Thursday, August 08, 2013

US And The Philippines Discuss Larger US Military Presence To Restructure Old Alliance

The Filipino government, anxious about what they say is increasing Chinese aggression in Philippine-claimed waters in the South China Sea is now in talks with the US about an increased US military presence and help in refurbishing and training its own military.

Filipino Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sent a letter to the FIlipino congress emphasizing the necessity for American troops to have an “increased rotational presence” will help the country attain a “minimum credible defense” to help the Philippines guard its territory while it works to modernize its own military, something that has not been a priority for quite some time.

The Philippines, a former U.S. colony actually bans foreign troops being permanently based on its soil, something that was directly aimed at the US after the two countries had a falling out in 1991 and forced the U.S. to vacate its two major American bases in the Philippines at Subic and Clark.

A few U.S. troops were allowed back in to help the Filipino military battle Abu Sayaff, the local al-Qaeda affiliate (the Philippines has a large Muslim population, mainly located on the southern island of Mindanao), but this recent call is directed at increasing tension between the Philippines and China.

China claims huge stretches of the South China Sea as its own sovereign territory, and that has led to clashes with not only the Philippines but with Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. The Chinese sent a fleet into the waters of the Spratly Islands, which the Philipines claim as their own sovereign territory just last July, and China has also turned Mischief Reef, which it occupied, into a naval base.

So the Filipino government is once again seeking to base U.S. forces there.

While this is being dubbed as 'temporary' for political reasons, there's no doubt in my mind that the superb harbor at what was a major U.S. base at Subic Bay will once again become a prominent American military asset.

In his famous speech to Congress 62 years ago, General Douglas MacArthur reminded America that the western Pacific is America's maritime redoubt against our enemies. He was entirely correct.

We're seeing this basic truth reaffirmed again, as our ally Japan rebuilds its Navy and the U.S. builds ups its forces in Northern Australia, Guam, the Marianas and the naval fortress of Singapore. Look for the Philippines to be another important link in our Pacific defenses.

This is a much bigger deal than it appears.


Anonymous said...

Very respectfully I'm extremely skeptical of this. Other than the link from your post regarding General McArthur's speech this post contains no references.

I can see how such an arrangement might benefit the Philippines. I'm not so clear on how it will benefit the United States other than to add fuel to the growing conflict between the US and China. This is something the US does not need right now, it cannot afford right now, and it will not be supported by the American people right now.

The first thought that comes to mind is that the Filipinos want to refurbish and train their military. That's just great. And we are supposed to help them do this how? Who trains and refurbishes the American military? With our own military in need of upgrades, equipment replacements, and new training regimes to fit with modern warfare I'm not comprehending how this is a good use of American resources. Will the Filipinos help us in this regard? In other words, do we get access to their training, weapon systems, intelligence gathering techniques, and other things that may benefit us?

America's basic needs appear to be as follows: 1.)keep the sea lanes open for trade between China and the US. Since China is our biggest supplier of manufactured goods and we are China's biggest customer, I'd think this would be in the best interest of both nations. As such, getting involved in a territorial dispute between China and the Philippines seems to serve no American interest I'm aware of. 2.)With America's national debt the way it is and with the huge need to invest vast sums in infrastructure over the next few years that has been neglected America's military presence will unable to be what it has been. America's leaders need to approach the Pacific region and other parts of the world with this in mind. As such, maintaining good or at least tolerable relations with China is going to be paramount. Additional deployments of men and ships do not seem to be helpful in this regard.

Perhaps a bit off topic but the US has maintained excellent relations with Australia over many decades. Part of the reason for this has been there has been no US military presence in this country to speak of. Now with the deployments to Australia as part of the so called "pivot" we should anticipate this being harmful to our relations with this country in the coming years. Not good.

We've had troops in Japan and South Korea for decades now and relations between us and these countries are strained. We need to be trying to figure out how to get our people out not figuring how to get them into yet more open ended commitments.

Rob said...

1) As far as references, this information can easily be gleaned from the Philippine press, the Asia Times, Navy Times and numerous other sources in the region.

2) The reason for any strain in relations between Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and other countries in the area comes because of the Obama Administration's feckless policy toward all of our allies and our adversaries...and that strain is not limited to Asia. He is almost universally regarded as an arrogant, clueless amateur whose word can't be trusted when it comes to foreign policy. Read my article on the Japanese elections for a look at how this plays.

As such, any strain is fairly temporary and not disabling.

3) Respectfully, your comment is exactly what a number of people were saying back in 1938 - 1940, when the US Selective Service Act passed congress by a just a single vote.

As a result of this sentiment, we were pitifully unprepared for war and much blood and treasure was lost as a result.

In fact, had the US been prepared adequately, war might never have come.

