US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change accord should not be a surprise

 

Early last month, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States will be withdrawing from the 2015 Climate Change accord, which was signed by 195 countries in December 2016 to help address global warming.

Trump cited that the climate deal imposed unfair environmental standards on American businesses, calling it a “draconian” international pact. Although many met this announcement as a surprise and an insult to international cooperation, how Trump and the United States in general acted with arrogance should not be a surprise.

To cite America’s involvement in the affairs of other countries, for instance its unwelcome and illegal involvement in Syria, as the only example of its braggadocio is an understatement. Many have forgotten that Washington is non-signatory to other major international accords. In other cases it has been hostile and has repealed landmark international deals for its aggrandizement, immunity and benefit.

For one, the United States is not party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which governs the rights and obligations of nations on the use of the world’s oceans. UNCLOS is signed by 162 countries, including the European Union, yet the US refuses to ratify the treaty because it “infringes on its sovereignty as a state” and hence it should remain “independent from any international interference on international maritime matters.

Despite that, while the US is not party to UNCLOS, it is using that jurisdiction in order to subvert the interests of other nations, such as in the case of the South China Sea, when it actively lobbied for the Philippines, its ally in the region, to use UNCLOS to claim the country’s stake against China in the disputed waters.

Another noteworthy case is Washington’s hostility towards the International Court of Justice (ICJ) treaty, which is the principal judicial court of the United Nations (UN). The US government’s refusal to sign the treaty stems from its avoidance of liability if and when US military personnel and political leaders misbehaved overseas, thus giving them immunity from persecution.

In addition to avoiding the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United States has been actively undermining the global standard of justice, including when it threatened to withdraw from peacekeeping missions in Europe and South East Asia if US personnel were not given complete immunity from persecution. This is under the auspices of the relatively recent American Servicemember’s Protection Act (ASPA), which was passed by the Congress and signed by former President George Bush in the early 2000s. In addition, the US actively sought to sign bilateral agreements with other nations which required countries not to surrender American nationals to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

In the realm of nuclear arms control, the United States also withdrew from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972, which imposed limits on the US and Russia (then the Soviet Union) regarding the deployment of defensive weapons. The treaty was signed in order to reduce the need to develop new anti-ballistic missile systems putting each country vulnerable and denying them any advantage of a first-strike nuclear capability. Despite Russia’s opposition, the United States withdrew from the treaty in June 2002.

As for the landmark Paris Climate accord, the US government’s refusal to be part of the global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions that will lead the world to its human-induced destruction speaks volumes about America’s behavior against being a responsible nation. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris treaty also includes halting contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund (to help poorer countries adapt to climate change policies) as well as refusing to report on its carbon emissions.

The reaction across the world was expected, with major powers in Europe expressing their “regret” about Washington’s decision, and while Trump spoke of “renegotiating the treaty to benefit America”, leaders in France, Germany, and the UK said the Paris Climate Treaty is non-negotiable.

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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?

Obama finally hails American Exceptionalism

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After years of downplaying America’s supposed exceptionalism, Obama’s recent West Point speech finally confirmed once and for all where he stands in this who-gets-to-police-the-world creed.

From a belief in everyone else’s exceptionalism, last week’s West Point speech calls for Obama’s belief in “American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.” He elaborated on what this means for the unsuspecting world: the US military has “the power to launch unilateral attacks when America’s interests are directly threatened.” Notice the subtle word changes: from the right to intervene when America’s “security” is directly threatened to “interests” directly threatened.

Indeed it is astonishing how American elections can mask the fundamental differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. It can be remembered Obama distinguished himself (and his party) from McCain’s and Bush-Cheney’s global conquest bidding when he famously decalred “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism” in a NATO summit in 2009.

At the time, this disbelief in a sole American exceptionalism and the enduring threat of isolationism ruffled some feathers, especially among conservatives, and was widely interpreted as vindication of Obama’s plan to retreat America from the world. This meant, first and foremost, rolling back the US war machine from overseas deployment, especially from the dreaded adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite Obama’s proposal to retreat from the Middle East, it can be recalled that during his first few years in office, he proposed and got Congress approval for an increase in the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan, famously known as the ‘surge’, lasting until 2012.

