War gaming the Western Pacific: what it means to the Philippines

By Joe America

The Philippines is a chip in the Western Pacific, not a player. But it is a sentient chip, with a brain and the ability to spin itself about on the war table. Where the spinning chip lands is up to the President. And maybe the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Look at the lay of the land on the warboard. Notice the barrier formed by Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.  Is there any wonder why Chinese leaders went ballistic over US President Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s President Tsai, as if she were independent from China?


Let’s consider the interplay of five nations in the Western Pacific and then project forward as to how the Philippines might fare. The goal of the article is to inspire readers to do their own thinking, researching, and projecting.

We hope you will share your thoughts with us in the discussion thread.

A few highlights on the five nations:

  1. China, the emerging big dog of the Western Pacific, is on a crash course to establish herself as the rightful center of the world. China’s militarized artificial islands have reconfigured the lay of the water West of the Philippines where the South China and West Philippine seas run together. But China is also probing East of the Philippines. Her head is up and her push outward for resources and claim of legitimacy is relentless. She is even pushing into the Americas, for resources in the South, and to buy companies and buy or steal technology in the North. China and the Philippines are doing a slow dance together at the moment, not a tight hug, but at arms length, with each step measured and carefully taken.
  2. The United States under President Trump is also on an aggressive path to prove its strength and dominance in the World. The slogan “America First” is meant for the international audience as well as domestic. Early initiatives have the US sowing discord in Europe, Mexico, and Australia. Trump is expected to challenge China. “Tear them down, build us up” seems a secondary slogan. Trump and Russia’s Putin are also dancing. The hug is embarrassingly close for some US Republicans. Philippine President Duterte is lounging along the wall waiting to cut in. Duterte wants to push the US out of the Pacific, it seems, although his top defense people are resisting.
  3. Russia is not so dominant in the Western Pacific, and one tends to wonder why President Putin would embrace President Duterte. Perhaps it is to irritate and diminish US power. Maybe it is to get in the way of China’s push for power. Or both. Russia seeks to become a big-time world player again, as she was before the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia undoubtedly likes President Trump’s initiatives to destabilize Europe because President Putin seeks to move back into Eastern Europe. It is hard to see why Trump enjoys dancing with Putin so much, but there is no accounting for love.
  4. The Philippines under President Duterte is flying fast and free, abandoning international morals with its focus on drug killings and death, pushing the US and Catholic Church away, warming up to China, and hugging Russia. And warm with Japan as well. The Philippine islands and harbors . . . and prime strategic location . . . would make a superior military holding, and rich basket of natural resources, for China, or Russia, or the US. President Duterte may just want his little independent empire with a train in Mindanao, but the war-game table run by the bigger players does not allow the chip to draw cards. A chip is a chip, after all.
  5. Japan is the dark horse, the fly in the ointment, the odd man out or in, who knows. Japan does not have many friends in Asia. Indeed, she has a hate relationship with China and Korea, fallout from history, and is in a bear hug with America. Japan, too, has a center of the world perspective, but has not developed the military capacity to scare anyone but China, whose military power is still young and being developed. Japan and the Philippines are getting close, likely because the Philippines wants investment and Japan is trying to keep the Philippines in the American arms. For her own protection. I mean, how would you like to be Japan squeezed between China and Russia with the US out of the Pacific as a military power?

So what we have here is four nations posturing for prominence, and one . . . the Philippines . . . “stuck in the middle with you”. Three of those nations are nuclear powers.

It is unsettling when the mind behind President Trump’s mouth, that of white supremacist Steve Bannon, says war between the US and China is probable within 10 or 15 years.

It is difficult to imagine the Philippines not being a target for military outposts if war breaks out. Now the builders of those outposts can be invited in by the Philippines (if it times its play right), or put here by invasion. Whoever controls the Philippines controls the Western Pacific. It is hard to imagine the Philippines becoming a neutral state like Switzerland, allowed to perk merrily along as the battle cruisers, submarines, and aircraft carriers rage through the seas around her, shooting at each other.

Neutrality does not seem to be President Duterte’s aim, though. He is not a neutral kind of guy. He runs things himself. He both likes China for the investment and trade opportunities, but is wary of Chinese military power and tendency to dominate. That need to dominate crimps Duterte’s own authoritarian style. And China, really, is not a necessary partner. He can get arms from Russia and investments from Japan and Korea. He has military protection from the US, if he wants to keep it.

President Duterte seems to be playing the role of the flirt, or butterfly, a giant tease one day, turning away the next.

My experience is that this makes people very angry. Jealousy and suspicion replace trust and candor.

It will be an either-or-decision if a shooting war breaks out between China and the US. If she acts soon enough, the Philippines can go with history and the stronger military and side with the US, or she can go with proximity and amoral culture and side with China. If the Philippines is not stoutly defended when war actually breaks out, China will likely just take the Philippines. There is no decision left.

Me, I’m biased, I like my democratic freedoms and good old Christian-based morals. If it were up to me, I’d be helping the US build big bases across the nation. The sooner, the better, because I don’t like the Chinese generals breathing heavily upon my neck, which looks a lot like Scarborough Shoal. I’d make the Philippines into a huge American military outpost, and within that, I would perk merrily along building an economy and better life for my citizens.

I’d look for investments from Japan and Korea to build railways and other infrastructure, and I would view China as a huge threat.

But one thing is for sure, and the odds makers will get it right every time. I am not President Duterte.

I have no idea what he’s thinking.

I don’t even know if he is actually working for the well-being of the Philippines, where “the Philippines” means ordinary, work-a-day citizens. As long as his propaganda ministers play people for fools, I for sure hold no confidence that he is an earnest leader.


202 Responses to “War gaming the Western Pacific: what it means to the Philippines”
  1. Bill In Oz says:

    Joe, you missed a few important players : Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia & Indonesia. And there are minor players like Cambodia, Laos & Brunei. Each of these countries are faced with the same dilemma as the Philippines.
    Back in the 1960’s the Association of South East Asian nations was established to counter the threats posed by communist China and Vietnam. Time has passed and Vietnam having won the war to create an independent united country, was no longer a threat to it’s neighbours. And then having fought a war against China in 1979-80, Vietnam joined ASEAN, along with Laos and later Cambodia and finally Burma.

    The theory for all this was simply that if the nations of SEA hung together against outside great powers, there was a much lower probability of each nation being hung separately by an outside great power.

    I think this logic is till good.

    Of course China now also has associate status in ASEAN and Chinese delegations attend all ASEAN events. And China has it’s client states in Laos & Cambodia.

    But that does not mean that the Philippines could not come together with Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia together with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for their mutual defense and prosperity.

    As an outside great power, the USA could hinder this process or help it but there would be far more benefits if it helped. Being part of this process would also be far better for the Philippines.

    • A good point. I do think there is little harmony of goals among ASEAN, which makes it impotent as a military bloc. Perhaps Viet Nam would be a worthy partner, but that would mean facibg off against China. The US would be a better partner for that.

    • A good point. I do think there is little harmony of goals among ASEAN, which makes it impotent as a military bloc. Perhaps Viet Nam would be a worthy military partner, but that would mean facing off against China. The US would be a better partner for that. ASEAN can’t even integrate in peace, so it seems futile to me. Duterte is unlikely to orchestrate harmony.

      • karlgarcia says:

        The ASEAN can’t integrate. The ASEAN economic community was supposed to launch last year.It ‘s failure to launch was not even news.

        The Philippines may sound like she wants to be neutral with her so called independent foreign policy, but she can not always be just a bunch of rocks blocking the way of the Super powers ambitions.

        But we are more than a bunch of rocks, we are chips, the prize to be encashed by the high rollers.

      • Bill In Oz says:

        Joe, I was not suggesting that ASEAN should be the forum for such a process. Rather that the major nations of SEA and NEA ( Japan, South Korea and perhaps Taiwan ) come together in a new forum with the purpose of mutual defense and prosperity.

    • NHerrera says:

      Bill, as long as we are enumerating other countries and if you look at Joe’s map accompanying the article, although not shown, but based on location — we have the big one, your Australia at the South Western Pacific. We may not throw out Australia as a player in this Kriegspiel’s scheme of things. As to what role, if any, you probably have a better idea. I do not know if the probable Bannon-inspired content of Trump-Turnbull phone conversation already defines Australia’s role in this War Game.

      • Bill In Oz says:

        WW2 and the Japanese attack and occupation of all South East Asia was a turning point for Australian government policy towards the region. Prior to that Australia basically thought SEA was too far away to bother about or even think about. Thus in 1939-40, 130,000 Australian troops were sent to the Middle East to fight with Britain against Germany & Italy in North Africa, Syria and Greece. In December 1941 when Japan declared war on the USA & Britain and Australia there were virtually no defense forces in Australia at all !

        Since 1945 Australian government policy has had 2 aspects. First to support the national sovereignity & territorial integrity of the nations of SEA against attempts by inside or outside powers to undermine them. So the Dutch got no help when they tried to reconquer Indonesia in 1945-49. Nor did the French attempting to reconquer Indo-China in 1945-54. The exceptions were sending troops to South Korea 1949-54 & South Vietnam 1963- 1971. And these were both seen at the time as helping to prevent the conquest of one country by another supported by China and the Soviet Union.

        The second aspect has been to encourage USA involvement in SEA both in a military aspects and in economic & cultural aspects. The logic has been to encourage & support the USA in it’s commitment to the status quo in SEA.

