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Thread: Small War on Basilan (catch all)

  1. #21
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Not so much urgent (as many of Wilson's interventions weren't urgent per se), although we do have a massive addition to instant gratification....
    I’ve seen so much management by urgency that I am convinced a lot of people are confused about the concept. When I hear the word I think careening bus or CPR rather than the kind of institutional financial issue that I have been told is so urgent that I really should be good enough to postpone my reimbursement for six months. By my definition that issue can’t be urgent. But maybe there’s a reason I don’t get paid the big bucks like middle management.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Bob,

    I don't disagree with your drum beat, I can dance to it, but too often you hijack forums that are focused on different issues. Despite the flawed strategy approach and other issues I won't address here, the one issue that we may be able to address is improving our security force assistance system.

    Dayuhan, advise and assist authorities only gets you so far, so I think there needs to be some expectation management/strategic communications to clarify the limits of our support.

    I don't think our time there was wasted, but agree we certainly didn't maximize our return on investment.

    As for good governance, and Bob knows this, the JSOTF has actually done quite a bit to assist with good governance at the local level, and they improved helped improve the relationship between the populace and the military in many areas, but obviously southern Basilan is not one of those areas.

    It frustrates the hell out me that whether it is in Afghanistan, the Philippines, or elsewhere we can't accomplish relatively simple objectives like developing effective security forces due to a number of factors, but most prevalent is a failed SC/SA system.

    I have no hope of improving our overall strategy.

  3. #23
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    .I'm no expert on the military side, but there seems to be a repeating pattern of Philippine forces walking into these situations and taking heavy casualties, and a continuing inability to rapidly reinforce or support forces that run into trouble in the field. I have to wonder if US training and material support, which has been in place for quite a while now, is doing anything to address that.
    I know nothing about the Philippine Army and Marines so I have some questions. Do they have a well developed NCO corps? Are the junior officers, a junior officer would I assume be leading a 41 man unit, selected for merit or something else? How experienced would he have been? Would the Marine guys who were around in 2007, not just the ones in the fight, still be around the area and if they were would they and the Army talk to each other?

    These questions are prompted by Dayuhan's observation that the same thing happened in the almost the same place before.
    Last edited by carl; 10-21-2011 at 10:38 PM.
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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    As for good governance, and Bob knows this, the JSOTF has actually done quite a bit to assist with good governance at the local level, and they improved helped improve the relationship between the populace and the military in many areas, but obviously southern Basilan is not one of those areas.
    This is optimistic, I think. I don't think there's been any real lasting impact on local governance. People on Basilan realize that the American presence has brought additional resources and that the military and civilian leaders behave better when Americans are watching, and they appreciate that. They also know that the same people are in charge, there's been no effort to impose accountability on previous acts of corruption, collusion, and abuse, and that as soon as the Americans leave the status quo ante will return.

    Realistically, I don't see any way that advice and assistance from the US military is going to have any real impact on the black hole of local governance and civil-military relations on Basilan or Jolo. It's too much to expect. On the other hand, I can see how US military advice and assistance could help the Philippine military use its existing resources more effectively, improve their small unit tactics, and develop practices that would help prevent incidents like this. That wouldn't address the root causes of the war, but realistically nothing the US does is going to address the root causes of the war.

    Obviously these incidents can't be counted as failure of the US "advise and assist" mission: you can't make anyone follow advice. It does raise the question of whether maintaining the mission in the form it's taken over the last decade is going to achieve significant incremental gains. My own feeling is that we've accomplished most of what we can, and that it wouldn't be a bad idea to start packing up. I also think it would be a good idea to state, bluntly and publicly, that in our opinion we've done all we can, and that ultimately this insurgency is driven not by AQ or international extremism, but by governance issues that can only resolved by the Philippine government.

    If it were up to me I'd have the local CIA station draw up a detailed report on collusion, corruption, and abuse and how they sustain the insurgency and cripple the COIN effort, naming names and giving specifics. The end recommendation would be that the US needs to withdraw, because until the Philippine government gets serious about bringing its own people within the rule of law there's nothing meaningful we can accomplish. I'd have them e-mail the thing back to the home office with a direct cc to Wikileaks.

    These issues need to be addressed by the Philippine government, but as long as they can keep the issues in the shadows, the Philippine government will avoid addressing them, because they are very uncomfortable issues. The US can't address or resolve the issues, but we can put a spotlight on them and help get them out of the shadows, which I think in the long run will help a lot more than trying to paper over the cracks and pretend the system just needs a minor bit of tuning up.

