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Make the Quad a Quint with a Center Square by 2035
it is staring us right in the face
Readers of CDR Salamander know what the “Quad” is. For those who may not be fully up to speed, wiki has a solid opening line;
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), commonly known as the Quad, is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the United States that is maintained by talks between member countries. The dialogue was initiated in 2007 … paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar. The diplomatic and military arrangement was widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power.
Not really an alliance, but a proto-alliance for nations with overlapping concerns … though I will note that three of the four do have a solid web of real alliances together - Indian being the demur lady at the dance here, but that is OK.
While the largest member, the USA, is off the chart above to the east, you can see the other three parts of the Quad and even the “Quad Plus” nations South Korea and Vietnam, with New Zealand off the chart to the southeast.
So, for those who know the military history of this part of southeast Asia and southwest Pacific … what is blaring out to you right now?
Well, it is the world’s 4th largest nation in population with almost 60 million more souls than Brazil. It is the world’s 16th largest economy at $1.19 trillion, about 3-times that of Singapore.
It only has a per-capita GDP of $4,333, 30% greater than Vietnam, and it has a growing population and a lot of upside economic potential.
As we saw with South Korea over the last 75-years - there is a formula for a poor nation to become a rich one. Essential foundation stones of this are rather simple; peace, stability, education, and good governance.
The ID of the nation in the middle of the chart I’m describing above should be clear by now - and it is a nation since independence has not had those foundation stones and as such, has been roughly overlooked.
Is it time to pause and reconsider that for the world’s growing alliance of nations - most democratic - that is looking to keep the world safe from domination by the People’s Republic of China - who are some significant potential players out there?
It might be overdue to take a look at what is going on in Indonesia.
When President Suharto stepped down on May 22, 1998, after more than three decades in power, the autocratic ruler left behind an economic crisis, an outbreak of lawlessness and a heavily centralized, deeply corrupt political system.
Twenty-five years later, none of the most dire predictions — mine included — have been realized. Indonesia held together as a country (with the exception of East Timor, which voted for independence in 1999 in a U.N.-backed referendum). The insurgencies and sectarian uprising were contained. The economy eventually recovered.
Perhaps most miraculous, democracy took hold. Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous nation and the largest majority-Muslim country, has emerged as arguably the most stable democracy in Southeast Asia — and a modern model for how democracy and Islam are compatible.
Next year’s election will also mark the first time Indonesians vote for a president, national parliament and, later the same year, governors and assemblies for all 38 provinces. Under Suharto’s self-proclaimed “New Order” regime, provincial leaders were appointed from Jakarta. Decentralization — allowing provinces to elect their own leaders, set their own fiscal policy and keep more of their revenue from natural resources — was one of the key demands fueling earlier drives for separatism.
Besides curtailing separatist sentiment, regional elections also led to the emergence of political leaders who honed reputations based on their performance running local and regional governments, as opposed to being known for their connections, military rank or pedigree.
There are other reasons to celebrate Indonesia’s success story so far. The military, the dominant force in society under Suharto, has largely been removed from politics. The chances of the military staging a coup or meddling to remove a civilian government, as happened in Myanmar in 2021 and Thailand most recently in 2014, appears increasingly remote in Indonesia,
They’ve managed to build a launchpad to take off from … but it is not quite as firm as it needs to be. All the right steps are being taken, but …
The nation still has its problems. Corruption remains rife, and many believe Widodo, while not personally corrupt, has been unable or unwilling to tame the widespread graft. Political parties still more closely resemble vehicles of personal popularity and patronage than ideological groupings. There are concerns about a creeping religious intolerance and pockets of extremism.
Corruption, like corrosion and decay, will always be with us as it is a derivative of the human condition. Like corrosion and decay, there are things you can do to keep it at bay. For corruption it takes a free press and the rule of law at a minimum.
Indonesia - like all nations (including the USA btw) within living memory of colonialism, can be hesitant about getting too close to large powers in an official way, so “we” should take things slow.
What should the USA and the other Quad nations do over the next dozen or so years? Help Indonesians build on their democratic institutions starting with the rule of law. That, with economic and educational advancement, will bring this nation along a path where she will naturally want to align with like-minded liberty based nations to stand against the PRC - or any force - attempting to bend the global order towards autocratic hegemony.
Richburg is exactly right here. There is cause for celebration … and also an opportunity.
The Quad nations are just the right ones to help out the most…then see what happens in the middle of the next decade … the decade when Indonesia is expected to have a population of about 305 million.