Now halfway into his second term, Obama is no longer a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing; that the guessing game on what his intentions for America’s global military domination is finally over: American will remain the sole policeman of the world whether you (Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela) like it or not.

Another word change worth nothing includes the shift from “war on terror” of the Bush-Cheney years to “the capacity of terrorists to do harm” and from “coalition of the willing” to “mobilize allies and partners to take collective action.”

Obama’s term, marketed as a move away from Bush’s imperialist policies, have so far been defined by more violations of international law and by increases of some kind, including more eavesdropping (even of allied leaders), astronomical increase in the Pentagon budget, the refusal to close illegal overseas prisons, the hijacking of popular uprisings, and support for disputes against its perceived long-term enemies.

Obama ends his West Point speech in a reassuring note, just in case his audience elsewhere doubts his exceptionalist revelation: “the military that you have joined is and always be the backbone” of US “leadership.”

The Specter of US meddling in Asian Affairs

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It’s only almost a year since America declared its policy of pivoting its messy militaristic adventure to Asia, and now we have news that it sent two B-52 strategic bombers over the disputed islands between China and Japan.

The flyovers, which is ‘part of a regular military exercise’ to the region, comes at a perfect time as China declares more control of the region, with a November 25 announcement that aircraft flying over the disputed territory must submit flight plans and communicate with Chinese aviation authorities via an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) policy.

Only in the course of a day the US expressed its dismay. In this most recent unarmed bomber aircraft patrol, Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren told Reuters “we have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus (Japan’s name for the disputed islands). We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies.”

The arrogant announcement comes after Kerry’s rhetoric that China’s new controls over the airspace “constitutes and attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.” US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was quoted as saying the Chinese announcement “will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region.”

Only America calls the shots anywhere in the world

Never minding the sovereignty of other countries, where the US comes in, trouble and tensions comes out. Regardless of where US troops are stationed in the area (South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Australia), clearly the US is over-extending its military to show Beijing who’s the ‘police of the world.’

Clearly this dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is a matter two sovereign nations must settle themselves, without the meddling of a third party. Such is the case with the Philippines, with the South China Sea, where the tiny island nation plays puppet to the US’s aggressive military policy in the area.

What these smaller nations fail to know is their role in playing the chess game for America’s larger pivot to Asia policy. It’s a win-win situation overall, let these countries fall prey to US manipulation against China while not committing too much military resources and increased arms sales.

It is almost foolish for these satellite countries to be slave to American policy by projecting a harder unilateral stance against Beijing in the form of ‘territorial disputes’, not knowing they themselves are in more trouble when the situation in the area escalates to open hostility.

US encourages Japanese remilitarization for the sake of containing China

The Chinese reaction and increased patrol in the area comes after recent Japanese provocation.

Ever since the arrests of Chinese fishermen in 2010 and last year’s purchase by the Japanese government of the islands (knowing well they are disputed territory) , China’s actions can be seen more as a reaction to these American-backed provocations.

The international media is replete with the usual suspect keywords of ‘an aggressive China’ for seeking to ‘change the status quo’ against ‘aggrieved’ neighboring countries. Many fail to see through the news. It can be remembered that just last year, the US increased its military forces in Australia and conducted ever-larger military exercises in the region to intimidate and contain China’s influence. The more recent announcement that US military troops will stay in Afghanistan beyond 2020 (despite Obama’s promise to remove them in 2014) is suspect enough since the country shares a border with China.

What the US fails to realize is the scale of its bullying in the region. Just last week, it concluded a mammoth military exercise with Japan which involved 34,000 troops and 350 warplanes, focusing on how to defeat Chinese anti-ship capabilities and a naval blockade to cripple China’s economy once a conflict breaks out. Sadly, we can only refer to the American reaction to Soviet troops stationed in Cuba half a century ago. Can anyone remind America what it feels like to have gargantuan military buildups and war exercise performed in their own backyard?