Saturday, October 15, 2011

SECSTATE Clinton Answers MIL INT's Alert on Asia


Back in September MIL INT issued a wake up call to the US national security establishment to refocus on the 4.2 billion people of Asia in comparison to the 432 million of the MESA region that has so dominated Washington's attention over the past decade. "Wake Up DC the Asian Century is Here" has been answered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the November issue of FP. Secretary Clinton responds by outlining her vision for "America's Pacific Century".

[Ed: Madam Secretary, you are always welcome as a guest author on MIL INT :)]

The Obama Administration has been quite active in Asia but you'd never know it if you lived and worked in DC. Culturally, historically, and internationally, America cannot escape its Atlantic heritage, yet it cannot and should not ignore its Pacific past and future. That past is filled with great opportunity grasped, but also the consequences of strategic (and intelligence) miscalculation, imposed. The question remains whether America will have a pacific future? (sic). 

Remarkably few major news organizations or pundits have yet even acknowledged SECSTATEs latest statement, let alone commented upon it. This must be driving Sec Clinton's Press Office nuts. And rightly so. Too few are thinking about Asia and the stunning silence in reaction to SECSTATEs new statement is 100% proof positive of the original MIL INT thesis

America has a good news story in its relations with Asia.
A Wordle of SECSTATE's Statement
The region is eager for our leadership and our business -- perhaps more so than at any time in modern history. We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good.
SECSTATEs statement is important in a number of ways. For example, it highlights enhanced engagement with India and Indonesia something MIL INT has called for - based on the scale, importance, and the values systems, of each country. Indonesia, has the world's forth largest population - and the largest concentration of Muslims anywhere. There are more Muslims in Indonesia than all of MESA combined. Indonesia has broken all the rules of international relations - but in a good way. In the midst of the Asian financial crisis and the fall of the dictator Suharto, Indonesia should have collapsed into civil war fueled by a clash of destructive ethnic and religious intolerance. Instead, at the very moment of crisis, Indonesia elected a strong democratic president who lead his country to economic, social and political freedom. 

Secretary Clinton also emphasized the counter proliferation challenge. This is not window dressing - CP has long been a challenge but the stakes are escalating around the world and Asia is a key node in the global nexus.

Sec Clinton spoke in new terms about the global energy, trade and security pathway along the "stretch of sea from the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to the Pacific". This is a strategic re-weighting of the regional balance between NE and SE Asia. In truth, SE Asia has been an afterthought in US policy since 1975 - until now. If SECSTATEs statement is remembered for nothing else, its re-balancing of US focus astride the equator in the Asian hemisphere is significant.

Another stand-out phrase was the acknowledgement that the US is "expanding our alliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one". The US has expanded and deepened a number of its key alliances in NE and SE Asia. It has very deftly brought Australia back from its economic drift to China and is working to create its own string of pearls from Mumbai to Manila. This leadership and vision is to be welcomed and will pay handsome dividends.

History will look back at this period and acknowledge DOS's leadership in charting a new course towards America's destiny in Asia. The question remains whether the rest of the war weary nation is ready to follow. We cannot continue to be reactive - we must be proactive. We cannot wait for a crisis to grab our attention. Good leadership now is critical to avoiding a crisis that will come if we allow a power vacuum to grow in Asia. 

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