By Claro M. Recto
Sentimentalism and emotionalism should not play a part in international relations. It is folly to expect any nation to ever sacrifice its welfare and security to pure idealism or to sentimental attachments. As Filipinos, we must look out for ourselves, because no one else will. That is the essence of our independence.
To be realists, we must free our minds from the foolish illusion that we play a big role in international politics as if we were ourselves a great power.
To be realists, we must cease believing that there is altruism among nations.
To be realists, we must realize that in a world where the nation-state system still prevails, every state takes care of its own national interests, and it is the responsibility of the government to determine what those interests are, and to adopt and carry out the necessary policies towards safeguarding them, sacrificing if necessary the more transitory interests, like temporary trade advantages, in the same way that the good strategist foregoes a battle to win the war.
To be a realist is to accept the fact that it is to serve her own self-interest and to safeguard her security and position as a world leader, and only incidentally for our own protection, that America built her imposing military and diplomatic establishments in our country, and it is only in that sense that the words common defense, mutual security, and partnership must be understood.
Time and time again I have consistently opposed dangerous and provocative entanglements. They distract our attention from our own grave and urgent problems; they dissipate our already limited strength and energy which we need so much to establish our political, social, and economic security; and, what is worse, they expose our people to the fearful consequences of another war, a war which will be fought on Asian soil with only expendable and bewildered Asians for sacrificial victims on the altar of power politics and international intrigue.
We have become victims of our own propaganda which we pompously call “psychological warfare”. Like a small dog, we go tagging along behind Uncle Sam wherever he goes in Asia, barking here and there at the Communists, with our little, almost inaudible, bark. Of course the enemy knows that “our bark is worse than our bite” and so far we have not produced any reaction except perhaps some annoyance.
Let us awake from the daydreams of adolescence, and cease to imagine ourselves as saviors of a world in distress, riding on our fanciful adventures for which we have neither heart nor strength, while we neglect the care of our own concerns. We have no manifest destiny to fulfill, no historical missions to carry out in the age of superpowers. Our aims are simple and well defined: to preserve the integrity of our national territory, to safeguard the independence and liberties of our people, and to promote their welfare by the enforcement of our rights and the fulfillment of our obligations. It is on this irreducible basis of national interest that we should build our foreign relations.
We are faced with the problem of our people's survival. I said that it is the problem of problems. If we all must die in a nuclear war, we at least have a right to know why we have accepted such a sacrificial resolution. If after we have been properly informed of the appalling consequences of having stockpiles of ballistic missiles and launching bases in our midst, and if our people should still want to commit race suicide to help America survive, then be it so. I can picture the last agonizing Filipino under the flaming clouds of a devastating nuclear attack gasping out to Mother America the famous deprecation of St. Augustine, the greatest Doctor of the Church, addressed to God perhaps in one of those trances when reason capitulates to faith: “Lord, if we are deceived, it is by Thee.” Mother America, if we are deceived, it is by thee!
It is in the control of foreign policy that we may find the decisive difference between the Commonwealth and the Republic, the one significant gain that we expected to make in moving from autonomy to independence. Freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, self-rule, due process of law, social justice --all these rights we already enjoyed under the enlightened imperialism of the American people, and perhaps we enjoyed them to a greater degree during the Commonwealth than in these uncertain and ambiguous times of indefinite detentions, private armies, fiat and farcical elections, de facto governments, and open rebellion. What we sought and what we expected to gain with national independence was the right to give our own national interest, security and welfare the primacy in our loyalties, services and sacrifices. Now that the clock turns back to strike alarms of another war, we may well ask ourselves what we have done with our independence.
For unhappily, the times have not changed, and small nations must still pay the price of quarrels between great powers. Already we see before our eyes a reenactment of the tragedies of the last conflict, when, in Europe and in Asia, the small nations that became the battlegrounds of the great were compelled to endure the identical horrors of conquest and liberation. What have we done with our independence to make sure that our country will not again become the battleground of foreign wars? What have we done with our independence to make sure that our people will not again be deserted in the interest of higher strategy and military necessity, and left to fondle the hard comfort of another “I shall return”?
To find the answer to these questions, which are the test of the validity of our independence, and of the worth of our foreign policy, we must begin by examining our present world position.
We are a small nation surrounded by the most populous races on earth, Christian among non-Christians, westernized in Asia, conservative in the face of a continental revolution, clinging to a high standard of living amid perennially starving masses, and yet unable in an age of industrialization even to feed, clothe, and arm ourselves.
