Southeast Asia should embrace Trump’s Asia strategy, Why Syria’s air campaign in Ghouta is serious, No military solution in Venezuela, Zuma the latest departure in Southern Africa’s leadership refresh, What ‘Black Panther’ means to African boys

A roundup of global commentary for the March 5, 2018 weekly magazine.

Sakchai Lalit/AP
South Korea Amphibious assault vehicles fire smoke screen during the Cobra Gold US-Thai joint military exercise on Hat Yao beach in Chonburi province, eastern Thailand, Feb. 17, 2018. Approximately 11,000 military personnel from the US, Thailand, and South Korea took part in the annual drill.

The Daily Star / Dhaka, Bangladesh

Why Southeast Asia should embrace Trump’s Asia strategy

“The 37th annual Cobra Gold military exercise among 29 nations, now under way in Thailand, reflects the United States’ nuanced geostrategic playbook under the Trump administration,” writes Thitinan Pongsudhirak. “It was thought in many quarters that the administration of US President Donald Trump would take an isolationist turn and be aloof from Asian affairs, given its ‘America First’ mantra. But this has not been the case after its first year in office. Indeed, the Trump administration is putting America back in Asia’s power equation.... Southeast Asia, in particular, should encourage this Trump turn to Asia in favour of a more balanced neighbourhood, less dominated by and less beholden to China.... The Trump geostrategic reorientation has ironically been more assertive than [Barack] Obama’s ... ‘pivot’ and ‘rebalance’.”

The Independent / London

Why the ramp up in Syria’s air campaign in Ghouta is so serious

“[I]n the remaining rebel strongholds elsewhere in Syria, the regime is grinding its way towards what seems an inevitable victory, at least in theory, for President [Bashar al-]Assad and his friends in Tehran and Moscow...,” states an editorial. “[T]he victims are overwhelmingly civilians.... At least 50 civilians have reportedly been killed in the latest Syrian government attacks on the besieged Eastern Ghouta region....
[T]he UN say[s] the situation is spiralling out of control. One doctor there warned: ‘We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century. If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then Eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.’ ”

Al Jazeera / Doha, Qatar

A military solution to Venezuela’s crisis would be wrong and illegal

“In early February, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson embarked on a Latin America tour aimed at promoting ‘democratic security,’ ” writes Matias Vernengo. “But just before he set off on his trip, he speculated on the possibility of a military coup in Venezuela. ‘In the history of Venezuela and South American countries, it is often times that the military is the agent of change...,’ he said.... Tillerson’s comments came six months after US President Donald Trump threatened military action in Venezuela.... National sovereignty is a sacrosanct political value in Latin America.... Not only is advocating for military intervention morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal; the Charter of the United Nations prohibits the unilateral use of force that threatens the independence of any state.”

The Globe and Mail / Toronto

Zuma the latest departure in Southern Africa’s leadership renewal

“It was not a good omen for Jacob Zuma when, last October, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the reinstatement of corruption charges relating to no fewer than 783 payments to him...,” states an editorial. “Like him, too many African leaders have parlayed their anti-colonial bona fides into kleptocratic perches atop their liberated countries. Thankfully, southern Africa seems to be growing tired of the act. In November [Zimbabwe’s] Robert Mugabe finally stepped down.... Angola underwent a similar shift in September, when the country’s ruling party replaced president José Eduardo dos Santos.... Real democratic renewal will only come when power ... is shared by more than one party. But in the meantime, it’s worth celebrating the peaceful departure of another discredited leader.”

The New Times / Kigali, Rwanda

What ‘Black Panther’ means to African boys

“My friend who’d bought a ticket to go see Black Panther was told by her sneaky 12 year old that the film was about a comic superhero,” writes Gatete Nyiringabo Ruhumuliza. “She gave him the ticket instead. She should have gone to see the film with her son, I said to her, just to see the look in the eyes of a 12 year old black, African boy, all mesmerised by a mighty king, an elegant prince, a superhero with superpowers who looks like him, lives in a place that looks like his home and has a brilliant, talkative sister, just like his... That look, kids of my generation never wore it.”

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