REFLECTIONS ON AN ACADEMIC RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP IN THE U.S.
Roland G. Simbulan
In the summer of 1996, I was fortunate to be awarded a two-month visiting research fellowship to the United States. This was from April 9, 1996 to June 9, 1996, when I was invited to be a research fellow of the Asia Pacific Center and the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.. This included a one-month stay in Washington, D.C. and another month of research, travel and lecture tour in the American cities of New York City, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. The research fellowship offered me an rare opportunity for professional and intellectual growth through a combination of research, observation, lectures and networking.
The Asia Pacific Center in Washington, D.C. was my main sponsor and hosting institution for the research project, ” Post Cold War U.S. foreign and Military Policy in the Asia Pacific.” Washington, DC is the best location for this type of policy research because, besides its being the nerve-center of the U.S. federal government, it has also the heaviest concentration of “think tanks” and policy-research institutes than in any part of the world. In fact, this is one of the biggest industries here. The nation’s capital is also the site of some of the best research facilities in the word and as a Filipino visitor, it was on top of my list of U.S. cities because all of its museums such as the Smithsonian, have free admission unlike in other cities of the United States.
The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) also in Washington, D.C., invited me to use their research and library facilities and I had the rare opportunity to interact regularly with the Senior Fellows of the IPS who are among America’s leading social scientists and intellectuals : Richard Barnett, Saul Landau, John Schurman, etc..
In Washington, D.C., I got familiarized with the structures and dynamism involved in U.S. foreign and military policy for Asia, the various components of external decisions for Asia, and U.S. officials’ views on issues such as the post Cold War environment, U.S. strategy shifts, and the current focus and priorities in America’s Asian policy. My research brought me face-to-face with M. Janice Fleck, Director of the Office of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore Affairs, at the U.S. State Department headquarters at Foggy Bottom, Wash.,D.C.; Commander Dean Wanderer, International Security Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense (Pentagon Bldg.) and Mr. Robert Suettinger, head of the Asia Affairs Directorate of the National Security Council, whose offices are in the White House and which reports directly and advises the U.S. President on Asia-Pacific issues.
At the Pentagon (U.S. Department of Defense) where I was given a 2-hour tour in the nerve-center of America’s global military forces, I found inscribed on their commemorative wall the U.S.’ involvement against the ” Philippine Insurrection, 1899-1913″ !! I also interviewed two former members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Mc Lean,Virginia, and a former CIA operative, Mr. Ralph Mc Gehee who served in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan for 25 years. Mr. Mc Gehee told me that he became disillusioned with the CIA because of its direct involvement in the assassination of foreign leaders and nationals as in Operation Phoenix in Vietnam where an estimated 20,000 Vietnamese suspected of being sympathizers of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam were assassinated. While in Washington, D.C., I also visited the international headquarters of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) whose buildings are face
face along Pennsylvania Avenue. No wonder World Bank-IMF are normally mentioned together!
Three important research and library institutions should never be overlooked in Washington, D.C.:
(1) the Library of Congress, considered the largest collection of books and manuscripts in the world and no hi-tech with its computerized catalogue system and housed in the Jefferson Bldg.(Main), the Madison and Adams Buildings;
(2) the U.S. National Archives with a new additional annex building in Maryland where I saw an 1897 map of Manila which I photocopied and brought back home;
(3) the National Security Archives of George Washington University, a specialized archive of declassified U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and which now has become the world’s largest non-governmental library of declassified documents. The National Security Archives contains 23,000 pages of declassified documents on the Philippines, especially those covering U.S. policy during the Marcos years, from 1965 to 1986.
At Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., I had lengthy discussions with a friend, Prof. James Clad, former New Zealand diplomat and former Manila Bureau Chief of the Far Eastern Economic Review, who now coordinates the Asia Studies Program of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. While in Washington, D.C., I also attended the following conferences : at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (April 17); Georgetown University Seminar on International Relations ; and the International Forum on Globalization held at George Washington University(May 10-12, 1996).
Finally, I also interviewed and had interactions with Senior Fellows of the following leading research institutions in Washington, D.C. : Brookings Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Policy, the Institute of Political Economy, the Center for Defense Information, Institute of World Politics, the Heritage Foundation, and the Center for Security Policy. I also had an interesting one-hour interview (videotaped) with Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, former Commander of the Aircraft Carrier MIDWAY, and who is also now deputy director of the Center for Defense Information (CDI).
On June 3, 1996 before coming back to the Philippines, I gave a seminar of my initial findings at the Asia Pacific Center in Washington, D.C. before an audience of academics, researchers, NGO advocates, professionals and church-people.
New York City
In New York City, I gave a lecture on May 3 on “Security Issues in the Asia Pacific”, at the United Charities Building at Park Avenue.
In New York City, I also visited the office of The Council for Foreign Relations, headed then by Mr. Harold Brown, former Department of Defense Secretary, is one of the most influential policy think tanks on foreign policy since the 1950s, that is utilized by the U.S. government. CFR is composed of former officials of the State and Defense Departments, academics and specialists on foreign policy. I met their Asia Program director, Dr. James Shinn. I also had discussions with Dr. Robert Radtke, Senior Program Officer of the Asia Society whose main office is also in New York City. The Asia Society President was then Mr. Nicholas Platt, former U.S,. Ambassador to Manila.
The highlight of my Boston visit from May 4-8, 1996 was my talk before students and faculty at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Center for International Studies at Harvard University. I was hosted in Boston by Dr. Boone Schirmer and Peggy Schirmer. Boone is a prominent American historian on the Philippine – American War and author of Republic or Empire? Boone and Peggy Schirmer also organized a reception-dinner at their home for me on May 5 which was attended by 24 people.