        For most of SEA I think this strategy has been beneficial and accepted. However in the Philippines the current government is lead by a man, Duterte who is in his 70’s & has a long memory. Duterte is a Filipino nationalist; afierce nationalist. And such a president is rarity in the Philippines.

        He remembers the USA conquest and colonial rule of the Philippines.He remembers the colonial war that went on in Mindanao until the early 1920’s. He remembers the CIA driven interference in Filipino politics after independence in 1946. He remembers the one sided economic terms imposed by the USA on the Philippines in 1946 when independence was granted. He probably also remembers the the battle that destroyed Manila in 1945 with over 100,000 civilians killed but only 1800 US military deaths. He is also annoyed by the present day assumption by Americans and by many Filipinos,( and there are 3 million Filipino migrants in the USA ) that the USA has the ‘right’ to interfere in the Philippines and judge the Philippines and it’s government.

        In assessing the threats and opportunities facing the Philippines Duterte bears all this in mind.

        • Odd that Duterte ignores Japanese atrocities, or his own. It seems to me that the US is just a chip for him, as he tries to repay the Chinese for backing his candidacy, and to try to get a train in Mindanao mighty fine quick. To think he is operating on some historical or principled context is a bit of a stretch, I think. He is a gamer, a player, a loyalist to those loyal to him. He is to China like Trump is to Russia . . . indebted.

          • parengtony says:

            Follow the money.

            • Bill In Oz says:

              You are saying Duterte is not a Filipino nationalist Joe, just an opportunist. But you the man saying it are an American. I think you are going too far here.

              The USA was the colonial power in the Philippines for 50 years and exerted a major role in the Philippines after independence. Remember only Marcos left in 1987 when Reagon said leave. Just one incidents among many.

              • Bill In Oz says:

                Perhaps he finds the USA embrace too tight and seeks alternatives ?

              • Perhaps you are an idealist in Australia harboring your own biases.

              • NHerrera says:

                Not trying to reconcile the two ideas here — yours and Joe’s. It is probable it is both. What tips the balance of the scale, of course, I have no way of knowing.

              • Okay, only the gods know for sure. I’m only giving you my view from the ground here, living with the man and his ideas and acts every day. If this is nationalism, then I am truly lost to all reasoning . . .

              • Bert says:

                Money, embrace, nationalism, what the heck. Money has not much value to an old man, nationalism is defying logic of his actions, and the US embrace although lengthy is not a bear hug. So what is it about the man? My answer is ideology, pure and simple ideology.

          • karlgarcia says:

            Before the Abe visit, he said he will open up the comfort women issue, but it did not happen. Maybe too many Japanese investments in Davao prevented him from discussing war time attrocities.

          • Bill In Oz says:

            Joe, an ‘idealist harboring my own biases’ is exactly what I am trying very hard not to be. Look here’s a thought experiment : Try and put yourself back into the 1790’s to 1810’s.

            You as an American are a citizen of the newly independent nation, the uSA. But Great Britain is still the major imperialist & colonialist dominant power with a huge navy and nearby colonies & bases.. And yet the USA is economically still part of the English speaking world, reliant on British capital for development. And culturally also part of the English world.

            Imagine yourself in the mind of such a citizen : nationalist and fierce in seeking to protect your country. Yet also dependent in the former enemy as well…Psychologically not an easy or simple state to be in.

            There are many parallels with the Philippines.

            • NHerrera says:

              Let me wade in here. If instead of Duterte as President we have Walden Bello — a highly educated articulate intellectual — who is not at all in love with the US as, say, Ramos is, Belo’s moves which may parallel Duterte’s minus the patented cuss words and insults, may be labeled more as nationalist by Joe in contrast to his characterization of Duterte. (Sorry, Joe for presuming to know your mind.)

              • NHerrera says:

                As another way of stating it — in this case, it is the messenger not the message that is being characterized.

              • You get right to the point. Waldon Bello is indeed a nationalist, and, yes, he wants the US out of the Philippines. He is not saying that because he got campaign financing from anyone, but because he believes strongly in Philippine independence and ability to take care of her own business.

            • I suggest we leave our biases out of it. We both have them. We both work to be objective. When your objectivity differs from mine, it is best not to judge that it is my bias that brings in the error, but our different views of the facts. NHerrera makes the point clear. Waldon Bellow is a nationalist, President Duterte appears to me not to be, accepting funding from China and pushing the nation toward China while abandoning a hard won arbitration hearing, accepting funding from the Marcos family and allowing the burial of the second most corrupt man in the world in a heroes cemetery, killing poor Filipinos in the name of a national threat (drugs) that is not a national threat, and using propaganda and lies within government. Now I suppose every aspiring dictator is a nationalist, in his own words, but I confine mine to the Constitutionally clear values placed on democracy and human rights.

              Read also Boom Buencamino’s commentary about corruption. https://joeam.com/2017/02/06/dutertes-divided-nation-philippine-institutions-push-back/#comment-209734

            • Ric says:

              I think Joe raised a good point. If Duterte cares so much about American atrocities in the Philippines, why did he say nothing about Japanese atrocities in the Philippines, which were both more recent and more brutal than the American ones?

              Is it because Americans are white and the Japanese are not? But then why was it okay for the Japanese to slaughter our civilians and rape our women and wrong for the Americans to do so? Why the double standard?

        • chemrock says:

          Du30 only remembers those American atrocities AFTER Obama slighted him. A narcissist is a narcissist. It was a petulant reaction, based on which foreign policies sprouted. Nothing nationalistic there. A nationalist would have blasted Chinese out of those islands.

          • Bill In Oz says:

            Aquino did not blast China out of those islands. Is he thus un-nationalist ? Or are they both trying what they can faced with the force of world power ?

            • President Aquino followed the law and the constitutional mandate against war and won a precious arbitration hearing that would frame future acts by the Philippines, likely in concert with the US, to prevent China’s military encroachment into Philippine waters. President Duterte effectively gave those waters to China.

            • chemrock says:

              Aquino worked within the bounds of law in the interest of Filipinos. He has national interest at heart, but not a populist nationalist.

      • Bill In Oz says:

        You asked about Australia on the 10th..Something interesting popped up today on ABC web site which is relevant.


    • josephivo says:

      And Taiwan? As a Chinese province a done deal?

      • josephivo says:

        And what is the extend and mood of the Chinese diaspora? Or are the Chinese not as monolithic as we think, also inside China?

        How long will Trump last? How long will Duterte last? How autocratic can they both be?

        What is the position of those controlling the money? Or what are the financial benefits of any move?

      • karlgarcia says:

        Taiwan also feels that she maybe used a bargaining chip.

        • Bill In Oz says:

          Karl, by accident of history there is China and there is Taiwan. They use similar ideographic scripts and Mandarin is taught in both places. But since the 1890’s Taiwan has been separate from China : first as a province in the Japanese empire and then from 1945 to 1995 as a self governing province still fighting the Communist domination of China. But since the 1990’s Taiwan has evolved into an independent democratic nation allied to the USA. I think it is time to point this out to China. If they don’t like it so what.

          And I doubt it will become a bargaining chip. You see Taiwan also has the capacity to join nuclear weapons club, like Japan.

          • karlgarcia says:

            Unlike the Philippines, they have an ace on their sleeve, the capacity to go nuclear.

            • NHerrera says:

              Righto! For advanced countries especially at this time of computer simulation, the nuclear bomb secret is no secret anymore to these countries. All it needs is the decision to do so, especially if prodded by friend Uncle Sam.

              Preempt that by China? But in the case of Japan — at least according to my reading sans further googling — the US and Japan have ironclad (?) mutual defense treaty. Taiwan is a different case, I understand.

          • I’ve never thought of Taiwan as allied with the US in a military sense, not like Japan or even the Philippines. That would upset the fragile independence Taiwan adheres to. The US is a great market for Taiwanese goods, so the alliance is more active as a commercial relationship, I think. The US does stand ominously in the background, and that helps prop up Taiwan’s independence. Prior to Trump, US presidents respected the two-China policy.

    • Bill In Oz says:

      Is it purely coincidence that the Chinese occupied and built their artificial islands off the coast of the Philippines, during he reign of President Obama ?

      Or did the Chinese come to the shrewd conclusion that Obama’s response would be negligible ?

      In the 1930’s the leaders of Britain and France did the same – bugger all – with Nazi Germany. It was called appeasement.

      Ahhh well, Trump is no appeaser.

      • Bert says:

        Agree with you on that, Bill. And that might just avert a 3rd world war a nuclear war from happening. Hopefully.

      • chemrock says:


        I think the trigger that led to Chinese action is the departure of the Americans from Subic and Clark bases. The signal then was very clear. Philippines don’t want the Americans in their country. Power vacumn created. Geopolitics destabilised. All those lawmakers are never accountable for their actions.

        Had the Americans remained, would the Chinese have been so abrasive? We don’t know for sure, but it sure would have been a major factor in their calculations.

        • Bill In Oz says:

          The departure of USA from Subic Bay & Clark Airforce base is certainly relevant. But these events happened in the early 1990’s. The Chinese only started building & militarising their artificial islands after 2008. So yes there was a power vacuum but they still waited until Obama was president. It did not happen during Bush junior’s reign.

          • What steps do you think President Obama should have taken to prevent the Chinese from building those islands? What would the legal foundation be? Why did Australia do nothing to stop them?

            • Bert says:

              Joe, may I. I know that Bill can very well knows how to take care of himself but this is an open discussion about the subject matter and so I deemed it proper to express an opinion about your questions, with your indulgence please.

