South China Sea: How the Philippines is being used as geostrategic pawn by the US

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It turns out that vis-à-vis the South China Sea dispute, the Philippines not only lacks in understanding their neighbor, but also exposes Filipinos as being ignorant to how it is being manipulated by Western powers, particularly the United States, to counter China’s undeniable influence in the region and to the rest of the world.

A month has passed since The Hague ruling regarding the arbitration case concerning the Philippines’ right to be heard in its claims to the disputed seas. What most Filipinos do not know is the fact that this ruling put before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea only covers the legal status of the maritime dispute, as opposed to whether the said ruling decides on who owns anything.

Even the tribunal to which the Philippines initiated its arbitration case is not the body that represent the position of the United Nations. As the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General said “the UN doesn’t have a position on the legal and procedural merits of the case or on the disputed claims.”

The reaction from Beijing is understandable and unsurprising, at least from realists observing the issue: it has fiercely rejected the jurisdiction of The Hague ruling on an otherwise sovereignty dispute, and reminded others that the United States is not even a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of The Sea (UNCLOS) and thus compromises Washington’s real intentions on the maritime dispute.

An editorial appearing in The Greenville Post made the correct assumption on the matter stating “many observers, in Beijing and abroad, pointed out that the ruling was clearly political, and that out of five, four judges were citizens of the EU, while one (the chairman) was Ghanaian but also a long-term resident of Europe.”

Also widely unknown to Filipinos is Washington’s clearly stated pivot to Asia policy, which asserts an increased military and political pressure to be pursued against China. This interventionist policy, announced in 2011 when Obama was about to be reelected to office, requires a sustained effort to increase diplomatic and military pressure against what the United States sees as opposing its hegemonic status, including in the South China Sea. As a leading academic in the Philippines correctly asserts “What’s happening is that our political elites are clearly encouraged by the US to provoke China, and there is also the big influence of the US military on our armed forces. I would say that the Philippine military is very vulnerable to such type of ‘encouragement’. So the US is constantly nurturing those confrontational attitudes.”

Even the Philippine government’s ties to the United States during the Cory Aquino administration deserves scrutiny to help understand why the UNCLOS issue was put forward during the time of Benigno Aquino III’s presidency. Although it ultimately failed, it was Cory Aquino who supported the renewal of maintaining US military bases in Subic and Clark. For his part, Aquino III also supported the highly contentious Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) military exercises with the United States. Thus, the timing of putting forward an illegitimate case against China on the South China Sea issue (which the Philippines now calls as West Philippine Sea) should not be surprising and also that  that the Aquinos have been a willing pawn in playing Uncle Sam’s warmongering stance in the region.

Some realist scholars in the Philippines admit that through the decisions made by the previous Arroyo and Aquino III administrations, the United States has successfully inserted ‘anti-terror’ forces in the Philippines which of course is a guise to counter Beijing’s growing interest in the region, a region where some $5 trillion dollars of trade passes annually.

As for the resources stored in the South China Sea itself, Washington’s aim is to ensure that the weakest nations get to control this region, particularly its allies in East Asia. As an observer accurately asserts “We (Filipinos) are totally dependent on foreign companies for the exploitation of our natural resources…Foreign multinationals would greatly profit from the natural resources of the China Sea, if a weak and dependent country like this one (The Philippines) were to be put in charge of them.”

To conclude, undeniably the Philippines’ memory is chillingly short-sighted. Its present guarantor of ‘peace and security’ the United States invaded it a century ago and has made the country an economic, diplomatic, and military puppet ever since. None of these shameless history have ever been put forth by China against the Philippines in the past. Will someone please stand up and remind the Filipinos about their unfortunate history with Uncle Sam?

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Capitalism: As Tired as the Environment it Plundered (PART III)

PART III: Militarism as a Tool of Economic Interests

I remember putting up Views from the East while the soon-to-be-called Arab Spring was raging on. Last year, the news was swarm with the headlines “Tunisia”, “Egypt”, ”Libya”, “Yemen”, “Bahrain”, and up to this day, “Syria”. Rewind a decade before that, the news was “Afghanistan” and “Iraq”. Indeed, with the humiliating absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), more people are aware today of the real agenda behind those conflicts (spell blood for oil). The major conflicts of the opening rounds of the 21st century point us to conclude that America’s harsh stance against Syria is a prelude to an imminent conflict with the greater “evil”, Iran. After dropping assertions that Saddam Hussein hid his WMDs in Syria back in 2005, claims that Syria today harbors them inevitably raises yet another round of curiosity regarding America’s WMD accusations. Just think about it – Afghanistan is to Iraq what Syria is to Iran.

Time and again the strategy here is the same system of covert action and propaganda instigated by the ‘sole superpower of the world’: from the South American killing squads of the 1960s to supporting Mujahedin against the Soviets in the 1980s, to the conflicts in Africa, South Asia and the Balkans of the 1990s, and to the arming of rebels in Syria today. How did it came to be that America and its Anglo allies seemed not to respect and actually violate established international laws regarding the support of rebellion, regardless of whether they are for the greater good or otherwise? What then is the real agenda behind all these military adventures?

