To be sure, it was typically American that the side-lining of the Middle East as a fulcrum for its world hegemony was accomplished. They do it every time. In World War II, they abandoned the Philippines to the mercy of the Japanese invaders in order to win the war first in Europe. And yet, did America do it for Europe? Not at all! Primordial to US war strategists was the Monroe Doctrine, which declares as imperative that under no circumstances must any enemy reach the shores of the United States. They rightly saw that to deter the advance of the Nazis toward the American continent, they needed to maintain the British control over the Atlantic. For the United States, the Monroe Doctrine is as cardinal today as it was in the past and it will always be forever for the maintenance of American world power. And so, as the 21st century was entering into the second decade, it was getting clearer that Russia was determined to match America toe-to-toe in the Middle East. And while the Arab spring upheavals had succeeded in ousting US-unfriendly regimes such as those in Iraq, Egypt and Libya, the resistance of Syria with strong Russian support has remained steadfast to this day.
It was tactical maneuver that understandably prompted the United States to take a step backward where Russian intervention was strong and shift to a region where it enjoyed alliances that assured its virtual liberty at policy and decision making. It had military bases in Japan, South Korea and Australia. The Philippines, with its continuing military treaties with the United States like the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998 and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of 2016, tends to belong in this category but for the fact that changes in administrations account for corresponding changes in attitude toward America; during the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, such an attitude was clearly antagonistic. On not a few occasions did Duterte call President Barack Obama a sonnavabitch.
When US State Secretary Hillary Clinton proclaimed the shift to American Pacific Century, in place at the Philippine presidency was Benigno Aquino 3rd. What Aquino was to the United States was what he did to advance US strategic design to get the Philippines warring with China and thereby gain the moral ground to intervene militarily by virtue of the Philippine military treaties with the United States. Aquino filed an arbitration case against China with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague with the intention of getting a ruling that would prohibit China from encroaching into what was alleged as Philippine territory. Nevertheless, although the PCA ruled that the Chinese so-called “nine-dash line” as basis for its claim to historical sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea was illegal, it did not rule at all that any territory in the sea was Philippine territory. Moreover, China at no instance in the arbitral proceedings ever participated, thus making the proceedings arbitration for just one party, which by any measure is a no-no.
Thus was the United States denied the trigger to pull in its grand scheme to prevail over the Indo-Pacific region. Several times during the Duterte administration, serious incidents took place that could have provided such trigger, i.e., the accidental ramming of the Filipino fishing boat Gemver II by a Chinese vessel, an incident which had the traditional US rah-rah boys organizing protest actions calling for war with China, and the water-cannoning by a Chinese coastguard ship of an unidentified supply boat of the Philippine army. But exercising amazingly excellent statecraft, Presidente Duterte rode the storm in both incidents and maintained peace with China well into the end of his term.
Question now is, will President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. do it, too? Or perhaps, a better way of putting the issue is, can Bongbong do it?
Between Bongbong and Duterte, how differ do the two so that we are able to determine whether what one had done to the US would also be done by the other?
Evidently, in the case of Duterte, he had nothing to lose by putting on a belligerent stance against the United States and its officials whom he had no qualms in calling sons of bitches; he did the same to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. In fact, it was this ease in mouthing invectives against America and its officials that had greatly contributed to Duterte gaining world fame.
In the case of Bongbong, very early on, he has declared in his SONA to be “a friend to all, enemy to none.” It is a dream, to be sure, and like Don Quixote’s, an impossible one. As Duterte has proven, albeit unintentionally, being an enemy to the United States must be a hallmark for a head of state of a developing country which must recognize that in the hard realities of current geopolitics, taking up the China way is the one single correct course. President Xi Jinping’s unflinching perseverance in his Belt and Road Initiative has, by expert estimates, brought development to two thirds of the world already, and counting; it is an initiative that perseveres in the paths of friendship, consultation and cooperation, and certainly must reject war, which evidently is the US contrary way and therefore must be anathema to development. How can a head of state of a developing nation like the Philippines be a friend to the United States without being a foe to China? Ultimately, then, how can a developing nation be foe to China and at the same time achieve development?
In the current balance of world powers, it is only a choice of which way to go, the American constant war mongering or Chinese peaceful sharing of world development.
If the Philippines is to develop, it cannot but be friend to China – and, necessarily, foe to the United States.
Will Bongbong, like Duterte, have the balls to call Joe Biden a sonavabitch? There is an awful lot of reasons for Bongbong to do so. For one, it is clear that the United States, in cahoots with NATO, is at the forefront of forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin to strike at Ukraine or let Russia be destroyed. And while engaging in duplicitous stance of not getting involved in the Ukraine war, the United States is nonetheless ceaseless in instigating the entire world to declare Putin a war criminal, imposing sanctions against Russia on the economic front while continuously providing not-so-subtle war support to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in terms both of men and armaments. The current travails of the Philippines – the continuously rising of price of fuel resulting in corresponding spiraling of prices of basic commodities – are traceable to the Ukraine crisis and if Bongbong were to do a Duterte, then he should lose no time doing his turn in badmouthing Biden, who lately has made no bones of his readiness to engage China militarily over Taiwan.
But no, Bongbong appears headed for making up with the tormentors of his father. Reports have it that he is looking forward with much enthusiasm to talking nice with US State Secretary Anthony Blinken when the latter pays him a visit shortly. Chances are that with Bongbong, the United States will get its way after all. The landslide victory of Bongbong in the election, far from truly indicating just how much sway he has over the electorate, shows one truism which many have not seemed to perceive, and it is that the United States allowed it. Put that in the reverse, would Bongbong have truly scored that big had the United States objected to it? What transpirations had been there in the back-channeling such that Bongbong’s massive electoral support was allowed to take its legal course by the devil who otherwise, like it did with the ouster of his father in 1986, would have frustrated it at will?
Answer that question and you get a good backdrop of why in Bongbong’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA), not a square inch of a word had been said about the communist terrorist insurgency of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF), a group which by its ostensible practice over the past five decades of a preached communist revolutionary theory – a non-ending, non-winning protracted people’s war – has proven to actually serve the strategic aims of US imperialism in the Philippines.
In Bongbong, America must have perfectly perceived the obsession of a son to restore the sullied name of his family to its once glorious days.
At the memorial for his father in 1989, Bongbong declared, “As one chapter closes, another one opens. And I find myself faced with the awesome responsibility of filling in my father’s shoes.” Having now quite succeeded at the task, he would not wish to let go of that glory, not ever more.
Indeed, with the restoration of the Marcos glory at the core of his presidency, has not Bongbong been rendered quite malleable to American machinations?
(To be concluded next issue.)