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Mimetic adoption and norm diffusion: ‘Western’ security cooperation in Southeast Asia?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2010


The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been pursuing new cooperative security agendas – namely, confidence-building measures (CBMs), preventive diplomacy (PD), conflict resolution and a set of agendas associated with security communities. The ASEAN members' pursuit of these agendas should be seen as a set of instances of their mimetic adoption of external norms for the sake of legitimacy. They have mimetically been adopting a set of norms associated with the collective management of conflicts, which have been practiced by the participant states of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They have been doing so, with the intention of securing their identities as legitimate members of the community of modern states, and of enhancing the status of ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) as legitimate cooperative security institutions.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2010

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1 The ARF is an Asia-Pacific region-wide framework, involving almost all the countries in the region. ASEAN established this forum in July 1993, holding the first ARF meeting in July 1994. The ARF participants today are the ten ASEAN members – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar – together with China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Papua New Guinea, the EU, the US, India, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Timor Leste, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

2 With regard to the third stage, the ARF Concept Paper produced by ASEAN used the expression ‘development of conflict-resolution mechanisms’. However, at China's request, the Chairman's Statement of the 1995 ARF used instead the words: ‘the elaboration of approaches to conflicts’. ASEAN, ‘The ASEAN Regional Forum: A Concept Paper’, 18 March 1995; and ARF, ‘Chairman's Statement, the Second ASEAN Regional Forum’, Brunei Darussalam (1 August 1995).

3 See ARF, ‘Chairman's Statement, the Fourth ASEAN Regional Forum’, Subang Jaya (27 July 1997).

4 ASEAN, ‘Declaration of ASEAN Concord II’, Bali (7 October 2003); and ASEAN, ‘ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action’, Vientiane (29 November 2004).

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8 Norms are broadly defined as shared – thus social – understandings of standards for behaviour. Klotz, Audie, Norms in International Relations: The Struggle against Apartheid (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), p. 14Google Scholar ; and Finnemore, Martha, National Interests in International Society (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 22Google Scholar .

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11 See, CSCE, ‘Helsinki Document 1992: the Challenges of Change, Helsinki Decisions’, Helsinki (9–10 July 1992); and OSCE, OSCE Handbook (2000), third edition (Vienna: OSCE, 2000), pp. 4285Google Scholar .

12 I thank an anonymous reviewer on this point.

13 ASEAN, ‘Activities, annexed to ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action’, Vientiane (29 November 2004).

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16 In March 1993, Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord stated, with regard to multilateral approaches to security, ‘We are open-minded on the arenas. We will heed the ideas of others, like […] ASEAN’. Winston Lord, ‘A New Pacific Community: Ten Goals for American Foreign Policy’, Opening Statement at [Senate Foreign Relations Committee] Confirmation Hearings (31 March 1993). Also see Department of Defense of US, ‘US Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region’ (27 February 1995); and Katsumata, Asean's Cooperative Security Enterprise, chap. 7.

17 Unofficial settings are called ‘track two’, while inter-governmental channels are called ‘track one’. The track-two activities are intended to support intergovernmental endeavours. The key players in the track-two activities have been participants of the ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS). ASEAN-ISIS is a coalition of strategic studies institutions of the Southeast Asian countries, and is registered with the ASEAN Secretariat as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). It is a network of researchers in these institutions who provide policy recommendations to their own governments. ASEAN-ISIS should be distinguished from other types of transnational activities, such as ‘transnational social movements’ or ‘transnational advocacy networks’. Such transnational activities often challenge governments. In contrast, the ASEAN-ISIS institutions have never attacked their own governments. Their role is to support the governments by exploring various innovative ideas and offering prudent policy advice. What makes ASEAN-ISIS different from other NGOs is each member institution's strong link with its government. Their links are maintained by meetings to discuss policies, the presentation of reports, and most importantly, informal personal relationships. Through such channels, input is sent to the governments from the institutions. ASEAN-ISIS plays a central role in the series of annual conferences of the Asia-Pacific Roundtable, which will be discussed later. For ASEAN-ISIS, see Katsumata, Asean's Cooperative Security Enterprise, chap. 4; and Katsumata, Hiro, ‘The Role of ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies in Developing Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region’, Asian Journal of Political Science, 11:1 (2003), pp. 93111CrossRefGoogle Scholar . For transnational social movements, see, Klotz, ‘Transnational Activism and Global Transformations’. For transnational advocacy networks, see, Keck and Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders.

