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Hard geopolitical lessons from the Israel-Hamas conflict

ESPECIALLY for us so brainwashed by US worldviews, the war between Israel and the Gaza-based Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) makes so stark the realities of geopolitics, from which we should learn lessons in our own dealings with other countries, especially China.

First lesson: “Might makes right,” especially in international relations. While denigrated as the credo of totalitarianism, that is simply the reality in relations between countries. Israel is poised to depopulate in the coming weeks to the brink of genocide – by sheer military might, forced evacuation, starvation, and disease – probably 500,000 of Palestinians in northern Gaza.

How can Israel do that? With a population of just  9.4 million (smaller than metro Manila) it has one of the most powerful armed forces in the world, ranked 18th. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) is indeed a standout in that the rest of the countries more powerful have populations of 50 million. It is a member of that very exclusive nuclear club, estimated to have 90 thermonuclear bombs — enough to scare its Arab enemies that surrounds it never to attempt attacking it, as they did in 1967.

Not only does Israel have a huge army, with 640,000 active and reserve soldiers (compare that to our 145,000), it has one of the world’s most technologically advanced armed forces. This is due to the fact that it is ranked 6th among the world’s most technologically advanced countries. Examples of the IDF’s technological innovations: the “Iron Dome”  air defense system against missiles; the “Trophy” system that protects tanks by intercepting incoming missiles; and the most advanced drones in the world.

And of course, the country with the most powerful military in the world, the US, is backing up Israel, particularly its apparent decision, as its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, to kill every single Hamas member. (But how would they determine who is a Hamas member, and who is a mere non-violent Palestinian.)The US was quick to send the message to other countries, obviously China and Russia, not to interfere in Israel’s coming operation to reduce Gaza City to rubble, when State Department Secretary Antony Blinken a few days after the Hamas attack himself went to Israel, repeating again and again, “We have your back.”

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Sorry, we have to attack you if…

THAT in effect was the warning given by Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian to former president Rodrigo Duterte, that the Philippines would be attacked by China’s forces if it has places militarily used against it.

“Places” of course are the nine sites President Aquino 3rd and then President Marcos, Jr. had agreed to allow US armed forces, under the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), to use as their temporary military bases — for stationing troops and stocking up weapons and war materiel — in a situation the Americans are going to war against some enemy, which is obviously China. This is likely if the latter decides to forcibly take over its rogue province Taiwan.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte (left) and Cagayan Gov. Manuel N. Mamba: Two patriots opposing US military bases here.

Duterte disclosed the ambassador’s statements in an edition of his regular program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (” From the Masses, For the Masses”) that was surprisingly ignored by the media. Duterte’s program is at SMNI News Channel, owned by firms linked to the religious leader Pastor Quiboloy, a longtime supporter of the former president.

“I reminded him (the Chinese ambassador) again that the Philippines does not have a quarrel with China,” Duterte said, “but his answer to me was, ‘if you provide places where there can be an aggressive action to China, the Philippines would always be a target’.”

“In the interest of the public’s right to know, there should be an open discussion. Americans should come clean and give us a truthful narration or narrative or an explanation and identify the places where they have installed bases here in the Philippines,” the former president said.

Duterte and Mamba: Two patriots opposing US military bases here.

He said the Marcos administration should be “open for discussion” because it would affect the Filipino people who “would be facing a war not of our own making” if tensions between US and China would escalate. Duterte said that the US could bring “nuclear warheads” to its military installations in the country. “By granting America several bases, we can be sure and I am sure as the sun will rise in the east that these nuclear bases … will have nuclear warheads,” he said.

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BBM should set up crisis group for Israel-Hamas war

WHILE most (Western) economists claim that Hamas’ invasion of Israel last Saturday so far has not been an “economic event” that would affect the rest of the world, war’s other name is chaos, whose impact is magnified, and accelerated, in a globalized world.

I don’t think Hamas — the acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement in Arabic — planned it as just a bigger intifada (“uprising”) that was boldly extended outside Gaza. That Israelis themselves see it as their version of “9/11” when al-Qaida reduced the Twin Towers in New York to rubble is foreboding — that attack led to the US-led wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Remember also that the Israel-Hamas war is not the only one raging at present. There is still the 19-month-old Ukraine-Russia war. Russia may just see the Israel-Hamas conflict as leading to the lessening of US resolve to defend Ukraine and undertake an intense, more ruthless campaign to subdue that country.

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Fire the economic managers

THE worsening of the country’s inflation to a rate of 6.1 percent in September, from August’s 5.3 percent — after repeated boasts by government just two months ago that it was under control — should jar President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. into making a decisive move 14 months into his administration,

He should fire what is emerging as an ineffective and spineless economic management team. This includes the Agriculture secretary himself; he should appoint ASAP a full-time Agriculture secretary.

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US threw PH under the bus in 2012, what makes you think it won’t again?

First of a 2-part series

THE “Scarborough Shoal stand-off” in 2012 should already have totally debunked the colossal lie still believed by many of our leaders, that the US, as its defense secretary has said several times with a strange grin, “has our back,” that it will defend its little brown brother in case of conflict with China.

Former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio encapsulated several times many of our leaders,’ especially the military brass’, undying faith in the US when he said, “Without the US as ally, we will lose the West Philippine Sea.”

