Briones: Be wary of the ‘Western’ narrative

Briones: Be wary of the ‘Western’ narrative
SunStar Briones

And now for something different…

The United States has always been a hegemon in world politics ever since I can remember.

I used to listen to my grandmother’s younger brother talk about the dogfights he witnessed during the Second World War in the skies over Argao, and how the Mustangs shot the Zeros with pinpoint accuracy.

In his eyes, and in the eyes of many in his generation, the Americans could never do wrong.

Not only did they have the military clout, they also had economic superiority after the defeat of the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in Asia.

The US, without any doubt, became the leader of the “Free World.”

By the time I was running around playing buwan-buwan in the middle of the street during one of the frequent nightly brownouts during this period, I knew the Americans were the “good guys” and the Soviets were evil personified.

And that’s how simple international politics was back then.

The Iron Curtain divided the world between the democratic “West” and the authoritarian “East.”

I remember vividly when the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989 because it was the day before my 20th birthday. I was a sophomore in college in Pennsylvania.

I knew then the world would never be the same again.

Yes, I was a drunkard. Yes, I skipped majority of my classes. Yes, I spent most of the week nursing a mean hangover. But international relations, geopolitics and history were and continue to be hobbies of mine.

Three years before in 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev had introduced glasnost and perestroika, which marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and its allies.

So when East German authorities stood and did nothing while citizens pummeled the wall that separated them from family and friends in West Berlin for almost three decades, it was history in real time.

The dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the democratization of former Warsaw Pact members meant the Cold War was finally over, and the West and its democratic ideals had triumphed.

Never mind that earlier in 1989, student-led demonstrations and protests that called for democracy, free speech and a free press in China were brutally suppressed by Beijing.

I guess Washington could well afford to be magnanimous amid its ideological triumph and ignore the Chinese hiccough.

But the demise of the Soviet Union and everything it represented left a vacuum in the political landscape.

Uncle Sam had a large army and over 700 military bases in at least 80 countries worldwide. It needed to train these against something new. Something exotic and foreign. Something radically different.

The Islamic fundamentalists were the perfect targets.

Sure the US provided them with weapons to fight the Soviet Union when the latter invaded Afghanistan in 1979 or to destabilize governments that were friendly with Moscow. But with the Soviets gone, Washington and the American public could finally get a good look at them and they didn’t like what they saw.

Of course, that’s what their propaganda machine wanted everyone else to believe.

As I got older, I realized the world was not all black and white. And I realized that the Americans only looked after their own interests. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is to be expected of every sovereign nation.

Sure they came back to drive the Japanese away and liberate the Philippine archipelago, but more than 40 years earlier they massacred thousands if not hundreds of thousands of local insurrectionists who resisted their takeover of the islands from Spanish colonizers.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a product of the West. I cherish the freedom of being able to say whatever I want, even if it’s to criticize the policies and actions of an incumbent administration, without fear of repercussion.

But not everything Washington and its allies say is necessarily the truth. Those who believe otherwise are -- how do I put it -- simply naïve.

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