Editorial: Biden Presidency Should Seek Peace for Southeast Asia

President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, and members of the Biden family, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff stand on stage Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Thais and our neighbors will have much to gain if the new President of the United States of America is committed to finding peaceful solutions to conflicts and de-escalating tensions in the region.

Former Vice President Joe Biden won the race for White House on Saturday morning, U.S. local time, after the world was mired in anxiety for three full days. 

The man set to become the 46th President of the United States has much to do, as noted by the American media. More than 235,000 of Biden’s countrymen have perished in the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy is faltering, and America is more divided, politically and culturally, than ever. 

Biden himself acknowledged as much when he gave a speech upon his victory at the polls. 

“The purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot,” Biden said.

But no less important for his agenda should be an attention to Thailand – one of America’s oldest allies – and its neighbors in Southeast Asia, a region whose strategic importance to the world’s superpowers has grown dramatically in recent years. 

Confrontational approaches adopted by Washington in the past several years appear to achieve little apart from fanning tensions.

Biden’s presidency should seek to confront any challenges it may face in the region by placing values on a peaceful resolution, rather than pushing for an escalation that could lead to an open conflict in Thailand’s backyard. 

America has many friends in Southeast Asia. There is no reason for the Biden administration not to engage more with Thailand and the ASEAN community to find a mutually beneficial relationship and solve whatever problems that could arise.

Multilateralism should be the key idea governing future U.S. interactions with Thailand and other ASEAN members. 

The U.S. also possesses a valuable asset that continues to play a key role in cementing its soft power and inspire many in Southeast Asia: democracy.

If the American public can show its audience here that democratic principles can indeed resolve ideological differences peacefully, as well as build a society based on social equality and economic fairness, it would without a doubt set a successful example for Southeast Asians to follow. 

The yet-to-be-formed Biden administration would do well by listening to U.S. Ambassador to Moscow George Frost Kennan who in 1947 offered advice on how to demonstrate that American democracy is a shining beacon for the rest of the world. 

“It is rather a question of the degree to which the United States can create among the peoples of the world generally the impression of a country which knows what it wants, which is coping successfully with the problems of its internal life and with the responsibilities of a World Power, and which has a spiritual vitality capable of holding its own among the major ideological currents of the time,” Kennan wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine. 

The next chapter of American history under Biden’s leadership is yet to be written. But let us hope it will leave a page that speaks of peace and solidarity in Southeast Asia.