Monday, March 27, 2017

Prognostics of the Duterte-Trump Alliance

Photo courtesy of
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:

Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Right after Rodrigo Duterte spontaneously called for an economic and military “separation” from the United States last October 2016 to the amazement of Xi Jinping and Beijing spectators during his grand state visit in China, it has caused bafflement and commotion between Filipino and American policy-makers in his effort to forge an “independent foreign policy”.

Debates on the joint military exercises and trade treatises between the oldest allies in Asia scaled back following the fall of the Peso but it survived a bullish yet volatile market making the archipelagic nation one of the fastest growing economies worldwide at the end of the year.  

The mixed reactions of the “separation” found its own niche after Duterte visited Japan, another US ally, also in the same month weeks after his pivot to China. It turned out to be a defining moment in his young tenure after beating a momentum to rising China to balance the equation of power in the region.

Japan reciprocated the visit in January 2017 when Shinzo Abe, the first Asian and global leader, to engage with Duterte to promote economic and trade deals with the Philippines.

Cementing regional alliances to Asian powerhouses after his strings of successful engagement in East Asia’s capitals, he has yet to visit the United States after the remaining superpower elected its new president last November 2016.

The following month, American President Donald Trump conveyed his invitation for Duterte to the White House after the Filipino leader reached out to him over a telephone conversation fresh from his triumph.

Hopes of reconciliation could appear under a strengthened “Trump of the East” and “Duterte of the West” bilateral engagement. The two leaders are known for their shrewd diplomacy and pragmatic positions on various issues.

Re-alignment in the South China Sea

While Duterte assured the Asian Argonauts to respect the rule of law amidst unsettled maritime and territorial disputes, despite the Philippines having won the landmark case against China decided by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the giant neighbor visibly holds the high ground in the militarized contested resource-rich artificial islands.

Apparent concessions were made by Beijing after Duterte’s visit to China to allow Filipino fishermen resume activities in their traditional fishing ground as a warm-up in the revived bilateral relations.

Chinese vessels quietly left the shoal since the 2012 standoff between the two parties.  

While the Philippines has officially launched its chairmanship of the 2017 ASEAN summit this month with vested interest to set the agenda, coinciding with the regional block’s golden anniversary. It is expected that the future of the South China Sea will become a hot item and forum for debates among scholars, strategists, and regional leaders. 

Hence the increased power play of major powers in the region may be seen and felt; ASEAN nations must grab this momentum to confess a joint communiqué to pursue a peaceful settlement for the Panama Canal of the 21st century.

However, without a clear US policy from the Trump administration, perhaps reversing Obama’s pivot to Asia spelled out in the “freedom of navigation and overflight” principle, a rigid 180-degree turn huffed from Secretary of State’s Rex Tillerson may lead to a clash of the titans in the highly-disputed waters of the South China Sea.

To de-escalate tensions in the region, major actors must forge US-China-ASEAN Summit to mutually set dialogues among leaders in paving way for confidence building. 

The South China Sea conundrum becomes a litmus test for the US on its control in the region as a hegemon. Failure to sustain military prowess and economic influence over small and medium powers will backfire on its global position as the world’s police, nonetheless, paving more way to China’s rightful position. 

Contest of power

While Trump’s position on alliances remains to be tested, as expressed during his recent inauguration, to seek friendship and goodwill with the nations worldwide emphasizing to put first each nation’s own interests, his robust pronouncement underscores a strong protectionist policy.

For Duterte, his nine-months in the office certainly placed him in the world’s limelight with his unbending “War on Drugs” amidst increasing extrajudicial killings.

In his stint as Philippine president, he made radical geopolitical shifts: firstly, by engaging with China while derecognizing the importance of the PCA’s decision to save face the Chinese leaders; and secondly, a forceful partnership with Russia is in the making pursuing closer economic and security ties by forging a probable defense pact.

By early January, Russian navy deployed two warships to the Philippines and promised to donate brand-new military equipment to one of Asia’s fragile armed forces. Duterte will make a state visit to Moscow by second quarter of the year and a warm engagement with his “idol” Vladimir Putin will certainly fortify an elevated partnership.

Duterte has indicated his advancement to Russia after being denied weapons and criticized in the US media for his controversial War on Drugs.

The infusion of modern weapons from Russia might answer the Philippines’ failed attempts to modernize its armed forces. After reverting back to its strategy from territorial defense operation to internal security operation, his fight against narcotics and terrorism has become a banner defense and security policy.

The Philippines strongman seems to diversify his relations with great powers in the Asia-Pacific region.The tide of fortune works for Duterte’s favor while he accumulates surplus from his astute vision. However, it could be construed as a mendicant handicap becoming a receiver of aids and promises from major powers.

In the foreseen competition of powers in the region, are partnerships to emerging powers become a “new normal” undermining an archaic alliance to a former big brother? Or has the US power now dispensable in the region?

In that case, the US should offer alternative mechanisms to strengthen the armed forces of the Philippines magnified through defence treaties and brace the position of ASEAN on a rules-based norms approach, doubling its efforts as China and Russia accelerate economic and military packages at the expense of their own interests. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Washington D.C., USA

             Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2017 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

The City of Power!