              Here I’m quoting a statement from you, Joe, Feb. 11, 11:58 am:.:

              “It is my understanding that the PH and US, in concert, had drawn a military red line on Scarborough, and possibly communicated that to China. And the US has challenged restrictions on free travel by sailing and flying through “China’s” territory.”

              Here’s my take. I don’t know what is appeasement or its relevance to Pres. Obama’s actions. I’m not even sure whether Obama is weak or not, or whether to consider his policy decisions on the South China Sea during his terms as good or bad sense. The thing is that, if he indeed had drawn a military red line along the area of the Scarburough then he could have done the same before or during the time that the Chinese started reclamation in the Spratly area. It could have prevented the escalation of the present conflict in the area. The fact that the red line and the subsequent warning to China was done too late speaks well of what kind of leader President Obama is.

              • @Bert, The advantage that we speculators have is that we can look back and see the “what ifs” that might have produced a better result. Those making the decision don’t have that advantage. We also don’t have vested interests screaming at us no matter which way we turn, and we have to discern which vested interest best serves the nation . . . and our political careers. I think of President Aquino, working earnestly on stopping terrorism and encouraging investments from Japan, the latter on the day the Mamasapano coffins arrived in Manila. Boy howdy, I bet he wishes he had the benefit of hindsight and fewer vengeful critics with vested interests in the wings demanding he resign.

                The US has, I think, expected China to play by the rules, and it has only become evident within the past few years how wrong that assessment is. Color American policy makers naive, I suppose, or dense. The US policy in the conflicted seas expresses no judgments on the territorial disputes, only on open seas and skies. Therefore, there would be no legal foundation for her to oppose Chinese acts in the Spratleys. That would fall to the claimants. The militarization of the islands and infringements on open seas began only within the past two years, so it would have been impossible to predict that earlier.

                The US is accused of nation building or interference in the affairs of other states if she does some things, and accused of not representing the best interest of those nations if she does not do those things. It is the lot drawn by the most powerful country in the world that professes to have good aims and humanistic values, but obviously operates for her own interest, too.

                The criticisms, I think, should be directed at China, and the US should not be put in the same bucket as a ‘culprit’. or its leader castigated because it is easy and sounds bold. A nation or person can be judged thankful or thankless just as easily. It is not at all simple, these international affairs.

              • Bill In Oz says:

                Bert, history tells me that there is often an oscilation process in USA foreign policy : if one US president is strong and forthright in foreign policy, the following one will be far more inwards looking and avoid foreign ‘adventures’.

                In the 1910’s Wilson’s active internationalism was followed a president who was far more isolationist…In the 1960’s Johnson & Nixon’s active interest in stopping North Vietnam take over the South, was followed by President Carter who was probably the only USA president who came close to being a pacifist. In the 2000’s Bush junior’s involvement in Iraq & Afghanistan was succeeded by Obama who promised to get US forces out of these countries.

                It is probably partly a result of the nature of USA constitution with government being dominated by an ‘elected King’ who can unilaterally make policy and decisions on even the most important of issues.

          • chemrock says:

            The events arent on auto-pilot. It needed time to play out. How long did it take Hitler before his first tanks rolled out?

            I don’t see Obama’s actions as appeasement, but I think Chinese, Russian, Arabs and others don’t view him as a hawk and has less appetite for military adventures.

            • @Bill, President Obama ran on the promise of getting the US out of the kinds of fighting going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, closing down Guantanamo (not accomplished), and other steps to end what many Americans thought was a needless engagement and loss of life in overseas battles (a premise that Trump also ran on, ironically enough). So I think most Americans don’t see the Obama pull-back, or the Asian posture, as appeasement, although his critics do. He would be criticized no matter what he did, by these critics, the worst of them being found on Bannon’s Brietbart Press, a publication that is far more potent and obnoxious than anything Mocha Uson has done. Obama fulfilled a campaign promise is all, and meanwhile has used the drone program to keep terrorists confined and off balance.

              The pivot to Asia was a Clinton initiative, and the Philippines now has to live with a different policy, whatever it may be. The pivot to Asia was a recognition that Asia . . . with America’s oil energy independence achieved under Obama . . . warranted a different perspective altogether as to what regions of the world will assure America’s well being in the future.

              • Bill In Oz says:

                Chempo, I agree with you. But I wonder what Filipino commentators on TSOH think about this.

              • karlgarcia says:

                We go by what actually happenned only Guantanamo Bay’s closure was not fulfilled. US withdrew from Iraq last 2011 and Afghanistan last 2014, does that make Obama a dove, rather than a hawk,I don’t know, I asked LCX and he seemed to not like being deployed abroad and he said many Marines felt that way, and if Obama was a dove, what was LCX not liking?

              • He didn’t like Obama’s drone program because it kills innocents.

              • karlgarcia says:

                I see.

            • Bill In Oz says:

              So Joe, Chempo. I guess we put it all down to the law of ‘unintended consequences’.

              Joe, you asked “what should Obama have done to prevent China building the artificial islands ? And what the legal basis would have been ?”

              Now those are good questions. And I’m sure there are a variety of good answers. One answer could have been imposing economic & financial sanctions on China, like the ones imposed on Iran or the ones imposed on South Africa back in the 1980’s or even Russia in 2014 after Russia seized Crimea & then eastern Ukraine.

              Another more far fetched example could have been building a couple of artificial islands in the South China sea ( within coo ee of the Chinese ones ) open to visiting ships & nationals from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia etc.

              Ummmm maybe not so far fetched : these countries would probably have been happy to contribute to help building them. ..Or is that just my bizarre sense of humor ?

              Finally you asked why Australia did nothing to stop the Chinese building these artificial islands. Well Joe the answer is that Australia has no capacity to stop then even if we had the will. And I am not sure that the will exists here either as China is Australia’s major export market via purchases of coal, iron ore, other minerals and even wine – wine export to China are $800 million a year !

              • karlgarcia says:

                I think your what if scenario of sanctioning is not only far fetched, that is what Trump is attempting and it will hurt the US more than China.

                Withouth the $ 15 Billion soybean export of US to China annually, there would be no tofu, no Taho, no soy sauce,what would happen then?

              • @Bill, Not unintended consequences, but the consequences of Chinese military policy makers. I’m at least happy you see that there are a variety of good answers, and, I would note, each of which would draw the ire of vested interests and impact business interests of both nations. Poke the balloon here and it bulges there. Obama is not a far-fetched kind of guy, although Trump may be. I feel the nation is in better hands with a knowledgeable, reasoned person who listens to his advisors rather than tweets their marching orders. But that is just me.

                Why did Australia not foresee the needing of the capacity to repel a rogue nation that would seek to interfere with her seafaring? We expect such foresight of the Americans. Why are we demanding Obama express a will to confront when we don’t demand that of Australian leaders? The US has deep mutual trading interests with China but is not allowed to beg off like Australia. Why are the carping nations not stepping up to the bar like Viet Nam? They want a free ride?

              • Bill In Oz says:

                Yes Joe I agree with ” Not unintended consequences, but the consequences of Chinese military policy makers.”..

                But the law of ‘unintended consequences’ is still relevant. Who among Filipino nationalists in the early 1990’s, foresaw that forcing the USA to leave Subic Bay & Clark would, create a vacuum that China would occupy from 2008 onwards.

                And ironically China did this out of misplaced nationalist desire to take over an area of seas & shoals it thinks should belong to China .

                And who in the USA Bush (senior ) administration in 1991-2, had the foresight to see & warn the Philippines, that US forces leaving the Philippines could lead to China assert control of the South China seas ? I suspect no one. Why ? Because the time China was the newly industrialising friend & protoge of the USA.

              • The debate in 1990 was vigorous, and if people thought about it, the argument was made. The vote was almost evenly divided. If they did not think about it, it was because God was not in the room during the debate to lend them the benefit of His foresight. So I suspect you may be wrong about what you suspect.

              • Bill In Oz says:

                “Why does Australia not foresee the need for the capacity to repel a rogue nation that would seek to interfere with her seafaring?”

                Actually has built that capacity in the past and is continuing to build it. Australian military strategic doctrine is built on forward defense especially in the seas. The latest stage in implementing that doctrine, is constructing 12 ultra modern french designed, locally built long range submarines at huge expense and significant protests from vested interests. Cost $30 billion Australian & counting…

                But Australia has never contemplated doing this alone unless directly attacked. Doing so would be impossible. Unlike the USA Australia does not have the capacity.

                By the way I respect the way that Vietnam has tried to deal with Chinese expansionism and I do not forget it.

                Neither do I forget Indonesia. Indonesia also has territory in the South China Sea : the Pulao Natunas & Pulao Anambas island groups. And Indonesia calls the seas around the islands “Laut Natunas”. Last year Indonesian navy ships seized Chinese fishing ships found in these territorial waters, despite the presence & objections of a Chinese coast guard ship on the scene. After this incident Indonesian President Joko Widoyo afterwards went to the Natuna Islands to express his support for the Indonesian navy and it’s actions.

              • So Australia is excused for not correctly figuring out the future, but the US was supposed to have done so, and because she didn’t, obviously had manipulative intent. I see.

              • President Aquino was bound by the Constitution which bans warfare. However, he was aggressive in the courts, a different kind of leadership than going for the gun. He gained considerable respect in the international community for his approach, which no other Southeast Nation had the courage to take.

              • Bill In Oz says:

                Joe, you are putting words in my mouth. And I am not even sure what you mean by ‘manipulative intent”’.

                Australia has attempted to figure out what defense assets & policies it needs given our geographic location and strategic needs. But we are not a global super power, just a middle ranking one in the Southern hemisphere far distant from most areas of present conflict or tension. And in that we are incredibly blessed or lucky.

                And Australia has never been a formal ally of the Philippines, unlike the long standing defense ties between the Philippines and the USA. Our defense ties rather are with Malaysia & Singapore. So Australian governments have waited for the USA to take the lead on the whole issue of Chinese claims to the South China Sea. And the moves that the USA has taken have been supported by Australia with air force flyovers out of Singapore and navy movements through the SCS. The international legal arbitration moves by the Philippines government has also been supported by Australia diplomatically.

                The problem is that these policies by Australia & the USA & the Philippines, have not been a strong enough response for the long term good of the Philippines.

                And that is why I think that mutual supportive action by countries in the SCS region is the best way forward. If the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei which have coastlines on this sea cannot agree and act in concert, it is not very encouraging for more distant neighbors to get involved..

              • I don’t see how Australia can choose not to get involved. She is involved because she trades actively through the South China Sea. This idea that US history gives America some kind or special right or obligation is like saying the PH cannot ever stand up by herself, or that Australia must forever lean on Great Britain. I am arguing that nations need to get accountable for their own destinies and stop blaming the US one day and expecting a free ride the next. Throw the history books out if we can’t learn to find harmony and mutual benefit from them. The crisis is now. What do we do to be a part of the solution? I agree that a modern military alliance among neighbors standing up for free passage and UN rules would be good. But these internecine jealousies like what you express toward the US is EXACTLY the barrier to making that happen.

              • Bill In Oz says:

                Joe you say ” internecine jealousies like what you express toward the US ” I think that is a bit below the belt.

                Google defines jealous as ” feeling or showing an envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions, or perceived advantages.”
                I have just reread all my comments on this post. None of them in my opinion express envious resentment towards the USA for it’s achievements, possessions or advantages.

                I have said the facts as I know them; asked questions which I think are relevant & challenging and expressed opinions that I believe are fair. And in that process also challenged your opinions and understandings of what facts are important. That’s what a discussion like this is about.

                Just because I express opinions which disagree with yours does not mean I have an envious resentment towards the USA.

                If I state my opinion about the USA, I can only say that I am glad that my own country is different to the USA. But that raises a huge subject which has nothing to do with the Philippines which is why we are all here at this blog talking to each other.

              • I’m not sure why it is hitting below the belt to state that I see in your writings a bias against the US, when you acknowledge it in your last paragraph. It seems to me you are confirming the accuracy of my read-out, and it is indeed such hard-held, incomplete, emotional, historical biases that make it virtually impossible for ASEAN states to join hands. The comment that sealed the deal for me was this:

                “And who in the USA Bush (senior ) administration in 1991-2, had the foresight to see & warn the Philippines, that US forces leaving the Philippines could lead to China assert control of the South China seas ? I suspect no one. Why ? Because the time China was the newly industrialising friend & protoge of the USA.”

                You place blame for the Chinese island-building on the US, not the Philippines, because some manipulator working for Bush the Elder did not convince Filipinos that they were making a mistake. Huh? America is not the Philippine’s daddy. The US granted the Philippines independence, and the US respected a sovereign decision made as it was made . . . passionately argued within the Philippines. You are saying Filipinos are not capable of making their own decisions without America? The factual basis of a shady manipulation is what “you suspect”, and it is this kind of mistrustful and judgmental view that overlays most of your evaluations of American motives and actions. They have more to do with you than the US, I think. I am just being candid and not allowing misrepresentations to stand without rebuttal.

              • meloyelo says:

                its all about money, stupids realists,, is the number oner national interest of any nation. with money one can hire people, buy things or build things and be powerful …with money, one can build an empire. simply no money no honey. no facade could hide that money talks in any kind of transaction. money motivates…so ding them where they most hurt…in the money…show me the money and i will hear and obey my masters.

              • Bill In Oz says:

                I will speak frankly. I am not American. I was not raised in the USA where all kids are taught to love America as part of the school curriculum and socialisation process. I have no psychological obligation to think or say ” America right or wrong.” But that is exactly where you are coming from..

                I am an Australian. Australia & the USA have been allies since WW2. But each has it’s own interests, it’s own way of seeing the world and indeed seeing the South East Asian region. We may use the same English language but there are massive cultural differences.

                For myself, I prize gathering as much information as possible and basing understanding & opinions on that information. So my opinions may change in the light of new facts or new insights.

                You seem to think I ‘blame’ the USA for what China is doing is in the South China Sea. That is not so. China is the huge aggressive elephant in the South China sea. And it is that Chinese elephant which needs to be dealt with by the Philippines and by other nations of SEA.

                But it is useful and productive to also look back & answer the questions : ” Why has history developed in this way ?” & “What could have been done by the Philippines & by the USA or other nations which would have resulted in a different situation now ? ”

                And as I have pointed out there were in fact some very crucial periods when a different approach would have avoided the present situation :Here are some in point form :
                1: 1979-80 Vietnam could have continued to fight Chinese attempts to seize control of the Paracels instead of acquiesing as it did.
                2 : 1991-2 : the USA could have been slightly more accommodating to the Philippines in negotiating the bases treaty renewal. How by offering at least nominal joint Filipino/USA command of the bases. By the way all US military establishments in Australia operate under joint command.
                3 : The Philippines could have renewed the treaty to continue having US bases in the Philippines anyway and thus avoided the power vacuum which developed there as Chempo kindly pointed out.
                4 : 2008-14: The Obama government could have committed to demarcating to China the no go Red Line at Scarborough Shoal.
                5 : 2012 -2014 The Obama government could have initiated sanctions against China when China initiated it’s artificial islands and military bases in the SCS
                6 : 2012-2016 The Philippines could have initiated sanctions against China for it’s treatment of Filipino national fishermen.
                7 : 2012-2016 The Philippines could have concentrated it’s navel assets around Scarborough Shoal as a way of defending it’s exclusive economic zone.
                8 : 2014-2016 :The Philippines & the USA could have initiated a joint response by countries affected by China’s elephantine expansionism.

                All of these are “Could have beens”. They did not happen. But good competent foreign policy by government is really about recognising these such crucial turning points and acting in time.

              • If cows were balloons, they could fly.

              • chemrock says:

                “…the law of ‘unintended consequences’ is still relevant. Who among Filipino nationalists in the early 1990’s, foresaw that forcing the USA to leave Subic Bay & Clark would, create a vacuum that China would occupy from 2008 onwards”

                Bill — this statement puts Filipino Legislative, those that signed the closure of American bases, on the guillotine. A bunch of self-serving myopic people projecting nationalism for all the media but selling off the country. If you want the Americans out, strengthen you armed forces first. If they could’nt see the geopolitics and the dangers, they should never ever be in politics. Put up your hands those who don’t see the danger of a rising behemoth across the seas. Napoleon Bonaparte saw the dangers of China 200 years ago for was he not the one to say of China “Here lies a sleeping giant, let it sleep”.

      • A president is damned if he is perceived as brutal (drones) and castigated if he is perceived as weak (letting China build and militarize islands). It is my understanding that the PH and US, in concert, had drawn a military red line on Scarborough, and possibly communicated that to China. And the US has challenged restrictions on free travel by sailing and flying through “China’s” territory. It is so blasted easy to be the armchair quarterback, and so hard to decide what to do when men are on the line with today’s weaponry. The “appeasement” charge is wholly uncalled for. Trump apparently backed off his two-china course in his phone call with Xi, so is that appeasement or just good sense? Obama seems to me to have incredibly good sense, and I believe history will record it as such if it is not written up by white supremacists.

        • Bert says:

          Joe, let me quote from a CNN article re Trump’s call with XI supporting the one-China policy, this:

          “The White House might want to ratchet down tension with Beijing particularly because it may soon crank them back up.”

        • Bill In Oz says:

          Historians will debate Obama’s presidency for decades. The criticisms of him authorising drones on terrorists comes from the leftists and human right organisations who are basically pacifist in character…

          The criticisms of Obama as regards his responses to China’s actions in the South China sea and the West Philippines Sea, come from another quarter entirely : the conservative side of politics. These folk believe that Obama failed in foreign policy not just vis a vis China, but also in the Middle East.

          The USA did very little in response to Islamic Jihardism in Iraq & Syria & Libya. And what it finally did, it did very slowly when it’s hand was forced.

          Overall there was during Obama’s time a reluctance to put US troops in harms way, Was this because he was more pacifist in character ? Or because this avoided the bad publicity image George Bush Jr. was saddled with on the USA domestic front

          • Damned if she did and damned if she didn’t (USA). There is a Filipino saying, “Ang punong hitik sa bunga ay tampulan ng pagpukol.” (A tree heavy with fruits is often an object of stone throwing.) America is a blessed nation so the criticisms comes with the territory.

            I think if you will discern the differences between the Democratic and Republican party principles and their stances on military and foreign policies, you will find out why Obama was reluctant to put boots on the ground.

            We must remember that Trump used to be a Democrat and only switched to the Republican party in 2009 so his stances may swing like a pendulum.

            • NHerrera says:

              Re last item

              Kinda not knowing if he really is a cat or a dog? In the Philippines such switching is only like choosing the shirt or dress for the day. But in the US, it may amount to acquiring bi-polar traits — the pendulum swing?

              • Yes. In the US, changing political affiliation is often frowned upon. Being able to vote for the first time is an important milestone in most Americans lives. Long before that event, the political learning process has begun so the vote is often a deliberate and purposeful action guided by the chosen party’s platform.

