The Logic of U.S. Political Realism in Influencing the Trajectory of Malaysian Politics

1. For the student of International Relations, the term political realism simply alludes the practice of politics by the state-actor which is based on its perceived “reality” on the ground, rather than relying on legal, moral and ethical considerations. This principle is also known as “realpolitik” which serves as the cornerstone of German foreign policy especially under Bismarck and Metternich in the 19th century.

2. Realism, as understood in the political science discipline, is founded upon several postulates, such as that the international world is anarchical in nature; state is operating on the basis of self-help and survivability; state’s power is unequal; selfishness is a virtue than vice; national interests are of the most vital consideration in deliberating the state’s policies; arms race is natural and inevitable and etc.

3. It is also imperative to note that the realist’s worldview in fact was a resultant of its conception of man, whereby man was described as inherently evil, selfish and power-hunger creature. The realist’s conception of man inevitably colours its construction of the world outside and subsequently influences its mental-image of the international world. Therefore, the world in the eyes of cold-blooded realist is pictured as anarchic and disorder rather than the locus for creating perpetual peace and stability as envisioned by Immanuel Kant.

4. Political realism remains a very powerful “ideology” in the world today, even though the newly emerging approach of constructivism begins to make a progressive headway into the study of regionalism and IR itself, particularly with the spectacular success of European Union and ASEAN in creating a more cooperative and stable world. Political realism stands still as a powerful, influential and robust “ism” and still manages to find its place and adherents among the policymakers and politicians especially for a great country like U.S. Therefore, this article attempts to examine the U.S. foreign policy in the light of this principle: political realism.

5. The present author strongly believes that the U.S. foreign policy today is strictly guided by political realism. This is particularly true and more observable in the last few decades since the demise of Wilsonian isolationism.

6. If we look back and study the history of U.S. foreign policy, it was replete with the trace of political realism. The logic of U.S. political realism is that, U.S. will do whatever necessary to serve its national interests, of course more than often at the cost of legal, moral and ethical considerations. As long as it serves its interests, U.S. would be doing it.

7. Let us look back in 1970s. At the height of Cold War, when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in August 1978 and tried to unsuccessfully transform Afghanistan into a communist state, U.S. gave full support to the mujahiddeen, although tacitly, to fight the Soviet. Officials from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assisted by Pakistani intelligence was reported to funnel modern weaponry—including FIM-92 Stinger and Swiss-made Oerlikon—to the mujahiddeen. The Afghan fought the Soviet for eleven years until the Red Army surrendered to its feet and eventually were driven out of Afghanistan in 1989.

8. The question here is that, why the U.S. was so eager in helping Afghan’s mujahiddeen to fight the Red Army? What is the motive? And of course there must be a motive for that. U.S. never fought a war for nothing, there must be a hidden agenda behind it which is only known to the inner circle of the Administration.

9. Prior to 1978’s Afghan war, the U.S. had in many occasions involved in overthrowing governments around the world to serve its interests, such as the Iranian government in 1953, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the failed attempt to assassinate Cuban Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba of Republic of Congo, the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the “secret war” in Laos, aids to Greek colonels who seized power in 1967, the 1973 killing of Salvador Allende in Chile and Ronald Reagan’s Iran-contra war against Nicaragua and many other cases of similar type. Although some of these attempts failed to achieve its objectives, the point here is, America is willing to do whatever it takes to safeguard its national interests, including going to war if necessary or launching a “dirty war” against any governments in the world.

10. Given the U.S. track records in the world for the past five decades, one needs to be warned if the U.S. suddenly shows its support and interests to some politicians who are fighting the existing or ruling government, of course by using democracy as its pretext. This due to the fact that, this support and interests are not merely support and interests as such, it must come together with other ulterior motives. And it becomes more alarming and dangerous if the motives are a threat to the state’s national security, political stability and her well-being.

11. That is precisely the reason, I become terribly apprehensive to observe how does DS Anwar Ibrahim conduct himself in politics with the full blessings, political and moral backing from the U.S. government. It makes me wonder more why the U.S. has suddenly expressed a keen interests in rendering its unwelcome advice to the Malaysian government on the issue of human rights and the importance of democratic process. Legally speaking, this is a blatant violation of ASEAN charter of non-intervention in domestic politics of a sovereign state.

12. The political saga of Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan can be taken as good moral lesson for all U.S.-intoxicated supporters. When Musharraf came to power in late 1999, he pledged to fight the threat of terrorism in line with the U.S. call for the “war against terrorism”. For this reason, he became American ally instantaneously; a closest ally in the Far East. But, when he faces political uncertainty at home, U.S. apparently become hesitant and suddenly adopts “wait-and-see” attitude. Eventually after several months under political siege he was forced to resign and live as a broken man. This is what usually happens to a U.S.-supported fighter. When the personage has been overused or is no longer useful to U.S. and becomes a liability, U.S. quickly finds the justification to disassociate itself from the subject.

13. In the context of our country today, we need to remember that stability, peace, harmony, solidarity and progress of our country is something that people in the world are envy of, particularly our enemy. For the past two decades, Malaysia was a well known strong critic of U.S. high-handed foreign policy in Middle East and around the world. Thus, logically Malaysian leaders are not of the U.S. favourite. Therefore, quick replacement with the U.S. favoured leader is of highly importance to the U.S. interest in this region.

14. So, it is not a surprise that if the U.S. is so eager to support Anwar Ibrahim in securing the Number-One seat in this country, simply because U.S. finds him useful for furthering its interests in this region. Of course democracy and human rights issue are constantly used as a pretext to justify its support for this personage. Once its objectives are accomplished, this person is not worth keeping, thus would be thrown into the dustbin of history.

15. Remember Malaysians!

*The guest writer holds a B.A. (Hons) in Political Science and is currently doing his M.A. (International Relations). His area of interests includes Malaysian politics, Malaysia’s foreign policy, political thoughts, Middle Eastern politics and Israeli political affairs. All of his writings reflect his own opinion on the issues indited.


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