August 27, 2012

The Lonely Man of the Middle East

by Stanley A. Weiss

GSTAAD — When Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan met last month with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin about the civil war in Syria, political biographers had a right to be confused. After all, one is the leader of a government that has imprisoned more journalists than China and Iran combined; empowered special courts to arrest citizens on suspicion of terrorism without evidence or the right to a hearing; sentenced two students to eight years in prison for holding a sign at a rally demanding “free education;’ and has seen more than 20,000 complaints filed against it in the European Court of Human Rights since 2008. The other is president of Russia.

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June 22, 2012

What The Lady Could Learn From The First Lady

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON – It was the most closely-watched Congressional race of 2000, and the most expensive in the history of the United States. When the dust settled, Hillary Rodham Clinton raised her right hand and took her seat in the United States Senate. As perhaps the most prominent First Lady in American history, and the first elected to Congress, observers excitedly wondered how she would approach an institution ruled by seniority and typically dismissive of new members.

Hillary herself had questions, so even before she was sworn-in, she approached one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, Senator Robert Byrd. The advice from the dean of the U.S. Senate to the new Senator from New York was short and to-the-point: “Be a workhorse, not a show horse.”

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June 15, 2012

Israel’s Future: When It’s Jew Versus Jew

WASHINGTON—It’s a measure of Nazi effectiveness in destroying the centers of Jewish learning that when Israel was created in 1948, there were just 400 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in the entire state. Aware of the desire to revive Jewish religious study after the Holocaust, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, cut a deal: Haredi Jews, as the ultra-Orthodox are known, could spend all their time studying the Torah. They wouldn’t have to serve in the military like other Israelis, and they wouldn’t have to work—the state would support them. Like most Jews, the prime minister believed the deal would be short-lived: he assumed that Haredi students weren’t long for the modern world.

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June 1, 2012

Making Yoni Netanyahu’s Sacrifice Matter

PARIS—Forty-nine years ago last week, a 17-year-old Jonathan Netanyahu—having recently arrived in America from Israel with his parents and two younger brothers—wrote a remarkable letter to a friend back home. “Man does not live forever, and he should put the days of his life to the best possible use,” he wrote. “I only know that I don’t want to reach a certain age, look around me and suddenly discover that I’ve created nothing.”

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May 8, 2012

An Open Letter to Mitt Romney

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON— Dear Governor,

You first became a candidate for public office 18 years ago, when you ran for the United States Senate in Massachusetts against the incumbent, Edward Kennedy.  The Senate you aspired to join then included a number of Republicans—from Bob Dole to William Cohen to John Warner—whose foreign policy expertise had earned them the title of “statesman.”  They were joined by equally impressive Democrats—like Sam Nunn and David Boren—who had helped Presidents of both parties shape America’s foreign policy in the second half of the 20th Century.

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May 1, 2012

Asia’s Quiet War

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.

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April 27, 2012

Iran is to India as Pakistan is to the U.S.

NEW DELHI—Tourists flying into this ancient city are sometimes surprised to find their descent re-routed at the last minute by the presence of an 86-foot bronze statue that sits at the end of a runway. The giant icon depicts none other than Lord Shiva, one of Hinduism’s most popular and powerful gods. Known alternatively as the destroyer and the creator, family man and hermit, teacher and warrior, kind herdsman and wrathful avenger—Shiva is, like India itself, a perfect symbol of contradictions.

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March 8, 2012

The Fire Next Time In Bangkok

BANGKOK, Thailand— Last October, the flood came. Cresting the banks of the swollen Chao Phraya River, runoff rolled through Thailand’s central plain, killing nearly 400 and displacing millions in the costliest natural disaster in the nation’s history.

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March 7, 2012

Getting Past the Symbolism of Aung San Suu Kyi

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?

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March 1, 2012

Imagining ‘Eastphalia’

It began in the Netherlands, as outraged Calvinists smashed statues to protest the wealth and excesses of Spain and the Catholic Church. In Germany, starving soldiers laid waste to entire regions. The ensuing war engulfed all of 17th-century Europe in 80 years of bloody religious conflict. After the assassination of generals and the death of kings, after nearly one-third of Germany’s population lay dead from the plague or the sword, Europe’s rulers finally came together. They intended only to end the wars; they did not expect to create a new global order. But when they finally signed the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Europe – and the world – was on its way to being transformed.

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