Saturday, August 22, 2009

Self-Determination and Realpolitik

Island Stir: Self-Determination and Realpolitik
Friday, 21 August 2009 00:10 by Gerardo Partido
Marianas Variety News Staff

The issue of self-determination has become prominent again after the recent visit to the island by a congressional delegation led by Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia.

Congressman Rahall, responding to a question from Sen. Eddie Calvo during a forum, stated that he supports self-determination for Guam and that the federal government would abide with whatever decision island residents make with regard to political status.

Rahall is the chairman of the House committee with direct oversight over Guam. And as Sen. Ben Pangelinan noted in his column last Tuesday, Rahall’s statement was the first declaration of support in recent memory from someone with real power in Congress.

Rahall, however, was probably just being gracious to his hosts. Under the concept of realpolitik, which states that politics are amoral and that things should be looked at realistically, I doubt whether the federal government would give Guam a chance for self-determination, at least not in the immediate future.

As the champion of freedom and democracy in the world, the U.S. may morally and ideologically support self-determination. But under realpolitik, Guam is just too important to U.S. security for the federal government to just allow us to adopt whatever political status we want.

Ever since the U.S. Navy and Air Force were forced out of the Philippines, Guam has become America’s most strategic fortress in this part of the world. Guam truly is the tip of the American spear and this is not just rhetoric.

With China continuing to grow as a superpower and Guam in proximity to the major hotspots in the region, America would never dare risk its control over Guam even at the expense of its ideals.

Under realpolitik, two of the options available to Guam for self-determination (namely independence and free association) may already be counted out.

It is hard to see the U.S. granting Guam independence as it did the Philippines. Look at what happened in the Philippines and how America’s bases were booted out there. America simply can’t take that chance again.

On the other hand, free association and commonwealth may not be desirable to the U.S. either because the military cannot build up its forces here if we have our own independent immigration and labor policy as the CNMI does.

In fact, the impending federalization of the CNMI can be seen as part of the U.S. attempt to increase security and tighten its control.

With the U.S. building up its forces on Guam, it makes no sense, security-wise, for our neighbors in the north to be inundated with Russian and Chinese tourists as well as alien workers. Thus, our tourism leaders can dream all they want but it is highly unlikely that Russia and China will be included in the new visa waiver program.

The federalization of the CNMI, the final implementing rules of which will be released in just a matter of weeks, is really meant to exert more control over the CNMI and by fait accompli link it closer to Guam, with our island as the dominant partner.

The closer integration of Guam and a satellite CNMI is a natural development given the military buildup. This integration would not only make it more convenient to manage security, it would also give the U.S. more areas for military use.

As for statehood, the third self-determination option, Guam can gain a lot of benefits from total integration with the United States.

But the real question under realpolitik is what’s in it for the United States? They already get their benefits from Guam under the island’s current political status as an unincorporated U.S. territory. Would the U.S. want the additional costs and responsibility that statehood would bring?

Of course, the situation is not totally hopeless. As Sen. Pangelinan pointed out, the stars may indeed be aligned for Guam’s self-determination with Rahall’s declaration of support, a more enlightened U.S. leader in President Obama, and a native son as an assistant secretary of the Department of Interior.

But unless we see truly concrete actions from the federal government in support of self-determination, let us welcome Rahall’s promise of support but not expect too much from it.

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