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ASEAN is no NATO

 

Lee II Woo

Lee II Woo


Amid the global attention on the uncertainties of the global economy, if not the global order as we know it due to Brexit, commentaries and forecasts are left in a frenzy, leaving some to wonder whether the United States has now reaffirmed—if not been given the incentive—to act on its deepest desires to focus more on Asia as opposed to the West. Looking to adjust to a new reality while at the same time wishing to give assurances to old friends, public statements made—and not made—by elites have set a tone in which it has become common to question the validity of the “European project” if not the Western appeal at large.

Whatever one’s opinion may be regarding this milestone, perhaps it would serve us better had we muted the predictions about Asia now before they even reach such outlandish levels. With emotions and guesstimates running high, from China’s actions on the high seas to “terrorist refugees” and now Europe’s uncertain future, it has yet to be seen what in fact has actually changed or likely will change regarding the “Old World”, in addition to the one that apparently matters more for this century’s success—Asia.

The Same Old Song

To start, the overriding structures that have shaped the Far East have remained unaffected despite all the white noise from the West. As Donald Emmerson jokingly put it, when it comes to this place, the dynamics boil down to the Americans making the peace, soon followed by Asians making the money. Such crude generalizations remain intact especially when looking at the security nexus of this vast region. Looking beyond minor successes, such as American advancements between the Philippines and the Vietnamese, to partially-buried hatchets between the Japanese and South Koreans, U.S. presence and specifically its military presence, has continued to be the one constant for which nearly all parties—except the Chinese—can more or less agree upon.

Of course, it would be too naïve to think that this “pivot”, or “presence” or whatever else you want to call it was not without its faults. Obama’s economic centerpiece for the shift, the Transpacific Partnership, intended to bolster more inclusion in Asia, has only now entered the ratification process in an all but dysfunctional Congress. Not surprisingly, skeptical estimates have already begun; Barack Obama, like David Cameron, has just started his lame-duck session in office.

The West By Default?

Still, peering deeper into the security machinery America provides and for which Asia benefits, one would easily notice that ASEAN is nowhere near to becoming a NATO, and historical, if not territorial baggage remain across the board. Such hurdles would only distract from the commitments needed to increase complicated missions no doubt. Even with voluntary actions taken by those who talk a bigger game, such as Japan’s “upgrade” of its military to Indonesia’s uptick in peacekeeping missions, all may still find themselves out of sheer domestic constraints if not a profound risk aversion that has yet to be tested.

Would full-fledged American allies such as the Japanese and South Koreans be willing to put their troops in genuine harm’s way and for the long haul when operating in hot spots? Would they along with ASEAN members be willing to move beyond the supportive, hence politically safer roles they normally opt for? Apart from trying to dampen Chinese belligerence, what other meaningful commitments have Southeast Asian partners truly made for security assurances elsewhere? Common sense dictates that Asia, though important, is not the only vital area for which the world needs extra protection.

Though detractors would be right to point out that even the West has demonstrated its own failure to step up, such nitpicking of lower defense budgets and the West’s own version of risk avoidance would only miss out the bigger issue. If anything, when it comes to managing the global “public good”, potential partners in Asia appear to contribute when the circumstances align with their interests and not much more. Even if selfishness defines Western action, if not all action, what separates the Transatlantic connection as opposed to others is a storyline that underpins it all and for which the participants pay considerable respect. Call it “humanitarian-capitalism”.

This creed, foolish or not, is undoubtedly an essential ingredient in which the United States, Britain, France and other European partners have conditioned themselves for how they should function and should the opportunity arise. There’s just one problem. The Asia-Pacific has welcomed the latter with no guarantees on the former.

Of course, to give credit where credit is due, there have certainly been far-flung global assistance here and there. And yes, joint exercises and relief missionsthat should be applauded. But it is still open to discussion whether Asia as a whole, or even a specific nation within it is ready to take on that “special relationship” with America; to share that vision of not just what the world is, but what it ought to be while putting risky chips on the table for a cause beyond their own. This lack of impulse, to not just donate but to literally shape the world, regrettable to its disciples and delusional to its critics, is what differentiates the West and America in particular.

The Devil You Know

In the end, alarm bells will go off for some time as they always do when there is a perceived shakeup in world events. Whether the Brexit merits such a platform has yet to be fully known. What is known however is that the U.S.–British and European alliance, though imperfect, has been and will likely remain the more “reliable” partners in seeing through what Michael Ignatieff calls America’s burden: a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy.

Putting into context such grandiose and perhaps fanciful ideas, Asian associates would no doubt welcome America’s partnership—meaning protection—along with the prosperity it provides. It’s just that in this neighborhood, its own contribution to such an agreement should assist its own residents as opposed to a zeal to seek out progress for others—and that of course would be un-American.

Events

The U.S.-Japan Alliance Working in Kentucky – Panel and Sake Tasting

Wednesday, March 6th

Speed Art Museum, 2035 South Third Street, Louisville, KY

5:30 pm | Registration

6:00 pm | Panel Discussion

7:00 pm | Q&A with Audience

7:15 pm | Reception (with Sake Tasting)

Reception catered by Wiltshire Pantry with special Sake Tasting presentation by Ayako Nakajima, WAC’s Japan Outreach Coordinator!

