“The Philippines gives us a base at the door of all the East.” U.S. Senator Alfred J. Beveridge, 1900
Herbert Docena´s excellent research reports are on the cutting edge of modern documentation. Much more useful than whole books with long publication time lines and limited availability, these reports are available in print and many electronic forms soon after completion and are readily accessible. This is the latest of his reports from the respected group Focus on the Global South which is an integral part of the social movements in the Philippines and globally. These reports are models of presentation and content; they have excellent graphics, photos, charts, maps etc and clear precise prose, all well laid out and easy to read with extensive endnotes for both veracity and more detailed study.
(see bookreviews.bbcf.ca for a review of his previous report: UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE: Are US Special Forces engaged in an ´offensive war´ in the Philippines?)
While much activist attention is rightly being focussed on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and western Asia, Docena has documented the build up of the USA´s military in the Philippines as part of its long term policy on its real perceived enemy — China.
Beveridge´s statement held for most of the 20th Century as the USA used the Philippines as a colony, then as a base after independence in 1946. Its strategic location and history made the country a vital part of USA´s military campaigns in Korea, Vietnam and interventions elsewhere, including within the Philippines.
Other countries, while friendly to the USA, are too close to China to consider allowing a USA military presence; others are not well located. On Page 92 a map of the region displays all the possibilities and inherent problems of their political and geographic positions.
In 1991 the forces of change swept the Philippines and as result, political decisions were made that re—evaluated the country´s relationship with the USA and there was a closing of bases and a much diminished USA military presence in the country. Although there are not supposed to be any permanent USA bases now, recent more friendly government signed a Visiting Forces Agreement in 1998, and “a steady stream of US troops has been arriving in the country for regular and recurring military exercises…”
Since 9/11/01 the USA presence has steadily increased beyond any idea of ´visiting´ as Docena documents in his previous report (see above). This has happened under the constant mantra we have all heard, a mantra that has invoked major changes in human and civil rights legislation of other countries, including Canada and the UK: the global war against terrorism.
Docena concludes with a wider and longer view of the future of the Philippines´ policies and position in a new global order. As he points out, “the Philippines´ continuing support for US military objectives is also by no means predestined.” It may well be that future politicians may see China as a better ally or choose not to align their governments with either power.
“What is sure, at this stage, is that the Philippines has become even more crucial to US military strategy than ever. Whether US military strategy is critical to the Philippines, however, is the more fundamental question… As this report has tried to show, the Philippines plays a key role in underpinning the US´ larger goal of containing China and assuring its own pre—eminence. The question therefore, is whether the Philippines should continue to support the US strategy of permanent dominance and whether a world ordered by one permanent superpower is the kind of world that best serves the interests of the Philippines. Because of the critical role it could potentially play in contributing to sustaining or thwarting US military ambitions, the answer will have global implications.”
There are about 150 countries in the world where we should be asking those questions of our own involvement with the USA. Docena has done a brilliant job of framing issues that are extremely important for many peace activists everywhere, while setting the problems so clearly in his own country.