The growing crises in mainland Southeast Asia are quickly spiraling out of control.
If the ruling goes against China and Beijing responds with a show of force, it will be a critical test of how far the U.S. will go to support its allies.
Duterte gave no signs he would moderate his anti-democratic promises, like killing criminals without trial or enacting policies without the legislature's approval.
One big obstacle to aid is the politics of spending money on other nations' problems. President Bush enjoyed a Nixon-goes-to-China credibility with conservatives, who tend to be more skeptical of foreign aid. But Obama's low popularity among conservative voters makes it nearly impossible for him to sell an aid program to them. Reaching out in this way might feed into American stereotypes that Republicans are tougher on national security while Democrats prefer soft power.
Once the province of a few fringe players operating on the margins of Washington, lobbying for foreign countries has become big business for the most prestigious firms in D.C. According to data from the Department of Justice, the number of registrants—forms submitted by people registered to represent foreign countries—grew from about 1,800 in the first half of 2005 to 1,900 in the first half of 2009, the most recent data available.
As Thailand's protracted political crisis spirals into violence, with at least 20 people killed in the last few weeks, the protesters, the government, and many outside observers offer a similar diagnosis of the unrest: it is a class war between wealthy Bangkokians, clad in yellow, and the poor rural masses, clad in red.