US Cavalry Fails to Bring Peace to the Philippines. Aglionby does a good job of describing an “average day” of political violence and social instability in the country, but I think he is a bit far off base in assuming that Filipinos looked to the arrival of the American military as the portent of a bright new age in Philippine history.
US troops are currently in the Southern islands right now for three reasons:
1. Stated: Train members of the Philippine Armed Forces in anti-terrorist operations as part of the “Balikatan” exercises.
2. Implied: Combat the Abu Sayyaf problem, whether directly or indirectly, as part of the US War on Terror.
3. Ulterior: Establish a new permanent military presence in the country, at a strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia, within proximity to China, Korea, and Indonesia.
Although the majority of Filipinos supported the visiting troops, I don’t think many of them are actually of the mind that the American boys are flying in like superheroes to save the day. First off, US soldiers cannot just land in Basilan and wage war on the Abu Sayyaf just like that: the Philippine Constitution has strong restrictions on the operations of foreign military forces on Philippine soil. Additionally, Filipino nationalists are up in arms over this: scarcely a decade after working to throw off the yoke of the US Bases in Northern Luzon, their effort now goes all to naught with the arrival of those same soldiers in the South.
The deplorable socio-economic conditions under which Filipinos live cannot simply be eliminated and rebooted by fleets of military personnel — even if they had the technology and resources for it. As I’ve said before, culture is a large part of the problem, as are overpopulation, rampant poverty, deficient education, and the unbalanced distribution of wealth. The Americans can come, rout the Abu Sayyaf, even build freeways and infrastructure and military bases; but whether they stay or leave, that does nothing to hurdle the cultural obstacles which keep Filipinos from progressing as people and as a country.
Um, I think I lost my point somewhere along the way and just started rambling. Oh, well. I’ve been up all night trying to install Apache with PHP in my computer. Not a very fun task when you’re using Win98. I need to get to sleep.