I was talking to a friend earlier about the implications of President Duterte’s foreign policy shift away from the United States. Like many of our countrymen, my friend was also apprehensive about how the US government will react to Duterte’s moves.
One of his particular concerns had something to do with the “training” our soldiers are supposed to be getting from their American counterparts. My friend was worried that if the President does actually go through with his plans of ending the joint military exercises, the Americans will also refuse to train our soldiers.
But here’s the thing, which is what I explained to my friend, if you really think about it there’s very little practical training that we get from the Americans from all these joint military exercises and war games. In fact, it can even be argued that it is the American’s who are learning from us.
Let’s start with simple military doctrine. American wars are generally offensive in nature, something that the Philippines cannot do. With their reliance on aircraft carriers and long distance bombers and nuclear weapons – all the thIngs that we DO NOT HAVE – American military doctrine will never be applicable in the Philippine setting.
Then we have the weapons systems. While our soldiers are allowed to play with the latest gadgets and gizmos of their American counterparts, that’s probably the closest our troops will ever get to handling the same gear. When the exercise ends, the Americans pack up and bring their toys home with them. So what’s the point in training on how to use them if we don’t have them to keep?
Finally, the terrain. A lot of these joint exercises are either simulated beach landings or jungle warfare. The first scenario is all too common for the US Marine Corp, but is a totally alien operation for Philippine forces. I mean, who exactly are we supposed to invade, China? Again, our main security issue will always be defensive. Throughout our history we have been invaded by Spain, the US, and Japan – isn’t it about time we learned to DEFEND our shores instead of learning how to invade others?
The second training scenario, jungle warfare, is quite different. Here our soldiers have the advantage. Here the Filipino’s native resourcefulness easily trumps the American’s technological advantage. A lesson that their generals learned the hard way in Vietnam. Which explains why they are taking such pains to learn from us. And not us from them.
As I told my friend, there are still many Filipinos who live under the mistaken impression that we owe the Americans something. When in truth – even in training our soldiers -it is actually the other way around.