I got this commission to write a book the subject of which I refrain from disclosing at the moment. However in the course of researching for the endeavor, I come across details of plans the United States made in addressing the tension in the Asia Pacific region prior to its engagement with Japan in hostilities during the Second World War in 1941; those hostilities provide the setting of the book I will write.
Called War Plan Orange, the plan assumes a Strategic Triangle connecting Alaska in the Atlantic, Hawaii in the Pacific and Panama in the Caribbean. Within the enclosure is the entire North American Continent. According to the Monroe Doctrine – “America for the Americans” –the best defense for the United States is to keep war away from the American continent and in order to this, no breach of the Strategic Triangle must be allowed. War Plan Orange was conceived to prevent a breach of the triangle from the Pacific front. Hence it was a plan designed to counter the evident aggressive Japanese expansion in the Asia Pacific region.
From its success against Russia in the War of 1904-1905, Imperial Japan had proceeded to annex territories, beginning with Okinawa and Formosa (Taiwan), onward to Mongolia and Manchuria, culminating, momentarily, in imposing upon the Vichy government of France its seizure of French Indochina (Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia). American strategists focused attention to Japan’s next move, which was to capture the Philippines and from there push to the British colonies Singapore and Malaya (now the main component of Malaysia) and the Netherlands East Indies.
As things turned out in 1941, Japan did attack the Philippines as War Plan Orange had anticipated – but not after first demolishing in just two hours the United States naval base in Pearl Harbor on December 7.
And the rest, for the Philippines, is history. The Japanese attacked the country the very next day, thereafter making successful landings of troops the country over, and after four months of fierce battles with the defenders of Bataan placed the country to submission.
It is noteworthy that tension in the Asia Pacific region has not really diminished in more than a century, beginning with US Navy Commodore Perry forcing Japan to open up from its isolationist policy, to Admiral Dewey’s hoodwinking Aguinaldo into surrendering initiative in subduing the Spaniards and thereby gaining colonial control of the Philippine nation for the next half century – in fact up to this day, considering the lopsided treaty arrangements America has exacted in its favor: the Parity Amendments in the sphere of economics, the Mutual Defense Agreement in the military, etc.
Nothing in the belligerencies seems to have changed, except that there is a radical difference in alliances. Japan, erstwhile arch foe of US, is now the latter’s staunch ally together with South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, what else? Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia are gray areas together with Maynmar, being perceived as more likely to be on the side of China, an ally of US in Second World War, now the evident thorn on America’s resolve to stay lord over the Pacific region. This leaves the Philippines up for close dissection: quo vadis?
Duterte is President, yes, but, as borne out by his words and actuations, he is his own man and as such he can neither be the people nor the country, much less the state. When he says “separate” from the United States, he is just one Duterte speaking, no more, no less.
But back to War Plan Orange. It was a plan designed to counter Japan, but now that Japan is a strong ally of the United States, does this invalidate the plan?
Further into my research, I dug up the startling War Plan Red. It is a plan that hypothesizes the United States making war, side by side with Japan, with a European power, Great Britain! A most unlikely idea, since the United States and the United Kingdom had been known to be close allies for eons.
But US military strategists are a brilliant breed. Conscious of the Anglo-Japanese agreement existing at the time, they would not discount the possibility of hostilities breaking out between US and UK – such hostilities being endemic on the Atlantic front. A European power attack from that direction was correctly perceived as taking place, and Great Britain was undisputed naval king in the Atlantic at the time.
The rise of Hitler, however, thrust Germany as that perceived European aggressor and Great Britain, the aggressed. And War Plan Red was accordingly put in place perfectly as conceived – except that instead of Great Britain being the enemy, it became Germany.
From the Pacific front, Japan broke loose from the Anglo-Japanese agreement and struck an alliance with Germany and Italy to form the Axis.
And so there came about World War II.
My particular concern now is War Plan Orange, the US plan for hostilities with Japan, specifically a plan for continued US assertion of power over the Pacific. As shown by the US experience with War Plan Red, American war strategy has been so universalized that it can apply to any circumstance, under any condition and at anytime but for changing the name of the enemy.
In the Asia Pacific region, American goals have not changed, that is, economic hegemony. Its conflict with China over the South China Sea is tightly hinged on this objective. But already, China has upped the United States as the top trading partner of countries in the region, China’s sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has drawn the support not only of Asian nations but also of US European Allies like Great Britain and France, to the detriment necessarily of the US-sponsored World Bank.
In the economic war, China has clearly seized the lead. And with China’s Maritime Silk Road idea being vigorously promoted and gaining world adherents, America is now substantially behind.
On the war front, nothing has changed but the shift in alliances. War Plan Orange can apply but for the name of the enemy, from Japan to China. The truly terrifying thing about this is that in War Plan Orange, the Philippines is meant to be just a sacrificial lamb.
In January 1942, just before Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the government-in-exile to be formed consisting of President Manuel Quezon and Vice-President Sergio Osmena left for Australia en route to the United States, the general inquired from President Franklin D. Roosevelt whether reinforcements were forthcoming for the beleaguered defenders of Bataan. President Roosevelt replied no such reinforcements were coming and that plans – what else but War Plan Orange – were in place up for implementation: meaning defend Bataan for as long as possible in order to delay the advance of Japanese forces into the Strategic Triangle and thereby give the Allies the needed space for winning the war first in Europe.
Thus were the gallant defenders of Bataan left to fend for themselves in one of the most brutal battles of the Second World War. On April 9, 1942, General Jonathan Wainwright, Commander of the USAFFE, by order from the US military High Command, surrendered the fight. Whereupon the surrendered USAFFE troops were made to undergo the infamous 10-day Death March from Bataan for concentration in Capas, Tarlac. Records bear that thousands more died in that march from sheer hunger, exhaustion and war injuries.
Now, in the heightening tension over the South China, conjectures should be up as to what tragedy similar to Bataan is forthcoming to the country in the United States’ apparent determined push for war with China. This is the concern President Rodrigo Duterte should address immediately. He must stop pretending that he can know better than the Pentagon on the one hand and the PLA on the other to be able to play one against the other.
Rather he should realize that in the American strategy, the Philippines has been confined to the role of a sacrificial lamb and he cannot get the country out of that confinement by cozying up to US enemies, whether China, Russia, or whichever, which certainly must have their own designs on the country, too.
What must he do?
Inasmuch as one reader has advanced the information that the President is familiar with Sun Tzu’s Art of War, may I just remind him of this particular passage from the book. A walled city is under threat of attack by a force so large that the General in charge of its defense knows right off he won’t be able to repel it. So what does the General do? Instead of putting up a front of fortification, he throws the gates of the city wide open, revealing no visible resistance from inside. At that the attacking army beat the retreat in fright.
Take it up from there, Mr. President.