Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Try as I might, I couldn’t make much sense of this article by Aaron Friedberg of Princeton, so I’ll plunk it a piece at a time.
many Australian strategists would prefer to maintain close links with Malaysia and Singapore, help the new nation of East Timor find its feet, prepare to cope with the possibility of further upheavals in Indonesia, and address the deepening social, economic and political problems of the smaller South Pacific islands.

This would be in contrast to our present policy of educating their children, bankrolling some of their governments, bailing them out of their financial meltdowns, hosting their tourists and assisting in guaranteeing their security.
The past decade has witnessed the beginnings of a profound and unusually rapid shift in Asia's balance of power.
Since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strength and influence have declined drastically and it has ceased to be a serious Pacific power. Japan, too, has entered into a prolonged period of economic stagnation and political stalemate that may limit its ability to play a constructive role in promoting regional stability.

Which would make the US, and through them, Australia, the only realistic game in town. Memories are long, and few South East Asian leaders are likely to ever seriously trust the Japanese. China is building an export economy, and is not in the business of military assistance. That leaves Australia as the local welterweight, and there is no-one to oppose us. Witness what happened when we decided to go into East Timor to restore peace. Asian countries lined up behind us, against Indonesia. Asian solidarity is unlikely to get in the way of Realpolitik.

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