I was most fortunate to visit the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and interview one of America’s leading intellectuals par excellence — Professor NOAM CHOMSKY at M.I.T.’s Department of Linguistics. My interview with Professor Chomsky on the post Cold War U.S. policy was taped and the transcribed text of that interview was published later by a national daily in Manila.
From May 13-18, 1996, I was in Chicago where my itinerary was no less hectic. I had an interesting luncheon meeting with Dr. Dale Johnson, Director of the East Asian Studies Program of the University of Chicago, May 15. I was interviewed over National Public Radio (NPR) in Chicago and heard live in the Midwest region; I was also interviewed by Philippine News, and Philippine Times, community papers of the Filipino-American community. I was also interviewed by the local Filipino cable TV in Chicago, Philippine Report, over my views on Philippine politics and U.S.-Philippine relations for one hour. My panel of interviewers consisted of host and producer of the show, Veronica Leighton. Mariano Santos, a columnist of Viva Times, and Orly Bernardino, publisher of the Philippine Weekly.
In the evening of May 15, I spoke before an audience of 70 people in midtown Chicago on “U.S. Military Access”; the following evening, I delivered a lecture before students and faculty of the University of Illinois – Chicago where I met Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, a geologist who specializes on Lahar at the University of Illinois.
I was hosted here from May 17-20 by Dr. Paul Bloom and his wife, Meg, both soil scientists at the University of Minnesota (PSGM). They organized a reception meeting and house meeting for the Philippine-American community and University of Minnesota academics where I spoke before at least 20 people. Dr. Paul Bloom has been to the Philippines as a member of the U.S. scientific team which was invited by the Philippines-Bases Cleanup Task Force to do investigative work on toxic and hazardous wastes left behind by the U.S. forces at Clark air and Subic naval bases.
I was co-hosted here from May 20-24 by Dr. Jorge Emmanuel and Mr. Saul Bloom of the Arms Research Center (ARC). I visited the University of California-Berkely’s Institute for East Asian Studies now headed by Dr. Robert Scalapino. I was also fortunate to visit and discuss with Dr. Richard Wilson, Director of the Center for Asia Pacific Affairs at the Asia Foundation international headquarters in San Francisco. I likewise visited the Nautilus Pacific Research in Berekely and the Arms Research Center (ARC) whose director was kind enough to give me an ocular driving tour of Alameda, Hunters Point, and Presidio active military facilities in the Bay Area now being considered for economic utilization. In Berkeley, I was interviewed by KPFA Raddio and KNZA Radio as well as interviewed on tape at their studio by their local television KTSF-Channel 26 on U.S. foreign policy in Asia. I emphasized in that interview that while the U.S. is trying to
keep the Taiwan Straits safe, it cannot even keep the secrets of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., safe for American children, and that slashes and cut-backs are being experienced on health programs, education, welfare programs, etc.., while the U.S. defense budget is steadily at $260 billion even in the post Cold War, post Soviet era!
Upon my arrival at Los Angeles, I had a meeting with Dr. Ike de la Cruz, Assistant Director of the Asian American Studies Center of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA); and also with Dr. Tong and Dr. Richard Kopke of their Economics Department. That same evening of May 24, I was invited to speak before the FILAM Press Club of Los Angeles. Two house meetings and receptions were additionally organized for me by the Filipino community where I was asked to give a talk on the Philippine situation and economy.
I was in Seattle on May 28-30. In Seattle, Washington State, which is the home of BOEING aircraft corporation, Microsoft, and Starbucks Cafes, I had meetings at the National Bureau on Asian Research, University of Washington, and the Institute for Global Security Studies.
The Maryknoll Development Center for the Northeast region, under Fr. Tom Marti based in Seattle, sponsored a seminar-discussion on May 29, where I spoke before 20 people on “Current U.S.-Philippine Relations”. I was also interviewed by Maryknoll Radio, U.S.A., which is often replayed by Vatican Radio.
Insights and Recommendations
My research tries to describe the continuing search for a rational post Cold War U.S.-Asian policy by describing the role and functions of the various elements of the U.S. foreign policy system in order to give Philippine and Asian policy groups and decision-makers a better idea of who to target for their foreign policy demands and what can be realistically be expected from them. I now know the U.S. foreign policy establishment better and can draw a clearer face for it. I hope that my final work on this will be able to identify the U.S. foreign policy process and apparatus to pinpoint entry points and vulnerabilities.
It is said that “Knowledge is power”. It is only by thoroughly knowing who does what, when, and how in the U.S. foreign policy establishment in Washington, can Asian advocacy groups work effectively with their U.S. NGO counterparts for their pursuits of the Asian peoples’ regional and national agendas. Perhaps, more important than knowing the structures is having some insights on their views of regional issues like U.S. military access, APEC, regional threats, liberalized economic and environmental policies, the arms trade in Asia and other recurring issues.
I have been privileged to have this rare opportunity to analyze not only the political structure of the U.S. and its foreign policy structures, but also the internal politics as well as recent developments in their economy which have been impacted on us in Asia such as the huge U.S. budgetary-deficit and trade competitiveness.
I hope that my final and detailed conclusions can help provide Asian peoples and governments information and guidelines in shaping our foreign policies towards the United States. This visit and research has given me the additional tools of research and exposed me to various alternative analyses – both progressive and establishment – that are needed for meaningful assessment and interpretation of U.S. foreign policy information on the Asia Pacific. I now feel more confident in making timely assessments of U.S. policy, strategy, and focus in Asia based on hard evidence, and the concrete date I have gathered.
I believe that Asia-U.S. or Philippine-U.S. relations will usher in a new era of mutuality, if it is characterized by knowledge and transparency.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in Oct 20th 2011