MANILA, Philippines -- There was a time when American military leaders worried about whether wobbly allies would rally to us when it came time to stand up to the Soviets. Now it's our allies who worry about us.
After a month in the Western Pacific -- most of it spent in Korea and the Philippines while shooting documentaries for our FOX News "War Stories" series -- it appears that some of our closest allies are increasingly anxious about American resolve. While in Manila, an old comrade in arms -- we both served in Vietnam -- put it succinctly: "To your best friends in this part of the world, it looks as though you are tearing yourselves to pieces, repeating what we watched you do over Vietnam. It hurt all of us for 30 years."
Echoes of this concern were heard repeatedly in off-the-record conversations with active and retired military officers and senior government officials. Shortly after Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace was sacked, a senior Philippine military officer asked me bluntly, "Do the politicians in Washington know that changing generals won't stop the Islamic jihadis from trying to kill you?"
It's a fair question, and one for which the only reasonable answer is: "apparently not." English language newspapers here quoted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid describing Gen. Pace as "incompetent" and highlighted proclamations by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reid declaring that Gen. David Petraeus' troop surge in Iraq is a "failure."
Shortly after I completed an on-camera interview with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a member of the Manila press corps showed me a wire service report about a letter that Reid and Pelosi had sent to President Bush, in which the two Democrats pledged, "we intend to again send you legislation that would limit the U.S. mission in Iraq, begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces, and bring the war to a responsible end." The reporter then asked, "Does this mean U.S. troops will leave here as well?" I could only respond: "I hope not."
Here in the Philippines, where U.S. Special Operations troops have been quietly helping the government wage a successful campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organizations, there should be no doubt about U.S. resolve. However, as so often happens with sophisticated allies, leaders here are looking beyond the immediate situation -- and hedging their bets.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.