Realism, institutionalism, and Philippine security

Leszek Buszynski

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Can a state entrust its security to multilateral security institutions? This indeed is a crucial issue for the many small and middle ranking powers that face particular and troubling external security problems. These states confront the dilemma of whether to rely on so-called realist notions of security that entail traditional defense, alliance-making, and balance of power concerns or shifting their interest and energy to multilateral institutions with the associated emphases on dialogue and preventive diplomacy. Much depends on the geographical position of these states. For those located in relatively threat-free and stable environments, the emphasis on multilateralism and institutionalism need not require extensive elaboration. But the lesser powers located in unstable regions or that have suddenly encountered new and disturbing security challenges must make an agonizing choice over which response to stress. The Philippines is one such middle power that has to face this security choice after having dispensed with the U.S. bases on its territory in 1992. At that time, their removal signified for many in the Philippines the beginning of a new age of peace that would allow the country to focus on economic stabilization. When it was discovered in 1995 that the People's Republic of China (PRC) had intruded into the Philippine claim area of the South China Sea, Manila experienced renewed fears of an external threat. Two general schools emerged on how to deal with threats that China's move exemplified. One took the broadly expressed view that the country needed to emphasize institution building, dialogue, multilateralism, and the avoidance of military provocation, particularly in relation to the PRC. The second school, which includes the security establishment and its political supporters, adopted a more traditional stance. It has fallen back on realist solutions such as seeking to establish a balance of power and strengthening the country's military alliances, in this case with the U.S. The process by which the Philippines formulated a response to the challenge posed by China will be examined in this article in terms of the roles that realism and institutionalism play in addressing state security
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)483-501
    JournalAsian Survey
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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