WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of two wrap-ups for July 25.
The Heritage Foundation
WASHINGTON -- Promoting a Collective Response to Terrorism in Southeast Asia
by Dana R. Dillon and Paolo Pasicolan
While some countries in Southeast Asia have made considerable progress combating terrorism, the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, Asia's premier multilateral organization, collectively could accomplish much more. That should be the message Secretary of State Colin Powell brings to the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ARF, in Brunei on July 31.
ASEAN as an organization has done relatively little to coordinate the substantial counterterrorism efforts of its member states -- a response to the problem of terrorism that is symptomatic of its chronic inability to coordinate its member states into collective action on any front. Applied military cooperation between ASEAN states is rare and often late in coming.
Yet terrorism is so deeply entrenched in Southeast Asia that uprooting it will require more than local initiatives by each state. Counterterrorism efforts in Southeast Asia are a drain on America's military. The United States should encourage and support regional cooperation that maximizes the region's limited resources and reduces its dependence on the United States. It would also help to refurbish ASEAN's reputation as little more than a talk shop.
Every year, foreign ministers from ASEAN's 10 member states (Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) meet with their counterparts from 11 "dialogue partners" (Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States), as well as Mongolia and Papua New Guinea, at the ARF, a consultative forum to discuss security issues in the Asia Pacific. When Secretary Powell attends this meeting, he should ensure that the war on terrorism remains at the top of the agenda.
Individual Southeast Asian nations have contributed to the war on terrorism already, stepping up enforcement of existing counterterrorism laws or enacting new ones to give law enforcement agencies more power to track down terrorists. Malaysia arrested some 62 terrorists with global links, including members of Jemaah Islamiah, an al Qaida cell that planned to bomb U.S. embassies in the region. Singapore established a National Security Secretariat to "develop a more coherent and integrated approach to ensuring Singapore's national security," particularly against terrorism. Other countries have undertaken similar measures.
Secretary Powell should thank these countries for their cooperation and encourage other countries to increase their efforts to apprehend terrorists. Indonesia, for instance, has yet to undertake a serious investigation of Abu Bakar Bashir, the Jakarta-based cleric who founded Jemaah Islamiah.
Despite the efforts of individual countries, much more should be done by the group to enhance security. ASEAN's bedrock principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of its members has fostered an institutional aversion to applied cooperation.
Furthermore, a certain amount of mutual distrust lingers from unresolved territorial disputes as well as the Cold War rivalry that once divided the region.
For such reasons, the Philippines turned to the United States rather than Singapore for logistical support and technical expertise after recognizing that its military was ill-equipped to deal with jungle-savvy Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. Yet Singapore, its neighbor and fellow ASEAN founder, quietly possesses the most sophisticated military in the region, which has many of the same capabilities provided by the United States. Though Manila did not ask Singapore for help, neither did Singapore offer it.
Fighting terrorism collectively can be a practical confidence-building measure and an opportunity to establish formal security cooperation procedures. Such cooperation exists on an ad hoc basis. For instance, the Philippines arrested Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, a key al Qaida demolitions expert, following a tip from Singaporean authorities. Such cooperation could disappear without any formal procedures once the exigency of Sept. 11 diminishes.
To prevent this from happening, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have signed a trilateral Agreement on Information Exchange and Establishment of Communication Procedures. The rest of ASEAN should follow suit.
Once established, security cooperation could expand to other areas unrelated to terrorism. Southeast Asia is rife with inter-communal discord, based sometimes on religion and sometimes on ethnicity. Fortunately, the region is diverse enough to have objective parties that can negotiate and enforce peace settlements. For example, because a majority of Thailand's population is neither Christian nor Muslim, Thai diplomats could broker disputes between some of Indonesia's warring communities, such as in the Moluccas Islands, and Thai soldiers could serve as peacekeepers.
Secretary Powell should suggest that future ASEAN military exercises be modeled on the successful Balikatan ("shoulder-to-shoulder") exercises between the United States and the Philippines. Unlike previous exercises, this year's Balikatan was conducted on Basilan, where the Abu Sayyaf terrorists were holding Americans hostage. U.S. and Philippine forces were able to carry out training missions that coincided with an ongoing military operation. The joint exercises forced the Abu Sayyaf to flee Basilan and led to the conclusion of that hostage crisis.
This model could be applied to other security problems. For instance, combined naval exercises could be conducted in the Malacca Straits, where the incidence of maritime piracy is the highest in the world. ASEAN should conduct such operations on its own, and Secretary Powell should encourage additional expanded exercises to include other members of the ARF.
