A Must Read Book: The ASEAN Miracle


April 6, 2017

Kishore Mahbubani and Jeffery SngThe ASEAN Miracle: A Catalyst for Peace

This just released book is, in my view, a must read for all who are keen to learn about ASEAN, its history, achievements and challenges.   Is ASEAN a miracle? We can debate this, but  let us first let find out what  Dean Prof. Kishore Mahubani of The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and his co-author and colleague, Jeffery Sng have to say. I am reading it now and find it a well written and documented and timely book. ASEAN will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary this August. The ASEAN Miracle has received very favorable reviews (below) –Din Merican

The ASEAN Miracle: A Catalyst for Peace

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a miracle. Why?

Image result for Book The ASEAN Miracle

Congratulations to Dean Prof. Kishore Mahububani, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Jeffery Sng

In an era of growing cultural pessimism, many thoughtful individuals believe that different civilizations – especially Islam and the West – cannot live together in peace. The ten countries of ASEAN provide a thriving counter-example of civilizational coexistence. Here 625m people live together in peace. This miracle was delivered by ASEAN.

In an era of growing economic pessimism, where many young people believe that their lives will get worse in coming decades, Southeast Asia bubbles with optimism. In an era where many thinkers predict rising geopolitical competition and tension, ASEAN regularly brings together all the world’s great powers.

Stories of peace are told less frequently than stories of conflict and war. ASEAN’s imperfections make better headlines than its achievements. But in the hands of Kishore Mahbubani and Jeffery Sng, the good news story is also a provocation and a challenge to the rest of the world.

“This excellent book explains, in clear and simple terms, how and why ASEAN has become one of the most successful regional organizations in the world.”
George Yeo

Image result for Book The ASEAN MiracleThe ASEAN Miracle Men–Mr S. Rajaratnam (right), then Singapore’s Foreign Minister, at the historic 1967 Bangkok meeting, which saw the founding of ASEAN. With him are envoys (from left) Narciso Ramos from the Philippines, Adam Malik from Indonesia, Thanat Khoman from Thailand and Tun Abdul Razak from Malaysia.–ST FILE PHOTOS

“ASEAN was born in Bangkok. Thailand can take great pride in the fact that this Thai baby has emerged as a world success story. Indeed, many significant ASEAN initiatives were initiated by Thailand, including AFTA and ASEM. Kishore and Jeffery have done the world a huge favour in documenting this exceptional success story, and in making proposals to strengthen ASEAN further. This is a must-read for all who have interest in ASEAN affairs.”
Anand Panyarachun, former Prime Minister of Thailand

“A powerful and passionate account of how, against all odds, ASEAN transformed the region and why Asia and the world need it even more today.”
Amitav Acharya

“Kishore and I have written that the world is coming together in a Fusion of Civilisations. This book documents beautifully how ASEAN has achieved this fusion. The ASEAN story is hugely instructive and this book tells it very well.”
Larry Summers

“This book on ASEAN explains well how the pragmatic Indonesian philosophy of musyawarah and mufakat has been critical for ASEAN’s success. Indonesian leadership has led to the creation and development of one of the world’s most successful regional organizations, which has fundamentally transformed he geopolitics and geo-economics of Southeast Asia. As ASEAN begins a new, possibly perilous, journey into the next fifty years, we should read this book as an indispensable guide to ASEAN’s future. We cannot take our success for granted. We have to work even harder to strengthen and, if necessary, reinvent ASEAN. This book explains how.”
Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – Sixth President of Indonesia

“Over the years, Kishore Mahbubani has been as eloquent and visionary as he has tireless in championing Asia’s growing role in world affairs. In this impressive volume, Mahbubani tells the story of Southeast Asia’s ascent and the often underappreciated role of ASEAN as a regional provider of peace and stability. As the book makes clear, it is an unfinished story – ASEAN is uniquely situated to work with regional and global great powers in the search for common ground, but ASEAN is also vulnerable to neglect and decline. In the end, Mahbubani offers a powerful argument for a new era of ASEAN leadership.”

G. John Ikenberry, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Kishore Mahbubani is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, and author of The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East.

Jeffery Sng is a writer and former diplomat based in Bangkok, and co-author of A History of the Thai-Chinese.

Image result for Book The ASEAN Miracle

Publication Year: 2017
286 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-981-4722-49-0 Casebound

 

Brainwashed: Where the “Manchurian Candidate” came from


April 3, 2017

Brainwashed

Where the “Manchurian Candidate” came from.

