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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July 29, 2015

A Handful of Bullets

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?

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August 8, 2014

What Jokowi Can Learn From Obama

by Stanley A. Weiss

JAKARTA — At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 23, the President of the United States placed a congratulatory phone call to the President-elect of Indonesia. “Apa kabar?” — “how are you?” — President Barack Obama asked Joko Widodo before conveying his congratulations. It was a remarkable moment. For one thing, the President of the United States had greeted his Indonesian counterpart in passable Bahasa Indonesian, which Obama learned growing up in Jakarta, roughly 350 miles west of Joko’s Central Javan hometown of Surakarta, also known as Solo. For another, a decade ago few could have predicted that either man would be occupying their respective offices at all.

The phone call came ten years to the week that America first heard the name Barack Obama, as he delivered the captivating keynote at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that began his meteoric rise from the Illinois State Senate to the White House. At the time, half a world away, Jokowi (as he is affectionately known) was an unknown carpenter and furniture exporter. A year later, as Obama began his first year in the U.S. Senate, Jokowi had risen to become the mayor of Solo, where his promise of “Beauty Without Corruption” and hands-on leadership style brought him national and international attention. By October 2012, with Obama well on his way to a second term as President, Jokowi was being sworn in as Governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s sprawling 10-million person capital. Last month, after 135 million Indonesians voted in only the third direct election for president in their country’s history, Jokowi capped his rapid ascent by besting the former General Prabowo Subianto by eight million votes–though Prabowo, alleging widespread electoral fraud, has refused to concede.

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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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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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April 18, 2009

India: Wary on Obama

NEW DELHI — Leaders here can’t get enough of the American president. He’s “the best president vis-à-vis India in the past 50 years,” said a former diplomat. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told him, “the people of India deeply love you.” One official proposed awarding him the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), the country’s highest civilian honor.

Another nation in the throes of Obamania?

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