December 5, 2012

Iran, the U.S. and Azerbaijan: the Land of Fire

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON – In December 1991, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, United States Secretary of State James Baker gave a speech at Princeton University on the relationship between the U.S. and the “Newly Independent States” of the former USSR. In his remarks, Baker took aim at a curious target: the tiny Republic of Azerbaijan — about the size of the state of Maine — which Baker described as undeserving of American recognition until it accepted a long list of conditions the U.S. had required of few other nations. Soviet watchers saw it as the work of the U.S. lobby of Azerbaijan’s neighbor and sworn enemy, Armenia, to blacklist the ancient nation in the Caucuses region on the Caspian Sea.

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November 15, 2012

Myanmar: No Ethnics; No Nation

by Stanley A. Weiss & Tim Heinemann

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s upcoming Saturday trip to Myanmar, the nation previously known as Burma, is intended to encourage the continuing democratic transition of what was once pariah state. But the way it is now structured may guarantee a lost opportunity instead.

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November 12, 2012

Impatient for Pashtunistan

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON— On November 12, 1893 — 119 years ago today — Afghanistan’s Amir Rahman Khan and Britain’s Foreign Secretary for India, Sir Mortimer Durand, drew a line across the roof of the world. Running roughly 1,600 miles through the rugged peaks of Afghanistan and present-day Pakistan, the Durand Line was intended to mark “the limit of their respective spheres of influence, so that for the future there may be no difference of opinion on the subject.” (Should “any difference of detail” arise, the agreement stated, they were to be “settled in a friendly spirit.”)

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October 18, 2012

Idea for the Final Debate: Talk About the Biggest Challenge of Our Time

By Stanley Weiss and Tim Heinemann

WASHINGTON — Both political parties should be ashamed.

Through the last three debates, we Americans have listened to such bumper sticker one-liners as “GM is alive and bin Ladin is dead” and “I know how to run a business.” We have heard new slants on old themes, more accusations and counter-accusations, verbal whiteouts of statistics, formulas and gotchas, and studied political-consultant rhetoric certified to make the speaker sound “presidential.” It is a no-brainer to assert: “I was the one who decided to go after bin Ladin,” as if any American would not have made the same decision. Doesn’t real presidential leadership require focusing on the toughest issues, where Americans are at the greatest risk?

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September 12, 2012

The Courage to Jump in Indonesia

JAKARTA–Five years ago, one of the most respected soldiers in U.S. history died too soon. Wayne Downing was a West Point graduate and four-star general who served two tours in Vietnam and came out of retirement after 9/11 to serve as anti-terrorism advisor to President George W. Bush. Known as the father of the modern Rangers, Downing commanded America’s elite counter-terrorism teams in the 1990s and spent decades training foreign soldiers who came to Fort Bragg to learn about democracy. Not long before he died, I had lunch with General Downing at the White House. He told me that of all the foreign soldiers he ever trained, two stood out. One was Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, the reigning King of Jordan. The other was Prabowo Subianto, the former commander of Indonesia’s special forces, and the current front-runner to be Indonesia’s next president in 2014.

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June 22, 2012

What The Lady Could Learn From The First Lady

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON – It was the most closely-watched Congressional race of 2000, and the most expensive in the history of the United States. When the dust settled, Hillary Rodham Clinton raised her right hand and took her seat in the United States Senate. As perhaps the most prominent First Lady in American history, and the first elected to Congress, observers excitedly wondered how she would approach an institution ruled by seniority and typically dismissive of new members.

Hillary herself had questions, so even before she was sworn-in, she approached one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, Senator Robert Byrd. The advice from the dean of the U.S. Senate to the new Senator from New York was short and to-the-point: “Be a workhorse, not a show horse.”

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May 8, 2012

An Open Letter to Mitt Romney

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON— Dear Governor,

You first became a candidate for public office 18 years ago, when you ran for the United States Senate in Massachusetts against the incumbent, Edward Kennedy.  The Senate you aspired to join then included a number of Republicans—from Bob Dole to William Cohen to John Warner—whose foreign policy expertise had earned them the title of “statesman.”  They were joined by equally impressive Democrats—like Sam Nunn and David Boren—who had helped Presidents of both parties shape America’s foreign policy in the second half of the 20th Century.

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April 27, 2012

Iran is to India as Pakistan is to the U.S.

NEW DELHI—Tourists flying into this ancient city are sometimes surprised to find their descent re-routed at the last minute by the presence of an 86-foot bronze statue that sits at the end of a runway. The giant icon depicts none other than Lord Shiva, one of Hinduism’s most popular and powerful gods. Known alternatively as the destroyer and the creator, family man and hermit, teacher and warrior, kind herdsman and wrathful avenger—Shiva is, like India itself, a perfect symbol of contradictions.

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February 28, 2012

They Don’t Want Democracy. They Want Freedom.

NAYPYIDAW Myanmar— Imagine for a moment what the United States would look like today if California, Texas, Florida, New York and Michigan had taken up armed rebellion against the U.S. government after World War II.  Imagine if the fighting continued for more than six decades, no matter who ran the government, right up until today.  And imagine how hard it would be for the federal government to convince investors that, despite the constant risk of armed attack, it was safe to invest in these resource-rich states.

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February 23, 2012

The First Thing the U.S. Should Do In Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar— During the years he lived as a child in Indonesia, President Barack Obama learned the culture of Jakarta, spoke the language, survived chicken pox, and recalls frequently feeling “the sting of [his] teachers’ bamboo switches.” As a young military officer training in the United States, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known as SBY, parachuted out of planes with Fort Benning’s storied 82nd Airborne Division and attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. It is an interesting parallel between presidents that each spent formative years in the other’s country.

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