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Human Rights Legislation Hinders Asia-Pacific Coalition Building

November 13, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Well-meaning legislation that sought to improve human rights among nations is working against U.S. efforts to build greater cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Maj. Gen. Michael A. Keltz, USAF, director, strategic planning and policy (J-5), U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), speaking to an audience at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii, addressed the Leahy Amendment that limits activities between U.S. forces and nations labeled as human rights violators.

The general charged that the Leahy Amendment has been counterproductive in efforts to build regional security. “We’ve lost a generation of people” in countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, which used to train their forces with U.S. counterparts, he said. The atmosphere on Capitol Hill may be changing, he added, as legislators are coming around to the need to build coalitions in that vast area.

The general continued that Indonesia in particular “is going to be huge.” The island archipelago is emerging from decades of economic stagnation, and it is preparing to buy large amounts of military hardware. Gen. Keltz said that PACOM is trying to help the country “avoid the shiny blingy thing and [instead] build an integrated force.” He emphasized that Indonesia wants to work with the United States, as it approached PACOM and asked to engage trilaterally with the United States and Australia.

 

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