Nassef is a lifelong learner of comparative study between Islam and International Relations. He co-founded the International Relations and Islamic Studies Research Cohort (Co-IRIS) and founded the Philippine International Studies Organization (PhISO).
Master in International Studies' Comprehensive Examinations
University of the Philippines-Diliman
August 17, 2009
A. Question number TWO (ASEAN Affairs):
The presence of State Secretary Hillary Clinton at the ASEAN Regional Forum Senior Officials Meeting was partially intended to send the signal that the United States was “back” in Southeast Asia. What is the significance of this message to the countries in Southeast Asia? What does it illustrate at how international relations is framed in Southeast Asian affairs?
The presence of State Secretary Hillary Clinton at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Senior Officials Meeting sent a significant message to the Southeast Asian countries that the US hegemony will remain strong in the region despite its experiences from the effects of a financial crisis and economic recession, and also, to counter the rising dominance and power of China in Southeast Asia as an arbitrary balancer, so to speak.
This manifestation debunks the ‘Declinist School of thought’ originated from the work of Paul Kennedy, which stipulates a reduced or declined in the legitimate power of the United States in the world, and soon will be in counter-hegemony with the European Union, China, India, Russia or even Brazil through balancing, bandwagoning, hedging, leash-slipping among these actors in the international system.
The event justified the empirical findings presented by Charles Krauthammer in his work “The Unipolar Moment” concomitant with Stephen Krasner’s Unilateralism. These two views emphasized the legitimacy and power of the US hegemony encompassing space but delimited in a given time period, i.e., from the post-Cold era to the present.
As embedded in the 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States, two specific premises were constructed: 1) to promote freedom, justice, and democracy; 2) to lead the nations of the world to uphold democratic ideals in its governance. These two principles embody the US foreign policy in its conduct and promulgation.
John Gerard Ruggie’s “Constructing World Polity” argues that the US action in the ARF meeting was a manifestation of adhering to the ideals of Multilateralism as opposed to the propositions purported by Krauthammer and Krasner. It is a stealth Unipolar and unilateral action. Because of the US economic recession and the unpopular legacy of the Bush administration, Pres. Obama and his team has no other way but revived the US legitimate hegemony in the international community.
The Secretary of State is busy strengthening the US relations in every part of the world especially in the Muslim world. One of which is strengthening its political and security relations with the countries in the Southeast Asia through the channel of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Continuing the fight against terrorism, pressuring Myanmar regarding the Suu Kyi’s case, and conducting its ‘Grand Strategy’ in the region.
Employing joint military exercises with the Philippines, Indonesia, and now Vietnam. The US sent military officials and soldiers in Laos and Cambodia to teach with their counterparts of the use of the English language – a similar strategy when they emancipated the Philippines educational system by sending soldiers as teachers for the Filipinos. They enhanced its military and defense relationship with Indonesia because according to American think tanks, they foresee the dominant (leadership) role of Indonesia in the region with their vast resources – demography, strategic land areas, and economic capabilities by 2020s.
A part of this grand strategy are the US-India nuclear partnership, the US-Japan Theater Missile Defense (TMD) treaty and helping Japan to become one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and the US hedging engagement with China through building military partnerships with China’s neighbors (to contain its hegemony in Asia) while maintaining strategic economic relations with China.
Consequently, with these underlying occurring events, the international relations in Southeast Asia is becoming highly complex interdependence as Charles Doytes’ “transactionalism” explained based from Keohane’s and Nye’s “Power and Interdependence,” but with an additional element on Doytes studies; the US is building a security community in Southeast Asia.