JOSE Romualdez, our ambassador to Washington, D.C., has been implementing not Philippine foreign policy but that of America, which he confuses as our foreign policy. Especially as the US capital is the most important diplomatic post in the world and since he is the most talkative member of our foreign service corps, Romualdez has and will be reversing the gains in instilling nationalism among Filipinos made by late Foreign Affairs secretary Blas Ople, and of course former president Rodrigo Duterte.
Romualdez himself obliviously revealed his American worldview in an interview with the Hong Kong-based news website Asia Times. The interview was conducted by his big fan, also a pro-US, anti-China writer, Richard Heydarian, who himself seems unaware of the fundamental divergence between US and Philippine foreign-relations policies.
In the Asia Times piece which was in a Q&A format so that there can be no doubt that the writer was merely transcribing verbatim Romualdez’s view, he said:
“We are facing a real geopolitical situation here. Our alliance with the United States, obviously, is a very important one because of where we are today and whatever we’re doing now — a lot of it is really about deterrence, especially in light of a potential conflict between the United States and China.
“We live in a global village, and the bottom line for us is this: Which side do you want — do we want to be on as a country? What kind of system of government do we want? Freedom and democracy, which are very important for us, or the autocratic government?”
Romualdez was referring to the US-China rivalry and he is saying that in our foreign relations, we side with the US since it stands for freedom and democracy, and oppose China, which is run by an autocratic government.
This tenet of US foreign policy — which no other country has — is very crucial and important in understanding today’s geopolitics. It was when the US was just starting to be a superpower in the early 1920s that goal of US foreign policy was articulated by US President Woodrow Wilson, in order to justify America’s entry into World War I. He declared that a major goal of American foreign policy was “to make the world safe for democracy.”
Since then the State Department has always declared this goal as making up a pillar of its foreign policy. In its website, and in many other similar declarations elsewhere, listed as No. 2 among the US’ “four main foreign policy goals” is to “advance democracy, human rights, and other global interests.”
All American presidents have embraced and implemented this goal of US foreign policy, in different degrees though. Former President Trump however de-emphasized this goal, and became the first US president to meet with the poster boy of authoritarianism, Kim Jong-un, and was even drawing close to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Before him, President Obama launched an intensified campaign to stop China’s becoming a superpower by openly announcing a program, euphemistically called the US “Pivot to Asia” – which used the Philippines as its pawn to portray it as an Evil Empire.
President Biden, on the other hand, as an incisive article by two renowned security analysts pointed out, “has so frequently cast US foreign policy as a contest between democracies and autocracies that some are calling it the ‘Biden Doctrine’.” The article also pointed out: “On his recent trip last month to Hiroshima] to participate in Group of Seven, NATO and EU meetings, Biden put democracy front and center. He argued that ‘market democracies, not China or any other country, will write the 21st-century rules around trade and technology’.”
Other than reflecting American exceptionalism (the belief that the United States is distinctive, unique, or exemplary compared to other nations), critics though have pointed out that its democracy-spreading goals have been merely propaganda to hide the reality of a rampaging US American imperialism after World War 2. Just at the ancient Romans starting in the 4th century under Emperor Constantine used Christianity as its justification for its global empire, the US has used “democracy” (and later “human rights”) to cloak its global hegemony. It is however actually a colossal US hypocrisy and opportunism: It always forgets its devotion to democracy when it needs the resources controlled by an autocratic government like Saudi Arabia.
This American foreign policy of making the world safe for democracy has been disastrous for mankind, so that the US has been at war or has invaded other countries almost every year since independence. The US waged war against the Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians for a decade, purportedly to prevent a communist dictatorship emerging in Asia. In this century, it invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria on the justification that these dictatorships must be toppled for the sake of humanity. These for-the-sake of-democracy wars in the past 20 years waged by the US resulted in the deaths, directly and indirectly of five million humans. Even worse than death in many cases, these US wars resulted in 38 million refugees, which have been thrust in poverty, according to a research by 35 academics in a project of an Ivy League academe Brown University.
The US is the only country in the world to declare spreading democracy – and its corollary toppling authoritarian regimes – as a foreign policy goal. China by contrast dropped in the 1970s its avowed goal during Mao Zedong’s regime of spreading communism through the entire world.
Romualdez obviously thinks that US and Philippine foreign policy are the same such that he declared in that interview that the “bottom line for us” – the tenet of our foreign policy — is to “choose democracy or authoritarianism.”
Especially as he has been a PR man most of his working life, and knows little about geopolitics, the foreign affairs department should not have allowed him to skip the required orientation for first-time ambassadors, or he should be summoned back home ASAP to be given a crash course in Philippine foreign policy.
Romualdez could have just spent a few minutes reading our Constitution for him to learn that the goal of our foreign policy, is not to spread democracy in the world nor to bad-mouth authoritarian regimes.
The Constitution’s Section 7 of Article II reads: “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.”
The Constitution does not say that “paramount consideration” in relating to other countries shall be whether they are democratic or authoritarian states, as is the US foreign policy. Our Constitution does not say that our foreign policy’s aim is to promote democracy, as is American diplomacy’s one major goal is, at least by their declaration. . The Constitution’s reference to the “right to self-determination” means we don’t have any business judging that China or any other country is bad because it doesn’t have a representative working democracy.
Other than a psychological explanation that Romualdez thinks as if he were an American citizen, the revelation he himself made in the interview explains quite well his actions and statements which favored the US than it did the Philippines:
1. His frequent condemnation in his columns of China, that it is a bully the world must fight. He should reread his job description. He is our envoy in Washington representing the Philippines’ interests, not a propagandist against China, practically replacing the spokesman of the US embassy in Manila. Word-for-word he has bad-mouthed China much more than the past three US ambassadors here. Have you ever heard or read any of our ambassadors to China or Russia talk ill of the US? That’s just not done.
2. His championing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – especially the grant during President Marcos, Jr.’s administration of four additional camps that the US military can use as forward bases against China – without saying a word on the potential risks to us, which is nuclear devastation.
I was in fact shocked by Romualdez’s cavalier attitude and ignorance regarding the risks we face in having US bases that would be used in a war with China. He said in the same interview: ”If anything happens for instance in Taiwan, do you honestly believe that we are going to be isolated from [the fallout]? Absolutely not.” Romualdez obviously is ignorant that the difference between being in ground zero in a nuclear blast and areas reached by fall-outs is tens of millions of lives. “”What’s ten million more? Romualdez appears to be thinking.
- His manipulation of former President Duterte — which his Heydarian interview revealed — when he told the president when the pandemic broke out in 2021 that the Americans would release the Moderna vaccines the US had been hoarding for its citizens’ use first, if he drops his plan to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement; and
- His recent lobbying of Malacañang for it to agree to the US proposal that the country be used as a processing center for Afghans who worked for the US military and intelligence services until the Americans abandoned the country in 2021.
Romualdez told a TV reporter: “I believe this is for a humanitarian cause. This is good for humanity. We are saving families from being persecuted in another country because obviously they work with the US government.” The US ambassador to Manila couldn’t have said it better. Romualdez’s metamorphosis appears so complete.
Somebody please tell him he is supposed to be our ambassador to Washington, not the US embassy’s spokesman nor that of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. How can the Americans start to respect us when our purported representative to them, in ideology and practice, is theirs not ours.
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