In the Straits Times today, there was an unusual amount of attention paid to the US, and an unusual amount of it was unusually unflattering.
The Singaporeans seem to be fans of the US for the most part, and as if to press the point, the Straits Times often features a sort of G.I. Joe rah rah shot of US soldiers in action. In fact, if anyone in Singapore is embarassed about the US, Bush, etc., it’s the American ex-pats themselves. It’s worth noting, for example, that I only met Thavy when she intervened on my behalf a couple weeks ago at Insomnia, to tell a very drunk Bush-hating Sri Lankan fellow to piss off. Anyway, a number of op-ed pieces in Today’s review section scratched a bit of the shine off the ol’ USA.
One piece noted that during the recent Asean summit, the US was surprisingly absent as a topic of conversation. When the US came up at all, it was in a pretty unflattering light. There were mentions of Bush’s refusal to sign the Kyoto environmental protocol, for example, as well as his failures with respect to the Muslim world.
The article made reference to George Soros’s book, The Bubble of American Supremacy, which argued that “American efforts to be the ultimate global superpower will not only be unsuccessful but will make America and the world infinitely more unstable.”
The Times piece went on to talk about how the only superpower that seemed to matter to the Asean summitteers was China. The notion that China will surpass the US as the world’s premier superpower is certainly not a new one, but with the US dollar sliding almost as quickly as Bush’s popularity, China could take the lead much sooner than most Americans would like to believe.
Another piece today, entitled “An Asian Wishlist for Washington”, focused heavily on a call to the US to reach out to the Muslims of Asia, where Islam, the author states…
“is different from Islam in the Middle East. In South-east Asia, Islam has always been practised in a more tolerant manner. The US therefore has a better chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Muslims in South-east Asia than in any other region of the world. The best way for the US to engage the 250 million Muslims in South-east Asia is through the framework of democracy and rule of law.”
I’m sure few Americans are aware that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.
There were a whole host of other issues on the wishlist, including laments about recent tightening of visa policy in the US, the China-Taiwan situation, and the democratisation of Myanmar.
The third and final piece was a general call for the US to more actively and cooperatively engage the Asean nations.
It will be interesting to see how far in the wrong direction Bush’s isolationist, America-first policy takes the US in the next four years.