Small Wars Journal

Philippine's President Duterte to US Troops: Leave Mindanao or Abus Will Kill You

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 10:30am

Philippine's President Duterte to US Troops: Leave Mindanao or Abus Will Kill You by Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

After blasting the US for supposedly interfering with his anti-drug war, President Rodrigo Duterte Monday called for the pullout of American troops in Mindanao as he blamed Washington for the conflict and security threats in the south.

 Duterte said American troops in Mindanao should leave as they are in danger of being abducted by US-hating terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

 “The special forces, they have to go. They have to go in Mindanao. There are many whites there,” the president said during the oath taking of new appointees Monday in Malacañan.

 “If they see an American, they would kill him.  They would demand ransom then kill him. Even if you’re a black or white American as long as you are an American, (they will kill you),” he added.

 Some US troops have been deployed in Zamboanga City to assist Philippine security forces in its campaign against terrorists. Since the Constitution prohibits foreign troops from engaging in direct combat operations, the US soldiers assist the military through training and information sharing.

“The situation there (in Mindanao) will worsen. If they (Americans) are seen there, they will be killed,” Duterte said...

Read on.


Not a lot of policy thinking in all of this. Duterte has had a sore spot with Americans ever since an American held in connection with a bombing incident in Davao was whisked out of the country back in 2002. That was aggravated by Obama's comments about current human rights issues, which struck a nerve: he is not fond of criticism. These comments are more backlash than anything else, and the military is already trying to backpedal away from them:…

and even Duterte is trying to "clarify"...something he does rather a lot:…

Bill C.

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 5:44pm

In reply to by Warlock

Nothing in my comment above suggests that the Chinese or Russians providing assistance comes with no strings attached.

Although that may, indeed, be the case.

This, given that the Chinese and/or the Russians -- minus any direct/tangible "quid pro quo" from the Philippines and/or others seeking their assistance -- may be happy to have (a) simply made their case and (b) at the U.S./the West's great expense.

(This case being: That they, unlike the "evangelistic"/"expansionist" West, make no such similar political, economic, social and/or value "reform" demands/suggestions re: their assistance.)

By being able to make this exceptional point -- in front of the entire world -- and by being able, thus, to (a) favorably distinguish themselves from the U.S./the West and, thus, (b) rub salt into the U.S./the West "soft power" liability/"Achilles heel" wound; these folks (the Chinese, the Russians, etc.) may feel that they have been "compensated" -- not only enough -- but quite well indeed.

Herein, the Russians, the Chinese, etc. -- by way of these such gestures -- gaining greater access, influence, etc., throughout the entire Rest of the World? (i.e., "payment" enough?)

Potential Bottom Line:

In the Old Cold War of yesterday, and re: the Soviets/the communists' "evangelistic"/ "expansionist" efforts back then, this (demanding/suggesting political, economic, social and value change) was THEIR exceptionally well-known "soft power" liability/"Achilles heel" weakness. One which we exploited (for example, by "hanging with the dictators") to our fullest advantage.

In the New/Reverse Cold War of today (the U.S./the West now in "evangelistic"/"expansionist" mode), the Chinese, the Russians, etc. -- having adopted our very own tried and proven "non-demand" tactics -- these folks may have effectively turned the tables against us.

Herein proving to themselves, their own populations and, indeed, to entire Rest of the World that -- re: the U.S./the West's "evangelistic"/"expansionist" designs -- our "soft power (the appeal of our way of life, our way of governance, etc.); this is:

a. No more of an asset than their "soft power" was during the Old Cold War and

b. Just as much of a liability?

In this light (our "soft power" has failed us/is a liability; Russia, China, etc., [a] pointing this out and [b] taking full advantage of same), to understand why the U.S./the West -- and re: its "expansionist" designs for the Rest of the World -- is now having to consider its "hard power" options/requirements; such as, those associated with political warfare, and unconventional warfare employed in the service of same?


Thu, 09/15/2016 - 11:51am

In reply to by Bill C.

You're really saying the Chinese and Russians provide assistance without strings attached. And you're maintaining a straight face?

This is just plain back-room politics. There's something on Mindanao -- no doubt with local political and/or economic implications -- that Duterte wants to conceal from the U.S. without poisoning the relationship, so all of the sudden there's a mortal threat to American advisors there.

The implication that we should provide assistance without benefit to the U.S. is ludicrous. Access, influence, or behavior. Duterte doesn't want the Chinese taking over -- in the long run they're more of a threat than the U.S. So this is just posturing -- next week, he'll be proposing joint maneuvers with the Navy because the Chinese are muscling Filipino fishing boats.

I guess we will just have to get used to the idea of many of our old friends and allies -- when we suggest that they should proceed more along modern western political, economic, social, and especially, value lines -- will, rather than comply, threaten us with closer relations with China and/or Russia (what we might call "playing the China/Russia card"). China and Russia being nations which, famously, do not base their foreign policies/their international relations on such ideas/requirements:


Upon his arrival in Davao City, the President told the media about China’s pledge to help in the administration’s anti-drug campaign.

“There will be plenty and China has committed to help us. I do not think that it has placed its limits there... And I said that we have this problem about, a serious, grave problem about drugs,” he said.

“And I informed the body that as a matter of fact China has offered its help, to which we responded with gratitude. We need it,” the President said.


Thus, to consider that our so-called "soft power" might, instead, be becoming our "Achilles heel?"