Buried beneath the new confusion of what an “America First” foreign policy looks like in the Asia-Pacific, America’s oldest diplomatic partnership in Asia seems to be edging toward Duterte-esque deterioration. Thailand, a treaty ally of the United States and host for the upcoming “Cobra Gold” exercise, was once the model for U.S. engagement in Asia. The two countries have fought shoulder-to-shoulder in every major conflict since World War II, and even redefined their partnership to meet modern global challenges like terrorism and transnational crime.
Yet, since the 2014 military coup, the United States has withheld military aid and high-level engagement, unwilling to resume them until a democratically elected government is restored. As in the Philippines, China has been more than happy to fill this void with their own aid, steadily prying Thailand away from the U.S.-led alliance system. The United States can ill-afford to lose another partner in the region. It is imperative that the United States adopt a more pragmatic approach and prioritize security and economic engagement with Thailand before this alliance, too, begins to fray.
The United States has a chance every year to improve its security relationship with Thailand through Cobra Gold. This exercise, hosted by Thailand, brings together participants from 29 countries who work together in coordinating military, logistical, and humanitarian operations. More importantly, this drill demonstrates the readiness and resolve of the United States to work with its partners in the Asia-Pacific to respond to any disaster, be they natural or manmade. However, U.S. troop participation levels have fallen for three years in a row, numbering 3,500, one-third of its peak of 9,500.
Read the full article at The Diplomat.