Carpio obviously no longer reads newspapers in his retirement years. Despite President Aquino 3rd and his Foreign Affairs secretary trooping to Washington D.C. in 2012 to beg President Obama to escort our vessels in the Scarborough incident, despite his State Department secretary Hillary Clinton’s announcement on November 2011 on the deck of a US warship anchored on Manila Bay, that the US will defend the Philippines’ maritime claims, the US rejected Aquino’s cries for help in the Scarborough Shoal confrontation, for the sake of its own national interests. These included Obama’s worry that the unimportant Philippines could risk his reelection chances months from the stand-off.

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Before defending territory, you got to recover it first

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. two days ago declared with much bombast, “While we are not looking for a fight, we will defend our territory.” He’s certainly got his work cut out for him. Or, his Foreign Affairs secretary isn’t briefing him properly, or he isn’t listening. (Such an irony of history: the sons of two arch-enemies said exactly the same thing, separated by 11 years.)

Thanks to Aquino 3rd and del Rosario’s bungling, a Chinese-controlled area nearer (350 km) to Manila than Manila to Cebu (550 km). MAP BY AUTHOR DRAWN ON GOOGLE EARTH

Marcos was referring to Scarborough Shoal, Bajo de Masinloc to us, which the Chinese last week encircled with a floating barrier in order, it said, to block the entry of Philippine government vessels into its lagoon without risking a collision of its ships if its coast guard attempts to block them.

When the Philippine ships seemed no longer attempting to enter the area, the Chinese removed the barriers; the Philippine Coast Guard boasted that it had dismantled the barrier by having a single diver cut the ropes that anchored the barrier. Hilarious really.

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Massive misinformation on Scarborough, SCS issues

WITH our disputes over the South China Sea territorial and maritime disputes again hogging the front pages, I am again astonished at the massive misinformation on the issue, a testament indeed to the tremendous power of the US and its propaganda apparatus.

What gives these lies so much power is first, deep-seated anti-Chinese racism, which early in our history as a people led to massacres of the Spanish-era Chinese settlements, called the parian. Second, it is another instance of that deeply ingrained mentality that psychologists and anthropologists call the “us vs. them” syndrome: that is, evil is the other tribe, the other clan, the other fraternity, the other basketball team, and the other country with territorial disputes with us.

Two books debunking the US propaganda on and revealing the truth of our SCS disputes with China: ‘Debacle’ is available in rigobertotiglao.com/debacle, amazon.com and Fully Booked, and ‘Lighthouse’ in FLIPHTML5, Lazada and Shopee.

It is understandable for the man on the street, senators playing the gallery, and Philippine Coast Guard officials like spokesman Jay Tarriela basking in the media limelight and swallowing hook, line and sinker the American deception. Such brainwashing is easier because the SCS dispute involves complex concepts as abstract as, say, physics’ black holes or quantum entanglement: territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and even the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

It is disappointing, though that a few columnists, otherwise intelligent and scholarly as well as known for diligent research, have easily fallen for the US propaganda line.

One example is a statement from a veteran columnist in his Philippine Star piece yesterday: “Under the terms of the Unclos, Bajo de Masinloc sits well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. The arbitral tribunal in 2016 rejected the validity of China’s sovereignty claims over Bajo de Masinloc and the contested reefs further south.”

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A slippery slope toward open conflict with China

ANYONE who has spent some time studying geopolitics, superpower behavior, and especially China’s moves to claim the hegemonic throne in Asia would be worried over our government’s immediate response to its setting up of a 300-meter floating barrier in the southeast portion of Scarborough Shoal, discovered Sunday by our Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The Philippines defied the superpower by having its personnel cut the ropes used for the floating barrier.

The ropes were cut by a man not even wearing a diving suit and scuba gear, which raises my suspicion that the PCG may claim it was merely done by fishermen outraged that they were being blocked from the fish-rich waters.

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AI not as intelligent as you think, although…

HOWEVER, I mean only the intelligence (AI) application called ChatGPT released in November last year publicly and free-of-charge, with the paid subscription version costing $20 monthly (which I can’t afford). ChatGPT has taken the world, even the Philippines, by storm, as it is free, and is most people’s (mine at least) first experience in interacting with an AI, which even serious computer scientists warn could, if safeguards are not imposed, go against this irrational species called humanity, as the “Terminator,” “Matrix” and other popular movies have depicted.

ChatGPT itself explains: “It is a form of artificial intelligence (AI). It is powered by a deep learning model called GPT (generative pre-trained transformer), which is a type of AI model that has been trained on large amounts of text data to understand and generate human-like text.

“ChatGPT is designed for natural language understanding and generation, making it capable of engaging in text-based conversations and performing various language-related tasks, such as answering questions, providing explanations, and generating text. It uses AI techniques, particularly deep learning and natural language processing, to process and generate human-readable text responses based on the input it receives from users.”

I found my first conversations with ChatGPT indeed creepy, as if I were chatting with a ghostly human. Indeed as I will narrate below, it even apologized for its error, unlike many writers I have called out yet refuse to admit their gross misinformation. Here’s relevant bits of my talk with ChatGPT, on a topic I know well enough:

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