Lessons From the People of the Philippines

It is really appalling that the Reagan Administration is behaving as if it scored a major diplomatic victory in the Philippines. The worst American ethnocentrists believe events on the anguished islands spun on the words and deeds of the Reagan policy--or better--lack thereof.

The Administration chatter of recent days is so much self-aggrandizement for an outcome prompted not by Washington, but thousands of courageous Filipinos willing to take their struggle for political and constitutional reform to the streets. Reagan's diplomacy "pressuring" Marcos was an afterthought, contrary to his instincts and right-wing assumptions.

History has been good to this President. In 1979, President Carter, guided by a deep regard for human rights, distanced himself from the Shah of Iran and let the chips fall where they may. When, from the self-interested perspective of the United States, something worse resulted, the Carter Administration was charged with naivete and culpability, as if American policy had very much to do with Islamic revolutionary fundamentalism.

Reagan, on the other hand, unencumbered with an abiding regard for social justice in the Philippines (or, arguably, anywhere), pursued an obdurate and anti-progressive pro-Marcos policy. When this position was overrun by events, the Administration made a twilight decision to give recognition and tacit support to the Aquino movement, then assembled a brass band to celebrate it. I can only join the chorus of indignation.


San Clemente

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