 Eighteen top scholars and experts around the world were competitively selected and offered the life-changing professional development to share each others' expertise on national security and policymaking under the U.S. Department of State's Study of the U.S. Institutes that culminated in Washington D.C. with a tight schedule engaging with topnotch think tanks, briefing at national defense university, courtesy calls to senators in the Capitol Hill, and celebrating my birthday bash with global colleagues! Thank you very much for the great experiences and opportunities!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

International Scholars Talk Global Security

By Molly Igoe
News Editor

    International experts from around the world: (L-R): Cabalza, Alba-Ultoa,    
Alzarahni, Khan, Naskar, and Marchetti.
International scholars came to Washington College on Tuesday, February 7 to weigh in on the state of national security during the talk "Global Security Challenges to the US and the World".

The event was moderated by Professor Muqtedar Khan, who teaches in the department of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware. He introduced the five speakers on the panel as participants of the State Department's exchange program, where scholars from 18 countries come to the U.S. for six weeks to study various policy areas, including Congress, the democratic process, foreign policy, and national security. He ended by saying that they hope to enlighten people with these different programs.

Ishani Naskar, professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, and who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs, was the first panelist to speak. She focused on India, and began by speaking about the U.S.'s presence in Asia. In terms of the Trump administration's policy continuity with the Obama administration's. She believes that the U.S. will remain in Asia which will thwart the possibility of a regional power taking over, like North Korea or China. To improve on the former administration, Naskar believes that the U.S. will have to reprioritize issues and engage in a retreat from militarism.

In terms of challenges facisng the South Asia, Naskar highlighted a few: terrorism in Pakistan, which is directly related to Afghanistan's future, as Pakistan is a breeding ground for terror and anti-state activity; nuclear deterrence of India and Pakistan; and the strategic balancing of the region, comprising of China's dominance, India as a regional hegemon, and building axes between China and Pakistan vis-a-vis the U.S. and India in a Cold War resurgence.

She then discussed current trade issues between the U.S. and India, which mainly resulted from trade imbalances between the two countries. There was a $1.7 billion imbalance last year, and the U.S. will likely demand more access to Indian markets, while promoting protectionism that will harm trade pospects. Naskar elaborated on these trade issues, and discussed other issues between the two countries, including U.S.-Pakistan relations, terrorism, and India-Iran relations.

Naskar ended with some recommendations for the rump administration. She encouraged multilateral trade as opposed to bilateral trade, saying that the world was in the Asian century in terms of trade. She also proposed that, in order to engage with north Korea, China may be a necessary liaison.

The next speaker was Chester Cabalza, associate professor and course director at the Naional Defense College of the Philippines, a senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman, and a fellow at the National Defense University, PLA, China. He spoke about the Philippines' president, Rodrigo Duterte, who is making it his mission to reconcile with China.

He said that, hopefully, sometime this year Duterte will come to Washington D.C. as President Donal Trump recently extended an invitation to him. In addition, the Philippines is hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summiot this year, where they will be responsible for setting the agenda. Member countries include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos.

Regarding the Philippines' relationship with he U.S., Cabalza said that most Filipinos would prefer to side with America over China if they were given a choice. Even with the Philippines' strong ties to China, the U.S. is their oldest ally and has more war experience.

He said that hopefully strong relations with the U.S. will continue, and that "our knight in shining armor won't forget us."

Yahya Alzahrani is an assistant professor at the College of Strategic Sciences, Naif Arab University for Security Science (NAUSS). He began by discussing the Gulf War and the current fight against terrorism, especially in Syria and Yemen. He also emphasized the imporance of addressing the current refugee crisis in Europe amidst all the fear and uncertainty in that region.

In terms of security for countries, levels vary depending on their size, and other factors are taken into account as well. For example, he said, Saudi Arabia is the biggest country in the region with 32 million people, compared with Qatar, which is home to only 600,000. So, security pratices and protocol in Said Arabia will vary greatly from security in smaller countries like Qatar.

Alzahrani then said two "wheels" are involved in this discussion: the wheel of change and the wheel of adaptation. One example he gave of the wheel of change was the use of social media to change opinions. The wheel of adaptation, he said, was best seen in countries that are trying to fill gaps so they do not depend so heavily on oil.

He ended by saying that these are very important times with Trump's presidency and Iranian threats, and the need for a comprehensive and educated approach to address issues was vital now more than ever.

