A Strategic Test Case: The Philippines
Commentary for 19 March 2018
Can Russia and China win over traditional Western allies? Why not?! By way of example – to show how the game is played – let us examine the case of the Philippines. Readers are urged to watch RT’s interview with Philippine President Duterte (linked here https://youtu.be/rHjlCmdyesY).
Duterte helps to answer several questions about Russian and Chinese grand strategy (not only in the Far East, but in the Middle East and Europe). Please notice how Duterte claims to follow an “independent foreign policy.” Of course, it is not independent at all.
In fact, Duterte’s regime might well be an experimental Chinese/Russian maneuver in the form of a new type of anti-Americanism. The maneuver is one of "soft" defection – from the American bloc to the Chinese-Russian bloc. Here the political rationale has been carefully worked out. It even sounds reasonable to conservatives and does not sound communist at all. One might even think Duterte likes America (even as he pretends to hate communists). Only a fool would fail to realize, however, that switching from the American side to the communist Chinese side is devastatingly anti-American (and ultimately pro-communist). It also follows that the clever rhetoric justifying this switch is intentionally misleading.
Duterte justifies his break with the United States because, he says, it is the only way he can save his country. He justifies breaking the law, setting up death squads, using extra-constitutional means to combat drug trafficking and organized crime. It is a persuasive narrative, indeed, which sounds patriotic and nationalist. He suggests that the Americans are irrationally committed to human rights. Even worse, the CIA wishes to impose American values on the Philippines so that Duterte even expects they will try to assassinate him. By implication, he leaves us wondering if the CIA is supporting the drug lords. After all, why does the United States stand up for the human rights of criminals? Why not “kill them all”?
However persuasive this narrative appears, it is deceptive. As we see in Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil, drug trafficking and organized crime are integral to communist/Russian/Cuban/Chinese strategy in Latin America. And the situation is no different in the Far East. I believe the Chinese are heavily involved in the Philippine drug trade. This makes sense, after all, because Chinese organized crime is dominant there; and we know, as well, that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has treaties with organized crime syndicates. (See, especially, the RCMP/CIS Sidewinder Report of 1997 for details.)
A number of questions ought to be asked: (1) Did the Chinese support Duterte’s political career in its early days? (2) How does a man who reputedly operated death squads against drug cartels survive assassination by those same cartels? (3) As the former mayor of a major city, Duterte must know about China’s involvement in drug trafficking and alliances with organized crime. So why does he ally with China? (Again, his rhetoric is deceptive.)
The biography of President Duterte does not pass a common sense smell test. And now, for Duterte to rationalize his alliance with China as the only way to “save” his country from narcotics trafficking would be like the Colombian government allying with Cuba to save itself from the FARC. It is not simply a deception. It turns reality on its head.
Duterte calls himself a “socialist” and denies being a “communist,” but he refuses to say what differentiates a socialist from a communist. He has longstanding links to the communists, yet he supposedly fights against the communists, and orders them killed, etc. We would be foolish to take all this at face value. Given his shift toward China and Russia, the whole thing is not to be trusted.
Pretending to be anti-communist is often the best approach for a communist. Only a killer of communists would be trusted to offer them a power-sharing agreement. It is interesting, in this context, that a retired Philippine policeman, Arturo Lascanas, has alleged that Duterte ordered “death squad” hits. He also said the hit squads included “former” communist rebels. (I pause here to let the emphasis sink in.)
Whenever “former” communists are involved in anti-communist activities one must suspect a double game. Intelligence experts have written about such “games,” and it is very easy to “switches sides” for tactical reasons. Again, it is important to emphasize that the leader of the Philippine communists was one of Duterte’s teachers. (Again, I pause here to let the emphasis sink in.)
Duterte likes Trump and denies being America’s enemy. But his policies suggest enmity rather than friendship; for Duterte’s "independent foreign policy” may lead to the unravelling of America’s position in the Far East. A friend would not do this, but only a foe would dare.
Looking at matters strategically, Duterte’s government is bound to drift toward the Chinese totalitarian model. He is not far from it now. The rule of law is cleverly depicted as an obstacle to the salvation of his country; that is to say, freedom is an obstacle. Checks and balances are obstacles. At bottom, this is the totalitarian formula in a nutshell.
Duterte expertly blames the United States for blocking his country’s path to salvation. Yet he says nothing about Chinese involvement in the drug trade, or Russian involvement. He says nothing about Russian involvement in terrorism. His “independent” foreign policy is therefore not independent at all. He knows perfectly well that his country is strategically positioned in the center of the western Pacific. Air and naval bases located in his country can stop any or all trade through the surrounding waters. In other words, the Philippines are a key chokepoint.
