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Timor, a military base

A regular commentator from the Lebanese paper "As-Safir" looks at the implications of western intervention in East Timor
Timor – a military base

It was extremely difficult to predict or imagine the coming of the Asian economic crisis, up until months or 
even days before its onset in 1997 – especially since the Asian “tigers” were considered models of 
economic development.  Similarly just a few months ago it would have been extremely hard to imagine a 
return of western military presence to the lands of Asia, and in particular, to Indonesia, the second biggest 
east Asian country after China.

Clearly East Asia, beginning with the current events in Indonesia and East Timor particularly, has 
embarked on a new, second era, after the first era – the economic crisis – which has brought back western 
hegemony to the region’s countries.  This after they had become nearly completely independent of that 
hegemony, even attaining positions of superiority over the economies of the west which by 1997 no longer 
could compete economically except in the area of arms manufacture.  The watchword for this new, second 
era is the return of western political and military hegemony.

Indonesia was not the first country struck by the storm known as the Asian economic crisis – which was 
precipitated by currency speculation undertaken by speculators directly connected to western institutions of 
financial domination – specifically American ones.  Nevertheless Indonesia was the Asian country hardest 
hit by that storm, and the one that suffered the severest damage.  This despite the fact that Jakarta was 
orientated from the beginning towards implementing the decrees of the American economic institutions of 
domination, namely the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Before the economic crisis the situation in Asia had gone beyond issues of loyalty and following orders.  
The United States and the West in general began to feel the rug being pulled out from under their own 
economies to the benefit of the Asian “dragons” and “tigers”;  the center of gravity of the world economy 
began to move from the Atlantic basin to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

It is possible to say that the Asian economic crisis was the economic analogy to the fall of the Soviet Union 
and the end of the Cold War.  The end of the Cold War gave the west – specifically the United States – a 
decisive political and military victory.  In the economic crisis the west won a decisive economic victory 
over the powers which had represented the most prominent economic threat on the world level – beginning 
with Japan and ending with the “tigers.”

As is evident currently in the Balkans and the Arabian Gulf, the west does not feel secure in the durability 
and permanence of its activity except by means of a direct military presence.  Along the same lines, the 
west has set about plucking the fruits of the events in East Timor, pushing the situation there in a direction 
that facilitates deployment of international forces under western leadership.

It is probable that East Timor, which lacks any material prerequisites for independent statehood, will now 
become once again nothing more than a western base on Indonesian territory, a jump off point for direct 
domination of that country – the biggest in Asia after China.  Perhaps what is wanted is for East Timor to 
become what Hong Kong was in relation to China, and also a model for extending hegemony over a vast 
state, in a clear experiment for attempts at future extension of hegemony over China – a country that has so 
far succeeded in avoiding the two storms of the end of the Cold War and the economic crisis.

Ghassan Makhal

Beirut.  “as-Safir” newspaper, editorial page, internet edition of Saturday, 18 September 1999.