For much of its history, America has been all about the labels ‘profit’, ‘growth’, ‘competition’, ‘imperialism’, all of which are part of the grander framework of Capitalism. Through this perspective, it is not hard to contemplate that not only are these wars part of an elaborate scheme of plundering the resources of the world for their own benefit, but also making more money out of them (remember Monsanto?). Put more bluntly, Capitalism can grow and sustain itself by grabbing resources while also gaining from the process of grabbing resources. What are the examples of these?

A good case in point is Pakistan. In November 2007, Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf cracked down on protests and activists and undermined human rights in the process. As a result of this move, Pakistan lost military aid and deals with the Netherlands and Switzerland. For its part, the United States said it will review its contracts with the country. However, in a 2007 report by Arms Control Today, it was indicated that “Washington…would likely not prevent any weapons transfers, asserting such a decision could undermine counter-terrorism efforts.” As part of the “global war on terror”, US policy toward Pakistan meant not only supporting it against terrorism (which also means effectively dragging Pakistan into its military orbit), but also making sure it patronized American military hardware (which is sound business). In fact, weapons sales went up ever since, even though it meant sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military assistance to morally-questionable governments and regimes.

Of course, Pakistan is just one part of America’s military customers. The United States has offered military assistance to some countries that it had not aided previously in this way. For instance, Yemen has received grants to acquire U.S weaponry for the last 11 years, but none in the 11 years prior to 2001. Turkmenistan is now buying U.S. weaponry, and Kyrgyzstan is now permitted to make commercial purchases of U.S. weapons. Even more telling, 18 of the 25 countries in this series received more military assistance and 16 concluded more arms sales with the United States during the five years after the September 11 attacks than they had during the period between 1990 and 2001.

Data from the Arms Control Association also show that in the first five years following September 11, 2001, the United States sold nearly five times more weapons through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) to 25 countries than during the five years prior to that date. From fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2006, FMS to these countries increased from about $1.7 billion to $5.3 billion. DCS for these 25 countries have also reached new highs, rising from $72 million during fiscal years 1997-2001 to more than $3 billion during fiscal years 2002-2006. Pakistan had the largest increase in military sales (FMS and DCS) in the five-year period, signing agreements for $3.6 billion in U.S. defense articles. Other beneficiaries of the war on terrorism arms sale bonanza were Bahrain, which saw an increase of $1.6 billion, and Algeria, which saw an increase of nearly $600 million. Sounds good business?

It is not just this supply of arms and training that rings the alarm bells, the United States continues to ‘innovate’ its tricks to prevent (or foster?) these self-serving wars. Back in 2009, when talks of withdrawal and ‘Iraq is now safer’ where headlines, a strange, seemingly backward report surfaced: a member of the newly formed Iraqi parliament has accused the US and the British of carrying out untoward civilian bombings. The Sadrist lawmaker, Maha al-Dori linked the escalating violence in the country with the withdrawal of US forces, and that the ‘occupiers” are the ones who are responsible for a new wave of violence and overall insecurity. This betrayal aims to create at its core an illusion of insecurity in the country and merit the prolonged stay of American military ‘advisers’. Who can argue? Those bombings show Iraq cannot yet stand without America. And thus this justifies their continued presence up to this day.

This practice is what we can refer to as a closed-loop cycle: with increased conflicts come increased weapons sales and with it comes an increase in energy (oil) dependence. But why rely on foreign sources of energy when in fact America can and has historically produced its own? The reality today is that America has been running out of access to cheap oil since after the second Industrial Revolution,  proven by the relentless expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, an alternative to this challenging and unnecessarily expensive drilling must be found at all cost. So the bottom line is Yes – corporate America needs these wars. No wonder the US military-industrial complex receives the biggest incentives, budget, and employs more than any other industry in the country. For sure, Dwight D. Eisenhower will be very displeased to see the military to be out of control, who himself warned that the military-industrial complex must never be allowed to “endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

Instead of relying heavily (or solely) on arms and military training as the primary tools of foreign policy, the United States and its allies should start scaling back on these activities and promote not only true and unstained peace in ‘failed states’, but also promote self-sufficiency among them. It is deeply dismaying that Anglo-America has continued to defy morals; that they continue to abuse humanitarianism to promote ‘peace’ and use them to expand their economic agendas; that it has pursued bullying through sanctions that exacerbate the international situation; and that it has proudly pursued unjustly practices to pursue its cancer of greed in the belief that “there is no alternative”, as Reagan and Thatcher believed to death.

It is about time to stop scolding countries that have become economically competitive if not successful (think Singapore, China, Russia, Brazil, India) by pursuing an alternative sociopolitical system (especially Scandinavian countries) and give in to the reality that Capitalism has disappointed the expectations of many, that it is in a decline and has damaged not just humanity, but also the world. The plague of Capitalism should be incarcerated to the dustbins of history, for it has hatched and grew from the sufferings of humanity and paved the way for the irreversible catastrophe of climate change. If we fail so, future generations will be in a more desperate situation than we are today. We must not allow the future generations to blame all of us; after all, all these scourge was caused by those who belonged to the class called Capitalists. The Bible can’t stress enough how it is against the rich and greedy: that the rich will have a hard time entering heaven, if at all.