Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has received more than her share of comments for her repeated and failed attempts to meet US President Barack Obama. Probably because Valentine’s Day was approaching, early this week one commentator compared Mrs. Arroyo to a love-sick woman vainly pursuing the object of her affections. She’s also been accused of being caught in the “outdated” anti-terrorism framework of the unlamented Bush administration. And (gasp), those who fret over the country’s “image,” especially before the US and Americans (what will they say!), have complained that by crisscrossing the planet trying to catch Obama’s eye, she’s embarrassed not only herself and her government but the entire country as well.
No one has so far bothered to seriously ask why she should be so focused. That’s certainly because there’s a near universal assumption among Filipinos that every Philippine government needs US approval. After all, many Filipinos ache for the kind of American recognition and appreciation exemplified by singing a duet with Celine Dion, or beating a Mexican to a pulp in a Las Vegas ring to the roar of an all-American crowd.
There’s a developing consensus among US historians, academics, journalists and more thoughtful citizens that if George W. Bush isn’t the worst president the US has ever had, he’s at least among the worst.
Those of a nationalist bent, including the legions of Republicans who either voted for Barack Obama or who’re now supporting the first black president of the US, see Bush policies (e.g., the unilateralism of his first term that damaged and nearly destroyed the Western alliance) as the cause of the deterioration of US prestige across the planet, which even in usually pro-US England has sunk to historic lows.
Somewhat like God, if 9/11 didn’t happen it would have had to be invented. The attack on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon were exactly what US neo-conservatives and US oil interests needed: an excuse for regime change in Afghanistan, and later, in Iraq, as part of an aggressive policy of military, political and economic consolidation and expansionism. It was the tail that wagged the dog.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the only remaining superpower attacked Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power. The excuse was the capture of Osama bin Laden. The invasion occurred despite a proposal by the Taliban regime to surrender bin Laden to the United States if there was evidence that he was indeed responsible. The US rejected the proposal even before bin Laden accepted responsibility for the attack.
A marriage of convenience is what the United States and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are into, and they make for strange bedfellows indeed. One might even say that each one’s sleeping with the enemy. But as in most unions of expediency, both partners would rather forget how strategically irreconcilable, though tactically opportunist, are their interests.
Does the MILF need reminding that the marginalization and neglect of the Muslims of Mindanao were driven by US colonial policy, and that all Philippine governments since 1946 were mere policy copycats?
It’s become conventional wisdom among observers in the United States and other countries that a Democratic Party victory this November will mean a shift in US government policies at home and abroad. It doesn’t matter who the Democratic candidate for president will be. Although they have different styles, the thinking went, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would undo the damage eight years of the George W. Bush presidency have inflicted on both the United States and the world.
Barack Obama’s emergence as the Democratic Party candidate for President this November is at least partly due to the results of the surveys, most of which show that despite his race, Obama could defeat Republican John McCain. Despite her support across a broad spectrum of white workers, the middle-class and women, Hillary Clinton’s being a woman, and an aggressive one at that, has been widely held against her. It suggests that sexism’s an even more difficult hurdle in US politics than racism.