Talk is cheap but it can make one president

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

There is no problem with senators Panfilo Lacson, Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros stoking the fires of nationalism and patriotism over our woes in the South China Sea brought on by Chinese bullying. Like them I would be totally numb if I did not say I am mad at that country for its disrespectful aggressiveness at our expense.

But talk is cheap. Unlike them I would not waste my time professing my patriotic and nationalistic willingness to wage a war I could never win, over a cause whose odds are so stacked against me I could end up losing more than what I already lost. In fact, I think my real patriotic and nationalistic duty would be to do what I can to prevent my country from leaping from the frying pan into the fire.

It is easy for Lacson, Drilon, Hontiveros, and even retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio to beat their breasts, wave their fists, and perorate about the need to make a stand against China, knowing full well that it will not be they who will take the first crack at the Chinese juggernaut. I wonder just how quickly their perspectives might change had they been part of some Marine expeditionary force awaiting deployment to the Spratlys.

Lacson, Drilon, Hontiveros and Carpio are so noisy because they possess absolutely no responsibility and accountability for the lives of the soldiers who will get to fight if it is decided that our only option is to go to war. They are no different from the spectators on the stands who lustily cheer the gladiators on, conscious all the time about whose lives are on the line.

Yet, for all their bravado, they are actually banking shamelessly on the expectations engendered by an obsolete Cold War treaty meant to shore up American interests at the time. During the Cold War, Washington needed an ally at the doorstep of the enemy. And the Philippines was that perfect ally. Problem is, there is no Cold War anymore. The treaty meant to serve only US interests then now only serves Philippine interests.

America understands the situation very well. And that is why, even as it asserts that it will abide by the terms of the treaty, never has America said, not even once, not even in passing, that it will fight with the Philippines against China. All that America keeps repeating, over and over again, that when necessary it will come to the aid of the Philippines.

There is a whale of a difference between fighting with the Philippines and coming to its aid in case of war. Fighting with the Philippines means putting American boots on the ground and laying down American lives for a Philippine cause. And that is not going to happen. In fact, US president Joe Biden is now pulling out all American troops in Afghanistan after fighting America's longest war. It does not want to go looking for another.

In case America wants to honor its treaty commitments, the best it could do is do what it had been saying all along, that it will come to our aid in case of conflict with China. And by that it will provide only logistics, assets, and intelligence. There will be no American boots on the ground shedding American blood for Filipino patriots like Lacson, Drilon or Carpio, any of who will think like Duterte if elected president.

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