My Two Cents on Spratly Islands Conflict

What lessons can we learn from the 2008 Georgia-Russia Conflict when the US did not help Georgia? 

Have you seen the movie 5 Days of War?

The movie depicts the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia. It's actually very recent and if not for this film, I would never have been able to learn about this conflict. At the time, while the media was busy covering the olympics in China, thousands were killed or displaced in a war that lasted for only five days. Unarmed civilians, even children, were executed. And one of the main causes of the war is territorial dispute between states — a similar problem we now have with China.

Of course, the film is sponsored by the State of Georgia and we can't really be sure if it's entirely factual. The international community is divided; some side with Georgia while some with Russia. The truth is, no one really has proof on who started what. An independent report commissioned by the European Union states that Georgia started the attack (source). Even the Human Rights Watch and BBC (source) take a similar position (something very opposite of what's shown on the film). Of course, these reports came out long after the war occurred.

Although this obviously begs the question of why Georgia, no matter how heavily armed they are, would start a war against Russia's superior arsenal and international influence. It's like what they say: history is written by the victors. We can never really be sure of what exactly happened to spark the 5 days of war. And obviously Georgia is the underdog.

The same could happen between us and China. We might just be at the murky beginnings of a war where the innocent will die and no one will really win. One unordered misfire that will hit either side could cause an unwanted war. It doesn't even have to be from either side. Terrorists, rebel groups, and even  arms dealers could easily take advantage of the situation. And, again, the only victims would be the unarmed individuals and families who have no vested interest in this conflict. 

And in the case of an armed conflict, will our defense treaty with the US really stand or could they easily shrug it off with technicalities being that they would never want armed conflict with China? I have mentioned in a previous post that the world is losing faith in the dollar. When they are already trillions in debt to China, would they really engage in an armed conflict? Perhaps this is the main reason why I am comparing the Spratly Islands dispute to the  2008 Georgia-Russia conflict because when they needed help from the US, they didn't get any.

And Georgia is a country that sent troops, their own young men and women, to Iraq to help the US with their neocon agenda of looking for supposed weapons of mass destruction. This is all, of course, in the hopes that one day there would be a payback. This was all to preserve their strong ties with the US knowing well that Russia has territorial dispute with them and that there was a threat of war.

During the conflict, then president George W. Bush sent a statement to Russia saying "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."  It's basically like sending an email that he doesn't agree with what Russia is doing. The Bush administration considered a military response to help defend Georgia but in the end concluded that they can't risk inevitable conflict with Russia (source). All they were able to do was send humanitarian supplies. In the end, George didn't help Georgia.

Of course, we gain confidence because of the defense treaty we have with Big Brother but, again, will Big Brother really risk conflict with China? I'd even like to think that China itself won't risk an armed conflict with us but many assumed the same about both Russia and Georgia not being capable of a first-strike before 2008.

It was assumed that in a world that has witnessed two world wars and has created the United Nations (the same big government coalition that created UNCLOS which strengthens the Philippine State's claim to the said islands), you'd think we've had enough of the violence of war and that we now live in a world of peaceful trade and diplomacy.

Nowadays, after an armed conflict, all politicians have to do is stand behind a podium in front of cameras and say that they condemn war crimes and the rest, as they say, is history. War is a messy business where justice is never served. All is not fair in love and war. We cannot afford an armed conflict with China on not just economical but also moral grounds in spite of how confident we are with our defense treaty with the US.

I am reminded of a story a professor once told me about two brothers who inherited a farmland (I'm not sure what the title is). Right before their father died, he told the two brothers that there is hidden treasure in the farmland. The two decide to divide the land equally in half. One brother, greedy for treasure, spent all his time and resources on digging and looking for the treasure. The other spent all his time on planting and cultivating different kinds of flowers. The first brother ended up bankrupt with nothing but a lot full of empty holes. The other brother became the owner of one of the most successful flower store chain in the country and became really rich.

My two cents, let's let go of this petty dispute. Let China dig for treasure, for oil; let them be the first brother in the story who ended up with nothing. We don't need oil to be prosperous. In the documentary Free to Choose, Milton Friedman explains in the beginning that Hong Kong is basically just a piece of rock with no natural resources and yet it became very prosperous because of free trade and limited government. The same can be said about Singapore (a case I've already made in my article The Singapore Argument). Can we not be prosperous without oil?

I actually just came from a beach trip in Bicol and every time I go around the country, I always notice that there's so much unused space. In fact, we already have 7,000+ islands that we have not utilized. Adding a few more won't make a difference unless we change our policies and rethink the role of government. Decentralize power from Imperial Manila and empower the markets of provinces; real peace and prosperity is in civil liberties and economic freedom not in pieces of land that might or might not have oil (that we don't even have the technology to utilize and will most likely just end up with foreign investors with the biggest bribe or crony corporations).

Again, this is just my two cents. I have discussed in my articles about Top Gear's Middle East Special and Conflict Kitchen that foreign policy is very complex and I'm not really sure exactly on what should be done that will result in the least damage or harm. One thing is for sure though: violence and armed conflict is not a solution.

We have been trading with the Chinese since the dawn of civilization. We have thousands of Filipino loved ones working in China as OFWs. Many of the job creators and entrepreneurs here, from smalltime to conglomerates, are Chinese. This laptop I'm using right now was made in Shenzhen. Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei also asserts their claim in the islands. Now, whether you agree or not with my proposed solutions, I hope we can agree that we must not engage in an armed conflict with China.

1 comment:

  1. Territorial dispute between China and Philippines is now getting more serious. I'm hoping that this will end in a peaceful way.

    Spratly Islands


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