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Old 10-26-2011   #41
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Well, we all know that the friction between Muslim south and Catholic north did not begin in the 1970s. Conditions of insurgency ebb and flow within every populace, but are poorly understood if only measured from when the first and last shots are fired. That is like saying a volcano exists only when it is erupting....

And in the Philippines I agree that it is doubtful that many blame the government there on the US; certainly some probably do, as this is a matter of perception far more than fact. Other places more so.

As to the many small issues between governments of SEA and minorities, yes, racism is a powerful force in Asia, and other factors as well contribute to such issues, but I was speaking in larger terms. Shortly after 9/11 there was great emphasis on Indonesia in particular "largest Muslim nation on Earth" and Malaysia as well. That because they had large Muslim populaces they would automatically become hotbeds of AQ influence. This is when Ideology was widely proclaimed as the Center of Gravity of this conflict as well.

But insurgency is political, not ideological; and Nations like Indonesia and Malaysia while very Muslim have already thrown off Western influence over their governments and have governments of their own that, as you note, they are continuing to refine. This is not the case in the greater Middle East where AQ finds many populaces who have not yet stepped out from under this manipulative external influence. Arab Spring is doing more to reduce the likelihood of transnational terrorism coming out of the Middle East and being directed at the West than any of our efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yes, those countries will have long, generational journeys to "good governance," but so long as they don't blame the bad governance they will certainly experience along the way on us they will not have much motivation to attack us.

Like Iran, who has bad governance in spades, but it is not one they blame the West for. Same with the Philippines. The ideological fear mongering that has made these conflicts all about "clashing civilizations" or Islam vs. Christian have done us all a disservice as these positions are based on very flawed understandings of insurgency. I guess it is easier to say that Muslims hate us than it is to say that our foreign policy has unduly disrupted the governance of others for reasons that placed US interests over those of the affected populace.
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Old 10-26-2011   #42
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Well, we all know that the friction between Muslim south and Catholic north did not begin in the 1970s.
It didn't begin in the 70s, that was the point where it tipped into large-scale violence. More important, though, it wasn't "friction between Muslim south and Catholic north", it was friction between indigenous populations and settlers, both in the south. In many ways it's better to speak of conflict between settler and indigenous populaces and remove the religious aspect altogether, because ultimately the conflict isn't about religion, it's a fight over land and political power between indigenous and migrant populaces.

The first great mistake the government made was to try to alleviate agrarian unrest in the north by opening the south to sponsored settlement, without considering the potential impact on the south. That mistake is essentially irreversible: the settlers aren't leaving. The indigenous populace - now a numerical minority in many areas they traditionally controlled - wants the future to be decided by them: they see the majority as an imposed condition that should not be allowed to dictate terms. The settlers - many in their 3rd and 4th generations, some more - don't agree.

The second great mistake the government made was when the violence between settler and indigenous militias broke out, they took the side of the settlers instead of trying to act as a neutral mediator and law enforcer. That might theoretically be reversible, but realistically it will take generations: trust is easier to break than to make, and the Philippine government has little credibility as a neutral mediator.

The third great mistake came after the fighting reached a stalemate and government bought a window of peace by buying off key insurgent leaders with lucrative government posts. That offered a window of opportunity for government to step in and govern, but the window was not exploited: government preferred to offer unlimited license to steal and abuse to anyone who could keep the peace and deliver the votes in a given territory.

There have been others, including the disastrous failed "peace agreement" that we saw recently. I don't see the fight/talk/fight cycle changing any time soon. I am definitely curious over what form the next incarnation of Yakan/Tausug insurgency will take... there will be one, almost certainly.

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This is not the case in the greater Middle East where AQ finds many populaces who have not yet stepped out from under this manipulative external influence. Arab Spring is doing more to reduce the likelihood of transnational terrorism coming out of the Middle East and being directed at the West than any of our efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yes, those countries will have long, generational journeys to "good governance," but so long as they don't blame the bad governance they will certainly experience along the way on us they will not have much motivation to attack us.
OT here, but again I think you're drastically oversimplifying the sources of AQ influence, and perhaps adjusting them a bit to fit them into your model.

