Echoes of a tumult... from South-east Asia 50 years ago

Looking back at a 50-year time arc, we may today borrow wisdom and take courage for the times ahead.

A farewell parade on Oct 29, 1971, at Kangaw Barracks in Sembawang, marking the end of British military command here. PHOTO: ST FILE

Brace yourself for another year of tumult. Geopolitical shifts are ongoing between one great incumbent power and another emergent. The United States faces conflict abroad as well as sharp divisions domestically. Across our region, countries face pressures from both outside and within, with many political and social divisions. The pandemic adds to these pressures and accelerates a number of trends.

That sounds like today. But save for the pandemic, it also describes end-1970, 50 years ago. The geopolitical shift was from the British, marked by the troop withdrawal from their last base in Singapore in 1971. The new power, the US, was increasingly mired in the Vietnam conflict, with the anti-war opposition movement growing at home.

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