Academic journal article Global Governance

Asia, U.S. Primacy, and Global Governance

Academic journal article Global Governance

Asia, U.S. Primacy, and Global Governance

Article excerpt

The Bush administration faces mounting criticisms about its war in Iraq and post-September 11 agenda. (1) The period since late 2001 has witnessed a striking dissipation of worldwide sympathy for America and a growth in popular resistance to U.S. power--hard and soft. (2)

Differences, dissent, and diatribe emanate from some of Washington's closest allies, notably France and Germany, as well as from the developing world. Asian states, while diverse, provide examples of the possible implications of post-September 11 diplomacy. Public opinion polls indicate that suspicion and resentment against the United States have grown in countries ranging from South Korea, China, and Malaysia to Thailand and Indonesia. Yet these sentiments exist in parallel with admiration of the preeminent United States, a fundamental ambivalence captured in a now well-known saying, "Yankee, go home ... and take me with you." (3)

The attitude of Asian states cannot be equated with that of "old Europe." Indeed, they have largely been responsive to U.S. concerns in the aftermath of the tragic attacks of September 2001. Even on the question of Iraq, despite considerable negative popular opinion and rhetorical protests, the majority of Asian states (with the notable exception of Malaysia) have acquiesced to American wishes or sought to at least contain their differences. Nor have they sought, as some European states have, to focus on the UN and to emphasize the rule of law in global governance and security.

These responses betray underlying attitudes to global politics and institutions. Most Asians are content to be involved in the UN and seek to use it to legitimize or delegitimize actions. However, where U.S. and UN interests diverge, many Asian states seek accommodations with American power. There is no overriding commitment to multilateralism and the UN per se. Faced with America's primacy and show of force, Asian states have sometimes emphasized regional cooperation, and thus Asia's commitment to global institutions is likely to further weaken.

And so, what are the implications for global governance when considering Asian approaches to the post-September 11 world? More particularly, how does the world organization fare?

Accommodating American Power

Consensus and sympathy for the unilateralist instincts of the United States have worn thin over time, especially concerning Iraq. Security Council Resolution 1511 on the postwar governance of Iraq has papered over some issues but has not resolved underlying tensions.

Concretely, how have Asians responded? There has been no collective statement about September 11 by all East Asian states. Only the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously condemned the violence that day as an "attack against humanity and an assault on all of us" (4) and rallied to support U.S. antiterrorism efforts. (5) A typology may be offered between states that are "staunch allies," "along for the ride," and "protesting too much."

Staunch allies are "frontline" supporters of U.S. actions and have been proactive domestically. In the Philippines, for example, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has allowed U.S. troops to conduct joint counterterrorism military exercises in the south of the country. On Iraq, Manila gave an early and unequivocal "yes." On a brief visit to the Philippines in October 2003, President George W. Bush promised to "help the country weed out terrorism." (6)

Other staunch supporters have been Japan and Singapore. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Japan promptly dispatched its Self-Defense Forces to participate in Afghanistan by providing logistical support and intelligence to U.S. counterterrorism military operations--going beyond past practices premised on its post-World War II constitution. (7) Singapore authorities arrested over thirty Jemaah Islamiah operatives in 2002, two-thirds of whom were arrested after Bali, and have since uncovered a Southeast Asian-wide network of terrorist groups linked to Al-Qaida. …

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