War talk and an optimistic view

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

It’s already halfway through August, and in a couple of weeks we’ll be ushering in the “Ber” months. There’s no argument that this has been a gloomy year for many. The world’s supposed comeback from the two-year pandemic slump was met with curveballs in the geopolitical front.

The war in Ukraine and tensions in the Taiwan Strait seem to make the world a less safe place. Then there’s the supply chain that was disrupted, first by the pandemic, and later by Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine, Europe’s breadbasket.

War and economic woes seem to shape the world’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you try to reshape your perspective by focusing less on the news and more on the measured assessments of experts, there may be more room for optimism.

On the war in Ukraine, talks were rife at the beginning of the conflict about the increasing prospects of a nuclear war, just because Russia has nuclear weapons. But why would Russia nuke its own neighbor where radioactive dust could eventually reach the doorsteps of Moscow and Western Europe, depending on the prevailing winds?

Vladimir Putin may be an insecure autocrat scornful of western-style democracy, but he is not insane. Western leaders may be manipulative, moralizing hypocrites, but they are not totally insane either. What’s shaping up is that the Russo-Ukrainian war will drag on for a longer period and the rest of the world will learn to adjust. Hopefully it will end in a peaceful settlement, but the endgame will largely depend on how Ukrainian resistance with Western support operates to weaken Russia’s resolve and force the latter to scale down its aggression, or better yet, eat humble pie.

As regards tensions in the Taiwan Strait, the world must stand up against China’s saber-rattling without unnecessarily intensifying the rhetoric. The fact is if China had the ability to take Taiwan by force without endangering its own stability, it would have done so already. I went to Taiwan first in 2017 and again in 2019 for my post-graduate studies and talked to a couple of Taiwanese scholars regarding the Chinese threat. My sense is that the democracy-loving people of Taiwan are very secure in their ability to hold off an invasion. And the only reason China has not yet attacked Taiwan today is that such a misadventure will likely end up destabilizing the mainland.

China has emerged as an economic and potential military superpower not because of its authoritarian model but largely because it rode on the coattails of the western-led democratic and capitalist systems. It lifted millions of its citizens from poverty after it trashed Chairman Mao’s discredited socialist economic model and adopted some of the capitalist model minus the transparency and inherent checks and balance of the latter.

My take is that, saber-rattling aside, both sides of the strait will continue to choose the status quo. They will let time take its course, for their people to eventually arrive at an acceptable and meaningful solution. Before the pandemic, many tourists in Taiwan come from the Chinese mainland. Chinese in the mainland have good relations with the people in Taiwan, most of whom trace their origins to the mainland.

Geopolitics is complicated and regardless of the rules set up to govern its conduct, things still could go out of hand. We must seek peace but we must also make clear that there are values we cannot give up, there are lines we will not cross for the sake of keeping the peace. There’s nothing to be afraid of and pessimistic about when you’re secure in your own stance and value system.


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