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The Forgotten Front

Winning Hearts and Minds in Southeast Asia

Courtesy Reuters

Barack Obama's planned visit to Indonesia this November is not only a sentimental journey to his childhood home. It also represents a long-overdue recognition that to recapture the admiration and respect of the world's Muslims, Washington should focus neither on the stalemated chessboard of the Middle East nor on the chaotic Afghan-Pakistani frontier. Rather, it should concentrate its efforts in Southeast Asia, an increasingly democratic and peaceful region that is also beginning to face the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

The last time Americans took a sober look at Southeast Asia, military helicopters were snatching the last U.S. officials off Saigon rooftops as Vietcong soldiers marched on the panicked capital. Soon after the fall of Saigon, in 1975, Cambodia and Laos were toppled by their own domestic communist movements. Thailand trembled with the fear of North Vietnamese tanks churning across the Mekong River, and the other so-called dominoes shook, too. But

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