May 1, 2012
NEW DELHI, India—It is one of history’s great ironies that the Buddha grew up, attained enlightenment and taught in India, while Buddhism has gained its greatest number of adherents—nearly 40 percent of the population—in China. This discrepancy was on full display last December, with New Delhi and Beijing each jockeying to be the site of the new International Buddhist Confederation. Swayed by India’s status as Buddhism’s birthplace and displeased by China’s treatment of the Dalai Lama, 900 Buddhist delegates to a conference in India voted to establish Buddhism’s de facto world capital here in India’s capital.
March 7, 2012
YANGON, MYAMAR—Few of us like to be reminded of mistakes made by heroes, particularly heroes of conscience. Who among us remembers that Martin Luther King Jr. failed miserably when he tried to take the nonviolent strategies that worked so well in the segregated south of the United States to the industrialized north? Who likes to remember that Nelson Mandela all but ignored the HIV/AIDS crisis raging across South Africa during his presidency, which eventually took the lives of millions, including his own son?
February 23, 2012
YANGON, Myanmar— During the years he lived as a child in Indonesia, President Barack Obama learned the culture of Jakarta, spoke the language, survived chicken pox, and recalls frequently feeling “the sting of [his] teachers’ bamboo switches.” As a young military officer training in the United States, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known as SBY, parachuted out of planes with Fort Benning’s storied 82nd Airborne Division and attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. It is an interesting parallel between presidents that each spent formative years in the other’s country.
September 1, 2011
BALI—Set upon a blue background, the flag of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations depicts 10 yellow rice paddy stalks drawn in the middle of a red circle with a white border. The interesting thing about the banner is not merely that it represents the main colors of all ten ASEAN member state flags: Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. It is that 44 years to the day after ASEAN was founded, on August 8th—in a development that received little attention outside Asia—the flag was hoisted for the first time alongside the banners of all member states at hundreds of embassies and diplomatic missions around the world.
August 15, 2011
JAKARTA—He studied law under Thomas Jefferson, served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under John Adams, elected President of the United States in 1816, and was so fondly hailed that his eight years as Chief Executive were dubbed the “era of good feelings.”
March 17, 2011
YANGON—As demonstrators from Tunis to Cairo to Tripoli wonder if their revolutions will succeed, Myanmar remains an unfortunate poster child for what happens when revolutions go wrong. With a population equal in size to the United Kingdom, and a per capita income of less than two US dollars per day, Myanmar has suffered under military rule since 1962.
December 3, 2010
The recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, after deeply flawed elections that allowed the military in Myanmar, also known as Burma, to tighten its half-centurylong grip on the country, raises numerous political questions: What comes next for her? Will the ruling junta engage her newly reconstituted National Democracy Party? Will other political prisoners be freed?
November 4, 2010
WASHINGTON—The topic of assassination lends itself to one of the recurrent parlor games of world history. If John F Kennedy had never been assassinated, would the United States have gotten out of Vietnam? If Yitzhak Rabin hadn’t met an assassin’s bullet, would the Oslo Accords have led to peace between Israelis and Palestinians? If Archduke Franz Ferdinand had survived his attacker in Sarajevo, would the world have gone to war in 1914?
February 23, 2010
YANGON — When British forces first floated up the Irrawaddy River in 1885 to depose King Thibaw of Burma, locals were startled to see a Burmese prince, in full regalia, sitting on the deck of one of the steamers. His presence reassured locals that the British planned to seat a new king, not overthrow the kingdom. As Thant Myint-U recalls in his book, “The River of Lost Footsteps,” it was only when a young student talked his way onto the ship and came face-to-face with the royal prince that the truth was discovered: The “prince” was an imposter, a former classmate of the student’s. By then, it was too late — the telegraph line to the palace in Mandalay had been cut.