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Like Iran, who has bad governance in spades, but it is not one they blame the West for. Same with the Philippines.
Many Filipinos do blame the US for their situation, with some reason, but it's more a left narrative than a Muslim narrative. Every place is different.

In Indonesia and the Philippines jihadi movements have drawn their support not from the global AQ narrative, but from local sectarian conflict. They've done this with limited success. Support in Indonesia has been sporadic, limited, and closely linked to outbreaks of sectarian violence. There's little evidence that the jihadi narrative has ever had much pull in the Philippines: the ASG never drew popular support until the KFR business started drawing in money, and the JI connection is primarily opportunistic, not ideological.
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Old 10-26-2011   #43
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Once again, your violent agreement is noted.

Yes, the indigenous population and those "settlers", who came from where and represented who? And of course Magsaysay's program to help reduce the Huk problem in the north by forcing massive resettlement to the south. But at the end of the day, who does the populace go to for resolution of such problems?? The Government. If they find no justice, no equity there, if they really don't feel that government to be their government, what do they turn to next? This is the essence of insurgency.

Careful readers will note that i too recognize that many Filipinos do blame the US for their situation. Insurgency is all about perception, and facts and truth are distant cousins at best.

As to AQ everywhere. AQ does not create insurgency. AQ ideology does not create insurgents. AQ is an opportunist, non-state actor that targets Muslim populaces with actionable grievances and conducts UW to attempt to incite local insurgency to action, and to recruit individuals to conduct AQ specific operations as well. The governance-populace dynamic in SEA shook off Western manipulation in the 40s-70s and is on their own messy journey of self-determination, so AQ is not needed and has little influence there. In the Middle East the path to self determination began with the Turkish and Iranian revolutions over 100 years ago, but was quickly quashed by European and US efforts to secure their own interests in the region. It began moving again post-cold war, and even blind men could see this as "Arab Spring" took these movements to the next level. AQ has set up franchised UW shops around the region to leverage this popular energy. They do not cause it, they support it. (We do not support it, we help suppress it or stand neutral. We are in a quandary of the principles we profess, the values we peddle as "universal," and the fears over economic and security interests that drive us to decisions that no one can figure out).

No, I do not fight to force things into my model, I merrily tweak and revise my model whenever new insights come to the surface. You, my brother, do fight to embrace the model. That is fine. I feel that your instincts tell you that there it great validity in it, but that you have a very fact-reliant component to your thinking, that makes you resist. Like Thomas, you must see and touch the holes. Facts are important, but so is faith and instinct, because sometimes the facts lie; and certainly that narrow set of facts that gets entered into evidence (captured in history) will always tell the story that the storyteller wants to tell.

As I gently goaded Gian last week in response to his comments on a "failure of generalship," I can see many things our generals do that I disagree with, but I see them acting IAW their training, doctrine and experience. What really kills us is a "failure of historian-ship."
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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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Old 10-27-2011   #44
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Yes, the indigenous population and those "settlers", who came from where and represented who? And of course Magsaysay's program to help reduce the Huk problem in the north by forcing massive resettlement to the south.
The settlers didn't and don't represent anyone, except themselves. Settlement was encouraged by government but it wasn't really organized for the most part, people pretty much just went, on their own. Magsaysay's resettlement of people from the Huk areas had little visible impact in Mindanao: the Huk areas are Tagalog speaking, and the settlers in the areas where there's conflict with the Muslims are overwhelmingly Ilonggo speakers fro Negros and Iloilo, where the Huks never got established.

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But at the end of the day, who does the populace go to for resolution of such problems??The Government. If they find no justice, no equity there, if they really don't feel that government to be their government, what do they turn to next? This is the essence of insurgency.
The point that needs to be remembered in this case is that people didn't go to the government for resolution. They just started fighting each other. At that stage it wasn't insurgency at all, it was sectarian conflict, though the conflict was actually driven less by religious issues than by conflict over land and political control. It didn't become "insurgency" until the government took sides.

The point of all this is simply that this is not a fight between "the insurgents" and "the government", and it can't be resolved by trying to broker a peace between the insurgents and government. That flawed interpretation has already led to one disastrously failed attempt at peacemaking, and it will lead to others if it isn't changed. You can't resolve the "insurgency" without addressing the underlying sectarian conflict, and that's populace vs populace, not populace vs government.

