This week the third in the Lowy Insitute Paper series, published by Penguin, was released. Condemned to Crisis?, by former ONA analyst and Indonesia specialist Ken Ward, examines the Australia-Indonesia relationship and argues that Australian governments need to be more realistic about the prospects for the relationship with what has long been seen as Australia's most important neighbour. The Interpreter has kicked off a debate on the Paper. Aaron Connelly, the Institute's East Asia Fellow, was the first reviewer:
If Australia and Indonesia are 'condemned to crisis' and cannot reasonably aspire to a strong friendship, should Australia continue to invest time, money, and effort in a better relationship? Should its embassy in Jakarta remain its largest in the world, with a new consulate to be opened soon in Makassar? Should it continue to spend hundreds of millions in aid each year on Indonesia? Should Australians study Indonesian in school and work harder to learn more about their northern neighbour? Should Australian companies, as Julie Bishop has argued, step up investment in Indonesia and trade with Indonesia?
Hugh White also weighed in, saying that considering the changing regional security and economic order, the Indonesia relationship will only grow in importance for Australia:
These thoughts might nudge us towards some conclusions a little different from Ken's. In particular it might lead us to ask whether the relationship with Indonesia will become more important to us in future than it has been in the past, presenting both bigger risks and bigger opportunities.
If so, then perhaps we should not be as content as Ken appears to be with a relationship which is somewhat better managed but not essentially different from the troubled one we know today. In turn, that suggests Australian policymakers should put higher priority on changing the basics of the relationship rather than just managing it.
In her review, Greta Nabbs-Keller pointed to Ward's efforts to combat the 'cultural differences' argument:
Importantly, Ward dissects the 'cultural differences' argument, long assumed to be at the heart of ongoing tensions between the two countries. By comparing Indonesia's equally thorny relations with neighbours Malaysia and Singapore, two countries which share much closer cultural affinities with Indonesia, Ward demonstrates how Jakarta's acute sensitivity about its sovereignty and territorial integrity are key causal factors behind Indonesia's political differences with its neighbours.
Robert Kelly continued his assessment of history and political issues in North East Asia:
The Korean, and Chinese, moral positions on the war and Japan's empire are correct. But a great deal of politics has enabled surprising Japanese recalcitrance. While no one expects moderation from the Chinese Communist Party, South Korea might smooth the path by rolling back some of its most maximal positions, such as points 3 and 4 above. None directly impact South Korean security or growth. All would strip the political cover from Japanese conservatives who claim 'Korea fatigue' as cause to reject concessions.
Drawing on a somewhat forgotten episode in economic history, Stephen Grenville reminded us that we can learn lessons about Greece from Indonesian debt restructuring in 1966:
This highlights the big difference between Indonesia in 1966 and Greece in 2015. In Indonesia, there was full agreement and 'buy-in' on what should be done, and the key objective was to get the economy functioning normally. There was also a realistic view of how much 'structural' reform could occur. The answer was 'not much'. Three decades later, when Indonesia got into trouble again during the Asian financial crisis, the IMF identified many still-unfixed structural faults: cronyism, inefficient state-owned enterprises, an ill-supervised banking system and of course the famous clove monopoly. But in 1966, it was enough to get the economy moving forward again at a brisk pace (7% per year for the next three decades).
The US-Australian military exercise Talisman Sabre concluded this week. Euan Graham on the new additions to the exercise this year:
The embedding of Japanese and New Zealand contingents with the US Marines and ADF respectively was the most noteworthy innovation to Talisman Sabre 2015, lending the core bilateral format a loose quadrilateral aspect. It remains to be seen how significant this is as a precursor for wider defence cooperation involving two of Washington's traditionally reticent Pacific allies. But China is likely to have taken note, regardless of whether a strategic signal was intended or not, and despite official assurances that Talisman Sabre is not aimed at third countries.
An excellent post from Trish Nicholson on the importance of expressing and understanding narrative in aid and development:
Insisting that 'stories matter' is not simply a novelist's whim. A growing body of research shows that stories increase empathy and understanding; they affect our attitudes and judgements. Oliver Sacks' career choice was not influenced by hearing his medico parents discuss case histories at the dinner table, but by listening to them telling the human stories of those patients. His storytelling has enlightened millions of readers on the complexities of brain science. He wrote in his autobiography: 'I suspect that a feeling for stories, for narrative, is a universal human disposition going along with our powers of language'.
