Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hala!

Jasper, Annika, Terry–

Things have gone from bad to worse. Yesterday militants on motorcycles forced their way into St. John's Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur and opened fire, indiscriminately spraying bullets everywhere.

The massacre claimed eighteen lives, all tourists, European, white and Christian.

Safety in the region has become an increasingly urgent issue, especially for Americans and Europeans. Any Caucasian westerners not currently making plans for immediate departure from Kuala Lumpur –or from anywhere in the region, for that matter– will be taking their lives into their own hands.

Despite President Bush’s recent goodwill tour the pendulum has already swung too far in one direction. Barring an alien attack from outer space, the tattered relations between east and west will continue to fray.

Essentially the countries directly hit by the 7/27 Attacks –Indonesia, Malaysia and India– remain unsatisfied in their demand for justice. None of the suspects have been produced, although everyone here in South East Asia believes that both the Americans and the Europeans know exactly where the terrorists are in hiding.

Some even suspect that Bush, a self-proclaimed born again Christian himself, perhaps shares sympathies with those who planned and executed the 7/27 attacks. There is certainly no evidence to support the claim, but that is talk on the street. So, while it may not be true, it is nevertheless an indelible fact in the minds of many.

There are analysts here at Al Jazeera that suspect Bush had hoped to use his tour to chip away at what the US perceives as increasingly combustible alliances throughout the region. But if that is truly the intent of the President's recent visit, then it is a failure, at least in that limited respect.

Of course, Bush isn't incorrect. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) already share economic (and a limited military) interest. But add to their number the sympathy and economic power of OPEC and other energy producers. And add to that zealots from across Asia and the Mid East, who freshly minted in Pakistan and trained on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, are returning as experienced soldiers who are perhaps looking for some other novel and effective way to diminish the influence of the United States in the region, and throughout the world.

The military might of both Indonesia and India, individually, includes nuclear capability, substantial sea and air forces and immense human reserves. We see a very dangerous scenario emerging. Were these individually developing powers to take any sort of combined action, they would prove a formidable force. Not to mention that they now possess keys to Europe's back door by way of north and south conduits complimentary of economic alliances (that can be leveraged into military favors) with Norway and Turkey.

Take no action and the west will fast learn what it means to have to bend to the will of a Pan Moslem Coalition, that the pursuit of justice knows no borders, or suffer the consequences.

And yet, consider this: All those in favor of military action would most certainly give way to continued peace would only the Western powers (individually or collectively) deliver but a handful of men to the courts in Southeast Asia. Do this, and many believe, this whole 'War on Evil' would simply fade away, and drunk, STD bearing ravers would once again be welcome with smiles on beaches from the Perhentian Islands to Phuket.

As it stands, I fear action will certainly move to American soil, as the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, suggests that it should, but how and when, nobody knows.

Siraj