    Of course it's not up to me and never will be, which I admit might be a good thing
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Posted by Dayuhan,

    I also think it would be a good idea to state, bluntly and publicly, that in our opinion we've done all we can, and that ultimately this insurgency is driven not by AQ or international extremism, but by governance issues that can only resolved by the Philippine government.
    Two points, first I am in general agreement with your comment above as truth today; however, there were some ties to AQ (very loose) previously, and of JI played a role due to their regional ambitions.

    I have to disagree with your comments that the JSOTF didn't impact good governance at the local level. By no means am I implying that corruption doesn't exist, but the relationship between the security forces and the locals have a much better relationship in many locations. That isn't true in Southern Basilan and at least one other location in the Sulu Archipelago, but it is true for many regions. Having watched that unfold over the years to me it is self evident, to others it may not be. You can argue correctly that alone isn't enough and you would be correct, but while uneven much progress has been made. I suspect we can't make much more progress with our current approach, and it is up to the Filipinos, or sadly it ups to the Government of the Philippines.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I sponsored a Philippine Marine Corps Marine for a year at a PME school, and he stated that yes, logistics and technical support (e.g. FLIR-equipped helicopters) was what the AFP needed, not the will to fight.

    ETA: It seems as those violence is on the uptick, with seven soldiers reported killed on follow-on fighting/attacks.
    Last edited by jcustis; 10-22-2011 at 03:09 PM.

  7. #27
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    here were some ties to AQ (very loose) previously, and of JI played a role due to their regional ambitions.
    There were ties between AQ and the ASG, but borrowing a leaf from the gospel according to Robert C Jones I'd point out that the insurgency existed long before the ASG and will probably exist long after it. The ASG is probably best understood as a failed attempt by AQ to leverage the conditions supporting insurgency and to fill the leadership void left when the MNLF leadership reached various accommodations with the government. Both AQ and JI have tried to use the pre-existing conditions to their advantage, with varying levels of success, but they're not driving the insurgency, they're riding on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I have to disagree with your comments that the JSOTF didn't impact good governance at the local level. By no means am I implying that corruption doesn't exist, but the relationship between the security forces and the locals have a much better relationship in many locations. That isn't true in Southern Basilan and at least one other location in the Sulu Archipelago, but it is true for many regions. Having watched that unfold over the years to me it is self evident, to others it may not be. You can argue correctly that alone isn't enough and you would be correct, but while uneven much progress has been made. I suspect we can't make much more progress with our current approach, and it is up to the Filipinos, or sadly it ups to the Government of the Philippines.
    Good governance and relations between security forces and the populace are two different things. In terms of governance, the dominant clans are still very much in control, and those leopards have not changed their spots. They may be adopting a somewhat less egregious pattern of corruption and abuse for the time being but they are still in it for themselves and they will still do what's required to keep themselves in power and in the money. I don't think there's been any change that will be sustained for any length of time.

    Relations between security forces and the populace have improved to some extent. They could hardly have gotten worse. By 2001/2002 the security forces were in the awkward position of being mistrusted and resented by both sides. The Christian population was up in arms at the universally held perception that the security forces were colluding with the ASG, sharing ransoms and other profits. The Muslim populace knew, as they've known all along, that the government was the enemy. I think they still know that. They may not think it's the right time to take the enemy on, except in the rare times and places when they have the advantage, but the knowledge is still there.

    Things are quieter, but these cycles have come and gone before. Whether or not this will last will only be known after we leave. I'm not at all optimistic. I don't see any evidence that there's been any fundamental or lasting changes in the aims or methods of any of the players.

    I still think the Tausug/Yakan insurgency is primed to take off again. The only question is what sort of identity it will take... an MILF that learns to bridge the gap between the Maguindanao/Maranao leadership and the Tausug/Yakan populace, or a renewed, back-to-basics offshoot of the ASG, or an MNLF revival, or something completely different. Time will tell.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  8. #28
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I am with both Bill and Dayuhan on this. Yes, JSOTF-P has made a marked influence on HOW the security forces of the Philippines engage the general populace that they encounter in the course of their duties in a very positive way. The reason this is creating what is likely an enduring effect is because the security forces have been pleasantly surprised that by treating the populace with respect and dignity and by infusing greater justice into their implementation of the rule of law they encounter far less violence directed against them.

    Also, the security forces are in many ways the only physical manifestation of the central governance down at the local level. So, in about 300 years this should have spread and elevated up to where it actually has an impact on the primary source of the problem up in Manila. A good program with good effects, but not a program that has any hope of actually addressing the true problems in the Philippines. As I said, same same for VSO, ALP and the Commandos in Afghanistan.

