Friday, June 15, 2012

The greatest irony ever told

Is there really a “historical irony” in the declaration of Philippine Independence as it relates to the mendicancy of the present Aquino government in asking for U.S. protection in its ongoing dispute with China?

Rodel Rodis, co-convenor with Loida Nicolas-Lewis of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (US4GG), an organization of Filipino-Americans in the United States known to be rabid supporters of Philippine President Noynoy Aquino, wrote in the Philippine Inquirer issue of June 13 about the irony in the declaration of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898.

The “historical irony” Rodis pointed out referred to the phrase “under the protection of the Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, the United States of America,” which was included in the Act of Declaration of Independence by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista who wrote and read the said document during that momentous day in Kawit, Cavite. This phrase raised the ire of Apolinario Mabini who later asked General Emilio Aguinaldo to remove it when the first Malolos Congress convened in Barasoain. Mabini objected to the original proclamation which essentially placed the Philippines under the protection of the United States. Aguinaldo, however, insisted that the phrase be retained.
The  Act of the Declaration of Independence was read in Kawit, Cavite on June 12,
1898. Click link, to view "Military
  security complex is creating another conflict," an interview with Paul Craig Roberts
 as he gives an insight on what's  going on  between the U.S.and China in the Pacific.
Here’s the twist. According to Rodis, a former student activist during the late ’60s in the Philippines, President Noynoy Aquino might eventually get this U.S. protection that our forefathers inserted in the Declaration of Independence when U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised military support for the Philippines in its maritime dispute with China. But where’s the irony?

Rodis totally misinterpreted the U.S. support for Noynoy Aquino as ironic. What Aquino really asked the United States was simply to reaffirm continuing U.S. direct involvement in Philippine affairs, something which the Philippine government would fully embrace like a loyal colonial subject. One may call it support or a form of military protection from the United States, but the United States never really cut off the Philippines from its umbilical cord since Spain ceded the islands to the United States for a measly US$20 million under the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. stole the victory of the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1898, then colonized the islands until July 4, 1946, continued to treat the Philippines as its vassal until compelled to give up their military bases in 1992, and up to the present time, maintain their control of the Philippine military with the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement which the United States wrung from the Philippine government in 1999. In other words, the United States never left the Philippines or gave us true independence when they transferred sovereignty to the Filipino people in 1946.

Nothing ironic in the U.S. promise of protection now that the Philippines is begging for it in the face of an illusory threat of Chinese invasion. The false threat of China’s creeping hegemony in Asia and the Pacific is the necessary justification the U.S. needs to reinstate its presence in the region. The moribund Mutual Defence Treaty between the Philippines and the United States is also even being waved around as the legal authority for American involvement in the South China Sea dispute between ASEAN nations and China.

Just like in 1898, Aguinaldo and his close advisers needed to invoke the protection of the United States as warships from Britain, France, Japan and Germany began arriving in Manila Bay upon hearing of Dewey’s victory against the Spanish armada. Germany’s fleet of eight warships was especially aggressive and menacing, according to one Philippine historian. All these imperial powers had recently obtained concessions from China for naval bases and designated commercial spheres of interest, which bothered the Americans that if they left they might be excluded from the Asia-Pacific trade altogether. Aguinaldo and his men knew that the U.S. would not honour their declaration of Philippine Independence in 1898 but ensured that they would call upon U.S. protection in case the new nation was caught between a bigger conflict with the other imperial powers. Now, what makes this different from Noynoy Aquino’s prayer for American military support should China, an emerging superpower, flex its muscle in the South China Sea?

The efforts of President Noynoy Aquino in begging for U.S. protection are not altogether different with a similar position taken by his mother President Cory Aquino in favour of retaining the U.S. military bases at a time when the Filipino people had already voiced out their opposition. Where is the historical irony in our independence from Spain in 1898 when our forebears under Aguinaldo summoned American protection in the face of other imperial powers lurking on Manila Bay, and today’s comparable plea from President Aquino for U.S. assistance in its rift with China? The analogy is very obvious, but there’s no irony. The similarity though is odious: Aguinaldo and Aquino claimed independence, yet both were asking for protection from the United States. Perhaps, therein lies the irony after all; we proclaim out loud our independence but we cannot help but ask the United States to give us protection.

But what is really behind the shift in U.S. foreign policy to Asia and the Pacific that looks more like an undertow in the ongoing South China Sea dispute rather than an authentic pivot to Asia? The U.S. has justified its refocusing on Asia as necessary in engaging the threat of China in the region. But Trefor Moss, a British journalist based in Hongkong who writes about Asian politics, especially on defence and security, believes this is pure hogwash.

Moss wrote that the rhetoric about the U.S. Asian comeback glosses over the fact that in large parts of Asia, the United States is facing a serious loss of influence. It used to be that Central Asia was the cockpit of U.S. foreign policy but the United States’ post-9/11 gains in Central Asia are being wiped away. The U.S. has failed in retaining any kind of presence in Iraq and is also beginning to draw down on Afghanistan which is likely to be under a Taliban comeback-government as soon as the U.S. military leaves.

The current lease of the U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan will expire in 2014 and is very unlikely to be renewed. Russia already closed the door on the possibility of U.S .Central Asian involvement, persuading former Soviet republic members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) into agreeing that no foreign military base could be established on any member state’s territory without the consent of the other members.

In Pakistan, the United States has already been evicted from the Shamsi airbase, from which it used to launch drone strikes against militant targets in Pakistan’s tribal belt. The imminent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan greatly diminishes Pakistan’s relevance as a partner; and the United States can’t continue to direct military aid to a country that values China as an ally more than the U.S. itself. Aside from retaining a limited interest in Pakistan’s nuclear security, Washington’s involvement in the country could soon be over.

According to Moss, the United States has effectively been outmanoeuvred in Central Asia by Russia, Iran, China, the Taliban and Pakistani military intelligence, which is a grim development from a security perspective.

Balancing against China in the Pacific by boosting ties with Asian countries like Singapore and the Philippines is reasonable enough, Moss said. But the major threats to American security will not come from the South China Sea. Moss emphasized that war with China is really just a bottom-drawer contingency: it’ll never happen. The real threat to American lives is more likely to emanate from Afghanistan and Pakistan, just as it had during the last decade, or from Tajikistan, whose government is failing to contain a range of jihadist insurgencies; or from restive areas of Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan.

All the talk of re-engaging with the Asia-Pacific only makes for smart politics during a presidential election year and the rise of China is fuelling the imagination of the American electorate. But in eliminating the enduring threat of Islamist extremists, the killing of Osama bin Laden and stationing U.S. marines in Northern Australia for redeployment in the South China Sea won’t make up for the dangerous disappearance of American influence in Central Asia.

Yet, the Philippines has willingly sucked into this U.S. foreign policy shift to Asia as if this is really in the best interest of the Filipino people. President Noynoy Aquino, like General Emilio Aguinaldo in the past, continues to shamelessly beg for U.S. protection against the illusion of threat from imperial powers waiting in the shadows (China at the moment), while he ignores the real danger of what Philippine complicity with future U.S. military adventures may bring upon the country.

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