The Duterte visit: Trump's masterstroke on the Philippines
They're all upset about President Trump's announcement that he would host the Philippines' controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, in the White House.
According to this report in the New York Times, the human rights groups are wringing their hands, the State Department and the National Security Council are tearing their hair out, and the congressional Democrats are ruefully stroking their chins and trying to make political hay.
In reality, Trump's move is an exceptionally bold and clever one, and strongly rooted in advancing U.S. interests. Big time. Here's what they don't get:
The Philippines has elected Duterte, a wild-man populist, out of frustration with the status quo. Whatever his merits – and cripes, he does pop off – he does represent the outcome of years of frustration from a population long silenced and held down by its soggily leftist Davos-style elites. Trump can see through that dynamic even as the left shrieks.
One of the outcomes of that frustration is the Philippines' drift toward China. This is a reaction to perceived U.S. influence in the country, which includes a Jimmy Carter-like sanctimoniousness on the human rights of crooks and the empowerment of left-wing lawyers as the entire population suffers.
The Philippines' China drift comes at a very bad time – as China is expanding its footprint in the South China Sea, impinging on the free flow of trade that has made most of the region so prosperous throughout most of the 20th century, as well as violating the rights of nations with legitimate claims to the South China Sea's waters – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and others.
Preserving the free flow of trade has historically and by longstanding tradition been the top mission of the U.S. Navy and its Great White Fleet, according to Robert D. Kaplan in his books, The Revenge of Geography and Monsoon.
The U.S. no longer has any military bases on the Philippines. These were scrapped in the late 1980s and 1990s, leaving the entire region vulnerable as China moves in and sets up its illegal artificial islands for military base construction.
There is a move to set up a base – on the narrow, sparsely populated, strategically important island of Palawan. That base is important for keeping China in line. If the NSC doesn't know about it, and thinks human rights as defined by the Soros crowd are more important, it's an incompetent Obama dead-ender NSC. I think it does know about it. Kaplan described it in The Revenge of Geography. The Times report seems quite unaware of this.
But in light of this strategic necessity to check China, it would explain Trump's move perfectly.
Duterte is a flawed person. He makes frustrated Filipinos feel better for seemingly cutting through the sludge of the Philippines' Deep State, but he has an overactive ego and an easily wounded pride.
Trump taking him in and giving him a few strokes should work wonders for pulling the Philippines back into the U.S. camp and making the Duterte government friendlier at this critical time for the region and the future of American power. Don't think China hasn't noticed this, by the way, as it seeks to court the Philippines as well. Yet it also helps that Trump has established friendly ties with China, which disallows Duterte to play the two superpowers off each another, which is an old Philippines game. What the Duterte visit will do is help create a united front in the region so that China cannot exert muscle on its neighbors, nor can it check the Great White Fleet and its mission to keep sea lanes open.
That is completely in U.S. interests. The press should get a clue.