    We delude ourselves with unsubstantiated theories of "bottom up" legitimacy and good governance. The anti-bodies projected downward from the central governance (that we too often refuse to engage at the strategic - policy level) prevent any true change from occurring.

    As Dayuhan often, and accurately points out, it is the elite, the landowner caste, etc who project and sustain the system that promotes so much discontent, not the government. Same was true in the American South. It was not the federal government that was oppressing the African American populace, it was an overall accepted culture of oppression, primarily projected from local level officials, business, etc. But it was by implementing change at the very top and enforcing those changes throughout the system that put us on the path toward stability.

    The same will be true in the Philippines, and the same will be true in Afghanistan. Too bad we have a policy of no true engagement at that level for fear that those governments will not support perceptions of US interests that are the true reason for our presence in the first place. Those interests having very little to do with nationalist insurgencies in either case. Until then, we keep sending out the troops to mitigate the symptoms at the bottom, and attempt to convince ourselves that we are actually addressing the true problem and producing enduring good for the affected populaces and nations of such engagement. There is little evidence of that being the case.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Dayuhan,

    Good governance and relations between security forces and the populace are two different things. In terms of governance, the dominant clans are still very much in control, and those leopards have not changed their spots.
    A State's security forces are an element of governance, so I disagree that good relations between a State's security forces and its populace are not good governance, but I do agree with your last part of your comment.

    Bob's World,

    The same will be true in the Philippines, and the same will be true in Afghanistan. Too bad we have a policy of no true engagement at that level for fear that those governments will not support perceptions of US interests that are the true reason for our presence in the first place. Those interests having very little to do with nationalist insurgencies in either case. Until then, we keep sending out the troops to mitigate the symptoms at the bottom, and attempt to convince ourselves that we are actually addressing the true problem and producing enduring good for the affected populaces and nations of such engagement. There is little evidence of that being the case.
    We claim to follow a 3D approach (Diplomacy, Defense, and Development), and I guess that is true, but these three approaches are still largely stove piped efforts that are occassionally fused at the tactical level due to the initiative of the action agents on point, but at the strategic level we're still drifting aimlessly. You are absolutely right that we all too often default to bottom up solutions by focusing on solving the problem with security forces, and these are problems that can't be resolved by security forces.

    We not only need to reform our security cooperation/security assistance programs so we can cost effectively help produce capable security forces, we also need to revamp our strategy development and planning efforts that operationalize those strategies so we truly put first things first and put the military in a supporting role, instead of a decisive role, but I suspect that won't happen anytime soon.

  10. #30
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Yes, JSOTF-P has made a marked influence on HOW the security forces of the Philippines engage the general populace that they encounter in the course of their duties in a very positive way. The reason this is creating what is likely an enduring effect is because the security forces have been pleasantly surprised that by treating the populace with respect and dignity and by infusing greater justice into their implementation of the rule of law they encounter far less violence directed against them.
    Interesting, though, that this supposed attitude change doesn't seem to be reflected in other parts of the country, even where troops have moved in that were previously stationed in Basilan and Jolo. Obviously we won't know whether there's been a long-term change until we leave, but I'm a good deal less optimistic than some. We'll see.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    So, in about 300 years this should have spread and elevated up to where it actually has an impact on the primary source of the problem up in Manila...

    We delude ourselves with unsubstantiated theories of "bottom up" legitimacy and good governance. The anti-bodies projected downward from the central governance (that we too often refuse to engage at the strategic - policy level) prevent any true change from occurring.

    As Dayuhan often, and accurately points out, it is the elite, the landowner caste, etc who project and sustain the system that promotes so much discontent, not the government. Same was true in the American South. It was not the federal government that was oppressing the African American populace, it was an overall accepted culture of oppression, primarily projected from local level officials, business, etc. But it was by implementing change at the very top and enforcing those changes throughout the system that put us on the path toward stability.
    What I think you're missing here is that the local elites control the Manila government. They dominate the legislature and virtually everyone in the executive and judicial branches has their roots in that class. They're good at talking about reform, making a gesture here and there, and making very sure that any program threatening their power never gets off the ground. They also tend to stick together. Once in a while someone will become a liability and be tossed to the sharks, but for the most part they close ranks against any effort to diminish their power or bring them within the rule of law. They're generally pretty effective at it.

    I think in the case of the American south you may be glossing over some things. The moves from the top didn't emerge from a vacuum and they weren't initiated from the top. They were a response to a whole lot of agitation from Americans who found that old order unacceptable. The moves came from the top, but they came because of pressure from the bottom.

