Aug 25, 2010

Muslim, Christian children join peace projec


Manila Bulletin
August 22, 2010, 3:43pm
The Manila Jaycees, Inc. (MJI), in partnership with the Asia America Initiative (AAI), joined the effort to foster understanding, respect among Christian and Muslim children in an event called "Building a Culture of Peace" in Makati City.
MJI and AAI invited about 60 Christian and Muslim children aged nine to 12 to participate in the project that occurred on a Ramadan day.
Their adult facilitators also taught them about the Islam's holy month.
Muslim children came from the Islamic community surrounding the Golden Mosque in Globo de Oro Street, while their counterpart Christian boys and girls were from the Herminigildo J. Atienza (Baseco) Elementary School in Tondo, Manila.
JCI's Laurence Ching, and chairman of the group's "Building a Culture of Peace Project," said it was the first time JCI organized such an event.
“JCI created the project after we learned of AAI's 'Caravan of Peace' program. JCI thought it was a good opportunity to come in and partner with AAI in trying to build peace among the children by planting in them understanding and respect," said Ching.
“If the young Christian and Muslim kids understand each other, then they will respect each other," he said.
Bai Rohaniza M. Sumndad-Usman, AAI country director for the Philippines, cited the significance of the program with JCI, in which the Binibining Universidad Peace Emissaries, Inc. (BUPEI), also participated.
“In Asia America Initiative, we want to emphasize the importance of building a culture of peace, especially with the young. I personally believe that in order to break the cycle of violence, we have to teach and guide the different generations on how they can be catalysts for peace themselves,” she said.

Aug 23, 2010

Q & A on Vietnam and the East Sea

Q & A with Mr. Santoli, founder and President of Asia America Initiative, by Ngoui Viet daily news, a Vietnamese language newspaper in Orange County, California:

1 - China recently sent a navy escorted survey ship to look for oil near Triton island (Paracel islands) only about 100 nautical miles to island of Vietnam. Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Department protested several times without prevail. Do you think China will continue do what they want at the area that Vietnam and China both claim sovereignty?

Santoli: China believes the entire East or South China Sea belongs to them based upon old Ming Dynasty conquests, the last time they had a global naval force. Ironically, they have become the new "Mongol Horde" [with Chinese characteristics, as the Communists always describe their military modernization of the modern times. Communism is a criminal organization that is empowered by abusing the people that their military police state controls. The best defense against such a force is human will power empowered by freedom and non-corrupted democracy. Free people can plan creatively. This is the importance of the Vietnamese human rights and democracy advocates, not only for the protection of Vietnam but for all the region that is threatened by Chinese Communists forces. That is why courageous and unselfish non-violent activists like my writing partner, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, in Vietnam must succeed for patriotic and historical reasons.

2 - Vietnam is right now too weak, too small to fight against the giant China, what can Vietnam do to protect their land and sea?

Santoli: The best way to stand up against China at this time is a regional alliance and the protection of the US, Indian, Taiwanese, and Japanese navies. The local countries that claim islands in the Sea should understand that China will try to divide and conquer them politically and militarily. But historically, true strength in Vietnam comes from the unity of all the people. So Communism and any other one-party tyranny must end and give way to popular governance and freedom.

3 – It seems an international meeting to resolve the East Sea (as Vietnam calls it or South China Sea as China calls it) problems may not easy to assemble because China’s objection. Also ASEAN members may be divided under the influences and scare tactics from China, so a conference between China and ASEAN to resolved the East Sea problem through diplomatic channel look like not easy to happen. Your opinion?

Santoli: A unified political resolution may be difficult because of the inherent greed and corruption of politicians and dictators. So for each country, such as Vietnam, there must be strong unity and will power of the people to stand up and resist. The United States navy is also needed to have a strong role. That also will require clear-sighted strategic and political will power in Washington and Hawaii where the US military has a lot of power for decision making in Asia. The US diplomats and military must not see dictators as allies, but continually work for encouraging democracy based on justice and international standards of human rights which most countries agree to in the United Nations covenant on human rights.

4 – China builds up their military might at a very fast speed. They have abundant resources to do it. They build a huge nuclear submarine base at Sanya (Hainan island), they brought a lot of tanks and airplanes to Woody Island (Paracel Islands), they are expanding Triton island (southern Paracel island), if they claim almost all the East Sea as their backyard lake and do whatever they want, will a war be inevitable with Vietnam sooner or later if Vietnam want to protect their interest?

