Archive for January 2011
Last week, ex-CIA officer and current Brookings Institution fellow Bruce Riedel paid a visit to the Fletcher school to deliver a talk on US-Pakistan relations and promote his latest book.
Most of his remarks was boilerplate. The history of US-Pakistani ties have been a soap opera shrouded in mystery and distrust; the relationship is currently in crisis with a great potential for disaster in the future; and global jihadist groups are becoming more radicalized and coordinated operationally.
His recommendations weren’t new and were a little idealistic. The United States should mitigate Pakistan’s insecurities by creating a “regional diplomatic environment” (whatever that means) that encourages rapprochement with India, particularly on Kashmir. Washington should support civilian leaders and the democratic process instead of resorting to generals, even if the generals have proven more effective at governing and US presidents are often motivated by short-term goals like getting elected rather than promoting freedom.
All this, of course, assumes a long-term U.S. presence – a shaky assumption at the very least given the fact that Washington has twice taken its eye off the Af-Pak ball (once in the 1980s and another after the Iraq War in 2003). It also assumes that Pakistan would believe in this sustainability and change its policies accordingly away from short-term, self-help policies after a legacy of distrust and in an environment of insecurity.
I asked Mr. Riedel what his thoughts were on the sustainability of the U.S. presence. On the American side, he seemed to believe that U.S. President Barack Obama had his heart in the right place because he had twice rejected his own vice-president’s idea of ‘counter-terrorism lite’ in favor of a more muscular option. Furthermore, although announcing the July 2011 deadline in late 2009 was in his view “a mistake”, the Obama administration had subsequently walked back on it by first suggesting a 2014 deadline and then backing away even from that recently.
He admitted, though, that getting Pakistan and other actors to believe that the U.S. was in the region to stay was another question altogether:
My suspicion is that Rawilpindi still doesn’t get it, and they won’t get it until they wake up on July or August 2011 and see that we are still there.
That is an important distinction, I told Mr. Riedel, since key players need to be convinced before their policies shift enough to transform the “regional diplomatic environment”. And it’s not like things will get any easier has we move further into 2011. Combat will be much more difficult for US troops in Afghanistan as the winter ends and fighting escalates. Furthermore, I said I worried that the Af-Pak issue would become caught up in the 2012 pre-election hysteria, and that rhetoric might obscure what U.S. policy might actually be thereafter.
“Oh, you can count on it,” Mr. Riedel responded wryly before flashing a wide smile.
Challenges to ASEAN’s 2030 World Cup Bid
By: Fuadi Pitsuwan
The Lombok meeting among ASEAN’s Foreign Ministers concluded recently yielded one of the most euphoric decisions in ASEAN’s 43-year history. The Ministers agreed in principle that ASEAN should bid to host the World Cup in 2030 as a single entity. The ASEAN Secretariat and Malaysia were tasked to work with the ASEAN Football Federation to create a proposal for the leaders’ endorsement at the ASEAN Summit in May. The project will be one of many flagship projects under Indonesian chairmanship in ASEAN in 2011.
ASEAN’s pursuit of the grand dream will be a two-pronged approach: strategic and procedural.
Strategically, this is a way to give real life to our motto: “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.” Submitting a bid will catalyze efforts to further integrate the ASEAN single market. Integration is pivotal for our economic prosperity in an era when a rising China and India are favored destinations for foreign investment. A bid would solidify a critical second identity, ASEANites, for all citizens of ASEAN, much like citizens of Europe. An ASEAN World Cup would be an achievement that years of joint efforts and political communiqués declaring a “sense of community” cannot attain.
Procedurally, ASEAN will devise a practical and realistic strategy to submit a competitive bid. Details must be studied carefully by relevant parties during the next few years. ASEAN will explore what is plausible and what is not. We will have to test the limits of FIFA rules. Novel ideas are needed and must come from officials in charge but also all ASEANites. Our people must work together with enthusiasm, motivation, willing to surmount all difficulties.
The most important premise for a competitive submission will be our ability to operate as a single entity, in 2030. We are qualified to bid as a joint 10-country effort, but to succeed FIFA must be confident that we can function like a single-country host. A less-than-ideal approach is to select a few representative nations who by the time the selection comes around, probably a decade from now, could demonstrate seamless logistical linkage among them. Ultimately, our proposal will not be a “joint” bid, but a bid from a regional grouping with an underlying framework for member states to work as one. We should be treated by the FIFA host selection committee more like a single-country with self-governing sub-states.
We already aim to establish the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, which means we will have a 15-year opportunity to practice and perfect our operation as a single market. The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, adopted by the leaders at the 17th ASEAN Summit in October 2010, and extensively discussed again at the recent Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Lombok, will connect ASEAN countries through air, land, and sea transportations. How many member states will end up bidding to represent ASEAN will depend on the commitment of our governments and the strength of our public-private partnerships to achieve such connectivity. Regardless, the World Cup bid is a tangible goal which appeals to all ASEANites and will surely energize the enthusiasm to forge the AEC.
With FIFA’s commitment, as President Sepp Blatter put it, “to keep sending the tournament all over the world,” ASEAN is a viable candidate. Moreover, in response to protests over the selections of Russia and Qatar as hosts for 2018 and 2022 respectively, Sepp Blatter recently remarked “The World Cup will discover new cultures in new regions, and that’s something I’m delighted about.” If we submit the bid as a bloc, the world could witness ten unique cultures in a new region yet to host the World Cup.