A Republican Dude called Nunes–American Democracy Dies in Darkness


April 2, 2017

A Republican Dude called Nunes--American Democracy Dies in Darkness

by Editorial Board

https://www.washingtonpost.com

Image result for Rep Nunes--The Idiot

THE ANTIC behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who was slipped classified surveillance by senior aides to President Trump, rushed to hold a news conference about it and then scurried back to the White House to brief Mr. Trump, was clumsy and clownish — but it may have accomplished its main purpose. Mr. Nunes managed to derail his own House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the far more serious matter of Russia’s interference in the presidential election, and to distract attention from the emergence of troubling new evidence.

Image result for jared kushner and henry kissinger

As the congressman’s bizarre circuit was chewed over in Washington, it emerged that Jared Kushner (pic above), the President’s aide and son-in-law, had met with an executive from a Russian bank that is on the U.S. sanctions list; former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn sought immunity in exchange for his testimony on his Russian ties; and experts told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian hacking and propaganda efforts are continuing, and have recently been directed at House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Mark R. Warner (Va.), ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, offered an appeal to common sense: The public, he said, must “not lose sight of what the investigation is about: An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical democratic process, the election for president” in order to “favor one candidate over another.” Unfortunately, Mr. Trump and willing accomplices such as Mr. Nunes have been all too effective in clouding this shocking reality and impeding effective investigation of it.

The delivery of intelligence to Mr. Nunes — which the White House has yet to explain — was only the latest diversionary stratagem employed by Mr. Trump and his aides. Earlier, Mr. Nunes and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) were enlisted to call reporters to discount stories about contacts between Trump aides and Russia. Then Mr. Trump used a series of tweets to falsely accuse President Barack Obama of ordering a wiretap on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, as The Post reported, the administration tried to block former Justice Department official Sally Q. Yates from testifying to Congress about what she knows about the links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Image result for Trump and henry kissinger

Mr. Trump is still dismissing the Russia investigation as “a witch hunt” that Democrats are using to excuse their “big election loss.” He may be right that there was no active collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin; two former senior intelligence officials with no sympathy for the President have said publicly that they were aware of no evidence of collaboration. Democrats who speak as if such links have been proved are risking their own credibility.

It nevertheless should be undeniable, by now, that the regime of Vladi­mir Putin brazenly intervened in U.S. politics, including by hacking the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen material through the WikiLeaks site; that it is still trying to disrupt the political system, including by sowing fake news and faux controversies on social media; and that it is attempting to disrupt elections in other Western democracies, including France and Germany. The top priority of the president and Congress should be to fully expose this hostile assault and develop means to counter it.

Instead, Mr. Trump appears to be doing his best to confuse the public about the facts and to prevent the truth from coming out. That, of course, is Russia’s agenda — and it is the strangest and most suspicious aspect of his presidency.

Focus on Policies, not Partisan Politics


March 26, 2017

Focus on Policies, not Partisan Politics

by Bunn Nagara@www.thestar.com.my

Image result for Trump and Xi

Beyond the noisy protests over Trump’s presidency, there are important policy issues and implications that need better understanding – but which are still neglected.

NOT too long ago, there was hope, even a belief, that the fuss about Donald Trump’s fitness for presidential office would fade away after his inauguration. But even after more than two months into the presidency, critics are still carping and cynics are still canting. The real issues affecting people’s lives, badly neglected by the US media, are still being ignored.

Since US policies have a global reach, its actions affect other countries in various ways. So what can we expect from the Trump White House?In strategic terms, Trump has inherited some foreign policy challenges from the preceding administration. Then there are issues he has created on his own.

Nearest home is the controversy over the Mexican border “wall”. This is a typical issue blown out of proportion by Trump’s own grandstanding and his opponents bent on inflating it.

Trump first said he would build a wall, then added it could be a fence in parts. Since there is already a part-wall, part-fence on the border, what is his proposal and the objection to it about?

On Syria, Obama had already shifted from insisting on President Assad’s immediate removal to accepting his place as head of government. From being regarded as “part of the problem,” an Assad still popular with his people came to be seen grudgingly by Obama as part of the solution – but still one that had to resolve itself.

Trump is not keen on ousting Assad either. Assad has even suggested that Syria may host US troops dispatched by Trump to fight terrorism together.

For both leaders, exterminating such terrorist groups as IS is top priority while welcoming Russian support in the fight. Trump would openly receive what Obama would haltingly accept, with little or no difference on the ground.

Where differences largely comprise rhetoric, they become unbridgeable. In non-official Washington, this concerns “Russia”: not as a large Eurasian nation with a rich history, but as the bogeyman Other.

“Russia” is also a way for Trump’s enemies to dredge the swamp for issues to hit him with. This would at least deter any attempt at “resetting” relations with Moscow that would alarm the US deep state.