Santoli: At this time, a large regional and international war including economic, political. electronic/cyber and weapons of mass destruction is possible in the coming years. However, deterence to a regional war could be possible if Communism and other forms of militant tyranny are ended by internal non-violent movements. Appeasement of the tyrants by their neighbors will not succeed. People must be strong through holding the "moral high ground" by democratic institutions. False democracy like Ho Chin Minh's murderous communist movement have ultimately weakened the Vietname people's strength and spirit. Historically in Vietnam, popular "people-power" movements have been a factor in defeating Chinese and Mongol invaders.

There is fear in Chinese Communist military-political circles that they are vulnerable to a popular revolt and their knowledge that their wealth is very fragile due to their corruption, reduced markets and lack of natural resources. The Chinese Communists will try to hold on to power, no matter how many people die, much as they abuse millions of Chinese people, Tibetans and other ethnic minorities they hake already conquered. This is where people's strong wills to resist tyranny -- even inside of China -- is so important.

Vietnam can help trigger a needed revolt against communist tyranny by the Chinese people by pursuing democratic reform that can spread like a forest fire to the majority of Chinese people of all nationalities inside of China who also want justice and human dignity. Confucius and Mencius are pioneers in the world of good responsible governance "with Chinese characteristics." Lao Tzu also emphasized harmony and peace in Taoism. Buddhism aught that revenge and lust for power are destructive human tendencies. And there are many Christian and "chi gong" groups like Falun Gong Chinese who courageously abide by peace even when persecuted and tortured by the Communists.

5 – The United Stated repeated several times that they don’t take sides in the conflict, an international solution is a wish of the Vietnamese government now. But to me, to see that comes, an armed conflict may happen first. Your opinion?

Santoli: Dictators and human bullies will always attack the weak and vulnerable, but will hesitate if their neighbors are strong and courageous. As the Chinese martial arts tradition says, "The weak can defeat the strong, with the right attitude and skillfulness." The Chinese military leadership knows this and will use corruption and bribery to keep its neighbors weak. This is why the democracy advocates in Vietnam like Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, the religious organizations and the Internet users and writers are true heroes of the Vietnamese people and in the world struggle for peace and justice, human rights and international security should not be separated.


Here is the original article in the Wall Street Journal:

China’s Aggression and Vietnam’s Legacy

Albert Santoli and Nguyen Dan Que

August 4, 2010

A war of words directed by Beijing’s toward its smaller neighbors and massive live-fire naval exercises in Southeast Asian waters has sent shudders through regional capitols. Beijing’s willingness to flex its muscles is to spit its “Dragon’s fire” against the United States and rival claimants, whose economic lifeline depends upon the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea.

China’s increasing military aggressiveness intends to back its claim that the entire South China Sea -- where close to 50 percent of all international trade must transit -- is exclusive Chinese territory. The islands, reefs and shoals of the South China Sea, potentially rich in gas and oil deposits, are also claimed by Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

On July 23, the ASEAN Regional Forum hosted in Hanoi was the stage for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to challenge Beijing’s claims. Calling freedom of navigation a “national interest of the United States,” Secretary Clinton called for a Code of Conduct by all claimants in the region.

Despite a 2002 regional code of conduct, the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded on their web site by stating “there is no need to internationalize the issue.” In terms similar to the Japanese World War !! “Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere,” Beijing’s official statement claimed that their dominance was in the interest “of all Asians.” Behind closed doors, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Yeichi accused the United States of “plotting against China.” Yang stared at an ASEAN Foreign Minister and stated, “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s a fact.”

Beijing backed its words on July 26 with a massive naval and air force exercise in the South China Sea, which its international media called “the largest in PLA history.” The July 26 China Global Times proclaimed, “ It is clear that military clashes would bring bad results to all countries in the region involved.” People’s Liberation Army Chief of Staff General Chen Bingde watched the operation and stated the nation must make "solid preparation for military struggle.”

At the Regional Forum press conference, in courting Hanoi for a military alliance, Mrs. Clinton was effusive in her praise of Vietnam’s dictatorial government. “The extraordinary economic progress, the strengthening of institutions that we’ve seen, are encouraging,” she stated. “Both South Korea and Vietnam are very important models for other countries around the world.”

