In times of great uncertainty, strategic ambiguity offers little clarity. The review of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty should be guided by the quest for sovereignty and economic development.
During his recent visit in the Philippines, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad met Murad Ebrahim, the Filipino Muslim rebel leader who became a regional governor under the Malaysian-brokered peace deal. In the course of the meeting, Mahathir told to Murad that “it’s easy to shoot and kill, but it’s difficult to develop. If there is peace, then everything will come.”
Mahathir’s words offer guidance in intra-country divides, but also in inter-country friction, including the review of the decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.
In early March, Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government should review the MDT to avoid provoking a potential armed conflict with China in the South China Sea. Lorenzana pointed out that the security environment in the region is today “much more complex” than in the early Cold War era, when it was drawn up. “The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future.”
Obviously, there are different views about the preferred future of the MDT in Manila, Washington and elsewhere. Typically, most are predicated on geopolitical arguments, treaty texts and interpretations of various statements.
Yet, Mahathir’s wisdom matters. Development is not viable without peace. In the long-run, it is the quest for economic development that should drive the MDT debate.
About the Author
Dr. Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized expert of the multipolar world. He is the founder of global consultancy Difference Group Ltd, which focuses on international business, international relations, investment and risk among and between advanced and emerging economies. He has consulted worldwide and been on media advisory boards of world’s leading media and management consultancies. His commentaries and interviews have been released by some 250 media outlets in all world regions. He has been part of and worked with leading research universities, think-tanks, and government agencies in the United States, Europe, China, India, and all world regions. He is founder of global consultancy DifferenceGroup.