COMMENT A Malaysian recently wrote to me, "Most Americans don't know or even care where Malaysia is."
Even among the so-called foreign policy elite, little attention is paid to Malaysia. There are few American academics who specialise in domestic Malaysian politics, and except for hosting visits by senior Malaysian leaders, think-tanks and universities hold few Malaysia-themed programmes.
US newspaper and magazine reports are few, with most articles focusing on tourism and the delights of Malaysian cuisine. As a result, there is a tendency among Americans to hold an idealised (and outdated) image of Malaysia as a successful multi-racial and multi-religious paradise, an Asian economic dynamo, and a stable and moderate Muslim democracy.
As a result of this deficit of informed analysis of Malaysia, there has been a failure to notice the internal political and economic changes unfolding within Malaysia over the past few years.
The reality today, as one Australian expert puts it, is that the situation is the "most fluid and dangerous" in Malaysia's history...