Secretary Clinton should be praised for standing against a regional bully. But for a reliable alliance with Vietnam, the repressive and non-democratic system must be dealt with clear vision and purpose. Politically, Vietnam is far more similar to Beijing than to Washington. The regime continues to repress religious believers and dissidents who risk their lives their lives to advocate for democratic freedoms for the Vietnamese people. Free speech and internet communication is harshly suppressed. The corruption and self-interest of Communist elite in Hanoi has led to Vietnamese land, natural resources and maritime territory to be ceded to Beijing.

During the course of history what has inspired Vietnamese heroes to rise up against superior Chinese forces has been the respect generated by enlightened and respected leaders.
Ngo Quyen was the first national hero who stood up against China after a thousand years of colonization and declared independence in 938. In the 18th century, China once more invaded Vietnam and suffered a great defeat led by a peasant hero Nguyen Hue (King Quang Trung) . Against the Northern militarily much stronger, each time in danger, Vietnamese Kings and people united in high nationalist spirit, actively fighting side by side. To mobilize all the support from the masses, the Kings always let people participate directly and democratically in the decision making of any national policies as well as implementing them. Among the most famous democratic acts was the Dien Hong Plebiscite made by King Tran Nhan Ton who rallied all the people behind him for national salvation.

The power of consensus among all the stratums of the society has historically helped Vietnam preserve its independence. We must not forget the importance of democracy and freedom in Vietnam today as the most vital strength needed to defend against bullying from the North.

Albert Santoli is the President of Asia America Initiative and is the author of the best selling ”Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War.” Dr. Nguyen Dan Que is a dissident in Vietnam, who has received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Article: Human Rights and Armed Conflict

Other partner organizations are Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Amnesty International (AI), Asia America Initiative, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Human Rights Watch-Philippines,

Human rights handbook to shape military operations

August 13, 2010, 5:41pm

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) takes discipline in the military one notch higher with the release of the “AFP Human Rights Handbook,” which shall serve as the Filipino soldier's “bible” as he carry out the armed forces' internal security campaign.

A soft release of the AFP Human Rights Handbook was held Thursday afternoon at Camp Aguinaldo as the world celebrated the International Humanitarian Law Day

The AFP, which had to bear the stigma of the poor image of the military during the martial law days, is continuously hounded by charges of human rights violations. But the present AFP leadership is bent on showing the people that today's new breed of soldiers can be relied upon by the community.

Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., AFP public affairs office (PAO) chief, said with the release of the handbook, the Armed Forces takes a major step towards the institutionalization of human rights protection in the new paradigm of warfare it adopted.

“The publication of the Human Rights Handbook was made part of the lined up activities the AFP has been participating in as part of the nationwide celebration of the International Human Rights Law Month, which is being commemorated every month of August here in the Philippines," said Burgos.

The AFP Human Rights Handbook contains an introduction to the Philippine human rights experience – which touches topics such as “A Silent Problem in a Silent War”, the dilemma, source of confusion, misconception of human rights and human rights groups, human rights activities, the prejudices against the soldiers, and the need for a practical guide.
It also gives an analysis of the “soldiers as alleged human rights violators” and the rebels as “alleged human rights violators”.

On the protection and promotion of human rights, the handbook guides soldiers on methods of enforcing human rights and the rights of an accused and suspected person, a person during investigation, and a person on trial.

It also tackles issues as human rights violations under Commission on Human Rights (CHR) jurisdiction.

The AFP HR handbook further deals on the “Law of War for Armed Forces,” which teaches soldiers about non-international armed conflict, command responsibility, exercise of command, behavior in action, treating wounded, sick and missing person; prisoners of war, and particular provisions on specific weapons.

Most importantly, it serves as a practical guide to safeguard human rights of civilians and wounded or captured combatants during military operations, specifically: While not in combat, during combat operations, after an engagement, and steps to be undertaken when faced with human rights case.

In his speech during the event, AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo David explained the importance of publishing the HR handbook. “The publication of this 'soldiers’ manual' will become the Filipino soldier’s ‘bible’ in our internal security campaign. It is one of the new thrusts set by the AFP leadership in reinforcing existing mechanisms to ensure military discipline and respect for Human Rights,” said David.