                It is hard to reconcile a Democrat becoming a Republican because of the disparate party values and principles. These values and principles are the drivers of policy orientations and formulations each voter wants. They can be seen as polar opposites, the yin and yang of politics.

                This should give you an idea of the differences I am talking about: http://academic.regis.edu/jriley/413republicans_v_democrats.htm

              • Edgar Lores says:

                Moi, je suis un démocrate.

              • NHerrera says:

                Juana: thanks a lot. Although I know some of these, it is nice to have these policy orientations enumerated and made current or up-to-date like that in one webpage. I not only bookmarked it, but copied and saved it on Word for easy reference.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Bill, you know that China began marking its territory in the South China se by the late 1980s and even had a bloody encounter with Vietnam during that time.
        It was the fresh memories from that bloody encounter that made the Philippines back off during Chinese intrusion in the early 90s and besides if the Philippines maybe willing to engage, she is not able and reasy until now.

        The multilateralism of Obama enabled the Philippines and our neighbors to increase on Defense spending, I don’t know if that pattern will stop with the changes in the local and geopolitical landscape.

  2. Bert says:

    “Japan is the dark horse, the fly in the ointment, the odd man out or in, who knows. Japan does not have many friends in Asia. Indeed, she has a hate relationship with China and Korea, fallout from history, and is in a bear hug with America.”—Joe

    Yes, indeed.

    Not only that Japan is a dark horse, It’s also a dark horse with a fang. Think of Japan having the technology to make and deliver a nuclear bomb. And, think of Japan’s hate relationship with Russia, China, and North Korea. The next event will be so easy to predict.

    Who can prevent Japan from developing their nuclear capability? Not Russia, not China, and certainly not North Korea. The reason is there for all to see. The whole world will be in very great danger of having a nuclear war if Japan is allowed to go nuclear.

    The United States of America is the only country in the world who can stop Japan from developing nuclear capability. And there is only one way…a guaranteed assurance from the US of a protective umbrella against foreign attack. Remove that protective umbrella and sure as the sun will rise tomorrow Japan will go nuclear.

    It will be better for the world to have US permanent military presence in the whole South and East China Seas. Joe is right, the Philippines is just a chip in such a situation, without any card to play.

    We are worrying that President Donald Trump could create a situation in the South China Sea that might provoke China to start hostility in the area. That I think is China’s call.

    If Trump knows what’s best to maintain peace and stability in the world then Trump must do what has to be done. At all cost.

  3. NHerrera says:

    This is fun Joe. I never have dipped into all those advertised video games of strategy except read a little of the ad. This War Game is better — with a good touch of realism. But perhaps TSH contributors who have played those video games may be better at this. Of course I know what to expect — most of the posts will be well reasoned based comments. In any case, I look forward to reading some more of the comments. I may play the game too. 🙂

    • Hey, you inspired this particular article, you’d better play! 🙂

    • NHerrera says:

      There are two relevant aspects here,

      * time frame;
      * mate’riel or logistics

      both being intertwined, especially with respect to China.

      US superior aircraft carriers with its superior aircraft and its superior submarines armed with superior nuclear tipped missiles can relatively speaking freely roam Western Pacific. At the moment China is of course inferior to these materiel — it has at the moment if I am not mistaken in my reading one aircraft carrier, a Lioning class made in Russia — and it has bitten enough (more than it can chew?) in the South China Sea. Also, it is at the moment busy and its present champion with the trade globalization thing and one-belt thing.

      • China has a second carrier coming on line, designed specifically to deal with American capabilities. Your point is excellent. Bannon has about a 10 year horizon. China will have a vastly better defense in the South China Sea by then.

      • josephivo says:

        All weapons you describe are ideal to fight yesterdays wars, and some septuagenarians might hope they come back so they can show the size of their “weapons”, not really used for a lifetime

        But how do you fight cybercrime? How terrorists? Mass movements over leaking borders? Ecological collapses? How economical wars with exchange rates, dumping, intellectual properties…? How do you fight creeping wars as for a decade talking about an area as being yours, than being present in that area, than building an island in the middle of the night, than militarizing it, than forcing traffic out of a small zone, a larger zone, a whole sea…?

        • Bill In Oz says:

          Yes, Josephivo..You are on the money here. Nuclear weapons are the weapons of last resort….as it was quaintly described decades ago : Mutually Assured Destruction. First resort is all that you have listed.

  4. Micha says:

    Direct confrontation between two nuclear armed superpowers is highly unlikely. Military planners of both US and China know that conventional war maneuvers no longer apply in the age of the atom and drones. They know that any escalation of conflict will eventually force them to use the nuclear option. That is why the cold war with Russia did not turn hot.

    China’s nuclear arsenal and delivery system maybe inferior to what the US have but they could always make an alliance with Russia which still has ICBM’s in their stockpile.

    A scenario that would bring about the possibility of a nuclear confrontation is when any or both of these countries became totally failed states and are governed by desperate irrational savages.

    • Why do you figure that Bannon said there would be conflict? I think he recognizes that there are two irreconcilable positions plodding directly toward one another, each unwilling to bend. I think a tactical war that does not seek national conquest is possible without triggering nukes. Either China controls the Western Pacific, or worldly freedom does.

      • NHerrera says:

        Sounds a bit like the phrase we had ages ago:

        What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

        Something edgar can answer or parse I bet. 🙂

      • Bert says:

        It’s a matter of wills between two irreconcilable positions. When push comes to shove I think that the lesser power will blink. In a way Micha in saying that direct confrontation is highly unlikely is correct. But it is more likely that China will wait for a very strong push to the point it will hurt before blinking. The reason for that is political survival, a suicide if you will, by the leadership against a restive nationalistic population that won’t allow a proud people to be humiliated by a foreign power. And so, as Joe said, a tactical war is very likely. As to whether nuke will be used will depend on what subsequent events and decisions follow after the initial skirmishes. My opinion is that China will not risk it. The leadership may be aggressively asserting their territorial expansionism but they’re not suicidal.

        Is the United States of America suicidal? My answer is no. Their’s is driven by necessity, necessary for the survival of America, and the rest of the free world.

  5. alicia m. kruger says:

    JoeAm, Duterte might be flitting like a butterfly with the countries that play a major rule in the Pacific for now it but might be game over when push comes to shove knowing his earlier communist orientation. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed and my eyes too for good measure that he will let the U. S. build a military outpost and do business with other neighboring countries other than China.

  6. Sid Bañez says:

    I have always been suspicious of neutrality, even with persons who can’t make a definite stand for or against an issue. Neutrality is even more worrisome for nations, especially if it is your own nation.The Philippines must rely on a strong and dependable ally whose intentions it can read more clearly. And to me that ally is the USA, imperialistic warts and all :-).
    Japan is smart. With all its cultural and historical differences with the USA it has let US military bases in its soil for decades, thus being able to focus on growing its economy more because it is under the umbrella of the US military, whether its citizens admit it or not. Japan even shares in the upkeep of those bases, which if you thing about it, is a relatively minor portion of its budget.

  7. popoy del r cartanio says:

    I am writing this with the map on my left of the laptop screen. No country in the world is so powerful by virtue of its centrality by land and by sea in the south hemisphere; and IF (that’s a big IF) by stealth, by B52s bombers, by submarines, by battle ships and air craft carriers, and by foot soldiers with their drones and BY GOD, by continental missiles in its northern and southern tip from Batanes, two hours away by air to Patikul. Most important a hundred million YOUNG Population as a source of 10 million soldiers PEANUTS to organize, train and make battle ready. This country holds the key to world peace of a hundred years. Darn! What country is this? How? How, how the carabao so I sang at Grade One. GO FIGURE. USA, China, Russia, and the EC. I did not name the country. If there is no power but only hot air in this paragraph TSOH is a gossiper’s paradise for naked brains.

    • popoy del r cartanio says:

      the above, that’s a DEDUCTION, is an invitation to read my INDUCTIVES JoeAm says will be posted this Monday,

      • NHerrera says:

        Popoy, looking forward to reading your “INDUCTIVES” and your corresponding DEDUCTIONs aside from what you posted above.

        • popoy del r cartanio says:

          Thanks NH, glad to have one come out and say so. Three is a crowd already eh; at least three reading what comes out of my perspiring kokote is inspiring.

  8. madlanglupa says:

    > I don’t even know if he is actually working for the well-being of the Philippines

    He has either the powers behind the throne or eminence grise, those who actually use him as an agent of influence for their own plans for either power or enrichment.

  9. caliphman says:

    War gaming in a situation where war is not a desireable or viable option for most if not all parties is happily an intellectual exercise for now. Its more interesting aspects for me since this blog’s premises is that in a global or regional conflict the Philippines will be more a chip than an active participant is how such a conflict might materialize. To be a global scale confrontation on par with WW I or II requires military or geopolitical alliances that triggers a set of automatic domino responses pitting two sides against each other whether not the participants have it in their self-interest or not. The trigger can be a deliberate and long-planned move like the Nazi seizure of Poland or the Japanese first strike at Pearl Harbor or the US bases in the Philippines that culminated in WW II. Or like in WW I, it can start with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand leading to hostilities between two very minor members of opposing forces. Of the two scenarios, the first is more unlikely than the second as far as a regional or global conflict where the Philippines would be sucked in as a participant or invaded as a desired territorial chip.

    Whatever Duterete’s intentions are be it nationalistic, uninformed, or ego-centric his actions have tended to decrease the chances that the Philippines is likely to be drawn in any regional or global conflict. Even a military encounter between China and the country over fishing and further militarization at Scarborough and other contested rocks has become more remote. In that sense, this regime’s China policy has been good whatever Duterte’s motivations are.

