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Timely Daring: The United States and Ferdinand Marcos

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Abstract

What lessons can be drawn from American policy toward the Philippines in the crisis of 1983–1986? Maybe none, and that is unfortunate because at the climax of the crisis the United States government acted with timely daring to strengthen democratic forces in the Philippines, extract the autocratic Marcos from the situation, and minimize bloodshed. But such a success can not readily be repeated elsewhere. For policy daring to be both timely and effective, one must know well the culture, history and leaders with whom one is dealing. One must also possess suasive force backed by naked power, if necessary. Certainly among Asian nations, and perhaps among all nations, the Philippines has been unique in its susceptibility to American ideals and its proximity to American power.

Keywords

  • United States Government
  • American Action
  • American Policy
  • American Criticism
  • Opposition Leader

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References

  1. My view on the period 1983–1986 follows in part from conversations with several major actors, including the late Benigno Aquino, Jr., Jaime Cardinal Sin, General Fidel V. Ramos, Salvador P. Laurel, and American Ambassadors Michael Armacost and Stephen Bosworth. I have also benefitted from the criticism of John Bresnan and Stanley Kamow. Before publication of this article which is the basis of the present essay, “Marcos and the Philippines,” Orbis, Fall 1988, pp. 569–686, I offered President Marcos full opportunity for reply or correction. Only after publication did he provide a riposte: Ferdinand E. Marcos, “A Defense of My Tenure,” (Orbis, Winter 1989, pp. 91–96). My own rejoinder, “What Marcos Doesn’t Say,” follows in the same issue (pp. 97–105). The exchange between us represents, to my knowledge, the only published engagement with a critic that President Marcos undertook during his exile. He died in Honolulu on September 28, 1989.

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  2. William C. Hamilton, “United States Policy in the Period Leading to the Declaration of Martial Law and Its Immediate Aftermath,” in Carl Landé, ed., Rebuilding A Nation: Philippine Challenges and American Policy (Washington D.C.: The Washington Institute Press, 1987), pp. 505–515.

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  3. See Raymond Bonner, Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy (New York: Times Books, 1987), pp. 98–99, 112–120, quotation p. 112. Richard Nixon has declared (in a letter to The New York Times, June 7, 1987) that Bonner is wrong. Stanley Kamow’s account of the declaration of martial law is best researched and reasoned: In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York: Random House, 1989), pp. 356–360.

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  4. Primitivo Mijares, The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinandandlmelda Marcos (San Francisco, California: Union Square Publications, 1976). This book is now rare.

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  5. As evidence, however, that Mijares’s fate did not deter all other journalists, see Marcelo B. Soriano, ed., The Quiet Revolt of the Philippine Press (Manila: WE Forum, 1981).

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  6. Joaquin G. Bernas, S. J., “Constitutionalism after 1972,” in Ramon C. Reyes, ed., Budhi Papers, vol. 6 (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila, 1985), pp. 190–203.

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  7. For discussions of the assassination and cover-up, see Sandra Burton, Impossible Dream: The Marcoses, the Aquinos, and the Unfinished Revolution (New York: Warner Books, 1989), chapters 5, 6, 9, 10, 14.

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  8. This account is condensed from Bryan Johnson, The Four Days of Courage (New York: The Free Press, 1987).

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  9. Richard Kessler, “Marcos and the Americans,” Foreign Policy, Summer 1986, p. 57.

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© 1991 Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Friend, T. (1991). Timely Daring: The United States and Ferdinand Marcos. In: Pipes, D., Garfinkle, A. (eds) Friendly Tyrants. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-21676-5_10

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