Failure to launch

At the 23rd anniversary celebration of Palau’s independence in October, Vice President Raynold “Arnold” Oilouch recalled the questions that saddled Palauans when they headed to the polls that would seal the future of their nation: “Do we know what we are getting ourselves into? Can Palau survive as independent nation?”

The same questions confront each of the remaining colonies in the 21st century — including Guam. But such questions are more of a reflection of self-doubts that beget answers only when one takes the plunge. The post-trusteeship period presented the answers, Oilouch said. “Yes, yes, yes; we can. It has been a successful 23 years for our young republic; we are a stronger nation today than we were when we started 23 years ago,” Oilouch said.

Palau chose to be a sovereign state in free association with its former colonizer. It may not be perfect—no political system is— but Palau takes pride in its maturity, having made a decision to transition toward self-determination that involves great responsibility. Its feats and failures are its own.

On Guam, when things go wrong, our leaders point to the territory’s weak political status as the default cop-out that perpetuates the victim mentality. Under its current sta