    One thing that makes the southern Philippines insurgency so intractable is that the majority populace lines up strongly on the side of an aggressive, repressive military response. If anything the Government is more inclined toward accommodation. The majority populace doesn't want to talk about root causes, they want to crush the rebellion and beat the rebel populace into submission.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Too bad we have a policy of no true engagement at that level for fear that those governments will not support perceptions of US interests that are the true reason for our presence in the first place. Those interests having very little to do with nationalist insurgencies in either case. Until then, we keep sending out the troops to mitigate the symptoms at the bottom, and attempt to convince ourselves that we are actually addressing the true problem and producing enduring good for the affected populaces and nations of such engagement. There is little evidence of that being the case.
    Again, I don't think any level of US engagement is going to matter much. It's really not about us.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  11. #31
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    What I think you're missing here is that the local elites control the Manila government. They dominate the legislature and virtually everyone in the executive and judicial branches has their roots in that class. They're good at talking about reform, making a gesture here and there, and making very sure that any program threatening their power never gets off the ground. They also tend to stick together. Once in a while someone will become a liability and be tossed to the sharks, but for the most part they close ranks against any effort to diminish their power or bring them within the rule of law. They're generally pretty effective at it.

    I think in the case of the American south you may be glossing over some things. The moves from the top didn't emerge from a vacuum and they weren't initiated from the top. They were a response to a whole lot of agitation from Americans who found that old order unacceptable. The moves came from the top, but they came because of pressure from the bottom.

    Of course there was "pressure from the bottom." That is the essence of insurgency. Sometimes it is primarily illegal and violent; sometimes it is primarily illegal and non-violent; usually it is some mix of legal and illegal, violent and non-violent approaches that ultimately lead to change.

    But if you don't think local elites have a major impact on US politics, you haven't been paying attention. This is true in every country to some degree, and in a country with any form of republican democracy it is very true and significant. Lyndon Johnson showed tremendous selfless moral courage in ignoring what all of the polls, advisors, and his own political instincts were warning him about what would happen to his political career if he insisted on pushing for civil rights reforms, but in the face of all of that, push he did. Many experts believe that it was this, far more than the nature of events in Vietnam, that was the primary factor in his decision not to run for a second term. The three landmark civil rights bills that he pushed through congress changed America forever and for better. It all looks so benign and obvious now in retrospect, but at the time it was HUGE, not obvious at all, and stirred up tremendous turmoil.

    As information technology continues to empower populaces and non-state actors there will be increasing demand for political elites and their backers to take note of what the people are telling them and to actually address reasonable concerns that they may well have been ignoring and suppressing for generations or even centuries. The tide is turning. Those governments who recognize this and evolve will prevail and endure; those who think that they are somehow immune to this powerful dynamic will ultimately implode. Even those that may seem so stable on the surface today. The signs are there for those who are willing to pause and read them.

    The instinct of most such governments is to double-down on internal security and intel in an effort to suppress the growing resistance. While this can have a very real temporary effect on suppressing the symptoms, it at the same time exacerbates the root causes, and makes the problem worse. Inevitably at some point this approach collapses.

    Americans may well cheer when a Qaddafi is dragged from a sewer pipe and riddled with bullets. Will they cheer as loudly when these scenes are of leaders we see as critical allies?? Just as national leaders must evolve and be more in tune to their populaces as a whole (and not just the traditional powerful elite), so too must powerful nations that may well be stable at home be more in tune to such perceptions among the populaces of the nations we engage with and rely upon for economic or security interests that we perceive as vital.