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Careful readers will note that i too recognize that many Filipinos do blame the US for their situation. Insurgency is all about perception, and facts and truth are distant cousins at best.
Returning to the point, I'll just repeat that the perception that the US is to blame for their situation really isn't much of a factor in the conflict in the southern Philippines.

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AQ is an opportunist, non-state actor that targets Muslim populaces with actionable grievances and conducts UW to attempt to incite local insurgency to action, and to recruit individuals to conduct AQ specific operations as well. The governance-populace dynamic in SEA shook off Western manipulation in the 40s-70s and is on their own messy journey of self-determination, so AQ is not needed and has little influence there.
Again I think this is an wildly oversimplified rendition that omits many of the forces driving support for AQ and overemphasizes what has in actual fact been AQ's least successful narrative. The conclusion re Indonesia and the Philippines is I think incorrect. AQ's lack of appeal in these places hasn't come about because AQ isn't needed, but because AQ's attempts at organizing here have stressed global narratives that have minimal resonance for populaces focused on local issues.

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In the Middle East the path to self determination began with the Turkish and Iranian revolutions over 100 years ago, but was quickly quashed by European and US efforts to secure their own interests in the region. It began moving again post-cold war, and even blind men could see this as "Arab Spring" took these movements to the next level. AQ has set up franchised UW shops around the region to leverage this popular energy. They do not cause it, they support it. (We do not support it, we help suppress it or stand neutral. We are in a quandary of the principles we profess, the values we peddle as "universal," and the fears over economic and security interests that drive us to decisions that no one can figure out).
What I think you don't want to see here is that the energy that AQ has successfully tapped is the generic resentment toward the west and toward military intervention in Muslim lands. AQ's attempts at leveraging resentment toward Muslim leaders have generally failed rather miserably, which doesn't necessarily mean those populaces like their governments, but does suggest that they don't care to be ruled by AQ. AQ gets all kinds of support when they are fighting foreigners somewhere far away, but the support dries up when they try to start revolution at home.

The Arab Spring movements have succeeded where AQ failed, and they did it without help from AQ. They did it by holding out hope that AQ didn't and tapping popular support that AQ can't draw. I don't see anything to suggest that AQ has an inside track in the Arab Spring movements, in fact those movements have left them out in the cold in many ways
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Old 10-27-2011   #45
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Well, where you see me making over-simplified points, I see you agonizing over details that are not material to forming a strategic understanding of the nature of the problem at hand.

Once one has a strategic understanding of the nature of the dynamic of insurgency (with historic western biases captured in all of the COIN literature, histories, governmental lessons learned and doctrines, etc distilled out to the degree possible) one get gets a basic framework for understanding that then allows them to look at any single specific situation with all of its unique facts, cultures, history, etc and begin sorting out where to begin and what to focus on. I shift the focus from the insurgent (for those in the war is war, just kill the threat camp) and from the populace (for those in the "win the hearts and minds", "control the populace," and development camps) to one that focuses on the government. Not to make any government more "effective" (which too often leads to long, expensive programs of building security force capacity, massive development programs, massive rule of law programs, etc) but rather on what I simply call "goodness." Those critical, intangible aspects of human nature that are so fundamental to human happiness that when abused or ignored by some government lead to growing "conditions of insurgency" or despair and frustration and anger that lead good honest citizens to be willing to act out illegally against their own government to seek change.

Governments don't like this. Far better to blame others, or to blame the economy or other factors beyond their control. "goodness" is always totally within the control of any government and typically costs little if anything to implement, adopt or repair. Populaces inherently understand this, and it contributes to why it is these conditions that fuel the fires of insurgency. They realize that these conditions exist because the government either intentionally wants them to exist, or simply does not care about them enough to make minor changes required to address them.