Today, the shipping lanes near the Philippines are even more important than ever to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. If the Philippines are allied with China, then China has America’s East Asian allies by the throat. Duterte knows this, and he is very coy about it. His arguments constitute a carefully crafted invitation to the South Koreans and Japanese. "You’d better defect from the United States," he hints. “The Americans are not reliable partners. They will hang us out to dry. Join with China and all will be well.”
He also blames Obama for pushing him into China’s waiting arms. That is an interesting point which we must not forget; for this is the strategy the Russians are hoping to employ in Europe – to push the nations of Europe into Russia’s open arms; for when the Europeans become violent toward Muslim immigrants, Russia wants the United States to cry bloody murder on behalf of the Muslims and, thereby, alienate Europe forever.
There is a pattern here, and everyone should take note. Duterte knows what he is doing. His strategy is part of China’s strategy, and Russia’s strategy. It is the same strategy that Martin Jacques (a British communist) advocates for Australia (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G1EyvRZmOs). For all practical purposes, Duterte is in league with the Chinese, the Russians, and the communists. It doesn’t matter if he claims to be fighting communism. How can he do what he claims? There is a glaring contradiction between his alleged actions. And wherever you find a glaring contradiction, there you will find a deception.
In thinking over these points, there is a quote worth meditating on. It is from the British strategist, Liddell Hart.
Hitler gave the art of offensive strategy a new development. He also mastered, better than any of his opponents, the first stage of grand strategy – that of developing and coordinating all forms of warlike activity, and all the possible instruments which may be used to operate against the enemy’s will. But like Napoleon he had an inadequate grasp of the higher level of grand strategy – that of conducting war with a far-sighted regard to the state of the peace that will follow. To do this effectively, a man must be more than a strategist; he must be a leader and a philosopher combined. While strategy is the very opposite of morality, as it is largely concerned with the art of deception, grand strategy tends to coincide with morality; through having always to keep in view the ultimate goal of the efforts it is directing. P. 220 B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (New York, SIGNET CLASSIC paperback, 1974)
The chief philosophical innovation of Karl Marx was to create a philosophy that itself was a deception; that is, a doctrine justifying tyranny and violence on an unprecedented scale. Using Liddell Hart’s insight (above), we might say that Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao built a flexible and changeable philosophical edifice which eliminated the distinction between strategy and grand strategy (between deception and morality). Here, as Lenin said, “Everything that is done in the interests of the proletarian cause is honest….” Therefore, deception is morality. This is what every true communist understands, because communisms victory is by definition the greater good. And what evil is not permitted in the name of the “greater good”?
If you study what Duterte says, you begin to see that the Russians and Chinese – together with their communist allies around the world – are careful to avoid the mistake of Hitler and Napoleon. They flexibly maintain the core of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy, always seeking moral justification for destroying bourgeois civilization. It is no accident that their minions continue eroding the West’s willpower in decades-long careful campaign. Opposing Bonapartist “adventurism,” they have not embarked on a reckless military adventure without having laid the proper political and moral foundation – planting it in the children of the bourgeoisie. Their emphasis on education – on spreading the doctrines of socialism and global multiculturalism – are essential to their long-term project. In short, a larger understanding is being cultivated in the rising generation by which freedom will be regarded as a failure. Duterte’s policies play off of this dialectically, and will be updated and reused as a template for Western Europe when the Muslim masses break the back of liberal government.
The Russians and Chinese share Napoleons ambition and Hitler’s mastery of the “first stage of grand strategy.” Yet they avoid the mistakes of Napoleon and Hitler. They use very small wars in very careful ways, avoiding the dangers of over-extension, military defeat, and a repeat of 1905/1917-style revolts against their power.
To gently use nuclear weapons (as a means of coercion) for the conquest of the world, they must cultivate a philosophy that blames America and its “bourgeois” system for blocking other countries’ passage to survival (whether in the Philippines vs. drug lords or in Western Europe vs. Islam). Please notice how Obama and the Clintons moved this process of blame forward, simultaneously weakening America’s military power – imposing left-liberal morality on countries faced with problems which left-liberal morality can only exacerbate.
Therefore, the Russians and Chinese are not simply preparing to commit naked aggression. There has been, over the years, an ongoing search for a persuasive rationale for eliminating the United States. It does not matter how violent, how sudden or gradual the process of elimination might be. All that matters is the propagation of a “correct” mental state in other countries; that is, a mental state accepts America’s elimination as necessary or inevitable. (I believe that some Americans are in the early stages of accepting this idea – especially religious Americans.)
Duterte is therefore a prototype which looks to Liddell Hart’s “higher level of grand strategy – that of conducting war with a farsighted regard to the state of the peace that will follow.”