Though the customary "ASEAN way" has been not to interfere with the internal affairs of one's neighbors out of respect for their sovereignty, the emergence of terrorism and other transnational crimes demands a regional response. As the only multilateral organization in Southeast Asia, ASEAN should be the vehicle for such collective action. In the upcoming ARF meeting in Brunei, Secretary Powell should make sure that terrorism remains a top priority and recommend that the region deal with the problem collectively.
Military cooperation should be viewed not as a relinquishment of sovereign responsibility, but as an extension of national resilience, because it improves the region's ability to resist external threats. Fighting terrorism together would build trust among ASEAN members and offer an opportunity to establish formal security cooperation procedures that could be applied to other conflicts as they arise.
(Dana R. Dillon is senior policy analyst for Southeast Asia and Paolo Pasicolan is a policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.)
The Institute for Public Accuracy
(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)
WASHINGTON -- The Economic Crisis: the banking industry, 401(k)s and Pensions
-- Tom Schlesinger, executive director of the Financial Markets Center.
"New information about the role of large financial holding companies in the Enron debacle raises questions about the effects of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, known as GLBA, a 1999 law that completed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and permitted firms like Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase to combine banking, securities and insurance operations under one roof. The dealings between Enron and its banks also highlight another key question: Where were the regulators? This question applies most directly to the Federal Reserve, which received umbrella supervision authority over all financial holding company activities under GLBA."
-- Robert Pollin, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of the forthcoming book "Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity."
"The fraud and accounting scandals are not the cause of the financial crisis, but rather a consequence of it. No one seemed to care about loose accounting practices as long as the stock market was going up. Only when investors realized that stock prices were not going to continue to go up, and they had to rely on earnings, did it become apparent that the earnings were simply not there. The stock prices were at historical highs at the end of the 1990s, even if the bogus profit numbers had been true. Historically, the average price-earnings ratio is about 15:1. In 1999, it was about 42:1 based on companies' reported earnings. One of the major factors driving the bubble was the deregulation of financial markets. For example, Clinton's Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, presided over the deregulation of the banking industry. Now he's heading up Citicorp. The type of fraudulent activity that corporate leaders have engaged in would clearly have been far more difficult within a reasonably functioning regulatory environment."
-- Karen Friedman, director of policy strategies at the Pensions Rights Center.
"It's crucial that any legislation on 401(k)s do the following: limit over-concentration of employer stock in 401(k) plans; hold company officials accountable for their unlawful actions; require worker representation on 401(k) plan boards of trustees; assure that 401(k) trustees are insured if a court finds that they acted unlawfully; and provide whistle-blower protection for employees who protest unlawful 401(k) actions...."
The National Center for Public Policy Research
(NCPPR is a communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems, based on the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility. NCPPR was founded to provide the conservative movement with a versatile and energetic organization capable of responding quickly and decisively to late-breaking issues, based on thorough research.)
WASHINGTON -- Daschle Admits Logging Projects Can Help Prevent Forest Fires
by Chris Burger
Background: Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) added language to a spending bill that would exempt the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota from environmental lawsuits that prevent logging. This proposal would outlaw litigation and appeals that attempt to prevent logging to thin that forest. Thinning the Black Hills National Forest will make it less susceptible to dangerous forest fires similar to those that have engulfed the West this summer. Mr. Daschle said his proposal is "the fastest and most effective way to get the forest thinned."
Ten-Second Response: Daschle should provide the same protection for loggers and forest communities nationwide that he is seeking for his home state of South Dakota.
Thirty-Second Response: Daschle's proposal contradicts environmentalists claims that logging does not help prevent forest fires. Western states have been bogged down by environmental regulations and lawsuits that prevent thinning of forests; it will be interesting to see if Mr. Daschle believes the fire prevention programs he proposed for the Black Hills National Forest are also worthy for the fire-ravaged Western states.
Discussion: According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fires have burned more than 3.7 million acres of land this summer. Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen, professor of forestry at Texas A&M, has said that logging is essential to maintaining the health of our forests. Logging projects were cut by over 80 percent during the Clinton-Gore administration, which has helped lead to the increase of dangerous fuel loads in our nation's forests.
(Chris Burger is the program coordinator for the John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for
Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at the National Center for Public Policy
The Reason Foundation
LOS ANGELES -- Party Poopers
by Jacob Sullum
You thought it was bad when you heard that you could lose your house if your son planted a few marijuana seeds in the corner of your yard. That was nothing. Under a bill making its way through the Senate, you could go to prison for letting him hold a party where someone passes around a joint.
The Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy (or RAVE) Act of 2002 would broaden a federal law aimed at crackhouses so it can be used more easily against raves. The bill would make it a federal crime, punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and a prison term of up to 20 years, to "manage or control any place" and "knowingly and intentionally ... make (it) available for use, with or without compensation, for the purpose of unlawfully ... using a controlled substance."