A common concern raised by skeptics is the distances between countries. Consider this. The furthest distance between two ASEAN capitals is from Jakarta to Manila and that is about 2,700 kilometers. However, in the 1994 World Cup in the US, the longest distance between two of its stadiums, one located California and another in Massachusetts, are more than 4,300 kilometers apart. In 2014, fans and players will travel more than 3,100 kilometers between Manaus and Porto Alegre, two of Brazil’s proposed venues. Two of Russia’s proposed host cities in 2018, Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg, are more than 3,000 kilometers apart. Yekaterinburg is only accessible by air due to its remoteness.
Critics also worry about how many countries will be allowed automatic spots in the tournament. Surely, if it is a whole ASEAN bid, not all 10 countries would receive such wild cards. The ASEAN Cup, a biannual event, should be used to determine which one or two best ASEAN teams would get the privileged opportunities. If less than 10 countries are submitting then a separate tournament should be held internally among the hosts to decide who would be automatically qualified for the world’s tournament. ASEAN countries which do not qualify through the ASEAN Cup, or through competition among the host countries, should have another shot at the Asian Football Confederation-wide qualification rounds. An ASEAN team, comprised of best players from the region, is another consideration gaining momentum, but that requires FIFA to bend its rules.
ASEAN football fans have already been squabbling over who will host the two most-watched games: the opening and the final. FIFA’s rules stipulate that the stadiums hosting those two games have a minimum capacity of 80,000. That should already rule out some cities since building stadiums of that size in addition to supporting accommodation, transportation, security and airport systems require significant financial investment. We also need to factor in the cost associated with holding opening and closing ceremonies. This process should be self selective with a few key host cities to choose.
Elaborating further on cost, participating ASEAN members in the bid will share the price tag of hosting the tournament. This is what makes such a dream possible in the first place. It is unlikely that a single ASEAN country can bear the financial burden alone. But if 2 or more, or all 10, decide to bid together, with agreements to spread the stadium locations throughout ASEAN, the proposal becomes financially sensible.
Competitions from China and Uruguay-Argentina would be fierce, but they are not insurmountable. China prides itself on large potential fan base. We have that too. By 2030, ASEAN is estimated to be home to more than a billion people. And arguably, we have much stronger football culture than the Chinese. We are already football-mad, but we could be even more so if given the opportunity. We will be required to commit significant investment in infrastructure development in order to compete with the Chinese bid. That, after the tournament, would provide tremendous benefits to the region economically. The ultimate benefit of competing with China though lies in the fact that it would forge a sense of identity among ASEANites. With a common challenge, our people will unite. We will be one.
True, Uruguay and Argentina, if they are successful with their joint bid, would celebrate the 100th anniversary of the World Cup at the place where the first tournament was held. But what would be the legacy of hosting the World Cup there? Would FIFA really contribute to football development in those two well-established leagues? Is FIFA tapping into a new market?
There would be tremendous rewards along the way, even if we lost the bid in the end. The process from now until the submission of the bid could technically be an end in itself. We are now forced to integrate faster and more robustly. Our connectivity plan needs to be pursued aggressively. The $1-billion ASEAN Infrastructure Fund, also launched last year, will have to be increased in order to lay the infrastructure foundation sufficient to submit a competitive bid. It is a noble challenge for us to connect faster, build better roads, rail tracks, stations, and airports. Let’s see how far we can go.
Don’t forget another key benefit. We are utilizing football as a vehicle to exert our global influence. Our soft power will shine through the world’s most-watched sport which captures the attention of people across cultures, creeds, genders, age groups, income levels, and social statuses.
The world may only be familiar with the “BRIC” countries for now. But in a few years, a new jargon, “BRICA”, i.e. Brazil, Russia, India, China and ASEAN, will be created. Our dream to host the World Cup in 2030 is a catalyst for this.
Fuadi Pitsuwan is an adjunct research scholar at Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Department.
The Asianist, which covers issues related to South, Northeast, Southeast, Central and West Asia (the Middle East) has recently been gaining a lot of traction, and has received feedback from individuals such as former UN Undersecretary General (and Fletcher graduate!) Shashi Tharoor (commenting on an article we wrote on his speech) and a recent mention in the Bangkok Post in Thailand thanks to Fuadi Pitsuwan’s guest post on ASEAN and the World Cup.
There clearly is a market for informed voices on these issues, and some have suggested that we try to turn the blog into a platform for young writers in the region. The first step is to gauge if there is enough interest in this to build a network of energetic writers or contributors. We realize many of you are busy with everything from classes to jobs, but we’d appreciate any help you could offer — from writing to general advice to passing this on to those who you think might be interested. As we envision it, the writing commitment would be specific to whatever your schedule permits – it could be as little as the occasional article up to a column on a regular basis. Keep in mind that articles don’t have to exclusively be on Asia, as we have an international section as well.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in contributing or have any ideas, and forward this on to anyone who could do so as well. Also, feel free to subscribe to the blog if you so choose. Over the next few days, posts will include the interesting developments in Egypt and addressing Foreign Policy’s ‘US Decline’ piece by Gideon Rachman.
Thanks very much for your help!
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