Belmont Club

The Dragon Comes With a Suitcase

If you listen to Rodrigo Duterte’s now infamous rant against president Obama (start at minute 6) you might be forgiven for thinking it was Howard Zinn or Bill Ayers speaking, allowing for the accent. He spoke of the “lapdogs of America” who forget that “America has one too many [offenses] to answer for”. He argued that the Philippines “inherited the [Muslim] problem from the United States” and since “everyone has a terrible record of extrajudicial killing … why make an issue of it.”  He describes the massacre of the Indians, the oppression of migrants etc. as reasons for ordering the deaths of thousands proving, if there was any remaining doubt, that he  learned the lesson of moral equivalence well.

From this, Duterte concluded that he wouldn’t listen to lectures from the SOB leader of such a country. It’s almost as if he’s been listening to Obama and Obama was hoist on his own petard. The Western left has the habit of preaching from a moral height while simultaneously describing its history as one unending crime. You’ve heard the teaching moments. “I live in a house built by slaves.” “You didn’t build that!” This whole country is stolen!

Say it often enough and someone will believe you. Somebody did. The trouble is you can’t rise from the toilet to suddenly preach from a great moral height. It’s possible to do one but not both simultaneously. Of course the liberal left can context shift and switch between sackcloth and ashes and the throne of moral superiority with the alacrity of Dr. Who. But Durterte isn’t that nimble.

The clash between the two is tragi-comedy. Obama’s planned teaching moment has complicated the problem of holding the Philippines against an expansionary China. The stark reality is that Duterte’s Philippines is almost totally helpless against the Chinese military power and extremely vulnerable to Islamic terrorism. Who does Duterte think is keeping the Chinese away? The Philippine Navy? Nor will his hometown of Davao last very long against Islamic rebels without intelligence support and Sigint from the United States.

Duterte needs America to ensure independence, to keep his palace standing, period. But Duterte doesn’t understand this. His macho prism admits only more basic considerations. Duterte intuits that Obama is someone to despise and so despises him, because he neither respects nor fears the man from Chicago. Rodrigo Duterte would never call Xi a S.O.B. because he wouldn’t dare. The world, as Winston Churchill knew, has people who are either at your throat or at your feet — and that probably includes most leaders in the Third World.

Yet Duterte’s delusions are probably matched by the administration’s in Washington. The biggest threat to the Philippines is not amphibious invasion but subversion by China. The enormous size of the Philippine drug problem is the result of the growing Chinese meth trade. The local market could never support such a titanic scale of vice. The Philippines is at risk of becoming one gigantic meth lab to feed the enormous Chinese appetite for drugs, of being to Southern China what Mexico is to the US.

“Last year a United Nations report identified Hong Kong and the mainland as key players in the burgeoning meth trade, citing law enforcement authorities in the Philippines and Australia. It also cited corruption within China’s pharmaceutical industry as a key factor in Guangdong becoming the production center”. Wikipedia notes that “about nine Chinese drug cartels are involved in most illegal drug trade in the Philippines. The U.S. Department of State found out that Chinese drug cartels are behind the trade of methamphetamine hydrochloride in the Philippines.”

Since many of those cartel bosses are probably Communist Party leaders, the recent Chinese offer to “help” will likely expand, rather than diminish, the drug war in the Philippines. Now the door is open and Beijing will lose no time in rushing in.

China has pledged to help the Philippines in the campaign against illegal drugs, with its embassy saying narcotics are “a common enemy of mankind.”

In a statement to the media, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Li Lingxiao said that China “has expressed explicitly to the new administration China’s willingness for effective cooperation in this regard, and would like to work out a specific plan of action with the Philippine side.”

Li said the Chinese government has been “firm and severe in drug control and in punishing all drug criminals in accordance with laws regardless their nationalities” and added it has cooperated effectively with other countries against drugs.

“Fighting against all drug-related crimes is shared responsibility of all countries in the world,” Li also said.

Duterte, who has promised a bloody war against drugs and criminality in the country, said Monday that he plans to raise grievances with China over links that some Chinese nationals allegedly have with illegal drug syndicates.

Obama’s framing of Duterte’s drug war as a human rights problem, which it doubtless is, missed a key dimension. The drug war is the symptom of a national security problem: the narco invasion of the Philippines. The killings are a result and not the cause in themselves of the problem. And now that the diplomatic breach has opened the door to Chinese subversion on an unprecedented scale with incalculable consequences to regional security, it is likely to get worse.

The Era of Hope and Change has been one prolonged act of suicide. If anyone had said that Obama would manage to alienate Israel and the Philippines, lose Turkey, pay Iran a hundred billion dollars, preside over the loss of a won war in Afghanistan, lose billions of dollars in military equipment to ISIS, watch a consulate burn, restart the Cold War with Russia, cause Japan to re-arm and go the knife’s edge with China, would you have believed it? If someone had told you in 2008 millions of refugees would be heading for Europe and that the UK would leave the EU after Obama went there to campaign for them to remain, would you not have laughed?

He promised “smart diplomacy” and the restoration of American prestige in the world. How did it come to this?

Follow Wretchard on Twitter

Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Recently purchased by readers:

A Dark and Bloody Ground: The Hurtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams, 1944-1945, by Edward Miller. The book’s description of the fighting around the forest and the Roer River dams is based on government records, a rich selection of first-person accounts from veterans of both sides, and Miller’s visits to the battlefield. The author examines uncertainty of command at the army, corps, and division levels and emphasizes the confusion and fear of ground combat at the level of company and battalion “where they do the dying.”

Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table, by Cita Stelzer. The author draws on previously untapped material, diaries of guests, and a wide variety of other sources to tell of some of the key dinners at which Churchill presided before, during and after World War II – including the important conferences at which he used his considerable skills to attempt to persuade his allies, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, to fight the war according to his strategic vision. 40 B&W illustrations.

The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell. With Bill Moyers as his interviewer, Campbell reveals how the themes and symbols from the ancient narratives of Greece and Rome to the traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity bring meaning to birth, death, love, and war, and together identify the universality of human experience across time and culture.

Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck, Von Luck commanded Rommel’s 7th and then 21st Panzer Division. He fought in El Alamein, Kasserine Pass, Poland, Belgium, Normandy on D-Day, and the disastrous Russian front and was awarded the German Cross in Gold and the Knight’s Cross. His memoir has become a classic in the literature of World War II, a first-person chronicle of the glory–and the inevitable tragedy–of a superb soldier fighting Hitler’s war.


The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, By Mary Beard. Destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 CE, Pompeii and its ruins offer the best evidence we have of life in the Roman Empire. Beard makes sense of the archaeological and historical evidence and explores what kind of town it was, offering us the big picture as well as the detail of ordinary life.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club