Weak in numbers, we have compounded our weakness with disunity. Poor in developed resources and therefore under the necessity of pooling our strength, we have plunged into a fratricidal struggle for whose prosecution the government must waste fully one-third of its revenue, and which not only has rent national solidarity, but also has worked incalculable harm on the nation’s economy. Still worse, each faction in the conflict has openly proclaimed its adherence to one or the other of the two great antagonists in another world war which they believe inevitable, so that if war comes it is a certainty that we shall become involved in the most cruel and sanguinary manner, for our own people are already set, brothers against brothers, with unforgiving hatreds.
Unable to defend ourselves against foreign aggression, we have not only weakened ourselves further with domestic strife but also given cause and provocation for attack. We have become war-mongers without armies, by making boastful challenges, threats and denunciations.
But what is beyond comprehension is that, having fought three wars for our independence, we have surrendered it without a fight; and while vociferating about the reality of our national freedom, we have acted as if we did not want it or believe in it. We are tied to the dollar without having any dollars. We continue to be dependent upon the American market without having retained any permanent right of access to it. We continue to be equally dependent upon American protection without any real guarantee that it will be timely and adequately extended.
The tragedy of our foreign policy is that, being an Asian people ten thousand miles away from the effective center of American power, our behavior has been that of a banana republic in the Caribbean. We have fed upon the fancy that we are somehow the favorite children of America, and that she, driven by some strange predilection of our people, will never forsake us nor sacrifice our interests to her own or to those of others for her own sake.
Unfortunately, our preferences have been disappointed by so prosaic a thing as geography, and so indelicate a topic as race. The Creator, in His inscrutable wisdom, gave a brown pigment to our skins, and brought forth our people in the littoral of Asia. It is therefore an illusion to believe that America has the same strategic obligations to a Caribbean republic as to a distant archipelago across the expanse of the Pacific, fairly exposed to enemy conquest; while to believe that America, or any other great power for that matter, in the terrible crisis of war, will under the imperative urge for self-preservation, ever sacrifice her own security and interest to idealism or to continental attachments, is to misunderstand the biological laws which determine the course of action of any great power in war or in peace, and to ignore the categorical imperatives of international behavior.
Yet our foreign policy was conducted from the very beginning, and is being pursued, on the erroneous assumption of an identity of American and Filipino interests, or more correctly, of the desirability, even the necessity, of subordinating our interests to those of America. Thus, on the fourth of July 1946 it was announced that our foreign policy would be to follow in the wake of America. We have, indeed, followed. We followed America out of Spain and back again; we followed America in her aimless pilgrimage in the Holy Land, from Jew to Arab and Arab to Jew, as the American need for Arab oil and the administration’s desire for Jewish votes dictated; we recognized e independence of Indonesia when America did, and not one moment before. In the world parliament of the United Nations, it is no more difficult to predict that the Philippines will vote with the American Union, than that the Ukraine will vote with the Soviet Union. American policy has found no more eloquent spokesman and zealous advocate, and Russian policy no louder critic and more resourceful opponent, than the Philippines. Americans may disagree violently with their own foreign policy, but it has no better supporters than the Filipinos.
We have followed America even in our domestic affairs. Nowadays any American Ambassador to the Philippines may be given, without incongruence, the concurrent title of Governor-General, High Commissioner or Proconsul, to whom the President of this Republic himself must go humbly to apologize in person for an offensive press release. For its part, we have seen our Congress, since the fourth Monday of January, engrossed in the singular task of enacting into law the recommendations of an American economic survey mission. Organized pressure has been brought to bear with ill-concealed impatience to stampede the passage of the desired legislation.
Whom are we to blame for this curious process of legislation through foreign control, this unprecedented surrender of the most cherished privileges of an independent state? When we are so dishonest, inept, and prodigal, that we cannot run a government on the resources of the potentially richest and most democratically schooled people in Asia, and must beg constantly for subsidies, then the United States have the right to see to it that the dollars they lend are not dissipated in extravagance, purloined by malefactors in high office, or misspent on fraudulent elections, and that, in return for their assistance, they shall have the final say on our foreign policy and receive the services of our diplomats as their spokesmen and press relations officers.
A bankrupt administration must necessarily have a foreign policy of mendicancy; and it is inevitable that it should invite foreign intervention to do what it cannot do for itself. When a government cannot count on the united support of its own people, then it must unavoidably have recourse to the support of a foreign power; and because beggars cannot be choosers, we can be safely ignored, taken for granted, dictated to, and made to wait at the door, hat in hand, to go in only when invited.
