Thursday, November 10, 2016

What We Learn from Duterte

In late September I wrote about the potential loss of the Philippines as a staunch ally in SE Asia.  Yesterday, President Duterte congratulated Donald Trump on his election victory.  Duterte stated the following as reported by Reuters:

"We are both [Duterte and Trum] making curses.  Even with trivial matters we curse.  I was supposed to stop because Trump is there.  I don't want to quarrel anymore, because Trump has won."

Duterte's rants aimed at the Obama administration have shown his frustration with U.S. tying aid packages to what Duterte considered internal affairs of the Philippines.  "You do not give us the aid, s***, to hell with you," was one recent statement made by Duterte in reference to the U.S. State Department determining to delay and study sales of rifles to the Philippine national police.  This frustration is found in many parts of the world.  Sorry to say, the promise of the Obama administration bringing change to U.S. foreign policy behavior was lost within the first months of his administration.

For my two cents, most of the world would like us to get out of their domestic arena.  Yes, they want our aid, yes they want our technological expertise.  Yes, they do want our security blanket.  But what many states want is for us to stay out of their domestic arena.  A thought has occurred to me that with Trump we may get that behavior--the U.S. may stay out of the domestic issues of many states, Trump and his advisors may--MAY--just not be liberal internationalists who believe that U.S. involvement is required to solve every problem in the world and the U.S. ideals about best forms of government and best actions of government are best for every population in the world.  But, we shall see, much will be known in the next 72 days as Trump puts together the group who will advise him on foreign policy and be chosen to run the diplomatic, intelligence, and security organizations of the U.S.

Do not live in fear of what will be coming.  The unknown is simply the unknown.  The unknown unknowns are what we should fear.  U.S. citizens are faced with unknowns rights now in regards to who Trump will surround himself with and what course of action Trump will champion.  We are not looking at unknown unknowns, just at not knowing things that will become clearer to us in the next 72 days.

Remember that election rhetoric is election rhetoric.  A lot of it is fake, like professional wrestling on television.  Yes athleticism is required and the people involved are really athletic.  But no, the story lines are not real--they are entertainment--and if anyone really got beat up as badly as it appears on the wrestling shows, they would not be doing anything physical for a few days to a few weeks at the least (Thanks J.O. for reminding me of Atwater's description of elections yesterday).  Politicians running for office say stupid things, say smart things, say a whole lot of things, but in the end...they have to work within the constraints of the U.S. Constitution--THANK YOU FOUNDING FATHERS--even where we may argue that the Constitution has been improperly interpreted by courts or applied by legal statute.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tomorrow Is Not The End

I have not blogged in the last month.  Meant to say a few things, just got to busy to worry about typing it up.  But, to sum it all up...Tomorrow is not the end.  Tomorrow is an election day, an important event by all means of counting costs and benefits.  But, when we finish casting our votes...

For My Two Cents...

The United States will still face a huge debt burden brought on by bail outs that have not led to improved economic performance

The United States will still have racial tensions exacerbated by those who desire to create fear in the public as a means of furthering their own pitiful agendas

The United States will still have income gaps, because we still have not figured it out that equality and egalitarian are two different concepts

Philippine President Duterte will still be calling for his citizens to destroy the perpetrators of the "drug culture" in his country and this will still anger the human rights activists of the world

Philippine President Durterte will still be shopping around for the best deal possible from among the global powers--yes, we still have to compete with China and Russia

Europeans will still be in disagreement with one another about the efficacy of mass immigration and the damage it does to their cultural identity

The United States will still be a place where the public disagrees about accepting refugees and immigrants as we try to figure out how to secure ourselves and promote the general welfare without diminishing personal liberty

The United States will still be an occupying force in Afghanistan and too heavily present in Iraq as we try to figure out what we did not figure out to begin with--what does the end game look like in Afghanistan or Iraq

Daesh will still exist and still scare many people more than it should and many people less than it should

Putin will still be a strongman ruler in Russia doing whatever is within his power to ensure Russian relevancy in international affairs, and no he does not care what you think average Joe U.S. citizen