That's why I included General MacArthur's remarks, to remind people that there is no vacationing from history.

Such attempts at 'vacations' always come with a heavy price.


Rob said...

BTW, for what it's worth I also don't think a war between China and America is either inevitable or desirable. But keeping the Western Pacific as our redoubt is essential.

BTW, the reason we and the Ozzies get along so well, aside from the natural affinities of two peoples who pioneered a continent is the fact that they remember that the U.S. saved Australia from Japanese rape and pillage in WWII in the Battle of the Coral Sea and with MacArthur's brilliant campaigns in New Guinea, where he commanded Australian as well as American troops.

Most of the Diggers (Oz's troops) were fighting in North Africa against the Nazis in 1941 and the Brits refused to allow them to leave to defend their homeland, so the Australians were left almost defenseless...except for us.

That history is remembered in Australia, which is one reason they've fought shoulder to shoulder with us in every conflict we've been in since WWII, including Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan..because that's what allies do.

I assure you that the U.S. deployments in Darwin aren't going to be a source of friction..the reverse in fact.


B.Poster said...


Thanks for the reply and the constructive dialogue. Just a few points. I will try to keep this brief.

"As such, any strain is fairly temporary and not disabling." Respectfully this is predicated on the assumption that the next leadership is going to be any better than the current leadership. By the end of Mr. Obama's term, assuming he's not impeached or otherwise removed, we will have had approximately 28 years of poor leadership. It's hard to envision a company/family or any other entity surviving let alone thriving after enduring poor leadership for that long. Also, your statement assumes the damage done is not irreparable.

While the assumptions may be correct, I simply do not have such optimism. For example, the dollar will likely lose its role as the world's reserve currency in three to five years. This will change EVERYTHING for us. What is the government's plan for dealing with this? With proper planning and execution we should be able to make the transition and good outcomes are possible. This seems to be a far more pressing issue than The Philippines for us.

What do we do to refurbish our military so we can be ready to fight a war to do something like defend our homeland? This under the category of being ready for war as you mention.

How do we fix our immigration system? As you mention elsewhere amnesty is being considered for certain groups and will likely bankrupt our country is this goes through. This assumes the country is not bankrupt. If we are h*ll bent on actually doing this, how do we integrate these people into America and not further bankrupt our country. We may have to grant amnesty if for no other reason than failing to do so would likely generate a massive international out cry against us. Again, how do we implement it?

I could go on. All of these problems are more serious than any situation in the Philippines and operations in the Philippines would only divert precious resources from dealing with them.

B.Poster said...

"So the Filipino government is once again seeking to base US troops there." I remember the situation quite well back in 1991. Given how disrespectfully we and our military personnel were treated, this took unmitigated gall on the part of the Filipinos to request this. This clearly shows they have little shame. For seriously considering such a proposal, it would seem to indicate the US or at least it's leaders have little dignity.

With all of that said, this was in the past and today is a different time. The US is a very different country today than it was in 1991. The Philippines is likely a very different country as well. Also, our needs are different today as well and theirs likely are too. So, if it were my decision, I would consider deployment to The Philippines but some very clear guidelines would need to be laid out in advance. As follows: 1.)there will be a definite date at which time all US personnel will be withdrawn. For obvious reasons, this date will not be revealed to adversaries or potential adversaries, nevertheless, it is there and will not be extended unless something cataclysmic the likes of which has never been see occurs. 2.)We will retain the right to withdraw our personnel at any time prior to the agreed upon date for any reason, no notice or explanation need be given, and no prior warning need be given. 3.)There is a colonial past between The Philippines and America. Things happened that should not have happened. We are not proud of this past. there may be some ideas among the Filipinos that America owes them something because of this. We owe them NOTHING and that should be made abundantly clear in any agreement. 4.)US interests in this regard are to keep vital shipping lanes open and do not extend beyond that. For example, disputes over the South China see or any thing else are between China and the Philippines. We are not involved nor will we get involved unless vital shipping lanes are present. Given that "made in The Philippines" appears on quite a few labels, this may be important enough to the Filipinos to work constructively with us in this manner.

Similar understandings should be reached with Australia and any where else that American forces will be stationed in this region. The strained relations with countries such as Japan and South Korea pre date Mr. Obama by a long time. The large numbers of US forces stationed in these countries has a corrosive impact on our relations with these nations. In the coming years, we are going to need the cooperation of these nations in a number of areas. If relations are strained, then cooperation is less likely. We must immediately set out at correcting this situation. A great place to start would be to begin withdrawing our forces from these nations.

Again, this is what would happen if it were up to me. Alas, it is not up to me. If it were, things would be run much better, our nation would be more secure, and it would be far more prosperous.