One of the more jarring transitions that an American makes in coming to the Philippines is understanding the deep-seated resentment that some Filipinos carry toward America.
The foundations for a lot of the anger and distrust are understandable: a racist America brutalizing its way across the Philippines in the Philippine American War, a brutal American bombing its way across Manila at the end of World War II, a hypocritical America coddling a dictator, a negligent America leaving Subic and Clark polluted, an arrogant America imposing a Visiting Forces Agreement on the Philippines that favors wayward American soldiers and insults the Philippines.
Joe America (Gravatar Image)
With that framing, it is easy for Filipinos to cast other actions of America as thuggish and imperialistic. It does not help when President G.W. Bush, not wanting to be seen as impotent in the face of a terrorist attack on New York and Washington DC, decides to fabricate a reason to invade Iraq. Or that an American ship runs into a precious Philippine reef and won’t allow park rangers to board the vessel.
And Filipino leftists, by dint of an ideology stuck in the 1950's, hoist America up for a general flag-burning or a march down Roxas whenever there is an issue to inflame.
So, it is easy to cast America as a villain.
My response to the generalized painting of America as a nasty cat is to break the argument down to the specific issues and deal with them in a proper context. When that is done, the “nasty cat” argument generally falls apart, because America’s actions are by and large good for Americans, and good for a great many non-Americans.
We now have a case in point: Syria.
President Obama has tried mightily to keep America out of the fight. Mainly because there is no side to be “for.” The established government has terrorist tendencies and the rebels contain large terrorist elements, Al Qaeda, for instance. Al Qaeda thrives on unstable situations and views them as a welcome mat for sowing terror and moving to power. There is no upside for America in Syria.
But when Syrian forces use chemical weapons on her own civilians, the mathematical calculation changes.
That DOES affect America’s interests directly because:
1) America is the target for terrorist activity, with gases or nuclear weapons among the most feared, and. . .
2) America cannot roll over and get pilloried without weakening her global presence and inviting adventurism from other malignant states like North Korea, Iran, and China.
To permit the use of gas weapons renders meaningless the global ban on such weapons. It is a crack in the tit for tat, the balanced position, the cold war position that it is not wise to push the button because Hell is just a few more buttons away.
The Assad government has pushed the button.
The United Nations is not united and has an everlasting split among the big power mongers as they monger for more power; in this case, Russia and China are close to Syria, and the moral offense of use of gas weapons is not enough to upset their cozy relationships. Their gross denial of the facts inserts a mad surrealism into the debate.
So the “big thug” America once again must rise from the arm chair of peace as the conscience and hope of many for a little bit of sanity in a world gone mad. Particularly in the Middle East.
And in doing so, America subjects herself to the complaints of “nation building” or “imperialism.” The global discussion about Syria is fascinating. Great Britain demurred, much to the frustration of her Prime Minister and those who want Great Britain to remain relevant to global issues. Many Middle Eastern states want Syria brought back into line, but they fear a spreading of war in the region. Canada and Australia wish to remain on the sidelines. France, a nation that ruffled American feathers by opposing the American adventure into Iraq, supports the American initiative to punish Syria with missile strikes.
Syria and her partners Iran and Russia have responded to the impending punishment with a wide variety of threats. And it is possible to imagine what they might be. Worst case, more gas attacks upon civilians in Syria. Or gas attacks into Israel or even Europe. Would Iran take up arms directly in support of a quick end to the Syrian rebellion? Would Russia?
Will we once again see nuclear states standing toe-to-toe across a very thin line? All of that is within the realm of reason.
And if nothing is done? If the American Congress declines to support her President’s decision to punish Syria?
Will gas become a weapon of choice elsewhere? Will the global ban on such indiscriminate weapons be overturned by a “failure to enforce”?
That, too, is within the realm of reason.
Iran. North Korea. China. These are states without conscience. The last case ought to give Filipinos the heebie jeebies.
So let me drop off a link
to the American assessment of the Syrian gas attack, thanks to Scribd
. I hope you will take the time to read it.
If you were a member of American Congress, how would you vote? For a punitive strike, or against it?
I’d vote for it. There must be lines. There must be punishments to assure we stay within the lines. If Hell results, so be it. Hell would be assured if we allowed wanton murder of civilians to become acceptable.
To me, voting “no” would be as if I were walking down the street and saw a young girl being raped. And kept walking . . .And most assuredly, for many, Hell exists, now, real time, right here on earth. — KDM, GMA News
Joe America is a blogger who writes about the cross-cultural experiences and observations of an American living in the Philippines. He is based in Biliran Island. This piece originally appeared in his blog on September 4. We are re-posting it here with his permission.