Xi Jinping will still be a "core leader" of the People's Republic of China, joining Mao and Deng in holding this title--and while he may care what average Joe U.S. citizen thinks, he is still more concerned with maintaining the CCP's control over China and China's position in the world

The world will still be a place where power matters, where all states are seeking to either secure more power or balance against the power that does exist

And, you are free to disagree with me on anything I have written here, and it will not likely change what I believe about these issues.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Is the U.S. Losing an Ally in SE Asia

Philippines President Duterte announced yesterday that the joint military exercises with the U.S. would be the last such exercises between the two countries.  Duterte has said that the alliance between the two countries dating to the 1951 defense treaty will be maintained.  Duterte said these things while visiting Vietnam.  Duterte is also on record stating a desire for better trade relations with China and has said much less than his predecessors about the Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, despite a Hague Tribunal decision that favors the Philippines position over the Chinese in the South China Sea.  Duterte has scrapped plans for joint patrols in the South China Sea with the U.S. that were brokered earlier this year by his predecessor.  Duterte has publicly used foul language in speaking of the President of the U.S.  Duterte is also on record discussing options to purchase military equipment from Russia and China.  Is the U.S. losing an ally?

For my two cents the answer is well maybe.  I say maybe because while the Philippine president has great authority in such matters, Philippine presidents since Marcos can only serve one six year term.  Duterte can pull the Philippines away from the U.S. for a time, but only for the time he is in office.  Whether we lose the Philippines as a strategic partner in the region will be decided by how we react to Duterte's leadership.

Two factors pop into my mind regarding this issue.  One, the Philippines is in Southeast Asia and must deal with China.  In the realm of balance of power who holds the power that must be balanced in Asia?  The fact that Duterte is in Vietnam this week shows a growth in regional balance of power behavior.  Two, in the realm of security-seeking behavior, is a closer relationship with stronger military ties to the U.S. in the interest of the Philippines?  Has the U.S. shown such a relationship to be in the security interest of China.

The Philippines cannot maintain the status quo with China on their own.  I see it as unlikely that a strong alliance will emerge on security issues and economic issues related to the South China Sea.  ASEAN will not create a balance against China because of Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos who have tight relations with China.  The Philippines will find that an alliance with Vietnam will only go so far in producing security and will not produce an alliance which will balance against aggressive Chinese behavior in the South China Sea.  While stronger economic and security ties with China are in the Philippine realm of interest, I do not believe these ties will be found satisfactory to the Philippines.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shimon Peres

We should all awaken a little sadder today with the passing of Shimon Peres.  A true Israelite in whom there was no guile--well maybe a little guile in his youth--we can call him in his passing.  Peres as a young man served as an aide to David Ben-Gurion during the formation of the contemporary Israeli state.  At age 29 he was the Defense Minstry director who helped to build the IDF into a first rate fighting machine.  Peres served in the Knesset and held nearly every cabinet post between 1959 and 1995.  Following the 1995 assassination of Rabin he served as acting Prime Minister.

Peres was never popular while serving in the Knesset.  While he was a capable manager as a cabinet minister he was considered a meddler and as too willing to compromise.  Peres shining moments came from his role in brokering the Israeli -Palestinian peace accord.  However, Peres never overcame his image at home until the last few years.  At age 84 Peres was finally embraced by the Israeli population and elected President.

For my two cents the world lost an able stateman, Israel lost an able leader.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Snowden Revisited

Oliver Stone's new movie gets released today.  The House Intelligence Committee's new report got released yesterday, or not really released since it is classified.  The common theme found in both of these is Snowden.

I have said before that Edward Snowden is a traitor and for my two cents, he remains a traitor. Snowden offered nothing more to the U.S. public than what many people already knew or suspected--your government spies on you.  I had been explaining this to students for over a decade as part of teaching about national security matters.  Snowden simply brought a few documents with him that supported these arguments and then potentially shared them with the Chinese and Russians (hard pressed to believe that he did not share them with those governments).  This action could--I repeat could, because I do not know the technical details of the classified documents Snowden ran off with to Hong Kong and then to Moscow--provide material support to the development of counter-measures to U.S. intelligence gathering capacity to foreign governments--which definitely would fall within the definition of treason.