Registration required – form can be located toward the bottom of this page or via this link.

This event is free for WAC Members and $20 for non-members.


About:

Japan has become the single-most important ally of the United States. For over 70 years, Japan has worked together with the United States to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, uphold our common values, and foster economic growth. The U.S.-Japan alliance has also served as the foundation to deepen and widen the U.S.-Japan relationship on multiple fronts, ranging from trade and economic relations to cultural exchanges, and the benefits of this relationship are seen across all regions of the United States, including in Kentucky.

This event will aim to improve understanding of Japan as America’s most important ally and as Kentucky’s strong partner. A panel of U.S. and Japanese experts from Washington, D.C. and a representative of a prominent Japanese company in Kentucky will examine important developments in today’s Japan with implications for U.S.-Japan relations, the depth and breadth of Japan-Kentucky ties, and the impact of Japanese business investments in Kentucky.

The event is co-hosted by Sasakawa USA and World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana as part of Sasakawa USA’s The Alliance Working in America Series, and in partnership with the East-West Center in Washington, and the Japan-America Society of Kentucky, and the World Affairs Councils of America.

Contact World Affairs Council will any questions at [email protected] or (502) 561-5422.


Panel Speakers

Ambassador James Zumwalt

Ambassador James Zumwalt became Chief Executive Officer of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA in February 2017. Ambassador Zumwalt was the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea Bissau from 2015 to January 2017. Previously, he was responsible for policy toward Japan and Korea as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asia Affairs. When the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck Japan in 2011, Ambassador Zumwalt was serving as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, where he coordinated the United States’ support for the Japanese Government’s response to that crisis.

During his 36-year Foreign Service career, Ambassador Zumwalt has served in a variety of assignments with a focus on Asia and international economics in Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, Kinshasa, Dakar, and Bissau. In Washington, D.C., he worked in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Japan, Korea, and Philippines desks and also at the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and the United States Trade Representative’s Office. He speaks Japanese, French, and some Chinese.

Ambassador Zumwalt received a master’s degree in International Security Studies from the National War College in 1998 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History and also in the Japanese Language from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979. He is from El Cajon, California and is married to Ann Kambara, a retired Foreign Service Officer who is now pursuing a second career in social work.

Dr. Satu Limaye

Dr. Satu Limaye is Director of the East-West Center in Washington. He is also a Senior Advisor at the CNA Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis organization located in Arlington, VA. He is the creator and director of the Asia Matters for America initiative, an interactive resource for credible, non-partisan
information, graphics, analysis and news on US-Asia Pacific relations and the national, state and local levels; Founding Editor of the Asia-Pacific Bulletin series, an editor of the journal Global Asia and on the international advisory council of the journal Contemporary Southeast Asia.

Dr. Limaye publishes and speaks on U.S.-Asia relations and is a reviewer for numerous publications, foundations and fellowship programs. Previously, he was a Research Staff Member of the Strategy and Resources Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and Director of Research and Publications at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), a direct reporting unit of U.S. Pacific Command.

He has been an Abe Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and a Henry Luce Scholar and Research Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo. He is a magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University and received his doctorate from Oxford University (Magdalen College) where he was a George C. Marshall Scholar.

Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama

Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama is the Japan Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He is also a Professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. He is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. He was a Special Correspondent for the Washington Post at the Far Eastern Bureau (1993-94), Special Assistant at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations in New York (1996-98), Senior Research Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs (2004-06), Associate Professor at Tsuda College (2006-10), and Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University (2010-14). He was also a CNAPS Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution (2005-06). He received his M.A.(1993) and Ph.D.(2001) from Aoyama Gakuin University. He has written two books and numerous articles on American politics, foreign policy, and international relations. He appears regularly on Japanese media. Writes a monthly column for Japan News. Recipient of Nakasone Yasuhiro Award (Incentive Award) in 2014.

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is a 31-year veteran of Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry and has worked for several of the top distilleries in the state.  A 20-year resident of Nelson County, he is currently employed by Beam Suntory (Jim Beam / Maker’s Mark) in Clermont, KY., where he works with state, local, and civic leaders as well as serving on several non-profit boards throughout the regional area.

Smith is currently serving on the Kentucky Chamber Executive Board and is on the Governors Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board where chairs their Business Engagement Committee.  He is Vice Chairman of the Flaget Memorial Hospital Foundation Board, Kentucky Distillers Association Board of Directors, on the Board of Directors for Greater Louisville Inc., and the Kentucky Tourism Industry Association Board of Directors.  He is also a member of the Bardstown Nelson County Chamber Board chairing the Workforce Development Committee and, on the Bardstown Nelson County Tourism Commission Board.

Previously Smith worked in the manufacturing and supply chain side of the bourbon business as Director of Operations / Plant Manager for Jim Beam and Vice President / Master Distiller for Maker’s Mark where he created Maker’s 46, the company’s first innovation since the original product in1953.  In addition to manufacturing, he has also promoted and represented the bourbon industry around the world conducting seminars, tastings, and media interviews for small and large audiences. In 2010, during his time as the Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark, Smith debuted as a judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America where the secret ingredient was…. you guessed it, Bourbon.