Regular readers know I pretty much abhor political debate. I don’t talk here in PhilFAQS about US politics … in fact I basically don’t even allow it to happen,even in reader comments.
And I make a point of ignoring any discussion of Philippine politics whenever possible. I’m a guest in this country, I really don’t know many of the issues, I have no vote in any of them anyway … and it’s just better all the way around to keep my opinions to myself, as a rule.
However, even the best rules have to be broken, or at least bent a little for good cause.
Recently, for example, I warned my readers, especially my Filipino readers, yet again about the fallacies and scams surrounding the US “Green Card Lottery”. Green Card and Immigration Attorney Thoughts
Today, I feel compelled to issue another warning, and perhaps discuss a few of the facts and realities that surround the current imbroglio the Philippines seems bent on involving itself with … the dispute over the Spratly Islands.
In recent weeks, Philippine President Aquino has displayed an appalling (in my opinion only, of course) reversal of the tried and true political principles of Theodore Roosevelt.
Instead of “Speaking softly while carrying a big stick”, the President has been “Speaking boldly while carrying almost no stick at all.”
It’s all very well to tell a country with the size and military might of China that “the Philippines will defend its rights” in the Spratly’s. But before one makes a statement like that, it might behoove Mr. Aquino to pay attention to the cards already on the table.
Bluffing is a tried and true necessary part of poker, but any competent poker player knows, a bluff is worthless if the other players are sure that your hand is weak.
The Philippine Navy is, as some Filipinos like to say, and “I-tali-an Navy”. No, nothing to do with Italy, this is Filipino slang for something being tied up at all times.
The Philippine Navy has very few ships in commission … the vast majority are tied up, waiting for spare parts, budget for repairs and competent crews to be trained to man them.
The “flagship” of the Philippine fleet has yet to arrive, it’s a second-hand former US Coast Guard cutter, still undergoing repairs and reconditioning in the US. When operational, it hardly qualifies as a real warship in the generally accepted sense. It was built for rescue work, the interdiction of lightly armed smuggles and hardly qualifies to be a match for ships like the new (also second-hand, reconditioned Russian navy) aircraft carrier, the Shi Lang, named after the conqueror of Taiwan, another disputed island in the South China Sea.
Go read my colleague Greg Waldron’s blog, where he continually updates the world on China’s progress in modernizing her navy into a modern, well equipped naval force to be reckoned with. China’s aircraft carrier: the Death Star of the Spratlys
… China’s new aircraft carrier is again in the news, with sea trials apparently due next week, perhaps to coincide with the 90th anniversary of China’s communist party….
Even many US media giants seem to be ignoring the facts that come out of China every day. For sure, it seems to me that the Republic of the Philippines pays them little or no attention.
The issues regarding the Spratly’s are complex, difficult to resolve and no doubt require al lot of attention by the government of the Philippines and the other claimants.
But one thing that can hardly be predicted to help the situation along is idle, threatening rhetoric from just one of the claimant countries … saber-rattling with virtually no saber in hand.
A lot has been said in the media here in the Philippines, mostly by people with no knowledge of the military facts at all, that should the Philippines get themselves into a military “pickle” in the Spratlys, that the USA will rush to their assistance, militarily.
I certainly can’t speak for the US government, nor the US Navy, US Air Force and the Marines. But I can tell you, based on a study of current US force levels, the US budget and the level of national interest the US itself has in a nondescript bunch of South China Sea sandbars , oops, I mean the “valuable Spratly islands”, that Mr. Aquino might be well advised to follow an old military bar room maxim … “Don’t let your alligator mouth overload your hummingbird behind”. (with all due respect, of course, Mr. President).