Carvajal: Forget the braggadocio

Break Point

In the world security order, the best position for small Philippines is neutrality. For a neutral state, every other nation is a friend. Without enemies to defend borders from, it can spend all its resources on development with only a relatively small portion going to the maintenance of internal security police.

Neutrality, however, is no longer available for the Philippines. Its external security has been so inextricably tied to the United States of America. For all intents and purposes it is wholly dependent on the US for the defense of its borders against aggression by any of its more militarily capable nations. Why it is the poorest economically and the weakest militarily among its neighbors is something for Filipinos to ponder and work on.

We cannot rewind history. But we can be smarter or less gullible moving forward. We cannot be a neutral nation anymore, but we can always behave in a manner as close to neutral as possible. That means a friendly yet firm approach to territorial issues with neighbors. We cannot be losing our dignity by taking our cue wholly from Uncle Sam, at the same time that we should not be bluffing hubris towards an infinitely more powerful neighbor, China.

Thus, I find the President’s bravado on the WPS (West Philippine Sea) issue quite incomprehensible. What makes him think the Philippines can stand up to China in the event of a military confrontation? And if he is banking on US support, why spend so much money on expensive military equipment? Why not let the US supply us with all the necessary war materiel? The enmity is really between the US and China who are fighting for hegemony in Asia and the world. War, therefore, is theirs to declare and we would be smart not to be caught in the crossfire.

We could then spend our money more productively to reduce the prices of prime commodities, build more basic education schools and restructure our rickety public health system, areas where we also lag behind our neighbors.

What, for instance, can one submarine do against China’s fleet of war subs? What can a few third-generation jet fighters do against China’s fleet of fourth- and fifth-generation jet fighters? Are we really buying these weapons to enable our military to stand up to China? But we know we cannot, so what are we buying weapons for? For the commission maybe?

It is imperative that we look for a friendly and diplomatic way to settle our territorial dispute with China. Let’s face it, we are small and poor. In the event of a military face-off between the US and China, the smart thing to do is to make sure that we come out on top no matter which of the two wins the war.

That comes from taking the smart position of close to neutral and not from bluster, not when our “modernized” armed forces are no match to China’s. Standing close to neutral might or might not work, but for sure acting aggressive merely because the US is behind you is to court disaster. Forget the braggadocio. It’s not going to get us anywhere safe.


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