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PacNet #13 – The U.S. Should Support an “ASEAN Way” to Fight Terrorism

America’s current unilateralist surge — from Afghanistan to the "Axis of Evil" — is not sustainable, militarily or politically. To maintain a global war against terrorism, indeed to make it genuinely global, the United States must begin now to encourage and support regional counterterrorism strategies. First on its list should be Southeast Asia where the ASEAN framework, although strained by the Asian economic crisis and the incorporation of four new members, still offers a foundation for cooperation between the U.S. and Asia and within the region. The arrests of al-Qaeda linked Jemmah Islamiah members in Singapore in January left no doubt that terrorism is a regional problem and requires a regional solution. In order to make such a policy work, however, the United States must defer a greater degree of judgment (and initiative) to ASEAN and introduce longer-term issues into a policy that has been intensely focused on the short-term. Both of these shifts will be uncomfortable for Washington.