This year will mark a decade and a half of hearing the phrase “war on terror” as a normal part of the United States’ national parlance. In that same span of time, the term “undisputed victory” has become as rare as the preceding is ubiquitous—perhaps only the death of bin Laden afforded Americans the same outpouring of raw jubilation, reminiscent of V-E or V-J Day. But before and since, clear-cut successes have been practically indiscernible. Afghanistan is a morass, and northern Iraq resembles something out of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s most feverish dreams. ISIS has managed to franchise its brand with more adroitness than Starbucks, while the American ethos of “homeland security”—another platitude for the ages—remains as finely honed as ever.
This is why the Philippines is so important.