September 18, 2015
by Stanley A. Weiss
WASHINGTON–As one of the American citizens who was born in Israel and is well versed in Middle East affairs, my friend Raphael Benaroya has an interesting way of demonstrating for his fellow Americans what it is like to live in Israel. As the debate over Tehran reaches farcical levels – with even Donald Trump coming to the Capitol to bloviate against Congress while Tea Party diehards in the audience took turns hitting a punching bag in the image of Barack Obama – I keep coming back to Raphael as a means of understanding the depth of Israeli anger and Jewish rage over the agreement.
As Raphael explains, it was 225 years ago that America’s capital – the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia – was carved out of land donated by the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia. Today, it occupies a footprint slightly larger than the city of Jerusalem, which sits some 6,000 miles away, and it lives in relative peace. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if, Raphael asks, rather than sitting in comfort and security, the District of Columbia instead lived with the same reality that Israeli Jews are confronted with each day?
July 29, 2015
by Stanley A. Weiss
Review of A Handful of Bullets by Harlan K. Ullman (Naval Institute Press, 226 pages)
LONDON-On June 28, 1914, in the city of Sarajevo, a teenage Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie. Widely believed to have been a product of Serbian government intrigue, the assassinations led to an Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on that nation the following month. By end of the next week the continent’s rigid alliance structure had sucked every other major European country into the vortex of escalating hostilities that became World War I.
The conflict ended four years and four months later with 17 million dead. The Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires were shattered. The diplomatic order that emerged from the Congress of Vienna after the Napoleonic Wars was no more. These were massive, almost incomprehensible, consequences that seemed incompatible in scale with the cause. Many wonder now, a century later, could such an almost accidental cataclysm happen again?
February 28, 2014
by Stanley A. Weiss
BANGKOK-Over the past century, Thailand has endured colonial aggression, two world wars and neighboring civil wars on every one of its borders. It has survived extreme nationalism, home-grown fascism, aggressive communism, and stifling dictatorship. It has persevered through 18 military coups, survived economic collapse, withstood periods of widespread starvation and navigated a ubiquitous regional drug trade. And after all that, Thailand has emerged as the region’s second-largest economy, with the broadest-based prosperity in its history.
But where do we find ourselves? For the third time in four years, a coalition of urban elites and their allies have taken to the streets wearing bright yellow shirts to force from office a leader that was elected by an overwhelming plurality of the electorate. It’s the equivalent of having the Tea Party allies of Sarah Palin march on Washington, bar entry to federal buildings, paralyze the work of Congress and insist that the 2012 election of Barack Obama be vacated and turned over to a small council of unelected elites. It might just lead to civil war.
It has taken 180 years, but the lesson of Alexis de Tocqueville has finally come to Thailand. Tocqueville was a French citizen who toured America in the 1830s. In his classic work, “Democracy in America,” he tells the story of a mob that destroyed the printing presses of a newspaper that came out against U.S. efforts in the War of 1812. For their protection, the paper’s editors were brought to the local jail-only to have the mob break in and kill one of the journalists as the police stood by. When the mob leaders were brought to trial, they were acquitted by a jury of their peers. Reflecting on the incident, Tocqueville argued that the greatest threat the United States faced was “tyranny of the majority.”