How America Loses Asia

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 15, 2017

Turkey’s Warning for America: Rachman

Some of the ways in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has rolled back freedoms should sound alarm bells in Trump’s America,” writes Gideon Rachman ahead of Erdogan’s expected visit to the White House on Tuesday.
“Given enough time, any democratic system is vulnerable to assaults from a determined, dictatorial leader. Mr Erdogan became prime minister in 2003 and, over time, utterly changed his country,” Rachman writes in the Financial Times.
Meanwhile, “Turkey’s bitterly partisan politics have ensured that Mr Erdogan has always had a firm block of political support for his actions, no matter how outrageous.”

  • Want to better understand the current mood in Turkey? Try watching its TV shows for clues, suggests William Armstrong in the New York Times. And take note of the popularity of “Dirilis: Ertugrul,” which “has described medieval campaigns waged by Turks against Christian enemies.”

“The popularity of the series does not necessarily reflect the much-vaunted rise of Islamization under Mr. Erdogan. It is more about a deep-seated ambition for prestige and national assertion against enemies,” Armstrong writes. “Series like ‘Dirilis: Ertugrul’ express the idea that Turkey has a unique mission as the heir of a great empire, a nation founded by men of strength, courage and wisdom.”

North Korea’s Dangerous New First

North Korea’s latest missile test represented “a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” writes John Schilling for the U.S.-Korea Institute’s 38 North.
“U.S. cities will not be at risk tomorrow, or any time this year, since some tests have to be done with the full-scale system. With only one test of this reduced-scale system, Pyongyang is probably some time from even beginning that process. But given this test and the possible North Korean path forward, a closer look will be needed to see how much progress has been made, and what technologies the North may have demonstrated…”

  • “In the past three years, North Korea has launched more major missiles than in the three previous decades combined,” report Alastair Gale and Jonathan Cheng for the Wall Street Journal.

“That acceleration is one of the most dramatic signs of leader Kim Jong Un’s push to overhaul the country’s weapons program since he took power in late 2011.”

How America Loses Asia

Dozens of world leaders have “agreed to work together to build roads, railways, ports and other key infrastructure” following the Belt and Road summit in Beijing at the weekend, writes Catherine Wong in the South China Morning Post, citing a draft communique.

  • Washington’s defense-first mindset toward Asia is a mistakesuggest Ely Ratner and Samir Kumar in Foreign Policy. It could effectively hand the region to China.

“Even though larger U.S. defense budgets are sorely needed, no amount of military spending alone can resuscitate American power in Asia,” they write.
“Officials in the region are now quietly warning that Southeast Asia is rapidly approaching (if not having already crossed) the line whereby countries will be unwilling to initiate major new security activities with the United States for fear of economic retribution from China.”

  • “There’s never been a better time than now to distance ourselves from the U.S.” argues Paul Malone in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It has an unpredictable president who can be relied on for only one thing: putting his and America’s interests first. Australia’s priorities rank low in Trump’s thinking, no matter what Trump told Turnbull in his 45-minute audience.”

Merkel “the Unsinkable”

Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be “unsinkable” following her party’s win in elections in Germany’s most populous state on Sunday, writes Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg View. The key? A focus on law and order. “Though many voters resent the [Christian Democratic Union]’s handling of the refugee crisis, and Merkel is unapologetic for it, the CDU leaders are now declaring an intention to rule with a firmer hand. German voters can see no reason to disbelieve them: If nothing else, the CDU has a reputation for working hard to keep its promises.”

The Kids Are Alright – in Portugal

Portugal is doing more than any other country to improve the rights of children, according to the latest annual KidsRights Index, based on its “strong performances in the fields of child legislation, health and education.”

In contrast, the United Kingdom tumbled down the rankings, from 11th to 156th place. It performed particularly badly in the “Enabling Environment for Child Rights” category. The Independentreporting on the findings, noted: “Serious concerns have been raised about structural discrimination in the U.K., including Muslim children facing increased discrimination following recent anti-terrorism measures, and a rise in discrimination against gypsy and refugee children in recent years.” The United States does not receive a ranking because it has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

What to Watch this Week

President Trump is scheduled to meet Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the White House on Thursday. “Santos may feel smug when he arrives in Washington,” writes Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the Wall Street Journal. “He went around the Colombian Constitution to make his FARC deal law. Then he enshrined it above the constitution, even though the public rejected it in a national plebiscite. He also got his country’s Congress, which he controls, to give him rule-by-decree powers during its implementation.” Iran’s presidential election takes place Friday. Trita Parsi writes in Foreign Affairs that “despite the near limitless powers ascribed to [Ayatollah] Khamenei, the historical record is clear: the antiestablishment vote has tended to dominate Iranian elections.” President Trump travels to Riyadh on Friday, making Saudi Arabia his first overseas stop since becoming president. Fareed says: “I would have gone to Britain first. In making his first trip to Saudi Arabia, Trump is sending an odd symbolic message. On their first trip, presidents usually go to Canada, or Mexico, or Britain — the closest neighbors and closest ally. In going to Saudi Arabia, he’s choosing to go to the country that is perhaps more than any other nation the font of radical Islamic terrorism, the way he describes it.”



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