August 20, 2020

Will Young Turks Make Turkey Secular Again?

by Stanley A. Weiss

GSTAAD — One hundred years ago this month, representatives from the victorious Allied Powers in World War I gathered in a porcelain factory in the Paris suburb of Sèvres to dismantle the Ottoman Empire, one of the vanquished Central Powers.

The Treaty of Sèvres left the Ottoman Empire a rump state. It cut away the empire’s territory in Northern Africa, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula while carving out French, British, Italian, Greek, Kurdish, and Armenian territories and zones of influence from its Anatolian heartland. It also internationalized Constantinople, the crown jewel of the empire during the 600 years of Ottoman rule.

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May 19, 2020

President Trump’s COVID-19 Catch-22

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — It was in the winter of 1962, on a short weekend trip from Mexico City to San Francisco, that I first came across a novel written by a former World War II pilot.

The novel follows Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 United States Air Force bombardier stationed on the Italian island of Pianosa, as he struggles to complete the requisite number of missions required for discharge. Every time he gets close, the number gets raised.

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May 7, 2020

It’s Time for Iran to Release Siamak Namazi

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Forty years ago last month, the relationship between the United States and Iran went on lock down.

By April of 1980, it had been five months since Iranian students had overrun the U.S. embassy in Tehran and taken fifty-two U.S. diplomats hostage. President Jimmy Carter, intent on preserving diplomatic channels to communicate with the new Iranian regime — technically a provisional government of Iranian revolutionaries, but in truth controlled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his band of mad mullahs — had allowed Iran’s embassy in Washington to remain open. But after weeks of fruitless attempts at negotiation, Carter had had enough. The U.S. froze Iranian assets and ended diplomatic relations.

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April 18, 2020

Living a Different Irony, but the Same Agony, as the Spanish Flu

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — This is the part of the story that I cannot get over, the magical part that is hard to believe, even now. In December of 1918, in the middle of the deadliest pandemic in history, which had taken more lives in their South Philadelphia neighborhood than any other American city, my parents did something profoundly hopeful in the face of tragedy.

They got married.

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January 14, 2020

The Myanmar Crisis is More Than the Rohingya

by Stanley A. Weiss

BANGKOK — In January of 1863, as the civil war in the United States neared its half-way point, southern Confederate soldiers in Madison County, North Carolina seeking to root out support for the northern campaign to save the union whipped two elderly women, shot a thirteen-year-old boy and twelve others, and then buried the men in a shallow grave.

The Shelton Laurel Massacre, as it became known, was one of the most appalling episodes of the American Civil War, but far from the only one. Today, the massacre is a little-remembered episode in a larger war that was defined less by its worst atrocities and more for the lasting legacy of division, distrust, and devastation that it wreaked on the entire country.

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December 5, 2019

The European Union and the Tyranny of the Majority

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — For centuries, the accepted wisdom across Europe has been that the Swiss have used the mountain ranges that surround them and the deadly accuracy of Swiss marksmen as protection against invading armies. It has undoubtedly worked, since Switzerland has never been conquered.

In 1515, Switzerland adopted a position of armed neutrality and hasn’t fought a military battle in 500 years.

Which is why it came as quite a surprise last May when a brigade of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels was able to accomplish what no army in Europe had been able to achieve in half a millennia: take guns out of the hands of the Swiss.

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July 18, 2019

North Korea: What Would Harry Truman Do?

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Early in his presidency, Harry Truman received a distinguished visitor at the White House: Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb.”

Oppenheimer, as Truman biographer David McCullough recounts, was “in a state of obvious agitation” about helping to create a weapon that had wreaked such devastation on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That didn’t sit well with Truman; the president couldn’t stand Oppenheimer’s “self-pitying, ‘cry-baby’ attitude,” according to McCullough. “The blood is on my hands,” he told Oppenheimer, “Let me worry about that.”

For Truman, the “buck stops here” wasn’t just a saying. He was a man who said what he did — and did what he said. His friends and enemies alike could trust that he would keep his promises and follow through on his threats. Above all, he made tough decisions and took full ownership of their consequences.

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June 21, 2019

Playing the Trump Card in Iran

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Before we consider why Iran may or may not have attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week (it definitely did), whether it attacked four other tankers in international waters near the United Arab Emirates last month (it probably did), and why it shot down a United States drone this week that it claimed had entered Iranian airspace (which it likely did, but the U.S. denies), let’s talk about the man in Tehran who calls the shots on decisions like these: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

You probably know that Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, meaning he has the final say on all matters of state. You probably know that he has been running the country from the shadows for 30 years, that he preaches moderation in public, and that he routinely denounces Western-style capitalism as corrupt. What you probably don’t know is that as the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration bite further into Iran’s economy, Khamenei — along with his fellow ruling imams and a small group of state-connected cronies — are desperate to have their fellow countrymen focus on anything but them.

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June 5, 2019

What Jordan’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Can Teach the Rest of the World

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON — In the summer of 1949, three years after I traded my United States Army uniform for civilian clothes, and three months after I sold my half of a successful war surplus business I had started to my partner, I hopped aboard the Queen Elizabeth at the dock in New York City to move to Paris. Arriving in France two weeks later, the damaged road I took into the City of Light was the first visible sign that Europe was still recovering from the war that had taken more than 40 million European lives from 1939 to 1945. But it wasn’t until I tried to start a business exporting food to Germany that I came to understand that for millions of people, the horrors of that war continued to live on, but in different ways.

One in five German homes had been destroyed during the war, leaving 20 million Germans homeless, the vast majority of which were women, children, and the elderly. Another eight to ten million former prisoners of war, slave laborers, and death camp survivors had set out by foot to find food and shelter at war’s end, only to settle in refugee camps on German soil for as many as five more years, as most nations — including the U.S. — refused to grant visas or extend quotas to let in victims of the war. What I remember today as mass misery, history remembers as the largest mass migration in human history.

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May 15, 2019

The End of Democracy in Thailand?

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON — In 1851, Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon and the President of France, staged a coup against himself.

The coup was a pretext for cracking down on key institutions and consolidating his power. One year later, he became Emperor Napoleon III. In London, Karl Marx, watching these events unfold, wrote one of his most famous observations: that history repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy and the second as a farce.

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