    The world is evolving at an unprecedented rate on the back of technology. Those governments who are willing to evolve with it will prevail. Those who cling dogmatically to the status quo will struggle or fail.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  12. #32
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    But if you don't think local elites have a major impact on US politics, you haven't been paying attention. This is true in every country to some degree, and in a country with any form of republican democracy it is very true and significant.
    I think you're missing the matter of degree. Philippine local elites don't "have a major impact" on policy, they control it. They don't influence the government, they are the government Imagine a place in the US where local elites can fix an election to the point where the non-preferred candidate gets zero votes and votes for the preferred candidate exceed the number of voters, or where supporters of opposing candidates can be beaten or killed without legal repercussions, where the local elites control virtually every form of economic enterprise and openly treat the public coffers as a private account. Can you imagine an American town where citizens line up in the Mayor's parlor to beg for the favors funded with public money, while someone sits by taking note of who gets what so the favors can be called in later?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Lyndon Johnson showed tremendous selfless moral courage in ignoring what all of the polls, advisors, and his own political instincts were warning him about what would happen to his political career if he insisted on pushing for civil rights reforms, but in the face of all of that, push he did. Many experts believe that it was this, far more than the nature of events in Vietnam, that was the primary factor in his decision not to run for a second term. The three landmark civil rights bills that he pushed through congress changed America forever and for better. It all looks so benign and obvious now in retrospect, but at the time it was HUGE, not obvious at all, and stirred up tremendous turmoil.
    Yes, it was huge... but again, there was real support for reform from a large part of the populace, including a large part of the populace outside the group that was being discriminated against. That supported a good deal of the moral courage. You don't see Christian Filipinos in Manila demanding fair treatment for their Muslim brothers in Mindanao. The attitude is more on the "kill 'em all" side. There's virtually no constituency supporting moral courage, and a huge constituency opposing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    As information technology continues to empower populaces and non-state actors there will be increasing demand for political elites and their backers to take note of what the people are telling them and to actually address reasonable concerns that they may well have been ignoring and suppressing for generations or even centuries. The tide is turning. Those governments who recognize this and evolve will prevail and endure; those who think that they are somehow immune to this powerful dynamic will ultimately implode. Even those that may seem so stable on the surface today. The signs are there for those who are willing to pause and read them.
    I think the impact of information technology is overrated. It's a tool and people will use it, take it away and they'll use other tools. There were revolutions before it hit - ask the Marcos family - and they managed to communicate. Certainly facebook and twitter mean squat on Basilan, and they aren't rallying any support in Manila either.

    Again, if Filipino political elites "take note of what people are telling them" about Mindanao, the repression will only get worse, because the bulk of the populace doesn't want concessions or reform.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Americans may well cheer when a Qaddafi is dragged from a sewer pipe and riddled with bullets. Will they cheer as loudly when these scenes are of leaders we see as critical allies??
    Hosni Mubarak was a "critical ally", and Americans seem able to cope with him being in jail. Egyptians seem reasonably amenable to a continuing relationship with the US. These situations are not unmanageable, especially if we let go when it matters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Just as national leaders must evolve and be more in tune to their populaces as a whole (and not just the traditional powerful elite), so too must powerful nations that may well be stable at home be more in tune to such perceptions among the populaces of the nations we engage with and rely upon for economic or security interests that we perceive as vital.

    The world is evolving at an unprecedented rate on the back of technology. Those governments who are willing to evolve with it will prevail. Those who cling dogmatically to the status quo will struggle or fail.
    In many ways yes, we have to be more attuned to populaces as a whole. That includes being aware that most populaces don't want us interfering in the internal affairs of their nations, at all. Responding to situations and trying to help populaces that have decided it's time to move is one thing, and there's a place for it. Trying to initiate change ourselves or trying to appoint ourselves champion of a populace is a very different thing and it's not generally going to be advisable. In most of these cases it really isn't about us, and we have to accept that we are not going to be the drivers of evolution, in the Philippines and in most other places.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Can you imagine an American town where citizens line up in the Mayor's parlor to beg for the favors funded with public money, while someone sits by taking note of who gets what so the favors can be called in later?
    I’m not an insider, but isn’t this more or less how campaign finance works in the United States? I know more than one person who spent years trying to jump through the hoops leading to a green card to find that they all disappeared once they made a donation to their Representative. And they are small, small potatoes in the finance pot.

    Not discounting that the Philippines and the U.S. are categorically different places, by the way.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Can you imagine an American town where citizens line up in the Mayor's parlor to beg for the favors funded with public money, while someone sits by taking note of who gets what so the favors can be called in later?



    Obligatory New Jersey mention here.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Yes, ithappens in the US, and many other places. The difference is in degree. Imagine New Jersey to the 12th power, then add a bit for good measure.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Posted by Dayuhan,

    Yes, it was huge... but again, there was real support for reform from a large part of the populace, including a large part of the populace outside the group that was being discriminated against. That supported a good deal of the moral courage. You don't see Christian Filipinos in Manila demanding fair treatment for their Muslim brothers in Mindanao. The attitude is more on the "kill 'em all" side. There's virtually no constituency supporting moral courage, and a huge constituency opposing it.
    You hit upon an important element of social change, first there must be a shift in what is accepted as conventional wisdom, and once that shift takes place, structural changes will adapt to the new conventonal wisdom. Bob's repeated reference to our Civil Rights Movement is a great example.

    I'm not convinced that corruption and prejudice towards Filipino Muslims is as indelible as you assume. The same opinions offered about racism in the U.S. in the 60s would have sounded like wise counsel, but in hindsight it apparent changes in popular social values are possible, as they have been throughout history. It is a human trait to assume that perceived reality today will be the same tomorrow.