Raffaele Marchetti, senior assistant professor in international relations at the department of political science and the School of Government of Liberia Universiti Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli di Roma (LUISS) in Rome, Italy and Jessica de Alba-Ulloa, professor at the School of Global Studies at Universidad Anhuac Mexico both spoke after to conclude the talk.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Talking Security

January 30, 2017

A panel of five international experts will discuss security challenges facing the U.S. and the world at a Feb. 7 Goldstein Program in Public Affairs event.
A group of visiting scholars from five countries who are who here to study and understand the United States’ approaches to national and global security will bring their expertise to a discussion at Washington College, at which they will explore security challenges to the global order, as well as to their own regions.
The event, sponsored by the Goldstein Program in Public Affairs and organized by Tahir I. Shad, associate professor of political science international studies, takes place on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. in Hyson Lounge. It is free and open to the public.
Muqtedar Khan, a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, will moderate the panel of scholars, who are part of the U.S. State Department’s Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) on U.S. National Security Policymaking at the University of Delaware. Topics will address questions such as, are there regional arrangements emerging to address these challenges? What can the United States do to face these new challenges? Does the world expect a significant change in U.S. policy with the change of administration in Washington? Finally, the panelists will make recommendations for the new Trump administration. The panelists are:
Muqtedar Khan is a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware. He founded the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Delaware and was its first director from 2007-2010. Khan is a fellow with the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He was a senior nonresident fellow with the Brookings Institution [2003-2008] and a fellow of the Alwaleed Center at Georgetown University [2006-2007]. He has been the president, vice president and general secretary of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists. He is the author of American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom (Amana, 2002), Jihad for Jerusalem: Identity and Strategy in International Relations (Praeger, 2004), Islamic Democratic Discourse (Lexington Books, 2006) and Debating Moderate Islam: The Geopolitics of Islam and the West (University of Utah Press, 2007). Khan frequently comments on BBC, CNN International, FOX and VOA TV, Bridges TV, NPR and other radio and TV networks. His political commentaries appear regularly in newspapers in over 20 countries.

Raffaele Marchetti is senior assistant professor in international relations at the Department of Political Science and the School of Government of Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli di Roma (LUISS) in Rome, Italy. His research interest concerns global politics and governance, hybrid and city diplomacy, transnational civil society, (cyber)security and political risk, and democracy. He acts also as external expert for the European Commission and other public/private institutions on issues of global governance, public policies, civil society, and security. Recent publications include Partnership in International Policy Making: Civil Society and Public Institutions in Global and European Affairs (Palgrave, 2017, ed.); Still a Western World? Continuity and Change in World Order (Routledge, 2017, co-ed. with S.Fabbrini); and Global Strategic Engagement: States and Non-State Actors in Global Governance (Lexington Books-Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). 

Yahya Alzahrani is assistant professor, College of Strategic Sciences, Naif Arab University for Security Science (NAUSS). He teaches courses on international security, strategic planning and strategic thoughts and thinking at the graduate level.  NAUSS engages deeply in security issues and Alzahrani engages in security issues through his research, seminars, and teaching on security and defense at both the national and international level, particularly in the context of U.S. leadership. His publications include “Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring: Reshaping Saudi Security Doctrine” (CEJISS). He is a member of Youth for Human Rights, the Arab Union of Futurology, Member of Saudi Sport Leaders, and the Saudi Association of Translators. He serves as the acting director of the International Relations for the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee. 

Chester Cabalza is an associate professor and course director at the National Defense College of the Philippines, a senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman, and a fellow of the National Defense University, PLA, China. He is a member of the Board of Trustees & Chair of Research of the Ibanag Heritage Foundation, Inc. Cabalza’s recent publications focus on the political dimension of national security (international) and his scholarly articles were published in some peer-reviewed local and international journals on soft-power diplomacy, terrorism, and other issues in the purview of security studies. His current research interests include Asian security (China-India), crisis and emergency management (natural and human-induced disasters), cybersecurity, Filipino thinkers, human rights and international humanitarian law, peace process in Southern Mindanao, and legal anthropology.

Jessica de Alba-Ulloa is a professor at the School of Global Studies at Universidad Anáhuac México since 2004. She has also taught at the Université de Paris –XI, Faculté Jean Monnet (2000-2003), and the Centre d’Analyse des Différends et leurs Modes de Solution (CADMOS). She is an associate of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI); a member of the Mexican Association of International Studies (AMEI), in charge of the Foreign Policy Committee; the International Studies Association (ISA), of which she is co-editor on the Section of International Organizations of the Compendium Project, since 2014; and of the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) and of the American Society of Mexico (AMSOC).

Ishani Naskar is a professor of Political Science at Rabindra Bharati University, where she specializes in South East Asian affairs. She teaches politics and emerging issues in global politics, South and Southeast Asia and other topics related to Indian foreign policy. Her research interests include Southeast Asian strategic issues, especially maritime security, including the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific region; Indian foreign policy with special interests in India-US, India-China, India-Russia, India-ASEAN relations; India’s geostrategic concerns; sub-regionalism and sub-regional initiatives in India with a special focus on Northeast India. Her recent publications include “Gandhi and Ambedkar: Father of Nation to Father of the Untouchables,” (Occasional Paper of Ambedkar Centre, Lucknow, 2010), “The Rise of the Red Dragon: Geopolitical Implication for Southeast Asia,” (Man And Society, Vol,VIII, Summer 2011), “Revisiting the Gandhi And Ambedkar Debate: Differing on the Ways of Political Emancipation of the Untouchables” (Voice of Dalits, Vol.5, No.2. July-December 2011), and “Geopolitics of Globalisation: The Role of the State”(Journal of Asian Politics, Vol.1. No. 2, July-December, 2011.