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Commentary

The homeland’s defense

The defense of the homeland is the most precious of human action because it is our homeland that truly affirms our identity as a people and enables us to realize ourselves as individuals. To this end, life itself is worthy to be consecrated. Those who participate to achieve a peaceful and prosperous future are ennobled and enshrined in the hearts of our people—both for us who live today and for our children to whom belongs tomorrow.

We have fought in wars that are not of our making. We should no longer be pawns in conflicts involving superpowers and be drawn into their quarrels. We need to cut our own path, independent of ideological encumbrances.

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When we inquire into the foreign policy of any nation, our framework of reference must be the goals which a nation is trying to attain. Our supreme goal certainly is national survival. Unless we survive, it will be pointless to discuss any other possibility for us.

Next to survival, the goal we must surely want to attain is to survive well. It is not enough to be alive, if living is a state of slavery or suffering. It is hope, and some measure of comfort, that makes it worthwhile to be alive. As history and our own feelings have shown us, to survive well means to live in peace, justice and prosperity. To survive, therefore, and to survive well are a nation’s primordial and highest goals.

FEATURED STORIES

Is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg on April 28, 2014, compatible with Asean regional security and economic growth?

Vis-à-vis the superpowers, the Philippines must view itself dispassionately. Of what value can we be to the United States, Russia, or China? The “value” we look into here must be such that it can be worthy of physical domination by any of these three powers.

First, we are an archipelago, insulated from all three by waters they control. As such, we have no value as a borderland which their enemies can infiltrate. Second, we have no natural resources which they do not have in abundance. Third, we have neither industries nor technology which they do not possess to an extremely better size and degree. Fourth, we are not a consumer market of any material significance for their goods and services.

These factors can be injurious to chauvinistic vanity, but the very weakness they suggest can be the very fact of our strength insofar as an attack from them is concerned.

In disinvolving ourselves completely from America’s military structure, the specter has been raised that such an act would mean espousal of the policy of nonalignment, and that such can precipitate the very perils we seek to avoid thereby. Salvador P. Lopez, former Philippine ambassador to the United Nations, once observed that a policy of nonalignment could upset the quadrilateral balance of power in Asia among the United States, China, Russia and Japan. It is difficult to perceive the logic of this view.

First, we have at least found it imperative to establish diplomatic, commercial and cultural ties with all countries. In addition, we are a signatory to the Asean Economic Community effective on Dec. 31. How can this possibly be truly realized if we allow on our soil daggers pointed at their jugular?

Second, we have found it imperative to “come home to Asia,” and to make of Asean a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality. How can there be neutrality vis-à-vis the superpowers if we allow one of them an “access for rotational presence” that can certainly be used against the others?

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Third, in the continued absence of an automatic protection clause such as that given to Nato allies and the continuing nonfulfillment of arms support under the RP-US Military Assistance Pact, of what possible guarantee to our national security can the “pivot to Asia” policy be?

Fourth, since neither our military participation nor its absence can either enhance or weaken any of the four powers’ heartland strength, how can we possibly upset any so-called balance of quadrilateral power in Asia?

Our concept of nonalignment has no element of hostility in it. On the contrary, it eschews all hostility toward any nation, and its very reason for being is precisely to afford us all the options for friendship with all nations.

To deny access to America’s shift to Asia is not tantamount to a weakening of her presence. For whatever America should deem in her interest to maintain, she can very well advance through the ocean-spanning might of her arms and of her own conclusion of appropriate arrangements with China and Russia.

Since we cannot take away anything of substance from America, she would have nothing to resent; and if she continues to unite her logic with her avowed precepts of morality, then she has to accept in good grace the validity of our claim to enhance our survival value by every device within our means. It is foolhardy to be humored by Balikatan war games for phony “interoperability.” America will not war with China over a few barren reefs and islets.

Let us restate the imperatives in sustaining and enhancing our national security and economic growth.

Internal stability and national development must always be the mooring principles of our nation. Our foreign policy is but an extension of all efforts to achieve these constant objectives. To achieve any foolproof means of warding great-power attack is impossible within the constraints of our resources for all these foreseeable years. Nor is it realistic to depend on any great power opening itself to massive retaliation to protect us from external attack, even if we can expect it on the basis of all the “automatic” clauses in the world. We must accept the hard fact that we have no means of defense against invasion from a superpower.

Our only hope is to expect an escalation of the growing feeling that a world war is both too costly and absolutely unnecessary to supplant the normal tools of diplomatic negotiation. Our other hope is that, as an archipelago, and of no balancing significance to any superpower, we may be left alone. It would be a pointless exercise in chauvinism to deny these realities, and the other point is that these hopes are all we have.

From this we must draw the clear conclusion that military pacts are both useless and dangerous. At the most, our armed might must be such as is required to maintain internal stability, and insofar as an invader’s perspective is concerned, our homeland security can give would-be invaders a country they can invade but not govern, except at the pyrrhic choice of a wasted land useless to all, or a guerilla counterforce effective in draining the invader’s resources.

Putting it tritely, but precisely, we should do only what we must and can do. We live not as we will but as we must. Our focus therefore is to mobilize all the external assistance we can get to achieve our people’s economic and cultural development.

We ought to find it a source of pride, and necessity as well, to wear the phrase borne by England in happier times: “a nation of shopkeepers.” To let the world know that our sole foreign concerns are to do business and to achieve cultural rapport, no matter how mercenary it may seem.

To adopt only the program of a merchant-nation in our foreign policy may lack the heady glamour of vast alliances, but it will define us most clearly as truly noninvolved in all contending ideologies, except in the ideology—if we may so call it—of a prosperous life for all people in all nations.

Reynaldo V. Silvestre is a retired army colonel and belongs to Class 1968 of the University of the Philippines Vanguard in Diliman, a multiawarded writer, bemedaled officer and former chief of the Armed Forces’ Office of Strategic and Special Studies.

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TAGS: Asean Economic Community, Balikatan, defense, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, homeland, Nato, Philip Goldberg, RP-US Military Assistance Pact, Voltaire gazmin
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