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The United States of America is a longstanding and staunch ally of Brunei Darussalam. Through the relationship, Brunei derive a great deal of economic, military, cultural, diplomatic, and technological benefit by associating with the great superpower. The United States benefit from Brunei’s relationship for having a good ally to help promote its own security and interests in the Southeast Asian region and hence the Pacific region.

But coming to think of it, are we giving enough to the United States to deserve to be a great friend in the region? The answer: It can be better. Yes, we can purchase their products and their technologies costing up to millions worth in value, but in order to win long-term goodwill, Brunei has to give back in return all the Americans are giving us. The return need not be in the form of monetary, but in the form of aligning both of the nations’ strategic interest and moral values to ride the challenges of the 21st century successfully.

In order to give back, Brunei must also realize its citizens and government have to consult and work with them actively with a win-win relation in mind. The key questions posed by this article is how can we help the Americans? How can we, despite our size, go to them and stand as real friends in the region? And then there is the question of how can we give more than we receive?

To answer those questions is one key area Brunei must do: To build a think tank group in Washington, USA. A think tank (or policy institute, research institute, etc.) is defined as “an organization that performs research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology, and culture.” It must have five key objectives in mind:

1) To enhancing the commitment and friendship of both nations through cross-cultural visits, educational research, and student exchange programmes.
2) To influence the legislation and executive process on the subject pertaining foreign policies of both countries to work towards a pro-US and pro-Brunei stance.
3) To formulate and promote sophisticated arguments about the alignment of American interest with Brunei’s strategic interest and moral values.
4) To actively engage with organizations in the US to promote policy research, economic development, FDIs, military support, and diplomatic assistance.
5) To be aware of the changing tides of wants and needs of both nations to conduct and readjust effective foreign policy objectives.

The Think Tank may not need to have a fancy word or requiring millions of dollars to be set up. In fact, let’s just call it Brunei-US Group. All the Think Tank needs are members committed in strengthening the friendship of both nations. They could be composed of a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that can work to shape US and Brunei foreign policy in a pro-US and pro-Brunei direction.

It need no apparent central leadership or a defined membership set of rules. The think tank can be set up as a unit to where diversity of ideas and unity should be valued when it comes to shaping the five objectives. In Belgium, home to the European Union headquarter, its people have a saying, “Unity in Strength”. As for the Think Tank, that slogan should be “Unity in Strength and Diversity.”

Additionally, Brunei should not settle in strengthening US-Brunei relations through its embassy, diplomatic visits, economic or military purchases, or educational programmes only, but should take the lead in leasing a 99 year old office or building a’la Brunei Hall in London and setting the Think Tank permanently in Washington bent on actively achieving the five objectives laid out above.

The draft idea of building the Think Tank may not be perfect, but it is a start to build an idea for an organization to enhance and further US-Brunei relations. If implemented, it would enable Brunei and her citizens in the long-run to open their doors to many opportunities, be it in the form of economic, military, technological, social, or cultural developments, or all of them combined with an overall mission of elevating economic development of the country.

In building the Think Tank, the people of Brunei and the United States America can accelerate each other’s prosperity, security, and development, and at the same time serve as an enabler for Brunei Darussalam to become a staunch and longstanding ally to the US. Question is who will lead this organization? Who would have the effective mandate to implement this into reality?

If not now, then probably the youths currently studying in the UK or US would have the potential to produce and enhance the draft idea of building the think tank forward.

Related post: Discourse on Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy