The following were extracts from a short article by Clyde Prestowitz in the Far East Economic Review. Interesting insights told in a narrative style which was very stimulating to read:
"I first met Prime Minister Mahathir at a small private breakfast in Washington in 1993. He had a reputation for anti-Americanism, and I expected the standard shopworn complaints about the United States. But what I actually heard and continued to hear in a number of private meetings and interviews over the next 10 years was something else altogether. On the one hand, it was a forthright refusal to buy into the latest policy fads perpetrated by purveyors of the conventional wisdom. This was all the more true because Mahathir had a way of speaking like an American. That is to say that he was not deferential and called things the way he saw them, letting the chips fall where they might. But, in fact, he was not being anti-American so much as anti-ideological. The pragmatist in him said there were something wrong with the application of a theory that proved itself successful only by impoverishing millions of people. And so, in the classic style of a rugged American individualist, he defied world opinion, applied a pragmatic solution and lived to see himself vindicated. One reason Americans have difficulty with him is that he is so American.
On the other hand, Mahathir also consistently and persistently asked world leaders, and especially American leaders, to put themselves in the shoes of others and try to see themselves as others saw them. Thus, he asked why America could pursue a North American Free Trade Agreement that excluded Asians while at the same time opposing an East Asian Economic Caucus that excluded Americans. Because of his eye for double standards and hypocrisy and his frank American-style rhetoric, there was a tendency in some places to want to shoot the messenger. Yet the message had more than a kernel of truth, and Mathathir's support of the U.S. when the chips were down on things like defence, terrorism and secular government was the proof of his essential sound thinking. Because of hios devotion to his people and to the mission that fate had alloted him, he will go down as one of history's great men".
Note: Clyde Prestowitz is the Founder of the Economic Strategy Institute, a think-tank on international trade policy and he has served in the Commerce Department in the Reagan administration.