“We also recognize that respect for human rights is at its core, a question of values at the individual level. For this reason, we are going to invest extensively in human rights education and values formation for our personnel… Each will not only know the content of the soldiers’ manual but will develop the moral conviction to practice it. Each will understand that respect for human rights is not incidental or secondary to mission accomplishment; it is a prerequisite to mission accomplishment,” he further added.

The AFP Chief issued a directive through Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, J7, to disseminate HR handbooks to major services command, unified commands, and AFP support services units and to use and maximize the handbooks as reference materials in all AFP training schools, the allotment of time for troop information and education of soldiers at all levels of command on the handbook content, and the submission of after activity reports to the headquarters on the implementation of the directive.

Burgos said the AFP human rights handbook embodies the military's thrust to move away from its past authoritarian image and build a new image that will fully embody the Armed Forces' constitutionally mandated role as protector of the Filipino people and the State.

Thursday's event, simultaneously done as the world celebrated the International Humanitarian Law Day, was participated by non government organizations (NGOs) such as the European Union-Philippine Justice Support Programme (EP-JUST) and the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC), which are all partner organizations in the publication of the manual. Other partner organizations are Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Amnesty International (AI), Asia America Initiative, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Human Rights Watch-Philippines, Karapatan, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and Sulong CARHRIHL.

Other personalities who witnessed the ceremony were Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR); Fr. Jun Mercado of Human Rights Advocates; and P/Supt. Gerardo Dia of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office.

Also part of the event was a short video clip by the primary authors depicting the writing procedures that the handbook underwent from conceptualization to publication.

Aug 12, 2010

Emerald Planet: The Inside Scoop with Asia America Initiative

On Feb 1st, 2010, Emerald Planet's Dr. Samuel Hancock interviewed Asia America Initiative's founder and president, Mr. Albert Santoli, regarding AAI and its various programs in the Philippines. Here is the TV segment (6 parts):

Aug 4, 2010

Global Perspectives of the International Team at AAI: Part 3

Director’s Introduction - Albert Santoli

Asia America Initiative is devoted to global peacebuilding, especially in the Asia Pacific region. In our field programs, such as the Philippines, we emphasize interfaith efforts between Muslims, Christians, and tribal peoples. In our Washington office, our intern research teams are comprised of students from many countries and cultures. At the conclusion of our summer session, AAI’s Washington interns that hail from Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, and the United States share their perspectives on the current global milieu and their hopes for the future. This is the 3rd installment of the series.

Commentary Part 3 by Vanessa Foo

The United States is the greatest symbol for democracy and liberty in the world. Even today, the attraction of “The America Dream” brings many foreign students and workers to its harbors. However, the past decade has shown entropy within the population and in the international reputation of the United States. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have exposed the flaws in U.S. foreign policy. In my opinion, U.S. policymakers are sometimes hindered by the lack of depth of information and future-mindedness. The 90s was consumed by a wave of short term, commercial dealings with the international community, and even today, many times, the U.S. lacks the foresight to implement long-term planning into its foreign policy and programs. As we have seen, spending gargantuan amounts of money on foreign aid is mostly ineffective and breeds further problems.

The U.S. places too much emphasis on the notion of democracy and institutions, often forgetting to realize the cultural aspects and historical traditions of the people they work with, and the depth of instability in those regions. A hundred years is just a page in the book of the thousand years of history many countries in Asia have had. There is a dichotomy here: While the U.S. preaches democracy and human rights, it often attempts to impose its own Western-brand of government on places like Afghanistan and Iraq, using indicators like Western-style elections to determine ‘success’ in a region. However, in doing so, it inhibits the people from taking actions from the grassroots level to rebuild their own society, based on their own beliefs and culture. Imposed democracy through unstable institutions is not real democracy.

The U.S. has needs to defend the core values from which the nation arose and that Americans (want to) believe in. The blunders of recent administrations have caused a loss of credibility within the American population and international community. Not only does the government have to reevaluate how it represents the values for which it is supposed to stand for, but apply these values of freedom, liberty and democracy to its foreign policies. In the South China Sea, the U.S. needs to stand up for freedom of the seas and disallow China from throwing its weight around in the region. China’s economic activities, such as basket deals with Southeast Asian nations, may peg the future of these states to China’s own success. Allowing China to control the strategic trade routes through the South China Sea will hurt U.S. influence and presence in the region and the stabilizing force that many countries rely upon. The diminishment of U.S. influence will have ripple effects through the global economy.

