• Of war plans and shifting alliances



    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.


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    1. To sum it all up, America is the intruder in Asia, period. America is the beast that treats us as the pawn, bait and yes, the sacrificial lamb. Your entire article correctly paints America as the villain, so why shouldn’t Duterte pivot to China (and Russia ) ? We have to learn to act as free men, unlike these Brown Americans who love to be chained like a dog.

    2. What do you want from America? Duterte is a tough guy and doesn’t,t need US protection. And what is this constant paranoia about war and nuclear exchange? Since you are now being friendly with the commies that Filipinos should not worry anymore. So if China makes a move to take over the country why should American come to the rescue of fair weather ally? Spend your own money buying arms and not rely on freebies you complain as useless surplus. Why should American taxpayers be responsible for your economy and defense? There is much tough talks so rely on yourselves and die for your country, not the Americans this time. Show the world that Filipinos have pride, love of country and are ready to die defending freedom.

    3. I see this piece as a quite perceptive historical, political analysis. I hope DU30 sees the danger ahead of him (and the Philippines) before any thing happens. However, knowing DU30,as a strong-willed political leader, he might as well put this piece aside. Well, at least someone warned him from learned one..

    4. You should teach Contemporary World History in the academe, Sir. And get more of our youth think about nationalism and patriotism. Our adult populace, in public and private sectors, must as staff development program, also be fed with information such as your research. We, Pinoys, might come to appreciate the President’s move of veering away from the USA while cozying up with China. Why he wants Am soldiers get out of Pinas. Coz in the event of an USA-China confrontation, our country will be bombed as it happened in WW2. History, ancient and contemporary, depends indeed upon the psyche of international leaders. Diverse psyche, but only one motive…..economic. Why do rich countries want to amass more wealth, Sir? Why their penchant to amass natural and human resources from poor countries? If only John Lennon’s “Imagine” could be the international anthem . . . a shift might happen!? Big countries can work out one common goal – world peace and they could harvest more of everything from every country. War devastates. Peace progresses. Thanks for your enlightening article.

      • I suggest PI bans immigration to the US and encourage a shift to China where you now believe is an honest broker. You are naïve in thinking wars will go away. So why are Filipinos dreaming of going to America? US haters are sour grapes but would not think twice of going if given the chance. I suggest you stay home and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    5. Just a gesture of helpfulness: Geography will undoubtedly figure in your forthcoming magnum opus, I suggest a quick look at the desktop globe. At the apex of your triangle is Alaska. But the ocean that “situates” Alaska is still the Pacific Ocean. Your fingers typed “Atlantic”. Easy to prevent mistakes in the end: proofreaders should be included in the commissioning for your work.

      • Yes, Alaska touches the Pacific Ocean and does not touch the Atlantic Ocean. If this “War Plan Orange” does cite Alaska being in the Atlantic Ocean, then it is not to be believed because the facts are not true. “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.” Alaska cannot be the point to form a triangle that the entire North American Continent is enclosed. Maybe it is Alaska and not Atlantic that is in error. In either case the whole plan is questionable.