The United States and Asia

A recent essay in Foreign Affairs magazine discusses the ups and downs of the US’s relations with India over the past century and how important it is for the two countries to have a working relationship as we move into the future.

The article fails to address, however, the dynamic between India and China, a relationship that is rapidly evolving and will have a major impact on the US as it attempts to define its role in Asia. “China and India Make Nice” is but one of many articles discussing the joint military exercises between India and China in rural South Western China over the past month.

American anxiety over the rethinking of its unquestioned world super-power status is well founded, especially in Asia where seemingly uncontrollable Chinese growth is overshadowing the ambitions of other countries whose actions have large implications  for the US.

Anniversary of the 2006 Tsunami

Coming soon: Three years after the December 26th tsunami brought unimaginable destruction, what is happening in Aceh, the western most province of the massive Indonesian country? The paradox of the disaster is that, while it brought ruin to so many, it was also a part of the end of that province’s thirty year civil war.

Today, we must continue to understand that it is vital to ensure the stability of the peace agreement between GAM and the government and to ensure that the former enemies become part of the same economy, same society, same government – this is necessary if total recovery from the tsunami is to be successful.

“Taiwan’s Statesman” Book Review

Taiwan holds a place in the American consciousness similar to that of many places in Asia. Many may have heard of it, but very few could point to it on a map – even fewer could describe its political significance. Ted reviews Richard Kagan’s newly published biography of former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-Hui, titled “Taiwan’s Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia.”

Taiwan is in the precarious position of not being recognized as an independent sovereign state and  yet not really a part of China. No one really understands Taiwan as controlled by Beijing, but the international community continues to deny its status as an independent nation. Kagan’s book, while documenting the personal history of the former president, Lee, is perhaps more important as a biography of the island itself as it has developed over the past few centuries of global influences, rising to economic power and establishing its own democratic institutions.

Security and Peace

Self determination, social justice and peace all require a healthy civil society, and a healthy civil society requires security. I do not mean to reduce an infinitely complex process into a simple equation, but this is something that I believe. The paradox of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, is a case in point. I was in Banda Aceh with the NGO Forum Asia in June, 2005, about six months after the tragic wave that devastated the entire coast of the province, washing away a good part of the capitol city.

During the three decades prior to the tsunami, the region had been virtually cut off from the outside world as the Indonesian army and separatists fought for control of Aceh. Civil society existed in a state of arrested development; local institutions were often co-opted by either the army or the separatists, activists and normal people feared engaging in any sort of politics social organizing, because both armed sides had practiced the harassment, murder, and “disappearance” of many that were seen as threats. Unable to develop its civil society, the people of Aceh had no opportunity to enjoy self determination.

Here is the paradox of the tsunami: while it was a horrible event that took hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed what economy there was, it also resulted in a degree of security. Military action ceased, and the sudden, massive presence of the international community meant that armed actors on either side could no longer do as they pleased in their quest for control.

Since that time, civil society in Aceh has seen steady growth, and the people are now living under an elected government.