Since the issue of Syria is mostly a function of US-Russia relations, the Trump White House will soon have to decide what to do and how to do it. Beltway ideologues have already put a pugnacious Trump on the defensive over “Russia”, so his room for manoeuvre is limited.

Developing a clear and coherent position on Iran is just as delicate, especially after Trump had pledged to tear up the Iran nuclear deal. His primal aversion to Iran derives from a lack of familiarity, images of hardline mullahs, and limited contact with the Syiah sect.

Iran, however, can breathe a sigh of relief now that Lt-Gen Mike Flynn has been replaced as National Security Adviser. Flynn was exceptionally caustic about Teheran and dismissive of it.

Image result for Trump and Xi and North Korea

Since US-China ties are the world’s most important bilateral relationship, China should command most of Washington’s attention among all its foreign relations.The relationship was never pristine as Trump blamed China for currency manipulation and unfair trade terms. It crashed to a low after Beijing criticised Trump for speaking to the Taiwanese President, and Trump responded by questioning China’s core strategic interests.

China then moved to salvage the situation. President Xi Jinping spoke personally to Trump on the phone, followed by a visit to Washington by State Councillor Yang Jiechi to arrange a summit.

The White House is now planning to host Xi at Trump’s opulent Florida estate over April 6 to 7. Among the issues they will discuss is a lethally recalcitrant North Korea.

As expected, Trump will say China needs to do more to rein in North Korea, and Xi will say China is already doing all it can with this Jong-un of an upstart. On the economic front, matters may be less predictable but just as important.Trump may reach for a new deal with Xi in an early bid to establish his legacy in world trade. And nothing beats striking a new, productive deal with a rising China.

Elsewhere, Trump will be fettling the terms of new trade deals with various countries. These distinct new bilateral relations will be the “spokes” of a customised world trade wheel, with the US as the hub.

The question for Xi and Trump will be where China would be in the wheel, since it is too big to be just a spoke. The economic reality could be that China is fast becoming the axle for the entire wheel.

On the yawning trade deficit and colossal US debt, Trump will try hard to close the issues. Unlike most previous presidents, he sees their successful conclusion as a vital mission and a measure of his competence.

Given the circumstances, pledging to balance the budget and eliminate national debt in eight years as Trump did would be a fool’s errand. It may be no more than an incentive for voters to elect him for a second term.

Independent analysts expect Trump’s tax-cutting and public expenditure policies to add US$6tril (RM26tril) to US national debt over the next decade. At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office said Obama’s fiscal trajectory would have added US$10tril (RM44tril) debt over the same period.

Trump’s plan to cut taxes across the board is said to encourage business growth. This is expected to affect SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) if no other industry sector to expand their businesses.This approach to revive US industry is deemed conservative, but also somewhat unconventional. It is still trickle-down economics but in a different way.

Unlike most Republicans’ (and Democrats’) preference for encouraging corporations to expand abroad, reap economies of scale, multiply profits and then be taxed more on their higher turnover, Trump would cut taxes and encourage them to return home, hire more American workers and energise the economy that way.

This would mean less outsourcing abroad, fewer foreign relocations for manufacturing, more job creation at home and a healthier economy. Some of this has already begun.

Trump would also cut foreign labour content in the manufacture of US goods. This comes in restricting the entry of foreign migrants and the “export” of US jobs.

In the short to medium terms, this would see a measure of economic recovery as wages rise and consumption picks up. However, since the global economy is an integrated planetary entity, it would also mean higher prices for US goods and a decline in US competitiveness.

Developing sets of bilateral trade deals with various countries will also take time. Meanwhile, this region will see development of the ASEAN Community, besides the ASEAN-proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and the China-proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

The US will be without the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Other countries averse to this situation for their own interests must now learn to accept it.

Superpowers act in their own self interests and not out of a charitable impulse to assist another country. Smaller and less able countries may want to ally with a larger and more powerful one, but not vice-versa.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

Nothing to fear but the Fearmongers


March 25, 2017

Nothing to fear but the Fearmongers

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for geert wilders, marine LePen, and Trump

Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump and Geert Wilders– The Fearmongers

Possibly the best-known comment on fear is US President Franklin D Roosevelt’s attempt in his 1933 first inaugural address to encourage Americans facing the great depression with the ringing reminder that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

But of course what Roosevelt and many others who had expressed this sentiment before him actually meant was that what we have to fear is excessive fear.Because a moderate degree of fear, or at least caution, is essential to the maintenance of human, indeed all animal, life in the face of potential threats like hunger, thirst or physical assault.

