The world is witnessing a replay of the Cold War after reports of Russia’s alleged hacking of US elections last November. The hacking, according to US intelligence, was meant to favor Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. In a show of resolve before exiting the White House this month, President Barack Obama announced draconian steps to punish Vladimir Putin starting with the expulsion of 31 Russian diplomats and the closing down of Moscow’s two diplomatic establishments in Washington and Maryland suspected of being used for spying activity.
Putin is expected to retaliate by expelling the same number of American diplomats in Moscow but has not officially announced a tit-for-tat measure. But expect Putin to do likewise. Not to do so would make the former head of the KGB look bad in the eyes of the Russian people.
This recent development in geopolitical skirmishing is reminiscent of the time when former President Richard Nixon called Russia, China and North Korea the “Axis of Evil.” There are signs in the horizon for a déjà vu with Beijing‘s aggressive action in the South China Sea territorial dispute and Pyongyang’s constant nuclear saber rattling. North Korea has threatened to fire missiles toward South Korea and Japan, including the US West Coast. How much longer can the US keep its cool before it pulls a preemptive strike against the mentally unhinged Kim Jong Un?
Will a brash Donald Trump do a George Bush who gave the order for US forces to invade Iraq? North Korean provocation might just prove too much to give the US an excuse to unleash its full arsenal against Kim. We hope not, as it could draw Chinese and Russian intervention that could spark a wider conflagration in Asia.
Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte continues to unleash more verbal abuse against the US. He dared the US to file a human rights case in the United Nations for the criticism on Manila’s war on drugs. The US, he said, has a lot of lawyers so why doesn’t it file a complaint in the UN?
This is an issue where Duterte knows he’s standing on solid ground. The drug menace in the country has affected almost every family of social and economic background. One may call the drug scourge as a great social leveler.
The Philippines, however, has other problems needing the President’s attention. Filipinos do not want a one-dimensional president, who focuses too much attention on the campaign against illegal drugs. While a great majority of civil society support Duterte’s relentless war on drugs, there as many who are also clamoring for reforms in the public transport system, the monstrous traffic problem, the high rate of unemployment and the increasing number of hungry Filipinos. There are some 2.4-million Filipinos working overseas because of the lack of gainful employment here. Duterte could bring home at least half a million of our countrymen home by providing them with decent jobs so they could be with their families back home.
The Duterte administration’s campaign promises to reduce unemployment and boost agricultural production particularly in Mindanao could be the answer to the proverbial question of how to generate jobs. Another area where jobs can be made available would be in the government’s infrastructure projects. To solve the gridlocked traffic in Metro Manila, construction of expressways, bridges and opening of new roads can provide unemployment albeit not on a long-term basis. It will at least provide employment to many of our countrymen who risk far from ideal work conditions in the Middle East and even as far as Africa.
While in New York on a month-and-a-half sabbatical, my wife and I saw “The Great Comet,” a musical play on Broadway.
It’s hardly a great title for a Broadway musical but the expensive 100 dollars for each ticket was a Christmas gift from a son and daughter who knew I was a big fan of the singer Josh Groban. True enough, the Israeli-American’s repertoire and the range of his voice enthralled us. It was worth the trip from the suburb in Long Island to New York City; we braved the 32-degree winter cold plus a light sprinkling of snow.
“There’s too much activity going on I cannot follow what it said,” said the portly gentleman on the seat in front of me on the mezzanine floor during intermission. The performers, including Groban, went up four rows in front of us as they sang and danced along the aisles. It was an evening of delightful and heady music in an interpretation of the novel “ War and Peace.”