Arab Spring events are merely the latest major move by these populaces, and are indeed connected to the major moves the 1906 and 1908 constitutional revolutions in Iran and Turkey. The conditions of governance across the region are untenable and are changing. Evolution of governance can relieve this pressure, or those same governments can ratchet up the security and public bribes in efforts to reduce popular pressure so that they can retain the status quo that they are happy with. AQ indeed did not cause the Arab Spring revolts, but to say it was "without them" misses that AQ has played a role in this over all dynamic of helping to people to understand that they can act out, that they can stand up. I doubt many want what AQ is selling, or want to live in a Caliphate controlled by AQ. But they want liberty, self-determination, respect, justice under the law. They also want to feel that their government answer to them and to God as they see appropriate (not as some Western power sees appropriate based on completely different values, culture, etc).

Is the totality of this overwhelming in details? Certainly, but there is a common essence that allows us to make sense of it all and focus on the right things. Plus the beauty of my approach is that it can be no less effective than other approaches, and will always be far less expensive, dangerous or intrusive to implement.
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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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Old 10-27-2011   #46
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A general point and heard repeatedly a few years ago in London at an Islam seminar, which I'd filed away until reading Bob's last post:
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...they want liberty, self-determination, respect, justice under the law. They also want to feel that their government answer to them and to God as they see appropriate (not as some Western power sees appropriate based on completely different values, culture, etc).
Nearly all those speaking, mainly from the Middle East, wanted ACCOUNTABILITY. Yes, we want other non-material things, but what we want will not be what you prescribe or have followed. We will follow our own path.
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Old 10-27-2011   #47
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Dave,

Excellent add. The US used to promote self-determination and take the position that we had no right to levy moral judgments onto others, and certainly no duty to intervene in small conflicts where we had little direct stake at risk.

Then came our emergence to the top of the heap following WWII, and our series of policy and prinicple compromises made over the course of the Cold War; our belief that those compromises and our efforts "won" the Cold War; to where we are today.

A country that has been too quick to apply military force, a country that has become so convinced of its "rightness" that we proclaim our values to be "universal" and call for a "new world order" under US leadership in our National Security Strategy. We push for Democracy as we see it and presume ourselves to have a "responsibility to protect" popualces seeking to sort out their own futures in far away lands. Until we turn and look back to where we came from, we will never realize how far we have drifted.

Said another way, we have grown up and become our parents; and frankly, we were not much pleased with them when they acted in this same way....
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Old 10-27-2011   #48
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Bit of rush at the moment, will have more to say re previous post, but I have to ask about this...

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The US used to promote self-determination and take the position that we had no right to levy moral judgments onto others, and certainly no duty to intervene in small conflicts where we had little direct stake at risk.
When exactly was this the case?
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Old 10-27-2011   #49
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1801???

:d
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Old 10-27-2011   #50
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1801???

:d
I suspect Ken might have been at that particular cabinet meeting, so I defer to his assessment...

But the true sea change was as we came to realize post-WWII that it was not going to be all sunshine and roses with our good allies, the Soviets and the Chinese, and found ourselves in a bi-lateral contest for influence that came to be divided along ideological lines.

You can't argue "self-determination" when the insurgency you are trying to stop from throwing the puppet government of your Colonial French pals out of power are employing a Communist ideology that will likely expand the influence of our own opponent and reduce our influence at the same time. So we switched to selling "Democracy" as a counter. Sorry to all you nations in the buffer between East and West, self-determination is now off the table.

Earlier, when we were competing with the Brits for influence over the Saudi Oil market, and the Brits were making a stink over the Saudi prractice of slavery and offering a very low ball price based on what they were "stealing" oil from the Iranians for; we offered a much more attractive price and assured the Saudis that we had no right to comment on slavery or offer any other moral judgement.

A slippery slope....time to put our climbing spikes on and get back up to the high ground that we imagine ourselves to still be standing on.
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Old 10-28-2011   #51
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But the true sea change was as we came to realize post-WWII that it was not going to be all sunshine and roses with our good allies, the Soviets and the Chinese, and found ourselves in a bi-lateral contest for influence that came to be divided along ideological lines.

