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Duterte and the art of war

12:05 AM October 19, 2016

In the context of President Duterte’s verbal attacks on the United States and threats to break all strategic relationships with it, we urge our countrymen in every part of the world to read Sun Tzu’s 1,600-year-old treatise on the art of war. He states: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” In contrast, he states: “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.”

As four million Filipino Americans observe Mr. Duterte’s often intemperate blasts at the US government and his wholehearted efforts to be embraced by China, we wonder whether he understands the Filipino community’s aspirations worldwide, US ambitions, or even the Chinese government’s ambitions.

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The Philippines is in many ways blessed by a vibrant, although sometimes intemperate, leadership. It has become an important center for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a democracy in its relatively early stage. It is difficult to determine if Mr. Duterte’s efforts to discourage an alliance with the most powerful nation in the world relate to an understanding of Chinese political aspirations and/or US military aspirations. He is correct that early in the 20th century, the United States acted in predatory ways toward the government and people of the Philippines. But it was no different from the imperialist efforts until the 1950s of Britain or France, and certainly no different from the imperialist desires of both Germany and Japan until the end of World War II.

It is also correct that US military contributions to the Philippines—an estimated $90 million a year—are grossly inadequate and pale in comparison with the recent 10-year US commitment to Israel of $38 billion. This is about 40 times more per year for Israel whose population is far less than 10 percent that of the Philippines. In effect, this is close to a 500-to-1 disparity.

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It is apparent that China will benefit from any deepening relationship with the Philippines, but as has happened in many nations in Africa and Asia, China’s economic gifts generally primarily benefit China. This is why, for example, Myanmar (Burma) has begun to deeply question its relationship with China and warmly welcomed US investments.

Based upon our meetings with tens of thousands of Filipino Americans and our frequent visits to and contacts with the Philippines, we believe that it is not too late for the President to better know both the sentiments of Filipinos and the actual motives of China. From our observations, the vast majority of Filipinos, perhaps including even a majority of those who voted for Mr. Duterte, favor a more balanced approach: that is, go to war against neither China nor the United States, but seek mutually beneficial economic relations with both giant military powers. A unanimous and powerful decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July favoring the Philippines in its dispute with China in the South China Sea could be a starting point for better knowing and understanding the economic and military capacities of the Philippines, the United States and China.

The Philippines’ three primary economic trading partners are Japan, China and the United States, in that order. All three should also be our partners wherever possible in all economic and military strategies. Should these strategies of positive engagement be highly beneficial, as we believe they will, the Philippines can become not just one of the fastest-growing but also one of the safest economies in the world. It could do so without having to raise an army of millions.

Instead, the Philippines can be reinforced by the United States’ four million Filipino Americans who, for example, remit more than $15 billion a year to their home country—a sum equal to 5 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.

Faith Bautista is the CEO and president of the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC). Nino Lim is NAAC chair and owner of two dozen Island Pacific Supermarkets on the US West Coast.

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TAGS: Art of War, Rodrigo Duterte, Sun Tzu, United States
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