Foreign policy controversy and what's expected

Published : Clarion Newspaper

U.S. elections from an Indonesian perspective
Sylvia Lim, a Madison College student from Indonesia studying journalism

Source : Public Domain by VOA
The U.S. presidential election is the center of attention right now, not only for U.S citizens, but also for international media because U.S. foreign policies are far reaching and powerful players on the world stage. The Indonesia-U.S. connection is critical. It deserves attention and it deserves clear policy direction in this election.

But is that what U.S. voters are getting? Is that what the world is hearing? For many of us from Indonesia who are paying close attention to the debates and other discourse, a vote for Mitt Romny in the president election could spell a step backwards in U.S.-Indonesia relations and create a ripple effect in the world. 

According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the number of American visa applications by Indonesian has increased by one-third. These direct, person-to-person ties are critical to deepening the friendship between America and Indonesian people. “That is something President Obama is personally very committed to, based on his own relationships,” Clinton said when she addressed the third annual U.S.-Indonesian Joint Commission Meeting.
Ali Salmande Harahap, a law journalist from Jakarta said, “Although I am Indonesian, I don’t care about Obama’s background, when he spent his childhood in Indonesia. I just want to see his international policy objectively.”
“Obama uses a dialogue approach in his foreign policy. He tries to start a dialogue between the west and Moslem majority countries,” Harahap said. “It was different with the Republican foreign policy that I saw in the George W. Bush era which resulted in horrible wars. I see Romney as not different from George W. Bush.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has, in a recent presidential debate, admitted that America needs to strengthen relationships with partners like India and influential countries like Indonesia.
“Our objective is not to build an anti-China coalition. Rather it is to strengthen cooperation among countries with which we share a concern about China’s growing power and increasing assertiveness and with whom we also share an interest in maintaining freedom of navigation and ensuring that disputes over resources are resolved by peaceful means. It is yet another way of closing off China’s option of expanding its influence through coercion,” Romney said on his campaign website.
But the statements are confusing. Romney doesn't want to “build an anti-China coalition” but favors ways of “closing off China.” It’s these mixed messages that are leaving the world confused about his true intentions in foreign policy should he be elected president.
Romney also made a controversial claim when he said that U.S. engagement with Indonesia in the 1960s would be a good model for how the United States should engage Pakistan today,
“Look at Indonesia in the '60s,” he said. “We helped them move toward modernity.”
But for many Indonesian people, what Romney refers to as a “good model” led to the most painful decades in Indonesia history. In 1965, Indonesia's first president, Sukarno was deposed in a coup. The truth behind the coup is still hotly debated. General Suharto, supported by the United States at that time, became Indonesia’s president for 32 years. It came at the cost of military dictatorship, long jail terms without fair trials and targeted killings. Roughly 500,000 Indonesians were mass murdered in 1966.
The Indonesian people hope that the U.S. election result will lead to positive impacts around the world.
Ari Mustikawati, a journalist from Bali, said she wants the next president to treat Asian countries as equals and fairly.
“For example, the contract with Freeport, the biggest gold mining company in Papua, should be renewed since the existing one gives little benefit to the Indonesian government and the local community in Papua, which finally triggered unsolvable conflict,” Mustikawati said.
Eliyan Umamy, a student from Pierce College, added, “ In the case of relationship with Asian countries, we can build a better mutual understanding. Hopefully the next president will spread the spirit of peace, not war, which means no more military attacks.”
While international students can’t vote in the U.S. presidential election, we are watching. The world is watching. There is much at stake. The United States would do well to re-elect a leader who has a clear direction, rather than roll the dice and see where they land.

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