Foreign Relations Disconnect: The Dangers of Bombastic Rhetoric

I have watched with interest how the Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, interacts with the international community.  In vague swaths, his bombastic remarks about the United States of America and its future relationship are seemingly unsynchronized with that of military leaders, established policy, signed treaties and its diplomats. (1) 

Another example occurs when he states “I am serving notice now to the Americans, this will be the last military exercise,” regarding the upcoming American-Filipino Military exercise during a press conference yet does not provide such formal notice via appropriate diplomatic channels.  (State Department spokesman John Kirby said he was not aware of any official notification from the Philippines about ending joint exercises.) (2)

This is disturbing as one can draw an analogue with American presidential candidate Donald Trump.  When there is detachment between rhetoric and reality, there is a gap between words and actions.  This creates uncertainty, doubt and mistrust. While the Philippines is an important regional power, the ramifications of its conflicting remarks have international reverberation and repercussions that are less pronounced, impactful and enduring than mixed signals emanating from the American President, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of State.  This is not an endorsement of one American candidate over another; rather a discussion about the stability, predictability and integrity of American communications warrants strong consideration by American voters as a factor in the calculus of selecting a president.


1. Enrico Dela Cruz and Manuel Mogaro, Reuters, Philippines guarantees U.S. deal intact as Duterte’s salvos test ties, September 13, 2016.  Retrieved September 13, 2016.

2. Martin Petty, Reuters, Duterte declares upcoming Philippines-U.S. war games ‘the last one’, September 29, 2016.  Retrieved September 29, 2016.



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