Why shouldn't Pittsburgh's outreach to that part of the world serve as the template for how an industrious, forward-thinking American city can create partnerships, collaborations and exchanges on a broad scale?
Connections that create mutual economic and social benefit -- employing what's sometimes called "soft diplomacy" or "smart power" -- have no equal when it comes to building trust and understanding.
Let's have our famous Pittsburgh Symphony go to the region and bring businesses along with them on a grand tour. Let's foster more forums to share knowledge about the Middle East. Let's increase our student exchanges. Let's have local businesses mentor students from the Middle East from the moment they arrive at our universities. Let's have businesses with operations in, say, Cairo or Dubai mentor other businesses contemplating doing business in the Middle East. And while we're at it, let's get a direct flight from Pittsburgh to the Middle East to accommodate all the increased exchanges.
At a time when most American cities would shrink from such a bold proposal, Pittsburgh should embrace this opportunity. Cultivating a unique relationship with a region of the world is a useful comparative advantage. CMU already has a strong presence in the Middle East and Pittsburgh could be a key player in the rapid advance of globalization in that part of the world. I think that Detroit is a more natural choice for this task, but Southeastern Michigan is on the brink of economic collapse. Pittsburgh is in a much better position to aggressively court a relationship with the Middle East.