Philippines Tell US to Take a Hike

Rouelle Umali/Xinhua via ZUMA

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Is this interesting or not?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the U.S. Tuesday that he was scrapping a 2-decade-old defense agreement, throwing one of Washington’s most important security alliances in Asia into disarray.

….The Pentagon sees its relationship with the Philippines as a bulwark against China’s growing military ambitions in Southeast Asia. Beijing has built naval installations in the contested waters of the South China Sea and expanded security cooperation with authoritarian governments in Thailand and Cambodia, among other countries.

“The American and Filipino defense establishments will be working frantically to prevent VFA expiration by trying to convince their respective leaders of its value,” said Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. “Without the VFA, countering China in the South China Sea and conducting combined counter-terrorism missions in the southern Philippines will be virtually impossible.”

I vote for “interesting,” partly because this comes out of the blue to those of us who haven’t followed this dispute closely. This means that I don’t know what to think about it. Is there a liberal party line on relations with the Philippines? A conservative party line? A neocon party line? A Trumpist party line?

I don’t know, but it’s all part of a tightrope the US can’t walk forever. We want to maintain a serious military and diplomatic influence in southeast Asia, but it’s pretty obvious to everyone involved that China is the preeminent power in the region—if not quite now, then certainly in the very near future. Not only is the US obviously farther away and preoccupied with other problems, but President Trump’s attitude toward mutual defense treaties is making China look even more dominant. There’s a price to be paid for crossing China, while Trump is actively pushing back on maintaining treaty obligations. To resurrect a hoary old cliche, will the Philippines be the first domino to fall in an inevitable loss of US influence in Asia?

Alternatively, of course, Duterte is just bluffing and everything will work out fine over the next couple of months. Maybe this is just a routine nothingburger. Wait and see.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate