What Communists, guerrillas, oppositionists, nationalists, students and politicians failed over 45 years to accomplish, Mount Pinatubo accomplished over a weekend. Monday, the Americans left Clark Air Force Base on six hours notice -- dependents, planes, bombs and all. Only a security force remains to guard the place. Can the U.S. maintain Pacific Rim strategic security without Clark? It is doing so this very minute.
Negotiations over a new bases pact with the Philippines government of President Corazon Aquino have been desultory despite a Sept. 30 lease expiration. But an erupting volcano, active for the first time since 1380, concentrates the mind. The eruption began with a huge explosion; the ash plume could be seen 60 miles away in Manila
The U.S. position on Clark and the Subic Bay Naval Station and related facilities is changing. They are no longer indispensable. The U.S. is reducing its military posture. The Soviet Union has receded as a threat to the Pacific Rim and to the world. More self-reliance is expected of such large military establishments as Japan's and South Korea's. The U.S. still has facilities on Guam, Okinawa and Japan, and nuclear missiles stationed at sea. Longer-range capabilities turn continental U.S. bases themselves into deterrents.