May 24, 2007

Challenges Ahead For Cameron Hume

U.S. Ambassador-designate to Indonesia Cameron Hume promised in front of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to win Indonesia's support for key U.S. foreign policy goals, including support on the Iranian nuclear row, Middle East conflicts and on the Myanmar (Burma) problems. Cameron Hume's complete statement before the U.S. Senate Commitee on Foreign Relations can be found here.

Cameron Hume might be in for a rude awakening with his overly optimistic assessment of Indonesia's meditation abilities. A further independent assessment will reveal that an intricate web of cultural, ethnic and religious undertones underscore the reasons why Indonesia has so far failed in their bid to assume the role as the Muslim world's peacemaker.

The Indonesians can be fully expected to embellish their credentials though in exchange for financial aid and it really irks me to see a diplomat or anyone for that matter fall into that trap. That old adage spoken by Ronald Reagan "Trust but verify" not only saves face but helps to gain respect in the long run.

And despite what Indonesia's current government has to say, Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise thoughout the country. Logic would seem to dictate that we use our efforts to stem the tide of fundamentalism in the country before we contribute more financial aid, or in the alternative we at least have the common sense to link the two together and make clear to the Indonesian government that "progress" includes efforts to stem fundamentalism.

With regards to Aceh, yes the tsunami was terrible and yes the United States and countless other countries contributed billions of dollars in aid much of which went missing due to corruption. While the corruption in Aceh might now be ebbing, I'm quite sure there are a lot of Americans who might question having their taxpayer dollars spent to establish a Islamic Caliphate there.

On to Iran, Indonesia's ties to Iran are not as close as the Indonesians would have Western diplomats believe. Any reliance on Indonesia to help ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons and the delivery systems to match is nothing more than an exercise in futility. All roads lead to Pakistan if the West is ever going to be serious about stopping the ongoing orgy of proliferation that continues to this day.

Likewise, Indonesia will have little luck helping to convince Myanmar to embrace democratic reforms. America and the West's inconsistancies in dealing with rogue nuclear states has only enboldened Myanmar's military rulers into following the lead of other "pariah states" such as Iran, North Korea and Pakistan in an effort not just to legitimize their totalitarian rule, but to extort financial aid and incentives from America and the West. If it can work for Iran and North Korea and Pakistan then why not for Myanmar?

Unlike Sudan, an understanding of the dynamics of Indonesia and the region is an essential prequisite in helping them to move forward.


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