18 ARF, ‘ASEAN Regional Forum Concept and Principles of Preventive Diplomacy’, Bangkok (27 July 2000), adopted at the 8th ARF, Ha Noi (25 July 2001).

19 OSCE, OSCE Handbook (2000), p. 45Google Scholar ; and OSCE, OSCE Handbook (2008) (Vienna: Press and Public Information Section, OSCE, 2008), pp. 3979Google Scholar . It should be noted that the OSCE/CSCE participant states have the means to punish the government in question – that is, the consensus-minus-one rule, which allows them to make decisions without the consent of the state concerned. They invoked this rule in 1992 to suspend Yugoslavia from the group. ASEAN's measures will probably not involve such an exceptional rule, but instead a modified interpretation of the non-interference principle – the notion that, as long as the interested government is consulted, the dispatch of missions or troops to carry out operations in the field would not constitute an act of interference.

20 UN, ‘Supplement to an Agenda for Peace: Position Paper of the Secretary-General on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the UN’, A/50/60-S/1995/1 (3 January 1995).

21 ASEAN, ‘Chairman's Statement of the Eleventh ASEAN Summit’, Kuala Lumpur (12 December 2005).

22 See, Office of the Press Secretary, Republic of the Philippines, ‘Arrival of Malaysian Peace Monitors a Major Break for Mindanao Peace Agenda – Afable’ (8 October 2004); and Abubakar, Ayesah, ‘Keeping Peace: the International Monitoring Team (IMT) Mission in Mindanao’, The SEACSN Bulletin, Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network, Malaysia (January–June 2005)Google Scholar .

23 ASEAN, ‘Special ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting Chairman's Statement’, Singapore (19 May 2008).

24 ASEAN, ‘ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action’; and ASEAN, ‘Activities’, annexed to ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action.

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26 DiMaggio, Paul J. and Powell, Walter W., ‘The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields’, American Sociological Review, 48:2 (1983), pp. 151152, 45CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

27 Deephouse, David L., ‘Does Isomorphism Legitimate?’, Academy of Management Journal, 39:4 (1996), pp. 10241039CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

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29 Ikenberry, G. John, ‘The International Spread of Privatization Policies: Inducements, Learning, and “Policy Bandwagoning”’, in Suleiman, Ezra N. and Waterbury, John (eds), The Political Economy of Public Sector Reform and Privatization (Boulder. Colo.: Westview Press, 1990), pp. 88110Google Scholar . For other examples, see, Halpern, Nina P., ‘Creating Socialist Economies: Stalinist Political Economy and the Impact of Ideas’, in Goldstein, Judith and Keohane, Robert O. (eds), Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 87110Google Scholar ; Waltz, Kenneth N., Theory of International Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979), p. 128Google Scholar ; and Florini, Ann‘The Evolution of International Norms’, International Studies Quarterly, 40:3 (1996), pp. 363389Google Scholar .

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32 See Holzinger, Katharina, Knill, Christoph, and Sommerer, Thomas, ‘Environmental Policy Convergence: The Impact of International Harmonization, Transnational Communication, and Regulatory Competition’, International Organization, 62: 4 (2008), pp. 553587Google Scholar ; Simmons, Beth A., Dobbin, Frank, and Garrett, Geoffrey, ‘Introduction: The International Diffusion of Liberalism’, International Organization, 60:4 (2006), pp. 781810Google Scholar ; Lee, Chang Kil and Strang, David, ‘The International Diffusion of Public-Sector Downsizing: Network Emulation and Theory-Driven Learning’, International Organization, 60:4 (2006), pp. 883909Google Scholar ; and Busch, Pre-Olof and Jörgens, Helge, ‘The International Sources of Policy Convergence: Explaining the Spread of Environmental Policy Innovations’, Journal of European Public Policy, 12:5 (2005), pp. 860884Google Scholar .

