The statement in my column of Feb. 4 that Reagan administraton officials leaked evidence that Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos had fabricated a record as an anti-Japanese guerilla in World War II was incorrect. I am satisfied that the evidence emerged through the work of independent investigators.
It is fitting that a Philippine election called by George Will should end in an orgy of American meddling. It was, you will remember, in response to a Will question in a live TV interview that President Ferdinand Marcos unexpectedly announced a snap election. Since then, Congress, the administration and the media have been unrelenting in their efforts to influence the outcome of the election. By that they mean 1)to make it fair and 2)to defeat Marcos (1 and 2 being taken, by most, to be the same thing).
Nothing covert to this operation. Administration officials leak evidence, buried for 40 years, that Marcos fabricated his history as an anti-Japanese guerrilla in World War II, a myth around which Marcos' entire persona is built. It becomes a major campaign issue for his opponent, Corazon Aquino.
Other administration officials then make it clear through private (!) conversations with a New York Times correspondent that they want Marcos removed from office. The hope is that, if not the electoral process, God will issue the recall.
At the same time, a House subcommittee holds hearings on massive Marcos holdings in the United States. Imelda ("Don't cry for me, Manila") Marcos owns real estate in New York worth, it seems, $350 million. The hearings, previously closed, were opened in January. The election is Feb. 7.
And now comes a former foreign minister of the Philippines, Raul Manglapus, to urge more American meddling. The election-monitoring team led by Sen. Richard Lugar, he says, should not just stand around a few polling places to rubber stamp the election. It should intervene -- with the military, with the media, with Marcos' party apparatus -- to ensure a clean election.
American interventionism? So what, says Manglapus. The United States intervenes all over the place. Why not here?
Precisely. Notice how few people, American or Filipino, seem to be bothered by all this "interference in the internal affairs of other countries," as the phrase goes. And rightly so. In friendly countries ruled by dictators, it should be the policy of the United States to meddle on behalf of a "third force," a democratic alternative to a pro-American despot on the one hand and communist insurgents on the other.
In such countries, "third force" politics should be the theme of American diplomacy. With one proviso: the democratic center must exist, and not just in the imagination of Americans. The caveat is important. If there truly is no center, as was the case in Iran at the time of the shah's overthrow, supporting a nonexistent center means having a nonexistent policy. It almost certainly means dealing ourselves out and destroying our friends.
The Philippines has a third force, an enormously vibrant center now clustered around Mrs. Aquino. In El Salvador, the center, clustered around President Jose Napoleon Duarte, is less solid, but solid enough, with strong American backing, to sustain Duarte against far left and far right.
In Chile, too, the administration is cautiously but resolutely pursuing a "third force" policy. The new U.S. ambassador has been openly sympathetic to the democratic opposition. And the State Department has warmly supported the "national accord" signed by a range of political parties (excluding communists and extreme rightists) representing 80 percent of the electorate and calling for a return to democracy. Gen. Augusto Pinochet is not amused. He complains that the United States is violating the principles of sovereignty. And so it is.
Marcos, no doubt, has the same complaint. And one can find a few Americans to agree with him. Some conservatives, like Robert Novak, for example. A supporter of American intervention in places such as Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan and Cambodia, Novak is shocked -- shocked! -- to find interference in the internal affairs of other countries going on in the Philippines. Hypocrisy about meddling, however, is a two-party game. Liberals profess to be appalled by one or the other of Novak's favorite anticommunist interventions. But when it comes to the Philippines, sovereignty loses some of its sacredness. Liberals who will tell you that we have no right to dictate who should rule in Managua are leading the charge in Manila -- orchestrating, for example, the House hearings, a transparent election- eve discrediting campaign.
I'm all for the hearings. I'm all for discrediting Marcos and his kleptocracy. I'm all for intervention. What I fail to see is why the sovereignty of a dictatorship of one ideological color may be violated, but not that of another.
In other words, I don't see how semi-interventionists can hope to get away with it. Left and right have their pet interventions, but, when dealing with despots more to their liking, they are suddenly stricken with high-mindedness about noninterference and some such "principle."
Why not come clean and admit this principle: that out of strategic necessity and moral duty the United States should and will intervene in the world to promote democracy where it can, i.e., wherever it can do so without unbearable cost or risk.
We have started to face our responsibilities in the Philippines. Other democrats around the world have the right to ask: Why not here, too?