In the name of democracy, the U.S. needs to stand up for the rights of the people. This value needs to be promoted through foreign aid programs. Institutions and physical infrastructure are important, but the U.S. cannot let the voices of the people to get lost in the abstract notion that top-down democracy (such as Iraq and Afghanistan), democratic institutions and development must go hand-in-hand. Power plays and military force only generate fear and paranoia, and engaging in this dysfunctional downward spiral only breeds negative consequences.

By allowing communities a stake in their own futures and taking a flexible and open-minded approach, the U.S. can facilitate the building of international commonwealth where different cultures have their say with the goal of prosperity and peace for all. This will require dialogue and careful strategic long-term planning that incorporates the voices of tbe people at a grassroots level. While this is an idealistic view, I believe that it is the kind of world that we all need to aspire to.

Vanessa Foo
AAI Intern, Summer 2010
Saint Joseph's University'11

Global Perspectives of the International Team at AAI: Part 2

Director’s Introduction - Albert Santoli

Asia America Initiative is devoted to global peacebuilding, especially in the Asia Pacific region. In our field programs, such as the Philippines, we emphasize interfaith efforts between Muslims, Christians, and tribal peoples. In our Washington office, our intern research teams are comprised of students from many countries and cultures. At the conclusion of our summer session, AAI’s Washington interns that hail from Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, and the United States share their perspectives on the current global milieu and their hopes for the future. This is the 2nd installment of the series.

Commentary Part 2 by Amanda Leong

At the end of the 20th Century, the U.S. stood as the world’s sole superpower after having brought the former Soviet Union to its knees with its military and economic prowess. Europe was forming its unified financial markets and China had only just begun its economic and military transformation. Other big powers today like India and Brazil were also still developing then. At that time, the essential elements of the Reagan Administration’s success in ending the Cold War centered on: a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and a national leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities.

Unfortunately, today’s world demands that these elements be reconsidered to ensure democracy and equity within the world’s nations, as well as U.S. influence on global peace and security. Until post 9/11, America has played a vital role as the world’s policeman in maintaining peace and security outside its territories, mainly Europe, Asia and the Middle East. However, in view of burgeoning new threats such as terrorism, nuclear warfare and climate change in an increasingly porous world, it is imperative that the U.S. exercises its power prudently.

Joseph Nye and Richard Armitage’s “smart power” concept proves useful here as it involves picking the right tool or combination of tools –military, economic, political, social and/or cultural diplomacy – at the right time. With that, the onus of bringing about global peace and security lies no longer lies on state governments, but also on non-conventional actors such as international bodies, NGOs, business councils, schools and religious organizations etc. This helps to ensure that power and influence are projected in ways that are cost-effective as well as politically and socially legitimate.

With an increment of more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this summer, Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently announced that only a “small portion of the U.S. force…will begin to return home next year when an Obama administration deadline for the start of a troop pullout goes into effect.” While set at July 2011, Gates added that the rate of withdrawal is contingent on the security conditions in the country. Yet, as anti-American protests continue to surge in Kabul over the rising civilian death toll oftentimes caused by American or NATO military exercises, the administration ought to quickly relook and modify its strategy before the backlash spins out of control.

On the Korean Peninsula, there is also major instability based on potential aggression by North Korea in response to the South’s claim that the former was responsible for the March 2010 Cheonan sinking incident, The latter’s recent military exercises with the U.S, aimed at projecting a strong combined defense posture against the North has but also heightened the risk of belligerence from the nuclear state. Unfortunately, the U.S. government’s tightening of economic sanctions, alongside Secretary Clinton’s ruling out of any negotiations with the regime until it agreed to relinquish it nuclear weapons is likely to perpetuate this vicious cycle of antagonism, mistrust and non-cooperation, not forgetting how it has already pushed the regime further into alliances with other nuclear states such as China and Pakistan. With former President Kim Dae Jung’s “Sunshine Policy” to open relations with the North also having failed to bring the Communist regime to the democratic roadmap, one really wonders what possible track might be left that will bring respite to the country, economy and its people.

