Weekly Insights and Analysis

The United States and Southeast Asia

October 8, 2008

By Tommy Koh

The peoples of Southeast Asia are following the 2008 U.S. presidential elections with great attention and admiration, given the open and transparent primary processes. America’s real and vibrant democracy is reflected in the competing candidates’ travels to every corner of the country to win the hearts and minds of voters. This illustrates that the highest office of the land can neither be secured by wealth nor pedigree and, this year especially, neither race nor gender is an insurmountable obstacle. Consequently, in some parts of the world, including Southeast Asia, anti-Americanism has been balanced by a respect for America’s current exercise of democracy.

Thus, every region of the world wants America’s attention; the only question is whether American attention is positive or negative. Washington’s nature is to focus attention on the largest countries, regions, and economies, which can pose a threat to American interest or to international peace and security. By these standards, Southeast Asia ” a region largely at peace ” does not receive the positive attention it deserves. Read More…

Tommy Koh is Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, and Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies and the National Heritage Board. He was one of the three Asian co-chairs for the recently released book, America’s Role in Asia: Asian and American Views. Below is an excerpt from his chapter, which provides recommendations for a new U.S.  administration’s foreign policy towards the Southeast Asia region.


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In Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia\’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

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