Thursday, May 29, 2003

Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum

Anyone who desires to establish peace in the Philippine southern island of Mindanao is caught on the horns of a genuine dilemma. On the one hand, the Armed Forces of the Philippines does not possess a victory option against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. On the other hand, the pacifist lobby does not possess a peace option either. No negotiated settlement between the Philippine government and the Islamists is possible. Every ceasefire is bound to fail within a few months, once the Islamists have consolidated their tactical gains and are ready to move on to the next phase.

In a word, the war is unwinnable and yet peace is unattainable. Is there any escape from this hell?

The way out of this dilemma is to understand its underlying mechanics. The peace option does not exist because the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front does not want it. Ever. Hashim Salamat does not want to make friends with the members of the peace movement: he wants them dead or enslaved. But the victory option, on the other hand, is absent simply because the Philippine Republic has been too lazy or indecisive to prepare for it. The first horn of the dilemma arises from circumstances that the Republic cannot control. The second horn of the dilemma is entirely of its own making.

A moment's thought will reveal that the peace option does not exist because the victory option doesn't. Paradoxically, the peace option will spring into existence at the very moment the victory option becomes possible. Why, after all, should the Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiate a peace when they do not dread defeat?  Therefore, it is entirely in the interests of the Moro Islamists to keep on negotiating even while they keep burning towns and setting off bombs. Explosives courtesy of Osama Bin Laden and pancit courtesy of Archbishop Quevedo; fireworks and refreshments. Sweet.

If the key to peace lies in the creation of a victory capability, the key to achieving it is the reform of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In future blogs, the Belmont Club will examine the steps to make this possible.