You can't argue "self-determination" when the insurgency you are trying to stop from throwing the puppet government of your Colonial French pals out of power are employing a Communist ideology that will likely expand the influence of our own opponent and reduce our influence at the same time. So we switched to selling "Democracy" as a counter. Sorry to all you nations in the buffer between East and West, self-determination is now off the table.
Again, when was self-determination ever on the table? That little Philippine escapade in 1898, was that about self-determination? Or our repeated pre-war forays into Central America? Ask a Nicaraguan or a Honduran when the US was ever concerned with self-determination. We might have paid lip service to the idea when trying to criticise some other colonial power, but it's not something we ever paid much regard to in our own sphere of influence.

The only thing that changed after WW2 was we were messing around in a larger area.

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Well, where you see me making over-simplified points, I see you agonizing over details that are not material to forming a strategic understanding of the nature of the problem at hand.
Trying to formulate a response in a specific situation armed primarily with a generic "strategic understanding" and insufficient awareness of local detail can cause problems. In a vague and passing attempt to keep on topic, the recently failed effort at peacemaking in the Philippines is a good example. The reflexive assumption that insurgency is a matter to be resolved between government and insurgents led to the exclusion from the process of the other concerned populace, which in turn led to the failure of the effort and general waste of our already limited credibility and influence capital in the area.

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Once one has a strategic understanding of the nature of the dynamic of insurgency (with historic western biases captured in all of the COIN literature, histories, governmental lessons learned and doctrines, etc distilled out to the degree possible) one get gets a basic framework for understanding that then allows them to look at any single specific situation with all of its unique facts, cultures, history, etc and begin sorting out where to begin and what to focus on.
I'm not sure a prior commitment to a generic "strategic understanding" is actually an advantage in assessing a specific situation. As with any prior assumption, this can blind us to reality on the ground. Certainly if we're assessing a problem we call "insurgency" we should be aware of the possibility (or likelihood) that governance is a major part of the problem, but approaching with the fixed assumption that governance IS ithe problem and that peace can only be made by the government addressing the insurgents concerns and negotiating peace with the insurgents... well, that's just as bad as approaching the situation with any other base of fixed assumptions.

To me the key is to approach with awareness of multiple possibilities and without any fixed assumptions in place. I agree that the previous set of fixed assumptions was defective and caused all manner of trouble, but I don't think replacing it with a new set of fixed assumptions is an answer.

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Not to make any government more "effective" (which too often leads to long, expensive programs of building security force capacity, massive development programs, massive rule of law programs, etc) but rather on what I simply call "goodness." Those critical, intangible aspects of human nature that are so fundamental to human happiness that when abused or ignored by some government lead to growing "conditions of insurgency" or despair and frustration and anger that lead good honest citizens to be willing to act out illegally against their own government to seek change.

Governments don't like this. Far better to blame others, or to blame the economy or other factors beyond their control. "goodness" is always totally within the control of any government and typically costs little if anything to implement, adopt or repair. Populaces inherently understand this, and it contributes to why it is these conditions that fuel the fires of insurgency. They realize that these conditions exist because the government either intentionally wants them to exist, or simply does not care about them enough to make minor changes required to address them.
Here I think you stray into troubled waters. First, there's an assumption that your definition of "goodness" is universal and universally sought. This is pretty tenuous. For a whole lot of people in a whole lot of troubled places politics are defined in terms of us and them: "goodness" is "we rule, they don't" and "badness" is "they rule, we don't".

If "goodness were so easy to achieve, and required such minor changes and minimal costs, there's be a whole lot more of it in the world. It is in fact very difficult to attain, and can generally only be achieved through extended internal conflict, often involving violence. We cannot make other governments "good".

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the beauty of my approach is that it can be no less effective than other approaches, and will always be far less expensive, dangerous or intrusive to implement.
How is trying to change governance in other nations anything but intrusive, especially when we're the ones deciding what changes are needed?

I think your theoretical framework breaks down rather badly when translated to actual policy recommendations. Either it comes down to trying to use "influence" - even when we haven't any - to change the way other governments govern, or as trying to impose ourselves as uninvited and generally unwanted "champions of the populace". Either course has abundant potential for unintended adverse consequences.

The least expensive, dangerous, and intrusive response to another county's internal conflict is neither "suppress the insurgency" nor "make the government good". The least expensive, dangerous, and intrusive response is to mind our own gottverdammt business.
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