Theodore Roosevelt once contended that the U.S. is obliged to stop “chronic wrongdoing” for the simple reason that nobody else will do the job. At that time however, America was on the rise to becoming a world power, riding on its natural resources and industrial production might. Its system of democratic capitalism was also a shining model for the world, while Western Europe’s power was on the decline. Today, while many in the world may still regard America as “the indispensible nation” as Madeleine Albright puts it, the country seems to be in a similar situation that overstretched Europe had been in a century ago. As a world power with a historical legacy of democracy based on rule of law, I argue that the U.S. ought to diversify its foreign policy or risk losing its moral leadership stature in addition to the significant economic clout it has lost due to the recent financial crisis and its many prolonged global wars.

Here, I recommend that the U.S. consider engaging more non-state actors to help failed states progress towards the democratic roadmap, albeit one that the recipient countries must decide and come to a consensus based on their political beliefs and cultural identities. Unless the administration devotes more attention to civil society development and human empowerment, whether directly or indirectly, international peace and security will continue to remain as nebulous as it is now.

Amanda Leong
AAI Intern, Summer 2010

Global Perspectives of the International Intern Team at AAI: Part I

Director’s Introduction - Albert Santoli

Asia America Initiative is devoted to global peacebuilding, especially in the Asia Pacific region. In our field programs, such as the Philippines, we emphasize interfaith efforts between Muslims, Christians, and tribal peoples. In our Washington office, our intern research teams are comprised of students from many countries and cultures. At the conclusion of our summer session, AAI’s Washington interns that hail from Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, and the United States share their perspectives on the current global milieu and their hopes for the future.

Commentary Part 1 by Hish Omar

The United States, in my opinion, is currently in a position where it can really transition from being a world power to a global leader. Everyone expected President Obama to bring about a drastic change in US foreign policy, but so far the US approach has remained mostly unchanged. Except for a renewed call for dialogue—one that is backed by words, if not actions—the United States has demonstrated that it is unwilling to pay attention to the nuances of different global issues. In order for the United States to be perceived in a more positive light, it needs to start living up to the ideals that it espouses. Its perceived unquestioning patronage of Israel undermines its moral authority—all countries including Israel that need not be held accountable for their actions will always act in self-interest, regardless of the other parties that are affected.

A main problem with regard to international relations today is the inability of countries to listen. Perhaps this is because these relations have been shaped by a zero-sum, Us-versus-Them paradigm. What is lost then is the capacity for listening, of noticing that although it is important to remain true to the needs of your own side, you must also be aware that your actions can reverberate across multiple borders. This is especially true for world powers, as their footprints leave long-lasting, sometimes irreversible effects wherever they operate. The United States, Russia, China, and other current or upcoming world powers need to start listening and adjusting their policies accordingly, even as some of the younger ones test the limits of their growing influence.

In the region that encompasses Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, the area of Baluchistan, despite its strategic importance, has not been paid enough attention. It is a large region that juts into all three of the countries that were mentioned. While it is mostly a desert region, it may turn out to be a key area for the confluence of geopolitical interests over the next few years due to its access to the ocean. The trouble here is that Baluchistan itself is unstable, with sectarian conflicts between Sunnis and Shias destabilizing the region on all three sides of the national borders. It is also an area rich with natural resources, but its instability renders these resources inaccessible to interested parties. The already-strained governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran should work to stabilize the region, but either cannot do so or are unwilling to expend the resources necessary due to conflicts on other fronts or personal motivations of political players.

All issues are complex. To suggest that any party on one side of a conflict can be blamed unequivocally is dangerous, because it renders complexity into dichotomous narratives that exclude the possibility for mutual understanding. Instead, it must be remembered that responsibility can be spread across multiple parties, because then each party will know that it has to play its part in undoing damage and rebuilding ties. In my opinion, the USA needs to let Israel be responsible for its own actions, cease military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and renew calls for dialogue while living up to its own democratic ideals. China needs to accept that in order for it to become a respected global leader, it should start assuming the responsibility and accountability that comes with a leadership role and not intimidate its neighbors.

I would recommend similar actions to other world powers, but for the less influential countries, like in the ones in the ASEAN region, my hope is that they will do the best that they can with all the resources that they have. They, too, have a stake in this global endeavor and it is easy to assign blame entirely to world powers. We are often complicit in perpetuating the very systems that we condemn. A more perfect union is often spoken of here in the United States, and I feel that it applies to international cooperation as well. It is by acknowledging that we are imperfect, that there are narratives different from ours but nonetheless real to the people they speak of, that we will be able to find the solutions that we need to move forward in this global age.

Hish Omar
AAI Intern, Summer 2010