February 12, 2005


Asia comfortable with US in the age of terror (Greg Sheridan, 10feb05, The Australian)

SO here's the scenario. A conservative prime minister, much reviled by the liberal press and disliked personally by all the left-wing intelligentsia, sends hundreds of his country's troops to Iraq in support of the US operation there and in the next general election wins a victory far beyond expectations.

John Howard, right?

No, the scenario was played out by Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand last weekend.

The Thai election should have received a lot more attention. Thailand is important to us. With 65 million people, it is as big as any European Union member except Germany. Its economy, the second largest in Southeast Asia, is growing faster than any in East Asia except China. And it has signed a free trade agreement with Australia.

Now, I don't want to be too cute with the Thaksin/Howard comparison but there is something in it worth noting. Thaksin did not send troops to fight the Iraq war, but despite its being generally unpopular he did send two consecutive troop deployments of 450 soldiers for the peacekeeping phase. And despite some Thai fatalities he did not bring his troops home until the scheduled end of the second six-month deployment.

This is a fascinating detail to observe. All of the US's East Asian allies and de facto allies ended up adopting the same or similar positions. Australia, as the most intimate and active US ally in the region, sent troops to the combat phase as well as the peacekeeping phase. The other US allies did not send troops to the combat phase but offered political support to the US and sent troops for peacekeeping.

The South Koreans sent more than 3000, the Japanese several hundred. Even the Filipinos sent a small contingent which they tragically withdrew as a result of terrorist intimidation.

Far from Howard's support of Bush alienating us from Asia, Howard took an absolutely orthodox Asian position, for an ally of the US, on Iraq.

Only someone who completely misapprehends the world and its future would fret that France and Germany hate us when the Asian nations are siding with us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2005 6:23 AM

France and who?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at February 12, 2005 12:01 PM