June 23, 2018

In Mexico, Beware the Clash of the Populists

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-“Let’s kill the Americans!”

It was December 7, 1941, and my friend Jack Vietor – a magazine publisher and heir to the Jell-O fortune – was staying in a hotel in the city of Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America declared war. But much to Jack’s surprise, the mob that showed up in the town plaza wasn’t chanting about Japan, or Germany. They were wielding machetes and shouting, “Let’s kill the Gringos!”

The crowd had seen the headlines announcing that Mexico had declared war – and automatically assumed the headlines referred to the United States. Jack hid under his bed, terrified, until the hotel owner assured him everything was okay.

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June 12, 2018

What the World Always Forgets About Gaza

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-The first thing that strikes you about the Gaza Strip is how small it is.

Constrained by the Egyptian desert to its south, the Mediterranean to its west, and the barbed wire and concrete barriers of Israel to its north and east, Gaza is just 25 miles long and about five miles wide. Traded back and forth by empires since the Bronze Age, Gaza was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from the 16th Century until Britain claimed it after World War I, Egypt took it after the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, and Israel seized it during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Today, 1.4 million Palestinians live on that strip, most of them descendants of 600,000 Palestinians who fled to Gaza and the West Bank in 1948 after Arab armies – who were unwilling to accept a 1947 United Nations plan to create two states, one Arab and one Jewish, out of British Palestine – chose to attack instead, only to be routed by the Israeli army. Many Palestinians in Gaza still live in refugee camps, waiting for the so-called “right of return,” where they hope to reclaim property left behind by their grandparents 70 years ago on land known then as Palestine but known ever since as the state of Israel.

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March 23, 2018

A New Report Says America is Being Duped in Myanmar

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-Fifteen years ago this week, the United States invasion of Iraq began.

Before the statues of Saddam Hussein came down and U.S. forces transitioned to an occupation force two months later, a highly-decorated Special Forces colonel was asked to identify what it would take to stabilize Iraq and turn it into a functioning democracy. In the prescient report that he and his team delivered to U.S. Central Command, Colonel Tim Heinemann (Ret.), the Green Berets commander, was frank in his assessment. He argued that the U.S. military hadn’t developed the “street smarts” it needed in Iraq, hadn’t built relationships with the real power brokers on the ground, and hadn’t done enough to prevent Iraqi military officers from going underground as insurgents. The surest way to develop the insights necessary to stave off chaos, the report argued, was to engage tribal leaders in a massive counterinsurgency effort to build trust – in his words, “not just to share tea one-on-one with local leaders, but to share tea 10 times until they opened up.”

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January 8, 2018

Stumbling from New World Order to No World Order

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—It was a hell of a place for a kid just out of the Naval Academy to find himself: the mouth of the Cua Viet River near the De-Militarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam, commanding a Swift boat in a land most Americans barely knew.

He and his Swift boat crew, going by the call sign “Red Baron” and sporting red ball caps, patrolled the waters, inserted commandos into the jungle in the dead of night, and blasted cover fire for U.S. marines fighting off the Viet Cong. He would command over 150 missions.

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December 13, 2017

Why is Siamak Namazi Still in An Iranian Prison?

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—Today in Iran, a good man, an American citizen, is languishing in a brutal Tehran prison. And so is his 81-year-old father.

Siamak Namazi is a friend of mine. An Iranian-born American with dual citizenship who loves Iran and considers it one of his two homes, Siamak has spent years going back and forth to Tehran as a businessman and a humanitarian, helping Westerners establish businesses on Persian soil that provide jobs and incomes for Iranian citizens. He sought me out early on, and I came to know him as a deeply thoughtful and honest man who is committed to improving the lives of the Iranian people while smoothing the relations between our two countries.

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November 24, 2017

The Rise of American Sharia in Alabama

by Stanley A. Weiss

An Islamic fundamentalist, using his faith as a club, declares his belief that faith should override secular rule of law and advocates for a form of Islamic law, called Sharia law—which some Muslims interpret as commanding that drinkers of alcohol be whipped and homosexuals and those who criticize the faith be put to death. In the face of such extremism, voices in western countries harshly criticize Muslim leaders, asking why there isn’t a loud chorus within the faith to shout him down.

We’ve wondered how people could tolerate and support extremists in positions of power who ignore civil law in the name of their radical religious values. What many Americans don’t realize is that it has happened here—and if we are not vigilant it will happen right here again: religious fundamentalists, much like the ones we criticize in the Middle East, who use their faith to subvert our Constitution.

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November 16, 2017

How Trump Can Beat Putin at Geopolitical Judo

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—When the ancient Chinese general and strategist Sun Tzu crafted his masterpiece, The Art of War, one principle rose above the rest. “The supreme art of war,” he wrote, “is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

It’s a point General David Petraeus emphasizes in his foreword to an upcoming edition of The Art of War. It immediately came to mind as I thought about Russia’s aggressiveness under Russian President Vladimir Putin – a man who has caused far more havoc for the United States than the wars he has started would suggest. But though Putin’s strategy has followed the principles of The Art of War to a tee, the true inspiration for his geopolitical maneuvers may come instead from something with similar principles: the Japanese martial art of judo.

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November 8, 2017

The Quick or the Dead: What Trump Can Learn from Reagan on Nuclear Weapons

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON — On June 14, 1946, the United States representative to the Atomic Energy Commission, Bernard Baruch, presented a novel and ambitious plan to his fellow commissioners. Less than a year earlier, the U.S. had awakened the world to the destructive power of two atomic bombs. Now, Baruch was proposing that the United Nations take control of all nuclear weapons and ensure the peaceful use of nuclear power. “We are here,” Baruch declared, “to make a choice between the quick and the dead.”

The Baruch Plan, we now know, was doomed to failure: The Soviet Union was already pursuing its own nuclear weapons program. But the day of Baruch’s speech was notable for another reason. One borough away from the Atomic Energy Commission’s Manhattan headquarters, at a hospital in Queens, a real estate magnate and a Scottish immigrant were welcoming a new baby into the world. His name was Donald J. Trump.

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November 2, 2017

The Real Lesson from the Balfour Declaration

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON—One of the most famous letters in history was 67 words long, written on stationary from the Imperial Hotel in London, and delivered one hundred years ago today. Neither its author nor its recipient could have imagined the elation and the heartbreak it would cause for humanity over the following century, or how intractable the conflict spurred by its message, as captured in a Times of London headline at the time – “Palestine For The Jews!” – would remain to this day.

All anyone knew in November of was that the First World War was into its third year. British forces, with the help of Arab fighters, were on the verge of driving the Ottoman Turks out of Palestine and capturing Jerusalem, which was no accident: Britain had promised Arab leaders that if they helped defeat the Ottomans, London would support a unified Arab state across the Palestinian peninsula. Yet, Jewish leaders held out hope that Britain would make real a vision first articulated by Austrian writer Theodor Herzl in the face of growing anti-Semitism across Europe in 1896: that Judaism wasn’t just a religion, but a nationality – and that the Jewish people, scattered across the world, deserved to have their own state in their ancient ancestral land of Israel, which just happened to be the same land Arabs knew as Palestine.

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October 2, 2017

The Story We’re All Missing in Myanmar

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON—As I read the stories about the Burman military’s horrific campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, I can’t help but think of an autobiography I read not long ago by my friend Sao Sanda, whose father, Sao Shwe Thaike, served as the first president of the Union of Burma after World War II. It is a riveting account of what it was like to belong to one of the 135 ethnic minority groups living under the rule of Myanmar’s ethnic Burmans since World War II. There were two passages that came to mind immediately.

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