In the looming US-China South China Sea military conflict, we Filipinos will find ourselves right in the center of the dispute, especially if we’re allied with one of the two big combatants. Our present mutual defense treaty with the US would place us as targets of China should this conflict happen.
The Philippines is under severe pressure to find the safest, least costly position in this US-China quest for Pacific supremacy and control of the key shipment route and energy-rich South China Sea. We’re presently allied with a fading imperial power, the US. We’re living in what many consider as the China century, but at the moment we’re not sure if China is really capable of defeating the US militarily. We’re also bothered by China’s bully tactics in enforcing their claims to what are clearly Philippine territory located in the Western Philippine Sea.
Former US National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter – Zbigniew Brzezinski – outlined 8 geopolitically endangered species that will result from the weakening of the US as a world power. If we don’t play our cards right, we could become the 9th geopolitically endangered species.
Brzezinski’s conclusions were premised on the continued rise of China, India and Russia while the US is beset with big problems – the economy primarily. It also happens that these three countries – China, India and Russia – have formed an earlier alliance to protect themselves from US imperialism during the George W. Bush years. The US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan – cloaked under the cover of the Bush War on Terror – compelled China, India and Russia to prepare for US moves against them and their interests.
Oil reserves are running out in 20 years. From the Chinese, Indian and Russian point of view – the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan translated to a US move to corner the oil in the Middle East. This desperate grab for oil and gas finds our country in the frontline of a US-China conflict for the energy resources in the South China Sea.
If Iran enforces its threat to shut off the Straits of Hormuz, thereby curtailing Middle East oil shipments, the South China Sea conflict could happen sooner than later. Choking the oil shipments from the Middle East will compel the US and China to grab the oil and gas in the South China Sea.
The 8 geopolitically endangered species listed by Brzezinski in his January-February 2012 Foreign Policy article are, as follows:
1. Georgia – A recipient of $3 billion in aid from the US since 1991, Brzezinski thinks that US economic woes could reduce that aid drastically and to a point that will encourage Russian adventurism. Brzezinski wrote that at stake in Georgia is the “Russian domination of the Southern energy corridor to Europe.” Again, it’s all about oil.
2. Taiwan – Very close to our home, US decline could hasten Chinese reunification that will be heavily in favor of Mainland China. Should Mainland China use force to effect that long sought reunification – there could be a US-China conflict.
3. South Korea – Per Brzezinski, “America’s decline would confront South Korea with painful choices: either accept Chinese regional dominance and further reliance on China to rein in the nuclear-armed North, or seek a much stronger, though historically unpopular, relationship with Japan out of shared democratic values and fear of aggression from Pyongyang and Beijing.”
4. Belarus – Heavily reliant on Russia for its export market and energy needs, US decline could encourage Russia to reabsorb Belarus and threaten the security of Baltic States, per Brzezinski.
5. Ukraine – Per Brzezinski, “The Kremlin continues to press Ukraine to join a “common economic space” with Russia, while gradually stripping Ukraine of direct control over its major industrial assets through mergers and takeovers by Russian firms. With America in decline, Europe would be less willing and able to reach out and incorporate Ukraine into an expanding Western community, leaving Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian designs.”
6. Afghanistan – Per Brzezinski, “A rapid US troop disengagement brought on by war fatigue or the early effects of American decline would most likely result in internal disintegration and an external power play among nearby states for influence in Afghanistan. In the absence of an effective, stable government in Kabul, the country would be dominated by rival warlords. Pakistan and India would more assertively compete for influence in Afghanistan – with Iran also probably involved.”
7. Pakistan – Per Brzezinski, “a decline in US power would reduce America’s ability to aid Pakistan’s consolidation and development. Pakistan could then transform into a state run by the military, a radical Islamic state, a state that combined both military and Islamic rule, or a “state” with no centralized government at all.”
8. Israel and the Greater Middle East – “Perceived American weakness would at some point tempt the more powerful states in the region, notably Iran or Israel, to preempt anticipated dangers,” wrote Brzezinski. These conflicts will spawn a global energy crisis.
It’s surprising that Brzezinski did not cover the developing crisis in the South China Sea, limiting his Asian coverage to Taiwan and South Korea. China has threatened to fire its missiles, sink ships intruding into China claimed areas in the South China Sea. The US has retorted to the Chinese threat with equal venom.
Compared to Russia, China could be a much more formidable foe for the US. China holds 1.1 trillion US dollars of the US debt and could initiate moves that would undermine the already reeling US economy. Compared to territories that Russia may be eyeing for expansion, the oil and gas in the South China Sea is a far bigger prize to fight and die for.
China’s program to add more aircraft carriers to its naval capability is premised on a possible conflict with the US Navy. As it is, US aircraft carriers are under threat from Chinese DF-21D missiles. A known antidote against aircraft carriers, the DF-21D missiles are said to have a range of 2,700 kilometers.
The big predatory State seeking to absorb or subjugate another country would always try to create an internal division in the targeted weak State. The first order of business therefore in securing Filipino survival is to forge Filipino unity under a credible and capable leadership. The credible and capable leadership we now have. Alas, we’re still disunited as ever.
More than our disadvantage in military capability, it’s our disunity that will make us a geopolitically endangered species.
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