Mr. Stanley Weiss founded Business Executives for National Security (BENS) in 1982. BENS started a new model for the business community to become involved in the defense of America by collaborating with the government and the military. As Founder and Chairman of BENS, Mr. Weiss has made a BIG, quiet, behind-the-scenes impact on American foreign policy including, among a long list of achievements, nuclear risk reduction. He was also instrumental in saving billions of taxpayers dollars in military spending that was being spent due to political motivation rather than with the macro view of optimizing military strength.
BENS has also evolved and adapted to focus on our new-world threats of cyber and terrorist attacks as well as tracking terrorist's financial assets and securing our ports.
So I would like to extend a warm welcome to my guest, Mr. Stanley Weiss.
Gabrielle Reilly: Why did you originally start Business Executives for National Security (BENS)?
Mr. Stanley Weiss: For me, it was a totally new venture. I'd been lucky prospecting and mining in Mexico. But as a businessman, I thought the debates over defense spending and nuclear weapons in the late 1970s and early 1980s were absurd. The Right said more was better. The Left said less was better. I thought better was better - spending smarter, getting the most out of every tax dollar. So I started BENS, to bring a more balanced, pragmatic business approach.
Gabrielle Reilly: How did you get BENS started?
Mr. Stanley Weiss: I recruited other business executives, entrepreneurs and professionals I knew, and we opened an office in Washington, DC. But when we went to Capitol Hill, nobody believed us. One senator said to us, "What do you really want?" They assumed we were shilling for defense contractors, looking to make money. But, as citizens, our only interest was the national interest - what was best for the country. So we said then what we say now: "National security is everybody's business."
Gabrielle Reilly: What three accomplishments has BENS achieved that you are most proud of?
Mr. Stanley Weiss: Well, aside from helping to save billions of tax dollars? We helped create the U.S.-Soviet Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers in Washington and Moscow that helped avoid accidental launches and which remain in use today. We helped devise the process that took the politics out of base closure so that the country could close unnecessary military bases and pour the savings - billions of dollars - into building a stronger military. And we created business-government partnerships across the country, "recruiting businesses to volunteer their facilities, vehicles and employees to deal with foreign as well as domestic disasters.
Gabrielle Reilly: In reviewing your work there were many issues you predicted before they either, became popular thought, or the prediction occurred. What would you say would be your most important "told you so" moments?
Mr. Stanley Weiss: Actually, I avoid trying to predict things. Like Yogi Berra said, "prediction is difficult, especially about the future." I guess the closest thing to any predictions would be what I've been writing for years about certain countries: that Pakistan is the real heart of terrorism, that Iran is a regional power that can't be ignored, and that Indonesia, with the world's largest Muslim population, can be a model to the world that Islam and democracy can co-exist.
Gabrielle Reilly: You travel a lot. where do you spend much of your time and how does it influence your thinking on American foreign policy and our international relations?
Mr. Stanley Weiss: Aside from Washington - and -London and -Switzerland where I have homes -my wife Lisa and I spend much of each year in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Myanmar. My work with BENS often takes me to regions at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy, for example Afghanistan, the Middle East, West Africa and the Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan). Americans are only 5 percent of the people in the world. You can't really understand the world - or America's role in it - without looking at it from the perspective of the other 95 percent.
Gabrielle Reilly: How important are our relationships with moderate Muslim countries, like Indonesia for example?
Mr. Stanley Weiss: They're absolutely critical. Countries like Indonesia, Turkey and Azerbaijan - countries with almost exclusively Muslim populations but with secular governments - will probably determine who wins the war for the soul of Islam: the moderate majority or the radical few. Remember, of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, most live outside the Arab Middle East. Will these countries be more like Pakistan, on the road to the 14th century? Or more like Turkey, embracing the 21st?
Gabrielle Reilly: What are your plans for the future?
Mr. Stanley Weiss: To continue working for BENS, to keep traveling and maybe even to write a story about living out one's dreams. That's what I define as living.
For more of Mr. Stanley Weiss's writing on international affairs please visit his web site.