33 See Goldman, Emily O., ‘The Spread of Western Military Models to Ottoman Turkey and Meiji Japan’, in Farrell, Theo and Terriff, Terry (eds), The Sources of Military Change: Culture, Politics, Technology (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2002), pp. 4167Google Scholar ; Theo Farrell, ‘World Culture and the Irish Army, 1922–1942’, in ibid., pp. 69–90; and Terry Terriff, ‘US Ideas and Military Change in NATO, 1989–1994’, in ibid., pp. 91–116. For important exceptions, see, Johnston, AlastairIain, Social Status: China in International Institutions, 1980–2000 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008)Google Scholar , chap. 2; and Sharman, J. C., ‘Power and Discourse in Policy Diffusion: Anti-Money Laundering in Developing States’, International Studies Quarterly, 52:3 (2008), pp. 635656Google Scholar .

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35 See CSCE, ‘Helsinki Document 1992’.

36 Adler, Emanuel, ‘Seeds of Peaceful Change: The OSCE's Security Community-Building Model’, in Adler, Emanuel and Barnett, Michael (eds), Security Communities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 119160CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

37 Interview with Ong Keng Yong, Singapore (27 November 2007).

38 Interview with an anonymous Indonesian diplomat, Jakarta (9 January 2008).

39 Presidential Management Staff, ‘The 2007 State of the Nation Address: Technical Report’, Manila (July 2007), p. 46; and Office of the President, ‘PGMA: RP on Way to First World Status in 20 Years’, Manila (19 January 2007).

40 Mahathir Mohamad, ‘Malaysia: The Way Forward (Vision 2020)’ (28 February 1991), published by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia.

41 Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, ‘Speech at the Tabling of the Motion on the Ninth Malaysia Plan, 2006–2010’, Dewan Rakyat (31 March 2006).

42 Bangkok Post, ‘Somkid: Thailand on the Verge of ‘First World’ Status’ (27 December 2003).

43 ChannelNewsAsia, ‘Better Quality of Life Will Define Singapore as a Top First World Nation’ (25 February 2007).

44 ASEAN, ‘Statement by ASEAN Chair Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo’, New York (27 September 2007).

45 Interview with Ong Keng Yong, Singapore (27 November 2007).

46 Interview with Hassan Wirajuda, Jakarta (9 January 2008). For the Southeast Asian policymakers' concern about ASEAN's international reputation, also see, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, ‘Forging a United, Resilient and Integrated ASEAN’, address at the Opening of the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, Kuala Lumpur (25 July 2006); and ASEAN, ‘Chairperson's Statement of the Twelfth ASEAN Summit’, Cebu, Philippines (13 January 2007).

47 See, Ali Alatas, ‘Statement at the Twenty-Fourth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting’, Kuala Lumpur (19–20 July 1991); Datuk Abdullah Bin Ahmad Badawi, ‘Welcome Remarks at the Meeting between ASEAN and the Dialogue Partners’, Kuala Lumpur (22 July 1991); and Singapore, ‘Notice Paper No. 236 of 2007: Questions for Oral Answers for Parliament Sitting’ (17 September 2007).

48 Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues, Security: A Programme for Disarmament (London: Pan Books, 1982); and OSCE, OSCE Handbook (2000), p. 2Google Scholar .

49 See, Alagappa, Muthiah (ed.), In Search of Peace: Confidence Building and Conflict Reduction in the Pacific, Proceedings of the First Asia-Pacific Roundtable, Kuala Lumpur, 10–11 January 1987 (Kuala Lumpur: ISIS Malaysia, 1988)Google Scholar ; Alagappa, Muthiah (ed.), Building Confidence, Resolving Conflicts, Proceedings of the Second Asia-Pacific Roundtable, Kuala Lumpur, 1–4 July 1988 (Kuala Lumpur: ISIS Malaysia, 1989)Google Scholar ; and Mahmood, Rohana (ed.), Peace in the Making, Proceedings of the Third Asia-Pacific Roundtable, Kuala Lumpur, June 16–19, 1989 (Kuala Lumpur: ISIS Malaysia, 1990)Google Scholar .

