Party in the Middle East

Anyone who has been to a club with me in the last year knows that I have an unapologetic love of Miley Cyrus’ Party the USA. My friends think it’s a joke or perhaps a disorder but the fact is whether I’m in a club in Vegas, San Francisco, or New York, the DJ is going to play my song.

So it should come as no surprise that Saturday night after a few cocktails while in a club in Karachi, Pakistan, I decided it was high time to impose my Hannah Montana will on the unsuspecting Pakistani’s. My hosts, powerful people in Karachi were nice enough to use that power to threaten the DJ with termination (professional not personal) unless they played my song.

The DJ complained that playing this song would certainly clear the dance floor. While I’ve heard this same claim many a time in the US this was clearly a different circumstance. See what has become clear to me in my tour of the MENA region (I’ve been to Dubai, Oman, Pakistan and Bahrain so far) is that the unfortunate side effect of 9/11 and the Bush administration is very mixed emotions towards our beloved country.

And I do believe it is mixed emotions. Close to 75 percent of the YPO’ers that I’ve spoken to on this tour were educated in the states and to a man they look at that time
in the states as some of the best in their lives. They understand the measures the US has had to take in reaction to 9/11 but it still doesn’t change the fact that many of them no longer want to visit the US. It’s nothing personal – in many ways they still love the US – it’s simply too hard to get in and out of our country.

Another side effect is that they are becoming less likely to send their children to the US to study. Again, it’s simply a matter of convenience.

It’s been sad for me to meet these amazing people and realize how important their presence in the US is and how fleeting that presence may be. Although, I was born in the US I only ended up there because my parents came over from Taiwan for graduate school so I realize the importance of foreign students.

I’m not completely sure what the resolution is but I have to believe that analytics and data may be able to lead a helping hand. See the main issue is not the increased level of security in the US, it’s the unnecessary harassment that they receive each time they come into the country. Four hours in a back room where irrelevant and useless questions like, “Have you ever had explosives training?” or “do you know many months old your mom is?” is simply unnecessary for people who have already received a visa from the US or are in some cases US Citizens.

I have no idea what algorithm our government uses to flag potentials terrorists at the border but as far as I can tell it may be as simplistic as “WHERE religion = ‘Muslim’”.

In my new book, I talk about the way credit card companies use data to detect fraud, looking at patterns in the data to target questionable behavior. Shouldn’t a similar process be used as a first pass to determine potential terrorist activity? Wouldn’t that be more effective and less obtrusive than detaining every Muslim who lives outside of the US.

One of the real values of analytics is the ability it gives you to avoid asking personal questions. With a more sophisticated algorithm and improved use of analytics, we could avoid detaining visitors who pose no risk to our security and by doing so would make our country approachable again to an important segment of the world.

As I watched the Pakistani crowd dance to Miley’s jam, I couldn’t help but see a parallel with their reaction to this song and their reaction to our country. When the song started their were some growns and grimaces but at the end of the song everyone was dancing and smiling. Hopefully better use of analytics by Homeland security can get them Partying in the USA again.

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