Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lee Kwan Yew

© MMXI v.1.0.2
From Foreign Affairs Magazine March/April 1994 by Fareed Zakaria

Lee Kwan Yew
"One of the asymmetries of history," wrote Henry Kissinger of Singapore’s patriarch Lee Kuan Yew, "is the lack of correspondence between the abilities of some leaders and the power of their countries." Kissinger’s one time boss, Richard Nixon, was even more flattering. He speculated that, had Lee lived in another time and another place, he might have "attained the world stature of a Churchill, a Disraeli, or a Gladstone." This tag line of a big man on a small stage has been attached to Lee since the 1970s. Today, however, his stage does not look quite so small. Singapore’s per capita GNP is now higher than that of its erstwhile colonizer, Great Britain. It has the world’s busiest port, is the third-largest oil refiner and a major center of global manufacturing and service industries. And this move from poverty to plenty has taken place within one generation. In 1965 Singapore ranked economically with Chile, Argentina and Mexico; today its per capita GNP is four or five times theirs. [Singapore does not have an army, navy or airforce to bully others or defend itself.]

Lee managed this miraculous transformation in Singapore’s economy while maintaining tight political control over the country; Singapore’s government can best be described as a "soft" authoritarian regime, and at times it has not been so soft. He was prime minister of Singapore from its independence in 1959 (it became part of a federation with Malaysia in 1963 but was expelled in 1965) until 1990, when he allowed his deputy to succeed him. He is now "Senior Minister" and still commands enormous influence and power in the country. Since his retirement, Lee has embarked on another career of sorts as a world-class pundit, speaking his mind with impolitic frankness. And what is often on his mind is American-style democracy and its perils. He travels often to East Asian capitals from Beijing to Hanoi to Manila dispensing advice on how to achieve economic growth while retaining political stability and control. It is a formula that the governing elites of these countries are anxious to learn.

Is Culture Destiny? The Myth of Asia's Anti-Democratic Values
- Kim Dae Jung
Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew has suggested that the "Western concepts" of democracy and human rights will not work in Asia. This is false: Asia has its own venerable traditions of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for the people. Asia's destiny is to improve Western concepts, not ignore them.

What else was happening in the neighborhood when Singapore blossomed under Lee Kwan Yew? Lots: the War in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos raged, Pol Pot's killing fields wiped out half the Cambodians, a military junta took over Burma, Ferdinand Marcos's dictatorship ruled the Philippines and millions of Indonesians died as power went from Sukarno to Suharto. Thailand was heavily militarized by the United States. Compared to this, Singapore's achievement under Lee Kwan Yew is even more remarkable.

Summing Up, the future is this:
Politics and military force are out as ways to decide what happens. Producers serve customers, not themselves, and all are equal before the law. This is not some impossible hope but how things actually work in a successful, harmonious, prosperous, happy, human society that is in balance with nature, its neighbours, itself and the cosmos.
- Morley Evans


No comments: