Policy implications of political institutionalization and leadership changes in Southeast Asia

by Guy J. Pauker

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In an effort to determine future political trends in Southeast Asia and how they might affect U.S. foreign policy, this paper reviews the historical background and current political situation in each of several Southeast Asian countries. In particular, it considers the likely impact of population dynamics in the 1990s: depending on the global economic environment, large populations of young people in the Southeast Asian countries may be able to take their place in the system. Alternatively, under conditions of intense social and economic crisis, these youths, susceptible to the appeal of strong nationalist, religious, and civic sentiments could organize into fascist-like movements, destructive of existing institutions. The author suggests that Soviet influence in the region is small and not likely to grow unless the United States were to abdicate its security role there; that a younger generation of leaders in the region may foster a spirit of national and regional self-reliance which the United States should encourage; and the U.S. response to possible political upheavals should be guided by understanding and patience.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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