Jun 24, 2011

May You Live In Interesting Times

In his book Kingdom of Fear, Hunter Thompson recalls the ancient Chinese curse being told to him by an elderly dope fiend one rainy night in Hong Kong towards the end of the Vietnam war.  Looking back it's quite possible that the historians of the future will see that the end of the Vietnam war as the the end of Pax America, what Thompson saw as the final days of the American century.

It's difficult to talk about America's decline without sounding like a defeatist  - As prescient as Thompson might have been, my perspective here is different.  I can't see what the late Hunter Thompson saw or for that matter what much of America sees.  What I see as an American in Southeast Asia is what many here see and that is - the storm clouds gathering on the horizon and the harsh realization that what so many Americans fought and gave their lives for will soon be gone forever.

The optimism of the past looks strangely outdated today, there is a sense of malaise that is slowly giving way to the realization that America can no longer be depended on here in Southeast Asia to fight and defend those very things that our forefathers gave their lives for.  No where is this more evident than in the Philippines today.

Just eighty nautical miles off the coast of Palawan in the Philippines, China is laying claim to an area called Reed Bank, part of a vast area off the coast of Palawan that's oil reserves and wells now supply 15% of all the petroleum consumed in the Philippines.

While Chinese warships threaten and fire on Philippine ships off the coast of Palawan, the United States has found themselves in a precarious situation - warned by China to stay out of the conflict, the United States  is unable to do anything other than offer meaningless platitudes of support and coercing the victims of Chinese aggression to engage in a collaborative diplomatic process with their aggressor not unlike the collaborative diplomatic process that the late Czechoslovakian Prime Minister Milan Hodža was once urged to engage in with his aggressor.  But this isn't 1937 it is 2011 and their will be no Roosevelt-like calls for a quarantine or anything that might possibly offend the Chinese even when an allies' sovereignty is at stake.

As reassuring as it might be, deep in his heart the Philippines President Benigno Aquino must surely know that the mutual defense treaty he holds in his hand is nothing more than a relic of the past, nothing more than a piece of paper.

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