      • popoy del r cartanio says:

        Pardon the impertinence. Because of the extraordinary incipience and impact of STEM affecting readiness and lethal power of nuclear baptismal as well as return fire, the on-going diplomatic eche botcheche among the three world powers will be of no predictable consequence. Continental missiles will blot the evening sky led or followed by star dragons that eat their fuel in the sky to defecate anywhere below; no more time for shock and awe for those who will see the blinding light; then land infantry and tanks cavalry in beaches and deserts will just finish the job or what’s left of it .

        Distance matters but of not much effect on who push the button first. It is like a draw situation in Dodge City of the old West again. I am for Billy the Kid whose index finger on the trigger squeezes as his gun leaves the holster. It will no longer be the case when giants collide, it’s the little ones which get hurt.

        Very likely now, the giants will vaporize each other’s jugular, in which case little Philippines playing diplomatic eche botcheche with the world powers-that be will not be that necessary for assault nor defense. Wisdom and punditry notwithstanding, it’s HLM (human lives matter, eh) .

        • popoy del r cartanio says:

          If the Philippines gets hit by whatever from whoever, it will be a gift, a parting gift for playing diplomatic ethce botcheche with the big powers.

      • Bert says:

        I agree.

    • NHerrera says:

      A nice synthesis of the situation with respect to the Philippines.

      If I may add from my readings, in previous conflicts small or large scale, the trigger is something that is different from what some historians with, say, a romantic vent tells it.

    • josephivo says:

      We use the same label “war”, but if you analyze in detail, the content of that label differs quite a lot. Napoleonic wars with armies confronting each other on epic battle fields driven by human and horse power. WWI and WWII fought on many fronts driven by mechanical power. The Vietnam guerrilla war and the current terrorist wars, restrained and with unequal methods used by the opposing parties. Wars with less human content, fought with intelligent drones, rockets, an apocalyptic nuclear war. Wars on drugs, trade wars, virtual wars… The extend can be quite different too, border skirmishes, regional conflicts with a limited scope, escalating conflicts, all out world wars.

      What are we talking about? An apocalytic end of the world war?

      • Bert says:

        Hehehe, joseph, you’re going too far. We are talking about people killing each other fighting for food and territories and ideas without having to resort to burning the whole house. 🙂

  10. douglasrosete says:

    Its relevant, thoughtful, strategic analysis.It is a plausible terrifying tomorrow. It is a scenario for a WW3.

  11. a distant observer says:

    I happen to agree with most of what you say, Joe. Yes, the Philippines is a chip, that’s why I said “the Philippines should be very, very careful to not serve as a pawn in a great power game”.
    Concerning Steve Bannon, he also said: “If we deliver, we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years”. Rule for the next 50 years. Let that sink in. Bannon might have radical ideas, but he’s certainly no fool.

    Yes the Philippines is in the middle of one of the most important geostrategic situations of the 21st century so far. It lies south and east of China’s southern “great wall”, and west of the US’ Mariana Island Training and Testing Area. Being on the fringe of two major geostrategic tectonic plates comes with additional danger. What happens to the fringe when tectonic plates of this dimension begin to drift and grind?

    A neutral Philippines is actually an intriguing idea I never considered before. However, as already pointed out by you and other commenters, it might be an impossible position for the Philippines. Gaining and maintaining a position of neutrality is only possible if both great powers have some benefit from this country’s neutrality. Switzerland enabled the Nazis to conduct some business with the allied powers, that’s why Switzerland was more useful the way it was, instead of turning it into another occupied territory. I don’t see the Philippines possess any characteristics (most of all: a strong and well-connected financial sector and a range of highly skilled diplomats) that would to enable it to gain neutrality.

    I too like democratic freedoms and good old Christian-based morals. However, it is doubtful to what extent the Americans can “bring” that to the Philippines. One can see the manifestations of Western “Christian-based morals” in Subic Bay and Angeles City. There are reasons why the Philippines bumped the Americans in the first place. Change, commitment and dedication to democratic freedoms can only come from within. I’m very sceptic concerning your call to plaster the Philippines with US military bases. The question however is: what’s the alternative? And then I have to admit, I’d rather take the Americans than the Chinese to take hold of the Philippines. This is a rather pragmatic argumentation: the Americans, at least, try to maintain some semblance of democracy and equality. At this point of history, (military) deterrence might be the only way to keep the Chinese Communist Party from creeping into the Philippine society and culture. The alternative is unconditional surrender to and embrace of the newly arising comrades from the mainland.

    • Bill In Oz says:

      Distant Observer, do you see no point is seeking allies in the region like Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan & South Korea ? ( And maybe Taiwan ? )

      • a distant observer says:

        Bill, yes I definitively see some potential in allying with the countries you mentioned. I even dedicated some space to that in my article here some time ago. I however think that ASEAN is not the place for that. Including Japan into this alliance comes with special challenges because of its atrocities and inability to self-criticism.

      • a distant observer says:

        I realize that your question probably hinted towards the supposition whether such an alliance could be a substitute for an increasing American military presence in the Philippines. There, some practical questions arise: Whose navy would harassing Chinese ships like Chinese ships harass Filipino ships? Whose navy would intercept Chinese ships bringing material and personell from the mainland to the fortified islands? Whose navy would be able to surveil and monitor Chinese activities above and below the waters of the SCS? It is only the US navy that is truly capable of doing that. As for Japan, there are these problems mentioned in my comment above

        • Bill In Oz says:

          No Distant Observer, that was not my thought or meaning… My intent was to simply know if such a mutual support group would help in this situation. In the past the USA provided leadership towards the formation of SEATO in the mid 1950’s and ASEAN in the 1970’s. I assume that most countries in the region would welcome such leadership again.

          • chemrock says:

            I agree Asean as a group need to play a larger role in this confrontation with China. That was one of the basic purpose for the formation of Asean. I do not mean a military role, but a pressure group. Well if it comes to war, it would be unwise for Asean not to stand united. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Philippines together has a sizeable population of 600 million. Together the GDP is $2.4T which makes it the 7th largest economy in the world. That statistics make Asean grouping no push over that China need to respect and pay attention. I’m leaving Laos, Cambodia and Myammar out because they are pro-China.

            Very unfortunately, Du30 chairmanship of Asean is history dealing the grouping a bad hand. He is doing absolutely nothing to colasce the grouping to make a tougher stand. Du30’s strategy is the mother of dumb moves in the art of negotiations. He showed his cards to the Chinese. He has nothing left in his sleeves to negotiate. Trump would have fired him.

          • a distant observer says:

            Thanks for the clarification Bill. Yes I think such an alliance would help to strengthen the position of the Philippines. Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan & South Korea under the aegis of the US, yes why not.

            There are however 3 main problems to consider:

            1. Beijing explicitly does not accept any multilateral approach when dealing with such issues. After all, that’s the reason why it condemned Aquino’s arbitration request in The Hague. Beijing knows that its position is strongest when each claimant state in the SCS has to deal with China unilaterally. An alliance you propose could not help much in the diplomatic realm since every attempt to use the leverage of this alliance would be blocked by China in the very beginning. I can see only some potential in the confrontational, military realm, such as enhanced cooperation of defense forces.

            2. Including the US (or Japan, for that matter) into this alliance creates an incentive for the CPC to frame this dispute to its population as a struggle against imperialist powers trying to “humiliate” China again. This would in the end strengthen the hawkish forces in Beijing.

            3. Chemrock says he would leave Laos, Cambodia and Myammar out because they are pro-China. These three countries are the reason why I think that ASEAN is not really helpful in this struggle. Look what happened in 2012: For the first time in the history of an ASEAN summit, no joint declaration was issued because China’s protégé Cambodia obstructed any attempt by other members to include a mentioning of the SCS issue. This is how Beijing operates. There was a very interesting account on the Chinese modus operandi in the Copenhagen climate negotiations of 2009 (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/dec/22/copenhagen-climate-change-mark-lynas).
            Including any Chinese puppet state into this alliance will be only a great waste of time.
            No need to comment on Duterte’s chairmanship of ASEAN. As you put it: What Duterte does as president via a vis ASEAN is just Duterte being Duterte.

            • Bill In Oz says:

              Yes, all that you say is true Distant Observer. But re point one if nobody agrees to play by Beijing’s rules, it is left isolated apart from it’s minor allies Laos & Cambodia.

              But the fact of the matter is that the Chinese elephant always wants to deal with each nation separately because that gives it enormous leverage.

              And I will be frank forming a defensive alliance against China s the only alternative to supine cooperation. And Japan &Taiwan face the same aggressive Chinese Elephant so it makes sense to have them as part of the team…And if the USA wants to be on the team, fine and good.

  12. NHerrera says:

    Mesdames et Messieurs, can we do a “refresh.” The blog article puts the War Theatre or War Board in Western Pacific, our host starting with looking at the countries ringing that War Board — Japan, Taiwan (hence China’s interest in Western Pacific), PH — and I may add part of Indonesia and Australia via Papua New Guinea, and Guam (hence US interest in the Game, besides of course its traditional and continuing interest in the viability of PH and nominally the whole Western Pacific itself). And of course, Russia cannot stand merely as a kibitzer, it is after all a big nuclear power.

    So, without myself contributing now to this “refresh” can we tap the discussion to the direction the blog intended it? Or am I reading it wrong.

    This is not to say I did not profit from the discussions so far. I did. Greatly.

  13. josephivo says:

    And what about the wild card North Korea? Can the unhinge the current stall mate?