Our only possible lifeline is obviously the traditional American connection, drawn across the vast expanse of the Pacific, and made more tenuous still by lack of confidence. Dependent entirely upon American arms for self-defense, we find it increasingly difficult to secure them. Having rested our hopes upon American bases, we find that rather than be a source of protection they may become targets for attack. We have been encouraged to oppose and fight the expansion of Communism in Asia, and we have done as we have been told, but in return we have received only vague and uncertain promises of assistance, and the confirmation of a policy that would surrender Asia rather than imperil Europe.
If war should come, therefore, we would be doomed to another and a worse Bataan. Once again, as Manuel Quezon feared and lived to see from the tunnels of Corregidor, ill-fed, ill-armed and ill-trained Filipinos, discriminated against by their friends and outmatched by their enemies, would take on their flesh and bone the first shock of aggression by an overwhelming power. Once again our people would have to endure the horrors of war, compounded beyond human experience by weapons of mass extermination and wholesale destruction, and the agony of enemy occupation, stretched beyond human endurance by the perfected techniques of tyranny; and, for added tragedy, would find themselves divided into irreconcilable factions, one clearly committed to the United States, and the other allegedly aligned with Soviet Union, in the most cruel of all wars, a fratricidal war.
But as long as we are an independent Republic, we can and should act as a free people and as Filipinos. As Filipinos we must profess and declare that the security of our nation is paramount, and as a free people we must profess and declare that, while the liberties of other peoples are important to us in this world of interdependence, our first duty is to our own.
The first objective of our government must be peace, for, as a small and weak nation, it is to our prime interest to explore with patience and sincerity every avenue of honorable and enduring settlement by negotiation and mutual concessions. If war must come, it must not be of our own making, either directly or indirectly.
We understand that even the vast resources of America are not unlimited, and that, in the priorities that must be assigned between Europe and Asia, every appeal of racial instinct, every atavistic impulse, every consideration of a common heritage of culture, and even the requirements of domestic politics, would draw the American people to the homelands of their ancestors. If that is so, and it is so, then America should also understand that Asia cannot be more solicitous than America herself for her own interests.
While the American administration has openly reaffirmed its preference for Europe and its racial kinsmen in the Atlantic Community, we continue parroting the slogans and mimicking the gestures of American policy.
But no reasonable, no patriotic, no self-respecting Filipino can be content with promises to return, or relish a situation where we place ourselves in the vanguard of an atomic war, without arms, without retreat, without cover or support, destined to be annihilated at the first encounter, and therefore rendered unfit for a belated liberation. If America really believes that war is inevitable, then let her give us in Asia a resolute leadership we can trust; let her give us the same unconditional pledge and guarantees and the same actual evidence of a spirit of equality and common fate that she has given to her kinsmen and allies in the Atlantic Community; and we shall have justification for the risk of war, and incentive to make common cause.
Otherwise, we must restrain our enthusiasms, dissemble our sympathies, moderate our words and actions, and in fulfillment of the primordial duty of self-preservation, make no enemies where we can make no friends, and hold our peace. It may be a precarious peace, of uncertain duration, at the mercy of military time-tables and power-politics, but if it is broken, at least it shall not be said that we sought it, and if we are attacked, that we deserved it. Meanwhile we must, whether in rebel camps or in the inner sanctums of governmental power, whether within or beyond the pale of present authority, forswear allegiance to any foreign power, and cease to fight the battles of one or the other of the super-states beyond our borders. Whatever our economic theories, social grievances, and political beliefs and affiliations, and whatever the future has in store, we must stand united, under a lawful and legitimate leadership, as citizens of one country, one flag, and one Constitution, so that if war comes, it will not find our nation rent asunder in a paroxysm of self-annihilation.
Let not Macaulay’s traveler from New Zealand exploring the spectral ruins of Manila in the course of his post-atomic war peregrinations, and cautiously testing the radioactive waters of the Pasig, from the broken arches of the Quezon Bridge, have cause to ponder that in those shattered tenements and poisoned fields and rivers once lived a nation unique in the annals of mankind, free men who put their liberties on the auction block, a sacrificial race with a mysterious urge to suicide, who, being weak and weaponless took upon themselves the quarrels of the strong, and having been warned of their abandonment still persisted in their lonely course, and whose brutalized and monstrously deformed survivors, scrambling with stunted limbs in the infected debris of their liberated cities, had forgotten even the echo of the memory of the strange illusion for which their race had fought and perished.