The America we love, and love to hate

Orly Mercado

Posted on June 25, 2007

The recently released eighteen-nation survey of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and World Public Opinion shows that Filipinos rank high in supporting the United States in world affairs. The Philippine report was done by the Social Weather Station (SWS). I was not particularly surprised by the results. Not even by the fact that most Filipinos are of the opinion that the U.S. should maintain its long-term overseas military presence.

I had seen similar data before. In 1991, when the Philippine Senate was debating the country’s military bases agreement with the U.S., we were often reminded of a similar sentiment. I then joined eleven other senators in voting for the rejection of the treaty. The U.S. subsequently pulled out of Clark Field and Subic bases. Most Filipinos did not agree with us during that historic September 16 vote. But they changed their mind afterwards. They came around to supporting what initially was an unpopular decision.

It is often said that surveys are a mere snapshot of public sentiments at a given time. There is evidence, however, that there has been a reservoir of goodwill for the Americans in the Philippines. In his most recent book, “The Assault on Reason,” former US vice president Al Gore, points out that the Bush-Cheney administration continues to drain that reservoir of goodwill and sympathy it had immediately after September 11, 2001. He says the “exercise of raw power… and disdain that this administration demonstrates in its approach to all international agreements and treaties” is all about the Bush-Cheney “foreign policy goal of unilateralism: Power is more important than compromise, and dominance is more important than international law.” Al Gore says, at the level of US relations with the world, “this administration has willingly traded in respect for the United States in favor of fear. That he says was the real meaning of “shock and awe.”

Al Gore then blames US President Bush for having “created more anger and righteous indignation” against the US than any other leader in its entire existence as a nation. The Bush administration may find little comfort in the survey results from the Philippines. Even among friends and allies, things do change. Historically, the political backlash we were warned about because of our vote rejecting the American bases treaty in 1991, did not happen. Public opinion against the Iraq war is bound to change the Filipinos’ view of present American foreign policy. There is little to smile about in this snapshot of public sentiment.

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