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Edca and war.

There are pending petitions at the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between the Philippines and the United States.

The petitioners are led by Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, who were among the 12 senators who voted in September 1991 against the extension of US military bases in the Philippines. Including activists, lawyers and representatives of the academe and the religious, the petitioners claim that the Edca violates the ban on foreign military bases, including the construction of facilities and storage of defense supplies.

Signed in time for the visit of US President Barack Obama to the Philippines on April 28, 2014, the Edca facilitates the entry of nuclear weapons into the country, which is banned by the Constitution.

It behooves us to discuss the terms of survival now essential to all nations, and from this discernment to foresee our specific needs, as well as the latitudes (since we cannot operate as a sole actor) that other nations must perforce allow us.

By way of a clarifying contrast, let us restate basic strategic factors that determined relations among nations. We are excepting here personal ambitions of rulers, intradynastic rivalries, religious wars and chauvinist vindictiveness. We are concerned instead with the concepts that have dominated the last 500 years of world history. In this context, we find that there have been three factors crucial to the external security of nations:

First, the concept of indigenous armed forces, held in readiness even in times of peace. The infantry, artillery and naval warship constituted the defense system of a nation. This structure of defense and offense was premised on the basic concept of direct physical confrontation between the armed units of one nation and those of another. Wars, so to speak, were eyeball-to-eyeball and hand-to-hand confrontations. Apart from design, leadership and fortuitous events, national security was lodged in the weight of the army and the navy.

Second, the concept of capturing cheaper sources of material supplies and human labor, plus the protection of access routes to these sources. From this concept evolved the history of Western imperialism which really amounted to the garrisoning of sources of supply. Coeval to control of supply sources was the concept of developing and holding consumer markets captive. It is to these concepts that we may ascribe the imperialist colonization of Asia, Africa and India.

Third, the concept of perimeter defense. This was directly related to the control-direct or indirect-of sea lanes and adjacent land masses. The strategic idea was to control supply routes and to render these as costly as possible for invading forces to penetrate the heartland. We still find current use of some terms that evolved from this concept: buffer states and spheres of influence.

As the number of nations able to maintain large armed forces increased, and as their competition for supply and market sources became more intense, the need for maintaining armed reserves on foreign territory grew as well. It is to this that we owe the existence of foreign military bases all over the world, reinforced by the point that the protection of far-flung outposts could not be left in the protection of long supply lines.

Each garrison, each base, had to have sufficient strength to hold out against the enemy until additional armed might from the heartland could arrive. National needs and international rivalries were deemed permanent, and so foreign garrisons and bases had to be maintained even in times of peace, since peace-then as now-was considered only a lull between wars.

In time, the world space open to imperialist expansion became clearly marked among the world powers. A time of imperialist consolidation set in, and it became a commonly-held view to merely contain each other. The phrase that evolved from this, balance of power, has come down to us with another nuance, balance of terror.

When England emerged as the dominant European power, it became a fundamental of her foreign policy to maintain this balance of power. But since retaliatory power was not feared enough, the balance-of-power concept as a guarantor of world peace soon collapsed in the holocausts of 1914 and 1940.

In the last 70 years hence, the rise of militant communism in Soviet Russia and the growing might of the People's Republic of China, together, most significantly, with the development of ultimate weapons, have now given the world's nations new realities to encompass.

The new realities are refutations of the old, and these refutations have compellingly changed the old formulations of foreign policy. The two new realities of most pertinence to our present evolution are: ultimate weapons and the dominant emergence of Russia and China.

Under ultimate weapons we take note of three: the intercontinental ballistic missile, of immense destructive power; the Polaris-type submarine, able to range the world for months, with its nuclear missiles; and the giant battleships, with their supporting flotilla, fighter bombers, also armed with nuclear weapons.

These armaments can devastate entire countries. They are armed and supplied with weapons and provisions from the heartland. They are absolutely independent of bases around the nation they are supposed to guard, and to attack if need be. These capabilities have revolutionary implications: It is no longer necessary to encircle an enemy with foreign bases; the heartland now needs to rely only on attack systems located right within its borders.

The preeminence of the United States and Russia in this regard is beyond the capability of any other nation today. And, unless China is sooner fragmented by some preventive war, it, too, must soon be counted in this ultraselect group of the United States and Russia.

Since these weapons have removed the need for direct armed confrontation, the necessity of the buffer state, the perimeter defense, has also been removed. This is a matter of logic, but the question arises: Will the heartlands realize this, act upon it, and when? Will leaders act according to the balance of terror existing, such that the fear of unavoidable mutual destruction will press inexorably for a permanent detente? Will nations realize that there is no need to capture supply and consumer sources because the techniques of superior technology and marketing as exemplified by Japan can achieve the same results without the costs of war?

There are no definite answers because such decisions are ultimately left to human leaders in whom temperament and chance can lead to the most irrational results.

War is an utterly serious concern to be left to graduates of the Philippine Military Academy not honed in military and political theory but glamorized in Hollywood's The Long Gray Line. Only a diplomatic strategy of mutual benefit can be relied upon, or we should get resigned to a superpower breathing down our necks.

Reynaldo V. Silvestre is a retired army colonel, multiawarded writer, bemedaled officer and former chief, Office of Strategic and Special Studies, Armed Forces of the Philippines.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:May 30, 2015
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