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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Mysterious Lee Kwan Yew

Singapore's great Mandarin leader just died at age 91.  Like other authoritarian rulers--one things of Ho Chi Mihn--he had for some time held the title of "senior minister."   For the ruler of a city-state, he exerted a good deal of influence and earned a great deal of respect.

Kissinger offers a tribute to his friend here.  The World will miss Lee Kwan Yew   Journalist David Ignatius provides another perspective, which reveals something of the closed nature of Lee's thinking:  Fearful visionary

One story I like about Lee, told by Charles Hill in his book "Grand Strategies."  The Harvard faculty during the Sixties invited Lee to speak.   They expected him to denounce the Vietnam War.  To their surprise, he supported the war, which he maintained, gave the other nations in Southeast Asia freedom to grow and prosper without fear of Communist influence or intimidation.

Something else to keep in mind:  Lee represents a kind of modern Leviathan vision.  To explain, Lee offers a formula for peace and economic prosperity, as long as you give up political freedom and certain civil liberties.  In their recent book "The Fourth Revolution"  Micklethwait and Woodridge described Lee's as an alternative future model to be wary of.

Americans once earned something about Lee's model when a young man was caned on the buttocks for vandalism.  This was a significant national story twenty years ago.  us-student-tells-of-pain-of-his-caning-in-singapore

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