  14. josephivo says:

    And what about the self-interest of Filipino individuals?

    Thinking at the end of the 6 year, 1 billion Peso, Belgian aid program a decade ago. In the closing meetings only one item got attention, not the sustainability of the interventions, not the assessment of the reduced poverty, not the appreciation of contributing individuals, but who would get what piece of furniture from the central office, who would get the printer, the water cooler, you name it and most importantly who would get the remaining company car. I could write several blogs on the intrigues that were going on, forget the intention of the program, but “what is in for me?”

    The closure of the American bases had nothing to do with strategic options, but everything with who would get what water cooler. Why should future decisions on strategic issues be based on different criteria?

    Corruption and China, always. Corruption and Japan, no way. Corruption and the US, only if you are clever.

  15. NHerrera says:

    Off topic

    A priest supporter in Davao who voted for Duterte — Ateneo de Davao president Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J. — speaks out.


    The Jesuit priest confessed that he feels partly responsible for the innocent lives that may have been taken due to his silence on the issue and explained that his support for the government’s war on drugs came from his “hatred for the evil that the illegal drug trade brings its victims, rich and poor” and is anchored on the premise that Duterte promised to follow the law.

    “As far as how this war is conducted, I have opted to allow the commander–in-chief the discretion to marshal the means necessary to win the war. Talking tough seemed to be necessary for the campaign, just as oft repeating that he would protect his policemen from jail should they be prosecuted in the line of duty,” he said.

    “I was content to presume that lives taken by the police were taken legitimately — as the result of a police operation resisted foolishly by the drug users.”

    “As the number of killed rose, I was quieted by the president’s general declarations that he is not responsible for extra-judicial killings. There were, after all, many other plausible sources of the killings: turf wars among the drug pushers, rogue policemen covering their tracks, operations of the cartels to discredit legitimate police operations,” he said.

    “My vote for Rodrigo Roa Duterte was a vote for him as President of the Philippines. It was not a vote for him as God. Nor a vote for him as the Evil One,” he said.

    “If I must choose between going to hell with President Duterte in pursuit of the war on drugs in the Philippines or going to heaven with (Archbishop) Soc Villegas because neither he nor any of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines ‘find pleasure in the death of anyone who dies’ (cf. Ezekiel 18:32), I choose going to heaven with the CBCP, even if their company and their language is neither as colorful nor as entertaining as that of the President,” he said.

  16. NHerrera says:


    (Before I turn in for the night, I wish to post this if allowed. Your indulgence too for the length.)

    I wish to post this as some sort of Appendix to the blog. It may not be irrelevant considering the War Gaming nature of the topic and Game Theory relates to such studies.

    I am posting what I will call as Game Theoretic Representation of MAD. By MAD I mean Mutually Assured Destruction — a phrase used most during the Cold War between US and Russia. It was believed that a point had been reached when military capability in both early warning system and delivery of nuclear bombs have been reached so that a first strike by one can be met by a second strike by the other, equally destructive — resulting in the Mutual Destruction if not Annihilation of both and most probably all parts of the globe.

    Consider the table below. The two Players are designated 1 and 2, and their “payoffs” are color-coded in the same way. It does not matter which is the US and which is Russia.

    S = First Strike, or Second Strike; does not matter because of capability to respond

    NS = No Strike

    What is important about the numbers are: the relative magnitudes; meaning

    5 > 3> 1 > 0

    and different numbers could have been assigned.

    (S, S) is the MAD case. (NS, NS) is the case of live and let live.

    (S, NS) or (NS, S) is the case where one Strikes and for some reason the other decides
    not to respond.

    The relative numbers now becomes clear.

    (S, S) = (0, 0)
    (NS, NS) = (5, 5)

    It is clear that in the other case, the Striker gets a 3, less than the 5 for the live and let live case; for after all, considerable expense is used to make that action; not to mention world condemnation. And the Player who does not respond — turn the other cheek so to speak — must of course have a small payoff of 1 but more than the 0 for the mutual destruction case.

    I end with what may be called economic rationality versus emotional rationality.

    – If the stricken player does not strike he may be termed as economically rational, for after all a 1 is better than a 0.

    – If the (first) stricken player decides to respond in kind, leading to MAD, he may be termed as emotionally rational.

    In Pilipino, the latter is patay kung patay.

    Which would be your response if you are the one struck first?


    The best case of course, is (NS, NS) which in Game Theory is the Nash Equilibrium..

    • For a single game, Nash Equilibrium would probably hold.
      “The only winning move is not to play.”

      But to suggest another way of viewing it, what of an iterative analysis? Given the likelihood of a repetitive (NS,NS) between players, how would the probability of a first strike change with each iteration? Would they get tired and then just shake on it? Or will one trip the other up to gain an advantage? Both seems equally plausible… Guess they don’t call it an arm’s race for nothing. 😉

      Hmm… A good comparison would probably be on how the US-USSR Cold War de-escalated? Doing a quick google search, I found the following to be somewhat relevant. Just replace the US and USSR with your chosen players:

      [The International View:]

      The international scene post-World War II was sharply divided into two opposing camps, but by the 1970s this bipolar system had loosened considerably. France had exerted increased independence. A number of third world nations had declared themselves non-aligned.

      Kriesberg argues that this context facilitated peace and de-escalation initiatives in at least three ways:
      – First, there were more independent or unaligned nations available to act as intermediaries in the U.S.- Soviet conflict.
      – Second, the need to recruit these nations as allies encouraged the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to be more accommodating. Kriesberg notes that “demonstrating reasonableness and willingness to be accommodating is an important form of appeal.”[p. 70]
      – Third, the loosening of the bipolar international situation also loosed the UN from American dominance, and allowed the UN to play more significant role as an independent intermediary in conflicts.


      And going off-topic, uhm… Can I ask if I could contact you privately by email, NHerrera? I have some questions about game theory and some scenarios? =)

      • NHerrera says:

        Surely, Joe has my email.

      • Bert says:

        “Hmm… A good comparison would probably be on how the US-USSR Cold War de-escalated? Doing a quick google search, I found the following to be somewhat relevant. Just replace the US and USSR with your chosen players:”—Intuitive

        @Intuitive. Here I am going to substitute US-China to your US-USSR. I can’t speak on how the US-USSR Cold War de-escalated but if it did the reason I think was that the USSR crumbled down to pieces. Please refer to this short statement I copy-pasted from an article in Google.:

        “How did the Soviet Union fall?
        The once-mighty Soviet Union had fallen, largely due to the great number of radical reforms that Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev had implemented during his six years as the leader of the USSR.”

        As regard the potential conflict in the South China Sea between the US and China I think that this is totally a different situation altogether. There is no clear parameter as to how this kind of situation can be de-escalated. For example, and here I am going to cite one hypothetical incident that might pose a problem that could require other countries to intervene to avoid this thing called MAD that everybody is talking about, here goes:

        President Trump ordered the US military to put a blockade around the Spratly to prevent China’s from accessing those fake militarized islands they created based on the premise that the Spratly is within international domain and not belonging to China. What now? Who do you think will do the ‘first strike’ that will trigger this MAD?

        You mentioned that “The only winning move is not to play it.” By blockading the Spratly, did the US ‘play it’, do you think?

        • US-CH M.A.D.

          Do note that the quote about ‘not playing the game to win’ was for nuclear warfare. Because no one will really win by playing that game. This probably isn’t the same with WWII where one country had an overwhelming monopoly of the Atom tech. After those first two bombs, it really has been M.A.D for everyone. Pun. hohoho

          But for other forms of warfare like geopolitical, economic, or conventional? That is surely vastly different. But a possibility of it going nuclear really isn’t far off if people are not careful. Especially the US. Because to be honest, assuming that it goes that direction, I think it would be the US that will initiate it anyways. Nuclear doctrines notwithstanding.

          As for your given scenario, that would probably be the start of a severe domino effect. So yes, they would have ‘played’ it by then. But will they be able to handle it? This is how I think it’ll play out:

          – US gives geopolitical sanctions towards CH?
          – CH responds with economic sanctions towards US.

          So what happens next? Well, this discussion in Quora, particularly on the reply discussing economic warfare, seems very plausible. To quote:

          “In the today’s world the military power is measured not in aircraft carriers and nukes, but in dollars and yuans.

          Countries are destroyed not by tanks, but by economical sanctions, corrupt politicians and staged coups.

          I was born in one of such countries (USSR). It has had x6 more nukes than today’s Russia, stronger army and better fleet. Yet it was destroyed. Without a single bullet, using only economic and political measures.”

          The result:

          “It means a severe economic crisis in China and a complete collapse of the Russian economy. There are food riots in both countries, followed by armed insurgency.

          China is severely crippled. Russia is repeating the fate of the USSR.

          The end of the coalition.

          There is an economic crisis in the EU and US too (the US is a bit better)**. But the war is over.

          Nobody won.”

          **But taking into account another reply on the link and other resources, which is also in line with Chemrock’s article about the demise of the $, well it does seem like CH is already trying to wean off its dependence on it. One-belt, One road and AIIB is another thing. So who do you think would be the better off after this kind of warfare? And as for trigerring M.A.D.? CH probably wouldn’t. Sun Tzu would probably not be pleased. lol

          But on a serious note though:
          “China’s nuclear doctrine is the product of four different schools of thought: the self-defensive nuclear doctrine, the minimum nuclear deterrence doctrine, the counter-nuclear coercion doctrine, and, finally, a doctrine of limited deterrence. These schools of thought have influenced the creation of a doctrine focused on, among other things, committing to no first use, building a lean and effective arsenal, and maintaining a second-strike capability.”