    I think you’re correct that we can’t accomplish much more with our advise and assist mission, but before one simply pulls the plug they really need to assess the risks at multiple levels, and none of those levels has anything to do with AQ, but rather regional stability, economic, social and political repercussions, and another failed mission because we failed to focus our efforts on the right focus areas. Of course if the conflict elevates into a major slug fest again with high casualties and massive IDP flows it will create an opportunity for regional extremists to leverage.

    We all want to run to the sounds of the gunfire, but as you have stated previously the real problem is in Manila, and if the USG isn’t working with the Filipinos (not just the government, but whole of society) to help negotiate solutions we’re not going to accomplish anything enduring. Our approach shouldn’t be one of war (in this situation), but rather an approach to achieving peace using all the hard lessons learned by the West and the UN in tens of peace operations around the world. That would be an entirely different approach than the one being pursued now, although a peace settlement is being discussed on the side. The Peace Effort should be the main effort and all efforts supporting. That wouldn’t prevent the security forces from going after terrorists, but it would put the operation in a different context.

    A whole of society approach is something that we have given lip service to, but rarely pursued it as seriously as I think we should have. In the Philippines we have already seen the power of using text messaging as a means to mobilize the populace to oust powerful actors. Could it be that most people are good, but don’t know how act good, or have little hope that one voice will be able to make a change; however, if they sense the potential to make real change they’re much more apt to act?

    The younger Filipinos who are being exposed to new ideas due to the information revolution will be able to start a new national social consciousness that will take time to shatter the old, but the U.S. could help with this (primarily with information), and I argue in some cases should help. We’re not advocating a violent uprising, but a new conversation that challenges the old paradigms.

    Peace Groups (NGOs) are already facilitating discussions between Muslim youth in the south and Christian youth in the north. These discussions if not overly controlled will allow for some frank discussions and help shatter misperceptions and create a demand for justice over time.
    When one works in the developing world for years on end it is easy to get jaded (based on realistic assessments), but we can’t afford to give up all hope. If we do, then I agree why we even try to help.

  17. #37
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    What Bill just said.

    The realization that I have come to over the years is that much of good "COIN" is in many ways counter-intuitive. Governments are, by definition, the legal actor. Insurgents, by definition, are the illegal actor. When the populace, regardless of how morally just their cause may be, decides that acting out through illegal actions and violence is their only option it is natural for the state to respond through the application of greater security. All the more so if one is armed with a COIN doctrine that tells you that "insurgency and COIN are forms of complex war and warfare."

    Bottom up approaches can do good things, but are not likely to produce enduring effects in such top down problems.

    Focused security efforts, even focused capture/kill operations, are often justified and can be a critical component of an effective campaign (if executed by the host nation and not some foreign power that is working its own agenda for its own interests and who is more apt to miss the nuance of "purpose for action" that distinguishes a "transnational terrorist" from a "nationalist insurgent."). But such efforts must be in a clearly subordinate and supporting role to efforts to evovle and address the aspects of governance that are at the causal roots of such conflicts.

    My sense is that the Philippines is not ready to reform itself yet. Such reforms will likely come in time, but our pushing to make it happen on our timeline IAW our parameters is not likely to produce anything that will be best for that nation. We American's buy too quickly into our own PSYOP, and lack strategic patience. That can be a bad combination that results in dangerously aggressive acts of "do gooderism."

    I don't believe that the US has much to fear coming out of the Philippines, or really anywhere in South East Asia. Sure, some small group may come from, or stage from that area, but that is equally true of virtually any place on Earth. This is not about Muslims, this is about Muslims who are held in bad political situations that they perceive are both beyond their control, and that they equally perceive are kept beyond their control due to the actions of some manipulative foreign power. Most of the South East Asian nations worked through these issues on nationalism and sovereignty in the post WWII social upheaval. This is always a roller coaster journey, as cultures as well as governments must evolve in fits and starts toward what works for them. This is a journey that can be guided or encouraged, and perhaps facilitated in some degree. Our problem is that we are so enamored over what works for us is that we forget that our own populace had to evolve in the isolation of the Colonies for a couple hundred years first, and then had to work through another couple hundred years of trial and error democratic experimentation to get to the "masterpiece" we enjoy to day (tongue firmly in cheek).

    I hope we never lose our genuine spirit of to do good and to share the fruits of our labors. But I do wish we would develop the strategic patience that more mature nation's seem to possess, (and that we would learn to look at insurgency in a more holistic fashion than our military doctrine-based approaches; or State/Aid democracy/development-based approaches tend to lend themselves to.)

