This probably "smells like victory" to an administration that seemed to stumble around the Pacific rim this past week, rather than enjoy a victory lap.
For alert Americans, the announcement is worrying. "As part of the deal with Manila, the U.S. is promising to step up military assistance and training with the Philippine military . . . . " The first question to ask is this: how many "military advisers" is the U.S. putting in the Philippines, and what is it leading to?
For me and for many in my generation, it is impossible to hear those words without pulling in the full specter of the Vietnam War.
|February, 2010: "U.S., Philippine Troops Fight Insurgent Bomb Threat"|
(American Forces Press Service)
|March, 1964: "Vietnamese Colonel Cao Hao Hon with U.S. military advisor"|
(Healery Library, UMass Boston)
The Philippines is engaged in a long-running effort to construct a polity built on equity and democratic participation. Until now, efforts at peacemaking and community building have been hindered by human rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent, conducted by the Philippines army. (See "Needed: Less Military Force, More Human Rights in the Philippines")
Moreover, the sea to the west of the Philippines is becoming highly-contested space. The potential for the escalation of U.S. involvement in any dispute there is extremely high.
Our first response to the "large-scale return of U.S. military forces" to the Philippines should be to get a full, public accounting of how U.S. military advisers are being used, and will be used in the future.
(See Needed: Less Military Force, More Human Rights in the Philippines )
(See SOUTH CHINA SEA: No End of American Grand Designs)
"pivot to Asia."
The opportunity: asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?"
(See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)