How America treats its allies
As Tropical Storms “Inday” and “Josie” continue to bring heavy rains and strong winds to most areas in Metro Manila, I am reminded of “Ondoy,” which caused so much damage in our community nine years ago.
When “Ondoy” struck in October 2009, it converted our main living room into a pool of murky water, much of it from a creek just beside the house. So many books, family albums and documents disappeared under water, rendered beyond recovery and restoration.
The lesson from Ondoy was that, through the years, we all tend to accumulate things that are of no real value to our lives, things that should have been thrown or given away long ago. Its clear message: As we travel through life, we can do with fewer material possessions that will only weigh us down.
With the weather changing abruptly, I am stuck watching TV, surfing from one station to another, and the most interesting and amazing program is that of Christiane Amanpour of CNN. Her guest is Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism expert of both Bush presidents—George H.W. Bush and son George.
In a stunning accusation directed at President Donald Trump, Clarke described the US president as a “controlled
asset.” In the intelligence community, a controlled asset is one who speaks and acts on the basis of how his handler or case officer wants him to behave. The asset may be controlled for a number of reasons: One, he is on the payroll of the controlling party or, second, he could be facing threats of unsavory revelations about possible money dealings or sexual encounters.
Trump has been the object of salacious reports regarding his sexual adventures in Moscow as a private businessman. All these make him vulnerable to blackmail. Clarke’s accusation implies that someone, possibly an outsider, is handling the US president.
For those of us interested in events taking place outside the country, we might recall that, a few days earlier, the US president called out his Nato allies and urged them to meet agreed-upon defense expenditures amounting to 2 percent of the gross domestic product of their countries, and possibly an even higher figure of 4 percent of GDP. Fair enough.
But then he slammed Germany in particular for agreeing to a pipeline project that he believed gave Moscow too much influence over its economy. He said that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia.” This was certainly not the best way to talk about friends.
Prior to a visit with Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, Trump publicly called her Brexit handling “unfortunate” and said he advised her against it, adding that May’s blueprint would probably kill any bilateral trade deal between the two countries. To stick the knife even deeper, Trump praised Boris Johnson, the resigned former foreign secretary, as a great future prime minister of the country. With hundreds of thousands of Londoners on the streets protesting his visit, he was carefully taken in and out of locations, mostly by helicopter, so as not to feel the “warmth” of London’s welcome.
In a recent Fox News interview, Trump expressed concern about Montenegro, Nato’s 29th and newest member, asking whether the United States should go to war to defend Montenegro. That sounds like the beginning of the end of a US-led Nato. Under Article 5 of Nato’s charter, an attack on one member is an attack on all.
Of the three meetings on his swing to Europe, Nato and the United Kingdom, and a Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump boastfully declared that the Helsinki trip would probably be the easiest to tackle. He was sadly mistaken.
During the press conference with Putin, in reply to questions regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, Trump declared, “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” By that statement, he appeared to side with the Russians against the findings of his own intelligence agencies. There was not a word of criticism or rebuke against Putin.
US Sen. John McCain described Trump’s behavior as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president. The damage he inflicted is difficult to calculate.”
In exile after the end of the Vietnam War, Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who served as South Vietnam’s president, summarized the South Vietnamese experience with the United States: “It is easy to be an enemy of the United States, but so difficult to be a friend” (from “The Road Not Taken,” by Max Boot).