Monday, November 19, 2007

The ASEAN Debate

A real test of the strength of the "neo-Westphalian" idea--that countries stay out of the "domestic affairs" of other states and limit what they bring up between each other to the enforcement of their contractual obligations--is underway with ASEAN.

ASEAN wants Myanmar to make progress on reform but doesn't support using sanctions. Nor will ASEAN expel Myanmar (Burma) from its ranks.

The willingness of the U.S. or the EU to sign trade deals with ASEAN as a bloc is called into question as long as Myanmar is a member in good standing.

The Philippines sent a strong signal when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared her country could not ratify the ASEAN Charter--which aims to turn ASEAN into a rules-based regional organization--as long as things remained unchanged in Burma.

Interestingly, the Japanese sent a different message--one which shows Tokyo's difficulties in balancing between its American and Asian imperatives--about not wanting to take a position on sanctions.

Essentially, the debate in Singapore revolves around whether oppression of your citizens at home makes you an unreliable partner abroad--and whether you can be trusted to carry out the obligations of your international contracts. Clearly, no one answer is coming out of the summit.

Not surprising that this debate is taking place at ASEAN. Did you see David Rivkin's interview with Kissinger in WSJ?

He pointed out that the world we have known for 300 years now -- the "Westphalian" international system that arose after Europe's wars of religion and is based on the nation-state -- is "collapsing." This may be a much more profound shift than the move from dynastic to national motivations following the 1814-15 Congress of Vienna (about which Mr. Kissinger has written) and a more serious challenge to international stability than that posed by states such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. The nation-state is weakening in Europe, he observed, and has met with mixed success in other parts of the world. "Only in Russia, the United States and Asia can it be found in its classic form."
Yes, and all those states (Russia, Korea, China, Japan, Vietname, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos) are essentially tribalistic states - the race/blood-line defines membership in the state.

This also is true for Senegal.

Most other states in the world do not fit that model.

But there was international relations among states in other parts of the world - see the Indian Ocean basin before the European peneteration of that area.

So there are historical precedence that are not well publicized.
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