Secretary Clinton with Indonesia President SusiloBambang
Yudhoyono: What is
she doing in Asia while a Democratic
convention is going on in America?
Clinton is with Us Instead of in Charlotte (Jakarta Post, Indonesia)
are more important to America than the economically-beaming Asians? ... During
hard economic times in the past, we saw the U.S. turn protectionist. But this
time, America has pledged to further integrate itself into the global market.
... Will this bring a fast-enough plumping of American pocketbooks? The eerie alternative
would be what occurred in the past: the use of war to create jobs, attract
investment and rally support of Americans around their leader."
past few weeks have been a time for America's political parties to hold their
conventions. We have seen the praise for Republican nominee Mitt Romney's “big
speech,” how he introduced his family members, reached out to non-traditional
voters and revealed his choice of vice president.
Soon we'll hear President Barack Obama's big speech at the
Democratic Party convention. To Americans, the conventions have the potential
of boosting support among voters.
To the world, the conventions provide an opportunity to
witness U.S. political competition, the agendas critical to voters in the
country, and hence the direction of future U.S. engagement with the rest of the
It is clear that now, Americans care most about pocketbook
issues and whether the next president will be able to improve the fortunes of
the U.S. macro economy.
The gist of the debate is this: should we give President
Obama another chance to deliver on the promises he made in 2008, or should we give
someone else a chance? It is a very tough call.
Yet for us non-Americans, the dilemma has clear implications.
We understand that whoever is elected, strengthening the U.S.
economy will be his priority and that any talks, visits, and dialogue with the United
States will have embedded within the agenda of fixing the American economy. This
issues will have ramification on how America handles bilateral, regional and
multilateral relationships that have been built up in prior years.
In the event, what peoples are more important to the United
States than the economically-beaming Asians? U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton would say it isn't only Asia that is vital, but the entire Asia-Pacific.
With the Democratic National Convention now taking place, Clinton is traveling
to six countries in the Asia Pacific, where nations large and small all matter in
the eyes of American politics.
She is scheduled to visit the Cook islands (to meet
officials from tiny island countries across the Pacific, as well as Australia
and New Zealand), Indonesia, China, Timor Leste [East
Timor] and Brunei. Then she’ll head off to the APEC Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.
On these visits, Clinton will touch on issues important to the region, namely
the dispute over sovereignty in the South China Sea, trade and food security.
And Clinton has another important agenda item: demonstrate American
attention to even the smallest states scattered across Asia. The Obama-Clinton foreign
policy duet has taken the approach of embracing both influential countries,
like Indonesia and India, and reaching out to those that haven't been given a
pat-on-the-back by senior U.S. officials for decades, such as Laos and Myanmar.
And then what? Both Democratic and Republicans camps have
made clear that they have serious concerns about the rise of China, both economically
and in terms of defense. In the United States, China is depicted as not being
“responsible enough” when it comes to its rise in the region or the world.
Last November, the Pentagon said that by 2020, roughly 60
percent of its naval fleet will be stationed in the Asia-Pacific, and it is
considering deploying sea-borne anti-missile systems to East Asia. The first of
2,500 U.S. Marines arrived [in Australia] a few months ago. Yet more is needed.
Romney has showed a desire to maintain a strong military
presence in the Pacific, and engage India, Indonesia and Taiwan in order to
monitor aggressive behavior in disputed waters and keep trade routes open.
Romney believes that the United States should supply Taiwan with “adequate
aircraft and other military platforms” for the reinforcement of maritime
awareness; employ radar and other networks for detection on order to prevent
surprise confrontation and military miscalculation.
Both Democrats and Republicans sending the same signals about
how cooperation with the United States is always better than confrontation with
it, and that the era of U.S. hegemony is far from over.
Clinton said: “We are prepared to lead … whenever the U.S.
has experienced setbacks, we have overcome them through reinvention and
innovation. Our capacity to come back stronger is unmatched in modern history.”
Of course, who could forget that America has the largest
defense budget and military and nuclear capability in the world?
Despite China’s military build-up, its overall defense
budget remains just a fraction of America's. Who could miss the fact that U.S.
military bases exist in nearly every corner of the world, with a total of over
1,000? Yet the U.S. asserts that it will beef up its defense, military and nuclear
capabilities even further.
The Americans also plan to expand its alliances with
Australia - from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one, disarm and be
firmer with North Korea, and do more strategic thinking and operating with countries
in the Asia-Pacific.
During hard economic times in the past, we saw the U.S. turn
protectionist. But this time, the United States has pledged to further
integrate itself into the global market and has praised regional free-trade
initiatives (including the controversial U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement).
Will this bring a fast-enough plumping of
The eerie alternative would be what occurred in the past: the
use of war and military tension to create jobs, attract investment and rally support
of Americans around their leader. War and military tension would energize the
defense industry and its supply chains.
Sure, that would be morally costly, but surprisingly, we are
seeing Democrats and Republicans converge on taking firmer action against those
standing in the way of U.S. interests.
Clinton said that the United States is keeping a cool head about
engaging with other countries. But what guarantee of this is there? Clinton says
she'll step down -even if Obama is reelected.
How Indonesia reacts and nurtures relations with the United
States, China, and other countries, will be tremendously important over the
next few years. Tension between the U.S. and China is simmering and the tools
for aggression are in place.
Posted by Worldmeets.US
When leaders of these countries take comfort in making
threats, accusations and posing about military showdowns, jitters over a
preemptive strike are likely to spread to other countries. Robert Kaplan said
last year that any future world war would occur in Asia, potentially in the
South China Sea. Nobody wants to see this materialize.
In light of Hillary Clinton's visit to Jakarta this week, it
is clear that what Indonesia does will make a huge difference in the seas of
Asia Pacific. Clinton seeks Indonesia’s support for a heightened U.S.
“presence” in Asia. Our problem is this: how do we alleviate military tension,
accusations and threats coming from either the U.S. or China?
Comprehensive Partnership should not stop exclude military exercises or improved
weapons systems, because that would send the wrong signal about where Indonesia
stands. The time is ripe to urge the U.S. to adhere to the Treaty
of Amity and Cooperation and push it to refrain from escalating tensions
and surrounding Asia with deadly weapons.
Even if open war is avoided, it would be terrible if wider
chasms opened up between members of ASEAN and its associated members. Indonesia
may be determined to find a middle ground between the U.S. and China, but the hard
work will be to inspire other nations to do the same.
The source of current and future global economic growth is
in Asia. There is enough potential for growth for everyone as long as the
opportunities and challenges are managed peacefully.
*DinnaWisnu is co-founder and director of the Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy in Jakarta.