So that, as a former Australian government sensibly advised its populace following the terrorist bombings in Bali bombings that killed a good many of its own and other countries’ citizens in 2002, it pays to be “alert, but not alarmed”.

This represented a most welcome change of attitude from the state of xenophobic paranoia if not outright panic at the imagined threat of being swamped by the so-called ‘yellow peril’ that until all too recently inspired the disgracefully racist so-called ‘White Australia Policy’.

However relatively less fearful my country has sensibly and mercifully become, though, ugly traces of old anti-other attitudes unfortunately persist in the disordered minds of at least a small minority of Australians, as witnessed by the existence of the appalling party that Pauline Hanson and her supporters call One Nation.

Or, as I prefer to think of the thing, One Notion, given that its sole policy and preoccupation appears to be the winning of a share of political power by promoting fears of ‘threats’ to Australia allegedly posed by the nation’s admitting and failing to assimilate ‘too many’ non-European, non-Christian immigrants and refugees.

In other words, it’s the same fear campaign that’s being waged around the world by right-wing, or in other words wrong-wing, parties and pressure groups like those headed by the likes of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France, and Donald Trump in the US.

Trump being, by dint of his pre-eminence as the President of the world’s richest, most culturally influential and most militarily powerful nation, by far the most dangerous of these and countless other leaders, or rather misleaders, who busily seek to seize or retain power by playing on the fears of their most racist, religionist or otherwise ignorant and insecure citizens.

And as regrettable as Trump’s exclusionary efforts are in theory, they’re even more ridiculous in fact. For example, his list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens he is determined to deny entry to the US illogically doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, of which most of the 911 terrorists were citizens, or Pakistan, the country whose secret police harboured Osama bin Laden while George W Bush was busy hunting him in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, his exclusion of selected Muslims for the purported purpose of protecting US citizens from terrorism is a spectacular case of errorism, given that home-grown citizen-on-citizen terrorism disguised as the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ costs infinitely more lives than imported terrorism could imaginably do, as US deaths by gunshot total some 30,000, or eight or nine times the toll taken by the 911 atrocity, every year.

And there is as little sense behind Trump’s claims that American jobs have been ‘taken’ by other countries, in light of the fact that the US has been the most tireless promoter of so-called ‘globalisation’, or in other words, US corporations’ exploitive export of production and other facilities to other, poorer countries in the pursuit of cheaper labour, expanded markets and thus fatter profits.

However little sense fearmongering makes, though, it will persist for as long as there are mongrels prepared to resort to it, and to demonstrate that it apparently works, as in the case of Trump’s recent election, for example, and the success of so-called ‘Brexit’ case for the UK to quit the EU.

It doesn’t necessarily work for very long

But there’s also ample evidence that it doesn’t necessarily work for very long. For example, despite his virtually writing the book on fear-mongering, Mein Kampf, in which he declared that “the art of leadership… consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention”, Adolph Hitler only managed to sustain his projected ‘Thousand-Year Reich’ for a decade or so.

On the other hand, however, today’s ultimate example of fearmongering, the North Korean regime’s terrorising and enslavement of its people by sustaining the pretense that it is still fighting a war that it lost over 60 years ago, continues to work after a fashion, though arguably only with China’s assistance.

And Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional (National Front) has sustained itself in uninterrupted power since 1957 by apparently taking a leaf out of Mein Kampf (My Struggle) and literally putting the fear of God into the majority of its subjects by pretending to ‘struggle’ to save not only their religion but also their race and royalty from attack by alleged enemies.

Enemies primarily including ‘the Jews’, George Soros and ‘The West’ in general, according to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his 22 democracy-crippling, rule-of-law-destroying and kleptocracy-creating years in office.

And now, with Najib Abdul Razak desperately defending his even more disastrous premiership, he and his BN accomplices are busy mongering even more frightful fears.

Borrowing or rather stealing Donald Trump’s concept of the spectre of ‘fake news’ to attempt to discredit inconvenient or incriminating truths about them and their crimes; fomenting or at least magnifying a fake ‘conflict’ against an allegedly hostile North Korea to foster faux-patriotism; and just for good measure, inventing untold other, unspecified ‘enemies’ to further terrify the timorous.

Image result for Najib Razak the Fearmonger

Playing with Imagined Malay Fears

According to BN’s own ‘fake news’ agency, Bernama, Najib recently “reminded the people regarding crucial matters which could destroy the country including being the country’s covert enemies or conspiring with the country’s enemies”, then continued with a litany of alleged lies and further confusion in the same vein.

Thus signifying that he’s absolutely terrified that someday a majority of Malaysians will finally find the courage to face the non-existent fears that have kept them in thrall to BN all these years, and throw these fear-mongers out on their ears.