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Notes from the Editors, March 2002

» Notes from the Editors
Notes from the Editors, March 2002
» Notes from the Editors

In January, with no public discussion and little fanfare, Washington began the first major extension of its “war on terrorism” beyond Afghanistan by sending U.S. troops into the Philippines. The contingent of nearly 700 troops, including 160 Special Forces soldiers, was sent to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which consists of a number of islands and one major city, and is populated chiefly by a few million Moros (Muslim Filipinos). The mission of the U.S. forces has been to “assess” the military situation, provide military advice, and “train” the 7000 Philippine soldiers currently pursuing the guerrillas of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) operating in the southern islands of Basilan and Jolo.

The Philippine Constitution forbids foreign troops fighting on its territory, and in the early 1990s the Philippines refused to renew the leases on U.S. military bases. The arrival of U.S. soldiers on a “training” mission that targets Moro guerrillas thus threatens a constitutional crisis. The Philippine government over the last few months has already several times officially rejected Washington’s offers to send U.S. troops to engage in combat. Nevertheless, the U.S. troops that have now arrived are likely to do everything but engage in actual combat with the guerrilla forces, and they are authorized to fire back if fired upon.

The Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, whose name means “Bearer of the Sword,” have carried out numerous kidnappings, using the ransoms obtained from the kidnappings to finance their operations. They are currently holding a Filipino nurse and two U.S. missionaries. In justifying its intervention, the United States claims that the ASG has past connections to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. (Like bin Laden, Abduragak Abubakar Janjalani, the Abu Sayyaf’s former leader, killed in fighting in 1998, got his start in the CIA-sponsored war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.) The ASG has received strong support from the local Moro population, making it difficult for the Philippine army to defeat them. At present there are about 150,000 people across the region displaced by warfare

Although U.S. troops have been sent to help combat the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, the real, long-term target may be two larger, more popular political movements in the region: the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which signed a peace agreement in 1996 that contributed to the political establishment of the ARMM, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which refused to sign the peace agreement and has only recently negotiated a ceasefire, after an all-out war on the MILF by the Philippine army in 2000. (See John Gersham, “U.S. Takes Antiterrorism War to the Philippines,” Foreign Policy in Focus[January 25, 2002] http://www.fpif.org; International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, “Abu Sayyaf Group” http://www.ict.org.il; New York Times [January 18, 2002].)

In getting involved in an internal conflict in the Philippines under the rubric of extending its “war on terrorism,” the United States is once again reviving memories of U.S. imperialism in the region. A century ago the U.S. military was engaged in a pitiless war in the Philippines in what ranks as one of the most brutal colonial wars in all of history. It should surprise no one therefore that Filipinos are now protesting outside the U.S. embassy in Manila, carrying placards that say “Fight U.S. Imperialist Intervention” and chanting “Yankee go home!” (New York Times, January 25, 2002). Washington, however, is unlikely to listen unless mass protests in the United States are added to those of the Filipino people.

The American Economic Association’s Journal of Economic Perspectives includes in each issue a section edited by Bernard Saffran entitled “Recommendations for Further Reading,” the stated purpose of which is to provide information on published articles “that may be especially useful to teachers of undergraduate economics, as well as other articles that are of broader cultural interest.” In the fall 2001 issue, this column singled out for detailed treatment Richard B. DuBoff and Edward S. Herman’s article, “Mergers, Concentration and the Erosion of Democracy,” published in the May 2001 issue of MR. Naturally, we agree on the importance of DuBoff and Herman’s work, which in our opinion should be required reading in all undergraduate economics courses in the United States concerned with explaining the current tendencies of the U.S. economy.

We would like to draw your attention to an ad in this issue for a new website dedicated to the important 1950s publication, the American Socialist. MR readers will be interested to know that the American Socialist was not only coedited by Harry Braverman, it was where many of the ideas later found in Labor and Monopoly Capital were first explored, in a 1955 article entitled “Automation: Promise and Menace.” In July-August 1958 MR published nine articles on U.S. labor that were published simultaneously in the American Socialist , representing a joint effort between the two magazines. That issue became the basis for the Monthly Review Press book, Labor in Mid-Passage (1959). The American Socialist folded in December 1959 after six years of publication. MR’s editors made an arrangement with the editors of that magazine to fulfill the unexpired subscriptions of all of their readers, who were welcomed to MR with the hope that they would stay. Harry Braverman went into book publishing and later became Director of Monthly Review Press. We think that those among our readers who visit the American Socialist website will find that despite its relatively short lifetime, it represented a singularly important effort to advance the cause of socialism in the United States.

We recently received notice of the death on November 11, 2001, at age eighty-five, of Arthur K. Davis, who was a frequent contributor to MR in the 1950s and early 1960s. In addition to numerous articles, such as “Juvenile Delinquency Under Capitalism and Socialism” (September 1956), he wrote reviews of such important books as: Scott Nearing’s Economics for the Power Age, Paul Sweezy’s The Present as History, Agnes Smedley’s The Great Road, C. Wright Mills’ The Sociological Imagination, and Fritz Pappenheim’s The Alienation of Modern Man. Davis’ article on Veblen’s later essays for the special MR issue on Veblen (August 1957) is one of the more insightful contributions to the understanding of Veblen’s thought. At the time of his death he was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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