I do not know Snowden, I can only guess at his personality from statements reported through news outlets.  I could go watch Stone's movie--which I suspect will be quite sympathetic to Snowden and quite well crafted based on the history of Oliver Stone movies--and hope to learn about Snowden the person.  On the other hand it could be another JFK-like flop of a movie.  Stone has a track record of glorifying negative aspects of history and over-stating and even rewriting episodes to make them appear more conspiratorial.  Great theater, not the greatest of history, though his cinematography captures events, people, and most importantly settings in awesome quality--particularly his work in the 1980s and early 1990s.

I do not consider Snowden to be a hero, I consider him to be a traitor.  I can admire his zeal for wanting the truth about spying on the citizens of the U.S. by the U.S. government to be known, but I cannot condone his stealing of and potential sharing of classified documents--I am not Hillary Clinton for whom such behavior is a routine day of emailing.  I am also alarmed by indications in the heavily edited executive review of the House Intelligence Committee report we are allowed to see that Snowden actually took more military documents than data collection program documents.  But again, the report we can read is a heavily edited 3 pages, not the classified 36 pages plus supporting documents.  Regardless of his character, regardless of whether it was good or bad to show in detail that the government spies on us, what Snowden did was illegal and rises to the level of treason.  President Obama, if you pardon this man, you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt your disdain for this country and the true rule of law.


Monday, September 12, 2016

I'm Back

So, I took the summer off from thinking about much of anything.  I focused instead on a few research projects--hope to finish one major project in next year, did finish a conference paper over the summer.  Instead of blogging, I spent the summer skulking around on facebook and commenting on various posts at length.  Some of my comments led to good digital communication for all parties involved, others showed that for a certain part of the population the ability to be anonymous, or digitally separated means not having to be thoughtful, reasonable, or civil.  People read as they want to read and hear the inner voice they want to hear when reading, which often leads to boorish behavior on digital media.  I am not blogging because I have an issue with digital media today, though, just blogging to say I am back and will resume giving my two cents about issues of interest to myself.

Today I am thinking about Football.  Late summer is a wonderful time of the year when I can go to a JR high game on Wednesday, a HS Varsity game on Friday night, a HS JV game on Saturday morning, youth football on Saturday afternoon, and watch college football the rest of Saturday.  Great OT win Hogs.  Bama has a great defense.  The Grove City Eagles are undefeated at all levels right now.  And hey, on Sunday afternoon I napped my way through parts of the Green Bay Packers' win over Jacksonville.  For my two cents, the best time of the year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Do Not Use the Identity Rohingya Says Suu Kyi

I blogged a few months ago about my fear that Suu Kyi would peddle to the Buddhist crowd in Myanmar rather than being truly inclusive or at least pluralistic.  Today I have some confirmation of my fears.  Suu Kyi has told a UN Special Rapporteur that the government will avoid using "controversial terms" (read the article I reference here).  Last month Suu Kyi even told U.S. Secretary of State Kerry that Myanmar needed space to deal with this issue and emotive terms should be avoided.  Apparently being part of a 1.1 million person ethnic and religious minority means your national identity is controversial.  Sorry Rohingya, you do not get an identity in Myanmar.

For my two cents, what troubles me most is that Suu Kyi does not even seem to grasp the level of hypocrisy in her actions and those of the government she represents.  The same people who were the opposition without a voice in civic society are now denying not just a voice, but an identity to others in civic society.  Democracy does not mean an end to problems Suu Kyi, it means the beginning of social interaction and negotiation/coercion.  Government is about allocating resources, it is about determining property rights, etc.  In a democracy this action can get messy, but to be a democracy you have to recognize the voices in your population.  Sorry Rohingya, a once great advocate of democracy and legal equality has failed you and in doing so has dimmed my hopes for Myanmar.