DILI, Timor-Leste — Security sector reform (SSR) is a vital part of state-building, especially in Timor-Leste, a country that came close to civil war in 2006. Significantly, though, few Timorese political leaders interviewed about the issue wanted to speak about one of the highest priorities for the U.N. Mission in Timor-Leste: completing — and, by extension, to some degree implementing — a comprehensive security sector review. Neither the review nor the overall role of the U.N. in SSR was raised in any of World Politics Review’s meetings with politicians in Timor-Leste. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Dili-based foreign diplomat […]

Burma’s Suu Kyi an ‘Ambassador of Conscience’

Amnesty International has named Burma’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the 2009 recipient of its Ambassador of Conscience Award. Her selection, AI Secretary General Irene Khan said, is a reflection of her status as “a symbol of hope, courage and undying defense of human rights, not only to the people of Myanmar but to people around the world.” Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won elections in 1990. But the military refused to recognize the results, instead opting to unleash a campaign of brutal repression against dissent that continues today. “The Lady,” as her followers adoringly […]

Managing China’s Growing Assertiveness in the South China Sea

While the U.S. military remains preoccupied with ongoing operations in the Middle East, competition brewing in the South China Sea risks greater conflict if not properly managed. Two recent maritime incidents in the region involving the Chinese and American navies are manifestations of ongoing jockeying between the two powers, and are a reminder that subtle shifts in power have put new areas of Asia into play. In March, Chinese naval vessels harassed an American reconnaissance ship, the U.S.N.S. Impeccable, 75 miles off the coast of Hainan island, and in June, a Chinese submarine stalking a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with […]

ASEAN Approves Human Rights Body

Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers officially signed off on plans Monday to set up a human rights commission at a meeting of the regional organization. The decision creates the region’s first human rights body, but some supporters and human rights groups are disappointed over the severe limitations placed on it. “There are a few countries in ASEAN that are among the most repressive in Asia, if not the world. I could never see how this group could ever agree on anything with teeth,” Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director told the Financial Times. Since some members […]

Signals to Asia in Clinton’s Speech

For some reason, my thoughts keep coming back to this brief passage from Hillary Clinton’s speech yesterday, following her discussion of NATO: At the same time, we are working with our key treaty allies Japan andKorea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines and other partners tostrengthen our bilateral relationships as well as trans-Pacificinstitutions. We are both a trans-Atlantic and a trans-Pacific nation. It’s little more than a boilerplate reiteration of a geopolitical reality that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. But it comes at a time when many of our Asian allies have begun to wonder whether our […]

When I taught American foreign policy, I always began my lectures on Vietnam by showing the class Lesson No. 9 from “The Fog of War,” Errol Morris’ penetrating documentary about former Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara. The lesson? In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil. Undoubtedly, that contradictory logic has justified some of the United States’ most ferocious acts abroad. The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the bombing of North Vietnam, are two extreme examples. Immediately after the clip ended, I would survey the 40-odd college students’ faces looking up at me […]

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has won another five-year term in office, signaling voters’ rejection of opposition campaigns that promised tough government and promoted nationalism and big business interests. A craving for stability and success in holding regional terrorist threats at bay, coupled with a comparatively sound economy, was behind the victory. The election, widely viewed as free and fair, was also considered a major step forward for the democratic process in the world’s largest Muslim country. “My first step will be recovering the economy,” the 59-year-old president told reporters. Pre-electoral polls had forecast that Yudhoyono, or SBY as he […]

As a kid, I was constantly subjected to fear-mongering on population growth, which was not only out of control, but certain to lead to widespread conflict, political repression, and freakish efforts at human survival. (“Soylent Green,” anyone?) Now, in my middle years, I find myself increasingly assaulted with the opposite “dangers”: too few babies, and a rapidly and unevenly aging world. Somehow the dire predictions of what the consequences will be have remained the same. Funny how that works! Some things we know intuitively from our history, both personal and global. An easy example: In the modern world, single men […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — As the roughly 171 million Indonesians eligible to vote get ready to elect their new president, their choice is likely to steer the future trajectory of Indonesia well beyond the next five years. This election is likely to be the last dominated by figures who played a role in the New Order regime, as former dictator Suharto’s tenure from 1965 to 1998 was called. Incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, 59, heavily favored to gain re-election, will not be allowed to run for a third term should predictions of his victory prove correct. Besides Yudhoyono, only vice-presidential candidate […]

To critics of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Burma has long served as proof of the organization’s ineffectuality. For decades, the country’s ruling junta has suppressed democracy, oppressed its people, and ignored global calls to observe human rights. ASEAN member nations have previously been reluctant to apply economic sanctions to Burma because of a founding agreement not to intervene in the affairs of fellow members. But with the current trial of democracy advocate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi drawing widespread international condemnation, ASEAN once again faces a critical test in its quest for legitimacy. The time […]