Not the Kind of Leadership We’re Looking For
Why is the State Department defending Malaysia in the wake of democratic crackdowns?
4:00 PM, Jul 8, 2011 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Secretary Clinton had nothing but glowing remarks for Malaysia’s leadership when she stopped there in November of last year. “We already have a strong partnership based on common values like respect for cultural diversity, pluralism, religious tolerance… We know that Malaysia is a leader in this region…. [and is] increasingly being looked to as both a thought leader and a model globally,” Clinton said at the time.
Fast forward to yesterday’s State Department briefing and it looks increasingly difficult to portray the U.S.-Malaysia relationship as being based on "common values" -- especially when it comes to pluralism.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee left State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland searching for words when he asked about the arrest of hundreds of opposition political activists over the last few days, especially those of Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister and now leader of the Malaysian opposition.
It’s worth taking a look at the back and forth:
We’re still waiting for that guidance. Meanwhile, reports out of Burma last night had riot police surrounding the main office of Burma’s National League for Democracy, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, preparing for a new crackdown on the democracy movement there. So the Obama administration can still make the case that Malaysia is being looked to as a model in the region, even as they stay silent in the face of backsliding on democracy, diversity, and pluralism.
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