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March 23, 2018

A New Report Says America is Being Duped in Myanmar

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-Fifteen years ago this week, the United States invasion of Iraq began.

Before the statues of Saddam Hussein came down and U.S. forces transitioned to an occupation force two months later, a highly-decorated Special Forces colonel was asked to identify what it would take to stabilize Iraq and turn it into a functioning democracy. In the prescient report that he and his team delivered to U.S. Central Command, Colonel Tim Heinemann (Ret.), the Green Berets commander, was frank in his assessment. He argued that the U.S. military hadn’t developed the “street smarts” it needed in Iraq, hadn’t built relationships with the real power brokers on the ground, and hadn’t done enough to prevent Iraqi military officers from going underground as insurgents. The surest way to develop the insights necessary to stave off chaos, the report argued, was to engage tribal leaders in a massive counterinsurgency effort to build trust – in his words, “not just to share tea one-on-one with local leaders, but to share tea 10 times until they opened up.”

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January 8, 2018

Stumbling from New World Order to No World Order

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—It was a hell of a place for a kid just out of the Naval Academy to find himself: the mouth of the Cua Viet River near the De-Militarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam, commanding a Swift boat in a land most Americans barely knew.

He and his Swift boat crew, going by the call sign “Red Baron” and sporting red ball caps, patrolled the waters, inserted commandos into the jungle in the dead of night, and blasted cover fire for U.S. marines fighting off the Viet Cong. He would command over 150 missions.

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December 13, 2017

Why is Siamak Namazi Still in An Iranian Prison?

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—Today in Iran, a good man, an American citizen, is languishing in a brutal Tehran prison. And so is his 81-year-old father.

Siamak Namazi is a friend of mine. An Iranian-born American with dual citizenship who loves Iran and considers it one of his two homes, Siamak has spent years going back and forth to Tehran as a businessman and a humanitarian, helping Westerners establish businesses on Persian soil that provide jobs and incomes for Iranian citizens. He sought me out early on, and I came to know him as a deeply thoughtful and honest man who is committed to improving the lives of the Iranian people while smoothing the relations between our two countries.

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November 24, 2017

The Rise of American Sharia in Alabama

by Stanley A. Weiss

An Islamic fundamentalist, using his faith as a club, declares his belief that faith should override secular rule of law and advocates for a form of Islamic law, called Sharia law—which some Muslims interpret as commanding that drinkers of alcohol be whipped and homosexuals and those who criticize the faith be put to death. In the face of such extremism, voices in western countries harshly criticize Muslim leaders, asking why there isn’t a loud chorus within the faith to shout him down.

We’ve wondered how people could tolerate and support extremists in positions of power who ignore civil law in the name of their radical religious values. What many Americans don’t realize is that it has happened here—and if we are not vigilant it will happen right here again: religious fundamentalists, much like the ones we criticize in the Middle East, who use their faith to subvert our Constitution.

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November 16, 2017

How Trump Can Beat Putin at Geopolitical Judo

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—When the ancient Chinese general and strategist Sun Tzu crafted his masterpiece, The Art of War, one principle rose above the rest. “The supreme art of war,” he wrote, “is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

It’s a point General David Petraeus emphasizes in his foreword to an upcoming edition of The Art of War. It immediately came to mind as I thought about Russia’s aggressiveness under Russian President Vladimir Putin – a man who has caused far more havoc for the United States than the wars he has started would suggest. But though Putin’s strategy has followed the principles of The Art of War to a tee, the true inspiration for his geopolitical maneuvers may come instead from something with similar principles: the Japanese martial art of judo.

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November 8, 2017

The Quick or the Dead: What Trump Can Learn from Reagan on Nuclear Weapons

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON — On June 14, 1946, the United States representative to the Atomic Energy Commission, Bernard Baruch, presented a novel and ambitious plan to his fellow commissioners. Less than a year earlier, the U.S. had awakened the world to the destructive power of two atomic bombs. Now, Baruch was proposing that the United Nations take control of all nuclear weapons and ensure the peaceful use of nuclear power. “We are here,” Baruch declared, “to make a choice between the quick and the dead.”