50 Gareth Evans, ‘Opening Statement at the Meeting between ASEAN and Dialogue Partners’, Jakarta (27–29 July 1990).

51 Vatikiotis, Michael, ‘Time for Decisions’, Far Eastern Economic Review (16 January 1992), pp. 2324Google Scholar .

52 Katsumata, Asean's Cooperative Security Enterprise, chap. 4; Katsumata, Hiro, ‘Establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum: Constructing a “Talking Shop” or a “Norm Brewery”?’, Pacific Review, 19:2 (2006), pp. 181198CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; and Acharya, ‘How Ideas Spread’.

53 See, ASEAN, ‘Joint Communiqué, The Twenty-Fourth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting’, Kuala Lumpur (19–20 July 1991); ASEAN, ‘Singapore Declaration’ (28 January 1992); Alatas, ‘Statement at the Twenty-Fourth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting’; and Badawi, ‘Welcome Remarks at the Meeting between ASEAN and the Dialogue Partners’.

54 Deutsch, Karl W. et al. , Political Community and the North Atlantic Area: International Organization in the Light of Historical Experience (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957)Google Scholar .

55 Megawati Soekarnoputri, ‘Statement at the Opening Session of the Thirty Seventh ASEAN Ministerial Meeting’, Jakarta (30 June 2004).

56 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, ‘On Building the ASEAN Community: The Democratic Aspect’, Lecture at the 38th Anniversary of ASEAN, Jakarta (8 August 2005).

57 Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, ‘Towards an ASEAN Community’, address at the ASEAN National Colloquium on ASEAN, Shah Alam, Malaysia (7 August 2004).

58 ASEAN, ‘ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action’.

59 Adler, ‘Seeds of Peaceful Change’.

60 The discussion of the domestic process in Indonesia is based on the author's interviews with Rizal Sukma, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Singapore (7 October 2005), and with Edy Prasetyono, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Singapore (8 January 2007).

61 Meyer, Boli, Thomas, and Ramirez, ‘World Society and Nation-State’, pp. 154–6; Meyer and Rowan, ‘Institutionalized Organizations’; and Scott, W. Richard, Meyer, John W., and Associates, Institutional Environments and Organizations: Structural Complexity and Individualism (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1994)Google Scholar .

62 ASEAN, ‘Declaration of ASEAN Concord II’.

63 Kurt Weyland argues that, if the quest for legitimacy drives policy choice, the appearance of a novelty should immediately trigger emulation and policy diffusion should get under way in an explosive fashion. Weyland, Kurt, ‘Theories of Policy Diffusion: Lessons from Latin American Pension Reform’, World Politics, 57:2 (2005), p. 276CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

64 See ARF, ‘Chairman's Statement, the First ASEAN Regional Forum’, Bangkok (25 July 1994).

65 Interview with an anonymous Asian diplomat, Singapore (5 March 2004).

66 ARF, ‘Chairman's Statement, the Second ASEAN Regional Forum’.

67 The discussion of the senior officials meetings is based on the author's interviews with an anonymous Indonesian diplomat, Jakarta (9 January 2008).

68 Interview with Rizal Sukma, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Singapore (7 October 2005); and interview with Edy Prasetyono, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Singapore (8 January 2007).

69 See ARF, ‘Chairman's Statement, the Second ASEAN Regional Forum’.

70 See ARF, ‘Chairman's Statement, the Fourth ASEAN Regional Forum’.

71 ARF, ‘ASEAN Regional Forum Concept and Principles of Preventive Diplomacy’.

72 Khalik, Abdul, ‘RI Must Explain ASC to ASEAN Members’, The Jakarta Post (11 December 2003)Google Scholar .

73 Antara, ‘RI Takes Initiative to Form ASEAN Peacekeeping Force by 2012’, Jakarta (20 February 2004).

74 ASEAN, ‘ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action’; and ASEAN, ‘Activities’, annexed to ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action.

75 ASEAN, ‘ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint’, Cha-am, Thailand (1 March 2009), p. 13.

76 Dow Jones International News, ‘US Invites International Nov Election Observers’ (10 August 2004); and Stephen Gardner, ‘US Voting Held under Europe's Eagle Eye’, European Voice (4 November 2004).

77 See, Agence France-Presse, ‘Danish Newspapers Reprint Controversial Mohammed Cartoon’, Copenhagen (13 February 2008); and Agence France-Presse, ‘Malaysia's Ex-Pm Mahathir Wants Iraq War Leaders on War Crimes Charges’, London (25 April 2008).