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Thayer Philippines:Typhoon Haiyan and the U.S. Pivot

Thayer Philippines:Typhoon Haiyan and the U.S. Pivot

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An assessment of whether U.S. emergency assistance to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan was motivated by increasing leverage for the US policy of rebalancing to Asia.
An assessment of whether U.S. emergency assistance to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan was motivated by increasing leverage for the US policy of rebalancing to Asia.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Nov 23, 2013
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03/25/2014

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Background Brief Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan and the U.S. Pivot Carlyle A. Thayer November 17, 2013
[c
lient name deleted]
We request your assessment of whether the US military response to Typhoon Haiyan looks larger than usual and whether you think the US may be using this to leverage its rebalancing to Asia. US assistance
obviously contrasts sharply with China’s feeble
gestures. Our question is whether this response is bigger and could be more lasting than previous US relief efforts. ANSWER: The US has been able to respond to Typhoon Haiyan so quickly and so decisively because it had ships in the area and because it has solid working relations with the Philippines government and armed forces. Obviously the US response to the 2004 tsunami that struck Indonesia and elsewhere in the region was a larger effort. The decision to provide HA/DR (humanitarian assistance/disaster relief) to the Philippines would have been made by the Commander of the US Pacific Command. This is what PACOM trains for. Because the US and the Philippines are treaty allies and have protocols in place the US was able to act more decisively than elsewhere. Recall that US efforts to Indonesia in Aceh were initially hampered by some
Indonesian officials who didn’t want US uniformed personnel
on the ground. The US can only provide what the host nation permits. Recall also Cyclone Nargis in 2005 when the US assembled a relatively large task force but was prevented by the Myanmar government from directly flying in relief supplies to stricken areas. The military aspect of rebalance is about getting a certain proportion of navy ships stationed in the Asia-Pacific and then dispersing them. I doubt any US leader at The
Pentagon or elsewhere though “rebalance” and then “emergency aid to the
Philippines
.” The US force presence pre
- and post- rebalancing is all about being able to respond to a range of security challenges from conventional war to large-scale natural disasters. In my view, Typhoon Haiyan triggered a pre-programmed response to provide HA/DR as soon as feasible. The US has always been able to reap positive publicity from such humanitarian interventions. US assistance to Indonesia in 2004 led to a spike in public opinion polls which pre-tsumani were at an all-time low. The US intervened to provide humanitarian assistance not to improve its position in public opinion polls. The long-standing people-to-people relationship between the US and the Philippines would
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

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