The RAVE Act -- which was approved without amendment by the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 27, nine days after it was introduced -- is worded so broadly that its chilling effect could extend far beyond raves. "'Knowingly' and 'for the purpose of' are too undefined to provide adequate protection to innocent businessmen and women," argues the Drug Policy Alliance.
"Property owners may be too afraid to rent or lease their property to groups holding hemp festivals, all-night dance parties, rock concerts, or any other event rightly or wrongly perceived as attracting drug users," says the group.
The deterrent would be enhanced by the bill's provision for civil fines of $250,000 or more. That option would enable the government to bankrupt property owners without having to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), also would have the perverse effect of discouraging event sponsors from taking precautions that could be viewed as evidence that they knew attendees would be using drugs, such as providing bottled water and chill-out rooms for ravers to protect against overheating and dehydration.
"This bill may make business owners too afraid to implement such harm-reduction measures," says the Drug Policy Alliance, "and the safety of our kids would suffer."
Likewise, by driving raves further underground, the legislation would make it less likely that drug users who need medical attention will get it in time. Stung by critics who say Ecstasy and other "club drugs" are not as dangerous as they've made them out to be, politicians seem determined to remedy the situation.
(Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine.)
The Competitive Enterprise Institute
(CEI is a conservative, free-market think tank that supports principles of free enterprise and limited government, opposes government regulation, and actively engages in public policy debate.)
WASHINGTON -- C:\Spin -- What does WorldCom's bankruptcy mean for broadband and beyond?
by Solveig Singleton,
With Worldcom and Global Crossing bankrupt, Qwest in crisis, and downturns in profits for BellSouth and other substantial companies, a lot of people are asking a lot of questions. Among the competing theories of what went wrong, what thread of truth might guide us out of the labyrinth?
The Greed/Hype Theory? Alan Greenspan's "infectious greed" hypothesis caught on in the press. But the "greed" hypothesis explains nothing. A profit motive is often an engine of success. Why would greed yield bankruptcy, not profits, especially across one sector of the economy? Why hype, when there were real opportunities? What cues or incentives lead so many systematically astray?
Can We Blame "Deregulation"? From Gene Kimmelman, a director at the Consumers Union advocacy group, and others on the left of the spectrum, the 1996 Telecommunications Act is taking its share of the blame for the meltdown. In people's minds, the act was "deregulation" -- that was how the politician's sold it -- so "deregulation" must be at fault. But free marketers have noted all along that there was little about the act that was deregulatory. Let's review.
-- What did the act deregulate? It removed legal barriers that prevented phone companies from getting into cable television service and vice versa. But it was too late. The Internet was where new investment money was going.
-- As for local phone service, the theory behind the act was that aggressive unbundling, of necessity overseen by regulators, could create "competition." But unbundling is not deregulation.
-- Did the act let local phone companies offer long distance service? No. In theory, maybe, but in practice few permissions have been forthcoming, and those slowly.
-- The act added new universal service obligations with new taxes and fees for consumers, especially on second phone lines.
-- Reed Hundt's FCC, which implemented the act, grew. The FCC discouraged industry consolidation by slow and rule-bound approval of mergers.
Whatever the cause, it can't be deregulation. By and by large, that has still not happened.
The cure? Even less regulation.
In fact, and by no accident, financial crisis and scandal have come to telecom and energy -- the most regulated, not the least regulated, sectors of the economy. The lesson of the telecom collapse is, the major work of deregulation remains to be done. Next on the agenda should be:
-- Open Up Wireless. On the wireless side, politicians have stepped up the pressure on the FCC to raise big money in spectrum auctions. But this just increases the debt and speculation problem for telecom. And it slows the actual deployment of wireless by the private sector. Wireless connections, not unbundling and regulated prices, are the best low-cost answer to local phone competition -- and probably universal service as well.
-- Allow Consolidation to Continue. In the real world, sustainable competition, with growth driven by consumer demand, does not need hundreds and hundreds of companies. Between a few major domestic car companies and free entry for a few foreign competitors, there's stiff competition in the car industry. The problem in telecommunications was not too few big competitors. There was, and there still are, too many (there'll always be room for small niche competitors -- like Worldcom used to be). Commissioner Powell of the FCC has the right idea in signaling that a former Bell company might be a good bidder for Worldcom. But foreign investors should be welcome, too.
-- End the Artificial Long Distance/Local Phone Service Divide. Keeping some phone companies from offering long distance phone services by artificial legal barriers makes no economic sense for consumers. Tear down this iron wall.
-- Beware Forced Open Access for Broadband. Fostering weak resale competition doesn't work. It means more weak competitors competing in a risky market made more uncertain by the legal risks of regulation.
(Solveig Singleton is a senior policy analyst for the Project on Technology and Innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.)