den in the garage to have a beer !! We loved him and you immediately. Please find comfort in your wonderful memories and look to God for your strength in the days ahead . Much love , your neighbors and friends Sue & Carlton Merriam

Wayne Nelson
My sincerest condolences. Bill was a leading brother in our fraternity in Montclair State. He was always there to lend a hand, participate, and help others. A ready smile when he was seemingly always on the verge of a humorous insight, prank, and laughter. May we all leave such memories when we reach the finish line of life. Be at peace, Bill. You will be sorely missed. Wayne Nelson Gamma Delta Chi MSC '70

Bob Piotrowski
Patti, So sorry to hear that Mo has passed away. It's been 5 years, but seems like yesterday, that Mo and I were able to reunite at the Gamma reunion at Tierney's . It was terrific seeing him again and meeting you, the love of his life! After our college years, we were "travel" buddies for a bit. One trip started out to Cooperstown. On the fly, we then added the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton and ended in Saint Louis, visiting his sister, who was in Ohio, on the way back. There were also many trips to the shore. Every time Donna and I leave the Tropicana in AC, I think of Mo! We pass Tony's Baltimore Bar and Grill, where we made a few visits in the pre-casino days. He was a great guy and I have many other fond memories that I will cherish. Rest in Peace Mo....Gamma Brothers Forever! Bob Piotrowski

You can watch the memorial video made of him at this link: William A. Molinski III


Trump Risks Uniting the Entire Arab World Against the US

Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, December 9, 2017

President Trump and the Israeli government will have foreseen and discounted a Palestinian “day of rage” and protests among Muslims everywhere in the wake of the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to move its embassy there. They assume that this will all blow over because US allies such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt will be satisfied with pro-forma protests, and the Palestinians are too weak to do anything except demonstrate ineffectively.

The US and Israel could be miscalculating: when I lived in Jerusalem I came to believe that many dramatic events in Israel, such as shootings and bombings, often had less effect than the outside world expected. But anything involving Jerusalem itself, and above all its Muslim holy sites, had a much bigger impact than anybody had imagined.

The immediate consequence of Trump’s action is that the US becomes weaker because it has carried out another initiative of which the rest of the world disapproves. A superpower at the height of its strength might get away with such a demarche, but not a politically divided US, its influence already ebbing because of failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The move is so obviously against US foreign policy interests that it will further persuade other world leaders that Trump is an impossible ally.

The move could have other dangerous consequences. There is a myth that the Israeli-Palestinian struggle was not an issue that concerned Osama bin Laden or played a role in the rise of al-Qaeda. In fact, bin Laden’s speeches and writings are full of references to the Palestinians–and his first public utterances in the 1980s were calls for a boycott of American goods because of its backing for Israel.

The connection between the Palestinian question and 9/11 was played down at the time, particularly by neocon pundits and think tanks who claimed that the US could safely ignore the issue while pursuing an aggressive policy in Iraq. It is true that 9/11 damaged the Palestinians because they were marginalised as the US and its allies began a series of wars during which they largely disappeared from the news agenda.

But as the wars in Iraq and Syria come to an end, focus will shift back to Israel and the Palestinians. Isis and al-Qaeda have been defeated in their efforts to change regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. If they are going to survive and get support in the Muslim world, they will need to find a new enemy. Battered they may be, but they have far more activists and resources than bin Laden at the time of 9/11. The declaration on Jerusalem throws al-Qaeda-type movements a lifeline, just as they are facing complete defeat.

Trump inherited the war to eliminate the self-declared Caliphate from President Obama and has continued it unchanged. Most decisions about the conflict have in any case been taken by the Pentagon and not by the White House. Up to now the biggest change in US policy in the region has been the effort to end Obama’s détente with Iran and build up an anti-Iranian coalition. This will now become a more difficult job.

In October, Trump de-certified the nuclear deal with Iran, demonising the Iranians as the source of all instability in the region. He and his administration tend to conflate Iranians and Shias in much the same way as do Saudi Arabia and the Sunni monarchs of the Gulf. His National Security Adviser H R McMaster said in late October that “what is most important, not just for the United States but for all nations, is to confront the scourge of Hezbollah and to confront the scourge of the Iranians and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].”

It is unclear how far this belligerent rhetoric is going to turn into real military action. If Trump does want to confront Iran and the axis of states and paramilitary organisations it leads, then he has left it a bit late. The Iranian Shia side has triumphed in the war in Syria and Iraq against predominantly Sunni resistance, which was once backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The role of Hezbollah and the Shia paramilitary, Hashd al-Shaabi, will naturally diminish because there is no longer a war to fight and the central governments in Baghdad and Damascus are becoming stronger.

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will make it easier for Tehran to call for all Muslims, Shia and Sunni, to stand together in defence of the Palestinians and the holy sites. It will make it more difficult, though not impossible, for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to act with the US, move closer to Israel and portray Iran as the greatest threat in the region.

There is a broader consequence of the switch in US policy: there are some 1.5 billion Muslims in the world who are the majority in some 50 states and make up 22 per cent of the world’s population. None of them will be pleased by Trump’s latest action. The population of many of these countries, including some of the largest such as Turkey (80 million) and Pakistan (193 million), were already very anti-American before the Trump presidency. In 2012, polls showed that 74 per cent of Pakistanis considered the US as an enemy. Even this high figure is surpassed by Turkey where 82 per cent said this summer that they had an unfavourable view of the US. Divided about everything else, Turks agree on their dislike of the US, which will again make it more difficult for the US to act against Iran.

President Putin is to visit Istanbul on Monday to speak to President Erdogan about Jerusalem and Syria, a sign that it may be difficult to isolate the issue of the Israeli capital from other conflicts.

All these important developments are happening, though nothing has really changed on the ground: Israel already treated Jerusalem as its capital, and the so-called peace process with the Palestinians has been a sham for years. The US can no longer pretend to be an even-handed mediator, but then it never was one in the first place.

By recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump and Israel may have broken a political rule which says it is dangerous to mess with de facto situations others have informally come to accept. Doing so can have unexpectedly disastrous consequences. A good example of this happened less than three months ago when President Masoud Barzani held a referendum demanding Iraqi Kurdish formal independence, though the Iraqi Kurds had enjoyed de facto near independence since 2003. The Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian governments, who had accepted the previous situation for years, reacted furiously and within three weeks the Kurds lost control of Kirkuk and much of their territory. It may be that President Trump and Israel will likewise find that they risked more than they imagined and will pay a heavier price than expected for formalising Israeli rule in Jerusalem.

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