    Cheers!

    Bob
    Last edited by Bob's World; 10-25-2011 at 09:41 AM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  18. #38
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    You hit upon an important element of social change, first there must be a shift in what is accepted as conventional wisdom, and once that shift takes place, structural changes will adapt to the new conventonal wisdom. Bob's repeated reference to our Civil Rights Movement is a great example.

    I'm not convinced that corruption and prejudice towards Filipino Muslims is as indelible as you assume. The same opinions offered about racism in the U.S. in the 60s would have sounded like wise counsel, but in hindsight it apparent changes in popular social values are possible, as they have been throughout history. It is a human trait to assume that perceived reality today will be the same tomorrow.
    I wouldn't say prejudice toward Philippine Muslims is necessarily indelible, but it's deeply entrenched and I see no sign at all that it's changing. If anything it looks like it's getting worse. It's really quite striking, and it prevails even among many who on other issues seem quite progressive. I don't think it can't change, but I don't see that it's changing.

    Corruption is another story. It's a major issue and there's a lot of resentment, but the focus is invariably on national-level corruption. That's partly because the media are Manila-centric, and partly because it's safer. Political violence in the Philippines is overwhelmingly on the local level. Media can run all the exposes they want and complain all they want about national politicians, but those who do the same at the local level often encounter bullets. These killings are almost never solved and they are generally ignored by police, who know perfectly well what's going on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I think you’re correct that we can’t accomplish much more with our advise and assist mission, but before one simply pulls the plug they really need to assess the risks at multiple levels, and none of those levels has anything to do with AQ, but rather regional stability, economic, social and political repercussions, and another failed mission because we failed to focus our efforts on the right focus areas. Of course if the conflict elevates into a major slug fest again with high casualties and massive IDP flows it will create an opportunity for regional extremists to leverage.
    All true, but again I don't think "we" have much of a role to play.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    We all want to run to the sounds of the gunfire, but as you have stated previously the real problem is in Manila, and if the USG isn’t working with the Filipinos (not just the government, but whole of society) to help negotiate solutions we’re not going to accomplish anything enduring. Our approach shouldn’t be one of war (in this situation), but rather an approach to achieving peace using all the hard lessons learned by the West and the UN in tens of peace operations around the world. That would be an entirely different approach than the one being pursued now, although a peace settlement is being discussed on the side. The Peace Effort should be the main effort and all efforts supporting. That wouldn’t prevent the security forces from going after terrorists, but it would put the operation in a different context.
    We actually tried throwing pressure behind a "peace agreement", with USIP taking the lead role and substantial if fairly quiet pressure on the diplomatic level. That turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. The agreement was fatally flawed from the start - I recall nominating it for a "peace agreement least likely to produce peace" award - and was inevitably shot down. The US pressure was deeply resented by much of the populace and gave rise to all sorts of bizarre rumours that the US had cut a deal with the MILF to back the agreement in exchange for economic concessions and base rights. Nothing was accomplished and a fair bit of damage was done.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    A whole of society approach is something that we have given lip service to, but rarely pursued it as seriously as I think we should have. In the Philippines we have already seen the power of using text messaging as a means to mobilize the populace to oust powerful actors. Could it be that most people are good, but don’t know how act good, or have little hope that one voice will be able to make a change; however, if they sense the potential to make real change they’re much more apt to act?

    The younger Filipinos who are being exposed to new ideas due to the information revolution will be able to start a new national social consciousness that will take time to shatter the old, but the U.S. could help with this (primarily with information), and I argue in some cases should help. We’re not advocating a violent uprising, but a new conversation that challenges the old paradigms.
    Information technology, social media etc can spread hate and prejudice as easily as expanded consciousness. Much of the world (including much of the US) uses the internet for affirmation, not information; they construct closed networks of sites and individuals who tell them what they want to hear and feed their prejudices. Again, I agree that it's possible that change will happen, but it's also possible that it won't, or that the mutual antipathy could get worse... and either way, I don't think anything the US does is going to help, and doing the wrong thing could easily hurt.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Peace Groups (NGOs) are already facilitating discussions between Muslim youth in the south and Christian youth in the north. These discussions if not overly controlled will allow for some frank discussions and help shatter misperceptions and create a demand for justice over time.
    This is not a bad thing, but it's not a new thing either. I hope it works, but I've little optimism, based on observation of both sides.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    When one works in the developing world for years on end it is easy to get jaded (based on realistic assessments), but we can’t afford to give up all hope. If we do, then I agree why we even try to help.
    There's a difference between losing hope and understanding that not everything is about us and there are often limited possibilities for us to act productively. There may be times when we can be useful, but they're few and far between and opportunities have to be taken with a great deal of subtlety and a lot more understanding of the situation than we've demonstrated so far. A clumsy and ill advised effort to help is likely to do more harm than doing nothing at all.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  19. #39
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    From this morning's news...

