|Philippine President Duterte.|
Many are concerned, it seems, with Canada’s sale of helicopters to the Philippines. The Duterte regime, after all, is a repressive totalitarian government. The same sort of concerns were raised not long ago about military sales to Saudi Arabia.
I have lived in both countries, and I think these concerns are wrongheaded.
The real issue for ordinary people in countries like the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, or China for that matter—I lived there too—is not repression by government. That barely enters the field of vision. It is chaos.
In such countries, nothing works. Far from being oppressive, government in particular seems to do nothing at all. Very expensively.
The problem, in short, is too little, not too much, government.
Canada, by contrast, is an example of a country that has too much government.
In daily life, the average person living in the Philippines, China, or Saudi Arabia has far more personal freedoms than a Canadian. The Canadian government is, in practice, far more totalitarian.
But chaos is hardly preferable. It is hard to make any money or to be secure in your possessions. Or even to manage something simple like getting a telephone hooked up. My own current headache is trying to figure out how to get signed up to pay Philippine taxes. You’d think the government would want this. You’d think they’d make it easy…
As a result, in the mind of the man in the street, a tough guy coming in and cracking a few heads is cause for hope, not for concern. Sure, it may turn sour; but that is a purely secondary worry. Duterte was elected. There was a reason for that, and Canada has no moral right to challenge the will of the Philippine people. You want to condemn colonialism? That’s colonialism.
The average Filipino or Saudi probably welcomes the helicopters and the ATVs for the same reason.
Among other things, the Philippines has a large domestic terrorist threat from ISIS/Al Qaeda.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, look on a map and get real. Who are her neighbours, and do they model a much better way? Iran? Iraq? Syria? Egypt? Yemen? How many different ways can you spell “chaos”? Granted, the Gulf Emirates seems to have done better—but following the same system as Saudi Arabia. Saudi also hardly lives in a peaceful neighbourhood. Everything it has is under constant and direct threat. It has a need for and a right to the weapons to protect itself. In context, they are clearly the good guys.
Better government will probably come to Saudi Arabia or to the Philippines eventually, in the same way and for the same reasons it has come to such other nations as South Korea or Taiwan within recent memory. A stable, healthy democracy tends to arrive with the development of a large, financially independent middle class.