President Bush was urged at the APEC summit in Hanoi to get more involved in fighting terrorism in Mindanao.
President Arroyo urged for a greater US involvement in the peace efforts in Mindanao by including more economic and military aid to promote greater presence in the fight against terrorism in the Southeast Asian region.
Mrs. Arroyo twice made the pitch before US President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the 14th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit here. The first was at the meeting between the US president and the heads of state of APEC members from Southeast Asia, and the second, at the "pull-aside" one-on-one meeting with Bush. ...
"Mindanao has all the ingredients of a fresh global crusade to defeat terror, to foster understanding and interfaith solidarity, to build self-determination, to fight ignorance and poverty," Bunye said, quoting Mrs. Arroyo during her bilateral meeting with Bush at the Hanoi International Convention Center.
Most statements made by Third World heads of state on the subject of terrorism contain a large domestic political component as well as a covetous glance at resources which they hope the US will send their way. And one of the fears expressed about American involvement in the terrorism fight in the Philippines is that US-provided capabilities are actually used to spy on domestic political opponents and resources are just plain stolen. The term apparently applied to the process of theft is "conversion". "Conversion" takes place when the fuel for Philippine Navy ships is sold on the open market leaving the warships tied up at dock instead of on patrol, leaving the seas to the Abu Sayyaf. "Conversion" may be loosely applied to the practice of using combat helicopters as VIP transport or for joyrides. Of course the most painful sort of "conversion" occurs when troops find themselves under fire from guns and ammunition sold from their own armory.
The absence of large scale regional State support for terrorist activity is undoubtedly the saving grace in the situation. If Malaysia or Indonesia were hostile to the Philippines and poured men and money into fueling unrest in Mindanao there would be little doubt that an army bled dry by "conversion" would be hard pressed to deal with it. But this happy circumstance is a product of the inherent historical legacy of the region rather than the achievement of statecraft. If the Philippines were bordered by Syria, Iran and Pakistan instead of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand things might be very different.
One promising initiative is the attempt to take back the madrassas or Islamic schools from radical teachers. Readers will recall that sudden oil wealth enabled the Wahabi sect in Saudi Arabia to dominate the supply of textbooks and teachers to madrassas. The idea is that by supplying the textbooks and teachers themselves, ASEAN governments can take back the madrassas from radical influence. It is one area where ASEAN has a real hope of success, although if the past is any guide the radicals will simply flood the zone and "convert" any foreign aid aimed at stopping them to their own uses. The Asian News reports:
Leading Muslim religious leaders from Southeast Asian Nations will intensify the fight against extremism and terrorism by empowering moderates in the Muslim world. Discussion about what means to employ to stem extremists will be the focus of an encounter between Muslim leaders of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), to be held in Manila from 22 to 24 November.
So far, so good and then this heart-dropping paragraph.
A UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Commissioner, Basman continued: “Every Muslim must stand up and join the campaign to drown out the screaming voices of the extremists..." Participants at next week’s meeting include academics, women and exponents of religion-based youth communities from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Also expected are members of the Moro National Liberation Front, Islamic separatists in the southern Philippines with who Manila signed a peace treaty in 1996 after decades of guerrilla warfare.
There are many tasks which semi-functional Third World governments can undertake on their own. But there are certain other jobs for which they are critically dependent on the United States. One of these is suppressing State Sponsors of Terrorism, something Third World governments are wholly incapable of doing themselves. They are also dependent on America for force multipliers they are unable to buy or operate themselves. These includes aerial surveillance, ELINT, SIGINT and combat logistics, including medical evacuation. US medical evacuation is particularly prized because the local rotary wing assets may be at the golf course ferrying VIPs. That's "conversion".
But the question of how effectively Americans can operate in the absurdities of the Third World must be open to question. It is certainly possible, but it requires people who know and are able to beat the local cheats at their own game. Cultural knowledge and language skills are essential, but they are only the beginning. Some people may find that they need to build a network of contacts within host countries who are personally loyal to them in order to get anything done. All too often normal Americans make the mistake of going through the front door of the Minister's office to get cooperation. Ministers will tell you what you want to hear; and he will tell the next man something different. Cooperation is often better obtained by building up the trust of key persons who will perform tasks, not for their country or America, but out of a loyalty to you in ways that many Westerners find hard to understand.
But Americans who persist eventually do and the day finally comes when they are equally at home dealing with poor men swathed in the rags that keep out the oily mist of grit and diesel exhaust in which they must stand the all day and looking down from some high apartment window at the snake-line of European luxury cars vaguely visible through the smog, their yellow lights pausing at the port-cocher as they unload their jeweled cargos of local politicians and dubious businessmen at a fine restaurant; knowing that terrorists who threaten all that he knows and loves, all that he has sworn to protect -- are out there. And that he will defeat them.
So thus the Search is ended. For the merit that I have acquired, the River of the Arrow is here. It broke forth at our feet, as I have said. I have found it. Son of my Soul, I have wrenched my Soul back from the Threshold of Freedom to free thee from all sin - as I am free, and sinless! Just is the Wheel! Certain is our deliverance! Come!' He crossed his hands on his lap and smiled, as a man may who has won salvation for himself and his beloved.
-- Kim, Rudyard Kipling