    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/10...l-barka-fiasco

    P4M bounty led to Al-Barka fiasco?

    Military admits 'lapses' in Basilan incident

    MANILA, Philippines - The P2-million bounty each on the heads of an Abu Sayyaf terrorist leader and a fugitive Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander may have caused the haphazard mission that led to the deaths of 19 soldiers in Al-Barka, Basilan last week, sources alleged.

    The Special Forces mission that went awry sought to capture the Abu Sayyaf's Long Malat Solaiman and MILF commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, who were behind the beheading of Marines in the same town in 2007.

    The military on Tuesday admitted lapses in the failed Special Forces operation that also left more than a dozen other soldiers injured.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  20. #40
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    The realization that I have come to over the years is that much of good "COIN" is in many ways counter-intuitive. Governments are, by definition, the legal actor. Insurgents, by definition, are the illegal actor. When the populace, regardless of how morally just their cause may be, decides that acting out through illegal actions and violence is their only option it is natural for the state to respond through the application of greater security. All the more so if one is armed with a COIN doctrine that tells you that "insurgency and COIN are forms of complex war and warfare."
    One of the great dangers of doctrines and models is that once we adopt them we become enamored of them, and when reality doesn't fit the doctrine or model, we try to modify reality instead of changing our perceptions.

    In the southern Philippines the core conflict, the conflict that kicked off the violence in the early 70s and sustains it today, is not between "the government" and "the populace". It's between two portions of the populace, both of which consider themselves aggrieved. One of the great failures of governance in this conflict was the decision of government to take the side of one portion of the populace against the other. One of the major causes of the failure of the recent US-supported "peace agreement" was that it treated the problem as a dispute between government and insurgents, and excluded one of the contesting populaces from the process. The task of government is not to reach a peace agreement with the insurgents, but to broker a peace agreement between two portions of its own populace that have irreconcilably different demands, neither of which trusts the government or each other. Not easy even for a functional government with some popular support for a peace process. For a largely dysfunctional government with a populace clamoring for a hard-line approach... beyond not easy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I don't believe that the US has much to fear coming out of the Philippines, or really anywhere in South East Asia.
    There we agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This is not about Muslims, this is about Muslims who are held in bad political situations that they perceive are both beyond their control, and that they equally perceive are kept beyond their control due to the actions of some manipulative foreign power.
    The perception of "kept beyond their control due to the actions of some manipulative foreign power" doesn't really exist here. The bulk of the Muslim populace here has a reasonably positive perception of US involvement, which they see as a controlling factor on the Philippine government. There's probably more distrust of US motives on the settler side. One of the odd quirks of all this is a widespread belief among Mindanao settlers that the US has cut a devious deal with the MILF to support a breakaway in return for access to "the oil" and base rights. There's no hard evidence that there is any oil or that the US wants a base in Mindanao, but that never stopped anyone from believing!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Most of the South East Asian nations worked through these issues on nationalism and sovereignty in the post WWII social upheaval. This is always a roller coaster journey, as cultures as well as governments must evolve in fits and starts toward what works for them.
    Thailand has an intractable problem with Muslims in the south, Indonesia has all kinds of simmering ethnic issues and separatist sentiments, Vietnam and Laos have issues with their ethnic minorities... it's still being worked through all over SE Asia.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This is a journey that can be guided or encouraged, and perhaps facilitated in some degree.
    I'd be very, very hesitant about trying to assert a US role in that effort. It's possible that we could help; it's also possible - and I think rather more probable - that we can make things worse. We don't understand these issues as well as we think we do, and we often seem reluctant to listen to those who do understand them. Subtlety is needed, and that's not traditionally a US strong point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Our problem is that we are so enamored over what works for us is that we forget that our own populace had to evolve in the isolation of the Colonies for a couple hundred years first, and then had to work through another couple hundred years of trial and error democratic experimentation to get to the "masterpiece" we enjoy to day (tongue firmly in cheek).
    Yes... not to mention a civil war of positively African proportions, one of history's great genocides, and various other digressions. Europe was even worse: it took them centuries of almost continuous war to arrive (assisted by exhaustion) at the current level of peace and stability. In much of the world that process was frozen by the colonial imposition of order at the expense of stability. Now it's thawed out. No real reason why we should expect it to be any prettier for them than it was for us.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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