The Baruch Plan, we now know, was doomed to failure: The Soviet Union was already pursuing its own nuclear weapons program. But the day of Baruch’s speech was notable for another reason. One borough away from the Atomic Energy Commission’s Manhattan headquarters, at a hospital in Queens, a real estate magnate and a Scottish immigrant were welcoming a new baby into the world. His name was Donald J. Trump.

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November 2, 2017

The Real Lesson from the Balfour Declaration

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON—One of the most famous letters in history was 67 words long, written on stationary from the Imperial Hotel in London, and delivered one hundred years ago today. Neither its author nor its recipient could have imagined the elation and the heartbreak it would cause for humanity over the following century, or how intractable the conflict spurred by its message, as captured in a Times of London headline at the time – “Palestine For The Jews!” – would remain to this day.

All anyone knew in November of was that the First World War was into its third year. British forces, with the help of Arab fighters, were on the verge of driving the Ottoman Turks out of Palestine and capturing Jerusalem, which was no accident: Britain had promised Arab leaders that if they helped defeat the Ottomans, London would support a unified Arab state across the Palestinian peninsula. Yet, Jewish leaders held out hope that Britain would make real a vision first articulated by Austrian writer Theodor Herzl in the face of growing anti-Semitism across Europe in 1896: that Judaism wasn’t just a religion, but a nationality – and that the Jewish people, scattered across the world, deserved to have their own state in their ancient ancestral land of Israel, which just happened to be the same land Arabs knew as Palestine.

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October 2, 2017

The Story We’re All Missing in Myanmar

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON—As I read the stories about the Burman military’s horrific campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, I can’t help but think of an autobiography I read not long ago by my friend Sao Sanda, whose father, Sao Shwe Thaike, served as the first president of the Union of Burma after World War II. It is a riveting account of what it was like to belong to one of the 135 ethnic minority groups living under the rule of Myanmar’s ethnic Burmans since World War II. There were two passages that came to mind immediately.

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September 20, 2017

Open Letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-In July, I wrote about how my friend Harn Yawnghwe challenged and corrected what I – and most of the Western world — understood about Aung San – the Bamar nationalist leader who guided Burma toward independence but lost his life to an assassin’s bullet 70 years ago.  Harn has every reason to know: his father was the great Sao Shwe Thaik, a leader of the Shan ethnic minority group and the eventual first president of the Union of Burma.  Harn is executive director of the Euro-Burma Office and a respected advocate; when Harn speaks, people listen.  Today, as Myanmar’s ethnic minorities are more isolated than ever and international outrage grows at the government’s treatment of the Rohingya minority group in Rakhine State, Harn and several other prominent figures have written an open letter to Aung San’s daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, urging her to “take the initiative as the elected leader of Myanmar” to “heal the wounds and lead the reconciliation process.”  I hope readers will carefully consider what this letter has to say.

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September 5, 2017

How to Solve Afghanistan – Permanently

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—He was an army chaplain serving in the war in Afghanistan.

The Reverend G.H. Gleig had seen battle after battle – and he emerged deeply disillusioned with what he saw. The war in Afghanistan was “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity,” he wrote after his return. “Not one benefit, political or military has been acquired with this war.”

Reverend Gleig’s words are more relevant today than ever — which is remarkable since he wrote them almost 175 years ago. Gleig was a chaplain in the British army. The war he participated in was the First Anglo-Afghan War, which lasted from 1839 to 1842. Like countless other foreigners whose warnings about fighting in a country known as “The Graveyard of Empires” have gone unheeded, Gleig’s words had little effect: Britain would go to war in Afghanistan two more times before realizing the futility of its efforts and withdrawing permanently.

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