February 18, 2016

Three New Realities in the Middle East for the Next American President

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON–There was a telling moment in last Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate that says a lot about America’s misadventures in the Middle East over the past 15 years. Donald Trump, the real estate developer and current front-runner who has done everything from calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants to ridiculing the war record of Senator and former prisoner of war John McCain, finally did something to cause the Republican establishment to turn on him. Questioned about the presidency of George W. Bush, Trump said that the Bush Administration “lied” its way into the Iraq war by hyping weapons of mass destruction; called the invasion itself a “disaster;” and reminded the audience that “the World Trade Center came down” on Bush’s watch. It was too much for the South Carolina audience, which booed him, and the other candidates, who unloaded on him. The irony is that the breaking point for Republicans was hearing Trump say something that was true.

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December 7, 2015

Resisting the Arabization of Islam in Indonesia

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-It is a sign of the violent age we live in that there is a website in the United States devoted to updating daily deaths by gunfire. Last week, the Mass Shooting Tracker reported that in the first 334 days of this year, America had experienced 351 shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured — an average of more than one a day. And yet, aside from wondering what it will take for America to end its insane addiction to guns, few of these tragedies have garnered as much attention in the South Asian nation of Indonesia than last week’s horrific shooting in San Bernardino, California, where 14 were killed and 21 wounded at the hands of a young Muslim couple that were reportedly radicalized in Saudi Arabia.

For Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation – with more adherents of Islam than Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, and Palestine combined – the story of citizens returning home from the Middle East more extreme than when they left is an old one. But it is also a story generating fresh concern as a number of Indonesian Muslims are choosing to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight for the jihadists of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).

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September 16, 2013

Prabowo Could Be Indonesia’s Lee Kuan Yew

by Stanley A. Weiss

BALI, Indonesia–If public graft were a symphony, Djoko Susilo might be its Mozart. On a salary of $1,000 a month, the former head of Indonesia’s police academy managed to amass a fortune of $18 million. Earlier this month, Djoko was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Jakarta Corruption Court for accepting a $2.9 million bribe for a contract that eventually lost the state $10 million.

On the same day Djoko was found guilty, a former Health Ministry official was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling $1 million. Last month, the country’s top oil and gas regulator–revered as a “clean man in a corrupt industry”–was charged with taking $700,000 in bribes from an oil-trading company. All told, more than 360 Indonesian officials have been jailed on corruption charges since 2002, including cabinet officers, governors, Members of Parliament, and judges.

At a time when every Islamic nation in the Middle East seems to be on fire, Indonesia–which has more Muslims than Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt combined–appears to be a relative oasis of diversity and democracy. On track to become one of the world’s ten largest economies, this southeast Asian nation is also set to witness the third consecutive direct election of its president next year after five decades of dictatorship. But in a country where more than half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, Indonesia’s deepening corruption at the highest levels isn’t just a threat to economic growth–it’s a ticking time bomb whose detonation could send shock waves across Asia, destabilize America’s China strategy and make the violence in Egypt and Syria pale by comparison.

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May 28, 2013

It’s Time to Send Pakistan’s Army Back to the Barracks

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON–It’s final exam season across the United States. In that spirit, let’s take a quick quiz. See if you can identify these countries:

  • Country number one has nuclear weapons. It has terrorized its people and threatened to kill Americans with a nuclear strike. For that behavior and more, America has imposed economic sanctions on it for decades.
  • Country number two is developing nuclear weapons. It has supported terrorism worldwide while calling for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel. For that behavior, America has strong-armed its allies into supporting tough sanctions against it.
  • Country number three owns the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal and has supplied nuclear secrets and material to regimes that wish America harm. It helped create the Taliban and provides a safe haven for some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. It hasn’t just threatened American lives; its army and intelligence agency have taken an active role in killing U.S. soldiers. In fact, the nitrate used in nearly 15,000 roadside bombs in Afghanistan in 2010 came from its fertilizer factories. For that behavior, America has rewarded it with40 billion in economic and military aid since 1947, including 26 billion since 9/11.

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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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June 2, 2010

Can ‘Pashtunistan’ End the Af-Pak War?

UDAIPUR, India – On the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains, tribesmen here know him as the “Afghan Warrior Poet.” Like thousands of his fellow Pashtun brothers from the surrounding Northwest Frontier Province, he stood as the first line of defense against troops invading from the West. Eventually, he grew disgusted by the corruption of leaders who lived in the capital cities and rebelled. Despite their armies, these leaders could do little to reach or control him in this rugged wasteland. In the name of Allah, he made it the cause of his life to unite his fellow believers, to create their own nation, and live by their own customs.

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May 3, 2010

The Danger of Benign Neglect

by Stanley A. Weiss

NEW DELHI – Imagine for a moment that 15 months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Indian authorities captured attack mastermind and Osama bin Laden henchman Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a raid in southern India. Imagine how loudly and quickly the American government and media would have demanded extradition from India to the United States. Now, imagine the outrage if India announced instead that it had struck a plea bargain with Mohammed and not only refused extradition, but refused to allow American authorities to interview him.

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May 29, 2009

Help Us or Leave

WASHINGTON — Just weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, I met with an architect of America’s post-9/11 response in the Pentagon. The topic was the impending U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. I asked why he expected America to succeed when every foreign invader in history had failed.

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