          But as for the US:

          “For Non-Nuclear Weapons States Compliant with Non-Proliferation Obligations:
          o Strengthen the U.S. “negative security assurance
          – The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear
          weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear
          nonproliferation obligations”
          – These states face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response if use
          CBW against the United States or its allies and partners
          – If biological threat grows, U.S. reserves right to adjust assurance

          For Nuclear Weapons States and Non-Compliant States:
          o The U.S. would use nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, our allies and partners.
          o For these states, there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear
          weapons may still play a role in deterring conventional or CBW attack”

          So when shit hits the the fan (pardon the language), the US does have the trigger. So what do you think would they do if Pax Americana is threatened? Would they want to keep the status quo or would an uncertain and unknown possibilty be entertained and established?

          But as always, I probably presented a wide and seemingly disjointed amalgamation of different points. But do offer your take on it. =)

          [1] https://www.quora.com/Who-will-win-in-a-war-between-the-USA-and-a-coalition-of-China-and-Russia
          [2] http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/06/30/china-s-nuclear-doctrine-debates-and-evolution-pub-63967
          [3] http://www.webcitation.org/6FY0Ol07H

          • US-CH M.A.D. + OTHERS

            In addition to the above reply, it is actually analyzing the situation without giving much weight to their allies. Because if including them, the US could actually nip the problem right in the bud. Though it would probably mean ‘destroying’ CH as they did seem to have invested so much already. That is also probably a reason why the US is being careful as well as they’d probably earn the ire of many if they do that.

            Nevertheless, do note that as time passes, it would become harder and harder to make decisions. So the US really is stuck between a rock and a hard place

          • Bert says:

            You’ve covered everything I guess, Intuitive, and I can’t find anything that I can disagree with except to say that, in the case that “Pax Americana” is threatened as what’s happening in the South China Sea, America cannot afford to keep the status quo for long for reason that it will only embolden China to tighten some more its economic vise-grip hold on America’s neck.

            And so, your “uncertain and unknown possibility” is right on the spot, a great possibility. That is, if President Trump is the opposite of President Obama.

            • So Mr. Bert, any ideas about this unknown possibility? Personally, I see three possibilities:

              – The US acts decisively, trying to maintain its hegemony. This means ‘destroying’ CH ASAP.
              – The US acts indecisively, trying to maintain its hegemony. This leads to warfare as discussed above.
              – The US gives up its hegemony by renegotiating the orders of power. A new world order of some sorts? Probably in terms of the financial system like a new world currency and how it is regulated?

              • Bert says:

                I see it differently, Mr.Intuitive, these:

                -Hegemony has nothing to do with any US action in this South China Sea conflict. It’s purely for economic survival aka freedom of navigation. If China stops its claim of ownership of the whole ocean, the old status quo will return and there will be no need for any US military movement in the area.
                -Hegemony is China’s cake. If China persists, the US government under Trump will be forced to warn China to back-off.
                -If China still insists, the US military will be forced to blockade the whole Spratly Islands preventing China’s access to them.
                -After that’s done, the ball will be in China’s hands by then.

                After that, the possibilities are enormous.

    • NHerrera says:

      For information, regarding our discussion of MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction, here is a pictorial of the Estimated Global Nuclear Warhead Inventories, 2017

      Taken from the link:


      • To add to this also so that one can get a perspective of how legit M.A.D is:
        We only need 100 nukes to bring humans to a critically endangered status. This is due to black soot from explosions blocking out the sun out for about 25 years lowering temperatures. Also, while significantly damaging the ozone layer increasing UV radiation by about 80%.

        ~300 nukes would probably pretty much wipe everyone out.


        • NHerrera says:

          Yes IP. Which would you rather die from:

          – slow death from Climate Change due to the effect of CO2 build-up; or from

          – the relatively quick death due to the soot from only a few hundred of the world stock of tens of hundreds of the nuclear arsenal?


          • Don’t forget that medium sized asteroid, small enough not to be detected; but big enough to cause global weather pattern changes, making the world unlivable for humans, NH.

            Also mega-volcanoes, no need for external cause of explosions, the Earth’s insides is already a hot mess, all waiting to explode… Yellowstone is a mega volcano with a caldera that spans 100+ mile radius.

            But realistically, your chances of dying from a car accident is more likely (that and cancer) , 40,000 Americans died from car related accidents last year.

            So cheer up, fellas, there’s more than 2 ways to die dumb deaths 😉 (you’ll love that song, NH)

          • I surely don’t have any control over the latter as of now… So I’d prefer the former as I’m young and I can probably try to nudge things in a better direction by then. Or even just at least escape the problem by getting involved in tech development for leaving the planet or something. Space is the new frontier anyways and humanity would have probably enough time for that. 😉

  17. madlanglupa says:

    I cannot find any mention of India here, so we should not discount nations bordering around the Indian Ocean, as China seeks to secure this portion of the Maritime Silk Road, as recent as cooperating in anti-piracy operations as well as securing diplomatic, economic, and military relations with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Maldives, and Thailand.

    I read somewhere that India is trying to create a viable defense force and/or boundary security forces that can cope with the high-altitude Himalaya range, as they must have been aware of the Middle Kingdom have already placed a portion of her own forces on the Tibetan plateau, not only in counter-insurgency and to eliminate dissidents but also to guard its mountainous flank.

    Going down south and upon its shores, in the last few years India is trying to build up a credible navy with new submarines, including the acquisition of advanced P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft that should provide better reach than its older fleet of Soviet patrol Tu-142s.

  18. Bert says:

    “For years, the US military has sought a more aggressive approach towards China’s claims. However, former president Barack Obama curtailed the navy’s operations from 2012 through 2015, reportedly to avoid unnecessary friction.”


    Quoted from a Yahoo News Headline today titled: “US Navy Plans New Strategy to Counter Beijing in South China Sea-Report”.

    While reading the news it occurred to me Bill’s mentioned of the word ‘appeasement’ alluding to President Obama’s policy vis-a-vis the West Philippine Sea in previous exchanges in this thread. I’m still wondering what’s the true connotation of this word ‘appeasement’. but any farther explanation from any of you guys will be most welcome.

    • edgar lores says:

      Appeasement is, like, when you strongly disagree with your wife about something she wants, and to avoid conflict you meekly say, “Yes, dear, you can have it.”

      Google “chamberlain hitler appeasement.”

    • karlgarcia says:

      Bert from your quote, ” …to avoid unnecessary friction” for me is what appeasement is.

      From the discussion above, such a policy is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t decision.

    • Appeasement to me means tossing a mad dog a piece of meat in hopes that he won’t bite you. It’s a gamble that sometimes works but doesn’t if the dog is not rational. Paying ransom money to a murderous kidnapper is appeasement. It works sometimes . . . until next time. Obama did not ‘appease’ anyone in the eyes of the public. In the eyes of politicians . . . they make stuff up.

    • Bert says:

      🙂 Thank you guys for your very clear explanations of the true meaning of the word. I take it that you Edgar, karl, and Joe are all in agreement of what ‘appeasement’ meant in the context of Pres. Obama’s policy decisions in the South China Sea, or at least it seems to me.

      May I know if I am wrong with that assessment?

      • edgar lores says:


        I do not see that Obama made any policies or moves that can be considered to be an appeasement to the Chines in relation to Scarborough.

        Note that appeasement involves acts of commission.

        If that is your opinion, I concur.

        • Bert says:

          Yes, Edgar, that will be my opinion, too, with regards to Scarborough. I totally agree with you on that.

          In the Spratlys where the Chinese were so aggressive in their expansionist agenda without a serious effort against it from the former US government is different from the Scarborough situation, I think.

          I’m not sure though, Edgar, what you meant by ‘acts of commission’ and so I cannot tell whether there was an act of commission involved regarding the construction of those fake islands there and the policy of Pres. Obama during his tenure..

    • NHerrera says:


      The action of Obama in that quote — which may appear as appeasement — may be explained in different ways. I offer this as one probable explanation.

      Obama is a lawyer and a President who seemed to me as weighing things carefully before he moves in an important case. He may be factoring what the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration would be on the case brought by the PH against China which was awarded only on July 2016 (the case was filed by PH in January 2013).

      Now that the award was given with the decision practically agreeing to almost all of PH arguments, the US has a good basis for its action. And Trump Admin I am sure likes the ACE of card that this provides it on any aggressive move against China in the SCS — since the PCA pronounced China’s claim as “fiction.”

      In the context of my scenario, Obama may not appear as an appeaser after all; he is not the cowboy type.

      • Bert says:

        Fair enough, NHerrera.

        What’s in my mind, and maybe I am wrong with this, is that the case in the Permanent Arbitration Court filed by the Aquino government involved only the area within what is being claimed by the Philippine government as the West Philippine Sea which in my mind does not include the Spratly Islands where the fake islands were constructed. Am I wrong with that assumption?

        From Google: “These areas include the Luzon Sea as well as the waters around, within and adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal,” Mr. Aquino says in the order made public only Wednesday”

        This beg the question: Was Pres. Obama’s inaction worth the wait until the irreparable damage has been already for a ruling that is not part of the contested case?


        • NHerrera says:

          I think — and you or others here can correct me — the PCA in effect labeled the concept of the nine dash line as “fiction” so its ruling may cover something beyond just those specific to PH. (I have not gone over the PCA ruling in its entirety.)

          Your last question of the what-if type I can’t respond now. I have to think about that some more.

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