What is the ultimate strategy of ISIS? Hussain Nadim says it may be to turn Western governments against their Muslim populations:
The major purpose of radicalising young Muslims in the West is to inspire attacks on Western soil. But the real target is not Western society or its people. Attacks in Western cities may on the surface appear to be targeted against Western culture and ideology, but in reality these attacks are directed at the Muslim communities living in the Western world. ISIS understands that such attacks will spur a backlash against Muslims, thus alienating and isolating them in Western societies. If Muslims living in the West are alienated by both Western governments and their people, radical anti-Western discourse will start making sense to them.
Also, with what is believed to have been an ISIS suicide bombing in the Turkish town of Suruc last week, Lauren Williams says that Turkey may finally be forced to confront the threat on its borders:
Yet many feel that more could and should have been done to combat the group sooner, and evidence continues to emerge that Ankara has allowed ISIS to entrench itself in Turkish border areas, even given its members safe haven to the Islamists inside Turkish territory. Thousands of foreign fighters have crossed through Turkey to join ISIS over the last few years, fuelling accusations that the government is turning a blind eye. Recent reports have circulated, notably a leaked memo from Turkey's national police, that point to evidence of ISIS 'sleeper cells' at work throughout the country and along Turkey's border with Syria.
Are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders changing the political debate in the US? James Bowen:
For all the weight that has been attached to the impressive crowds and polling results Trump and Sanders have attracted so far, the most likely outcome still appears to be for the primaries process to turn out two thoroughly establishment candidates, as it has reliably done in years past. Nonetheless, the concerns brought to the surface by the two outliers could still have a significant impact on the public debate and on the contest between the eventual candidates. So too could the newly empowered black rights movement.
Vanessa Newby takes us through the history of US involvement in Iran, primarily in encouraging its democratisation:
For a long time Iran turned to America to help free it from its imperial overlords, particularly Russia and Britain, until the fateful Mossadeq Affair in 1953, which constituted the initial breach of trust between the two countries. Later events hardened attitudes on both sides; Mohammed Reza Shah tried to play the Americans over oil prices, a tactic which ended in disaster when the US changed tack and began to ally more closely with the Saudis (somethingAndrew Scott Cooper details superbly in The Oil Kings). The final blow was struck during the 444 days of the American hostage crisis. Thereafter, the bitterness set in.
Roman David and Ian Holliday with an analysis of Aung San Suu Kyi's political calculus and choices in the lead up to the election in Burma later this year:
A representative survey we conducted in the final two months of 2014 in Myanmar's two main regions (Yangon and Mandalay) and three of its ethnic states (Kachin, Kayin and Shan) confirmed that her domestic support remains solid. She is trusted by almost two-thirds of respondents, building clear majorities among men and women, urban and rural dwellers, and the well and poorly educated. Across ethnic groups and in distinct parts of the country there is also trust for Suu Kyi. Moreover, the National League for Democracy (NLD; which remains her political vehicle) was selected by 52% of prospective voters, leaving far behind the governing (and military-backed) Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) with 19%, as well as ethnic parties grouped together with 23%.
Jokowi may have taken a holiday at an opportune time in order to gain some control of his cabinet reshuffle, writes Catriona Croft-Cusworth:
Megawati Sukarnoputri, Jokowi's party leader, placed a sign outside her residence in Jakarta announcing that she would not host an open day on the first day of Lebaran. Nonetheless, a stream of influential people stopped by her house to pay their respects. One person of influence who was notably absent was President Jokowi, who broke tradition by leaving the capital for the holiday to celebrate in the far western province of Aceh.
Commentators saw the move as an attempt to avoid meeting with Megawati before announcing a cabinet reshuffle. The current cabinet line-up, like the rest of Jokowi's decisions as president, has been criticised as showing too much influence from Megawati. To avoid the label of being Megawati's 'puppet', Jokowi wants to show that the next cabinet will be formed at his discretion alone, observers say.
Elliot Brennan on the rise of piracy in Southeast Asia:
Many worry about an increase in insurance premiums. Lessons from Somalia indicate that we should be worried about far more than just the economics. Wealth gained from such piracy in Somalia supported increased criminality and the terrorist activities of Al Shabaab. If such activities are allowed to continue unchallenged the region may face similar problems.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user G20 Australia 2014.