Domino theory, from Vietnam to the Middle East


—— Today, Feb. 22,  is the 25th anniversary when two of the Philippines’ Dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ top honchos, the Secretary of  Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, and the Deputy Chief of Staff , Gen. Fidel Ramos, withdrew their support for Marcos and barricaded themselves at the army headquarters at Camp Crame with a handful of soldiers loyal to them, and  the Cardinal of the Catholic Church called for the people to get out of their homes and block any movement of troops that Marcos might send to arrest the two who defected. Initially, there were just a few people who heeded the call ( including my parents). They did not trust Ramos and Enrile, but , it was an opportunity too great to ignore. It was nightime, and too dangerous to go out, nevertheless, a few braves ones did. They barricaded a part of a major highway leading to Camp Crame with their vehicles . There were only a few hundreds who were there that first night, but by daylight thousands arrived, and by then , it was already too late for Marcos to make a move. Tanks and thousands of soldiers arrived soon but they were blocked by hundreds of thousands of human barricade. ( My parents said it was Marcos’ mistake not to have made a move that night. There were so few of them barricading   the gates of Camp Crame. They could have been  dispersed so easily with just a few bursts of tear gases, and gunfire . =_=  )  Marcos went on TV to speak to the people, but he was cut off. Instructions to the protesters on where to go, what to do were made through Radio Veritas ( owned by the Catholic Church ) and Radio Bandido ( radio station taken over by a group of nuns and a celebrity ). By the 3rd day, the number of people swelled to millions, and on Feb. 26, Marcos was spirited out of the Presidential Palace ( by helicopters courtesy of US pilots based at Clark Air Base, then the biggest US military base outside of US.), taken to Clark, then to Guam, and finally Hawaii, where he died 3 years after.

So, why am I talking again about this People Power Revolution in the Philippines ?  This event in the Philippines is  eerily similar to what’s going on in the Middle East.  Authoritarian governments should learn that their power cannot last forever, Something is bound to snap  and something like this will inevitably happen when people finally withdraw their consent.   

Another similarity is the domino effect that follows . What is the domino theory? Fearing the spread of communism during the 1950’s, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower was the first one to put forth the idea that if one country came into the influence of communism, neighboring countries would potentially follow. The country he was referring to back then was French Indochina ( which  comprised of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos ). The VietMinh, a communist army from the north,  had already taken over North Vietnam after it defeated the French, the latter withdrawing and handing over governance to South Vietnam. Both sides wanted  reunification, but could not agree on what kind of government a united Vietnam would follow. Hence, the Vietnam war.    To make the long history short, though Vietnam , Cambodia, Laos and Burma had somehow followed the domino effect, communism did not spread into other neighboring countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  The fear that all South Asian countries would turn communist and  only a few countries ( Philippines, Japan, Australia ) would remain   as first line of defense againts the spread of communism did not materialize. Note: There was heavy US military presence in Japan and the Philippines, ( Subic Naval Base and Clark Air base in the Philippines, the largest military bases outside of the US )

Question :  Did the People Power have any influence on other countries burdened by similar authoritarian regimes ? People from other countries were ” inspired ” to imitate what happened in the Philippines.  It did , in a way, follow the Domino theory. South Korea, Pakistan, Burma ( brutally suppressed), Indonesia, Tiannamen Square in China, ( brutally supressed), Romania,  Berlin Wall, Russia… people took to the streets and managed to topple down their governments, all this happened  in a matter of 3 years.

Depending on an individual’s perspective, this domino theory has , again, reared its ugly head.  Tunisia was the first to be knocked over, followed by Egypt, now Libya. After the euphoria of a successful ” revolution ” in Tunisia and Egypt  dies down, what will happen next? Who follows next? Another dictator more vicious than the last one? A theocracy ? A government that will ban women from getting a tan?

Just musing…. PEACE!

7 responses to this post.

  1. The people, regardless of what country they are from, should not wait for a trend to brew first before they start budging in the face of an absolutist leader.

    And having succeeded in unseating a tyrant, if ever, is not enough. It’s just the start. Democracy, or what we call Edsa People Power here in the Phils, will only become real when the people actually get together and do their individual part to rebuild their nation.


    • The truth is, trends brew because a select few people don’t wait, then that movement grows until the trend becomes a revolution.

      And you couldn’t have it more right that unseating a tyrant is just the beginning. The hard part is keeping another tyrant from taking the old one’s place.


  2. Posted by John Ryan Recabar on February 24, 2011 at 4:55 am

    i could never agree more.


  3. I would argue that the Vietnam war was all started based on, well, nothing. It all began when a US submarine off the coast suspected it was being shot at and so it launched some missiles to Vietnam… Bam, war begins.

    Another important thing to realize was that the Vietnamese people really didn’t know wtf communism was… they were happy growing their rice and living simple lives and we busted in there to show them what democracy was. Half of them didn’t even know what they were fighting for. Complete waste.

    I also do agree with you. That power must end at some point, but look at Fidel in my homeland. Still there, still in power. Cuba is frozen in time and all the people that still remain could never revolt like the people in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya. Why? they don’t know any better. The regime has such a strong stranglehold for so long that the people are just there. Sad…


    • The North and South had been at war since the 1950’s. It was in 1961 that a large contingent of US personnel went to Vietnam as ” advisers”, In 1965, US Congress through Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution, allowed combat troops tp go to Vietnam. In fact, before combat troops were sent, there were more than 20,000 military ” advisers” already engaging in war activities in Vietnam.

      I would argue that the Vietnamese, in fact, knew what they were doing and what communism was for. In North Vietnam alone, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese catholics were allowed to emigrate to the South.

      I notice though that uprisings by the people would only be sucessful if the military sided with them. In every authoritarian regimes, they use the military to suppress the will of the people. That’s why the military are always well – fed, and the generals ( officers ) are well compensated financially.


      • Butting in. On your last point on military support. A BIG YES to that. For both EDSA uprisings here in the Philippines, the shift of support of the military away from the president was critical.


  4. Sometimes when we look back, more of those who have experienced the Marcos regime are saying that those times where better than what the country have right now. Although corruption is present during his regime, yet the economy of the country was strong enough, in fact one of the best in Asia. After him, most of the presidents can no longer bring back the performance brought by him.


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