The media focus on Iraq obscures the fact that the War on Terror spans the globe. In Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Horn of Africa, the Western Pakistani provinces -- and in Southeast Asia -- the essential pattern is repeated. Islamic militants flood in to train in the area of infection then return to their home countries, often in the West, to spread to war. Ethnic conflict is encouraged. Civilian populations are targeted. Death squads begin their grim work. Here's a news story from Thailand from Reuters:
Thailand's army-backed cabinet meets in special session on Thursday to discuss Muslim unrest in the far south, a deadly but localised conflict security analysts fear might one day "go global". Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, a former army chief, and his cabinet are scheduled to review the government's new peace offensive to address the largely Malay-speaking Muslim south. Surayud has already made three trips to the region since his appointment after a Sept. 19 military coup ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, apologising for his predecessor's hardline treatment of the region. ... The immediate response has been a surge in drive-by shootings and other small-scale attacks, hallmarks of a conflict in which more than 1,800 people -- Muslims and Buddhists -- have been killed over the past three years.
"The concept is to promote chaos," said Brian Dougherty of Hill Risk Consulting, noting the tactics appear to be having the desired effect. "It's separatism, pure and simple, separatism with a machete," he said. "It's just a matter of time, and time is on their side." This lack of a coherent programme, beyond perhaps sowing general chaos, complicates efforts to address grievances that date back to Thailand's annexation of what was an Islamic sultanate a century ago. For Surayud's peace drive to succeed, he must first identify leaders with the authority to make deals with the central state and the power to rein in the armed militants.
If any of that sounds familiar it is because it should. Asymmetrical warfare has mounted a challenge against the international system which has so far not been adequately met. The fact that asymmetrical warfare has been encountered in Iraq does not mean it peculiar to the Land Between the Rivers or that evacuating it will eliminate the need to meet it elsewhere. It will be found elsewhere, perhaps at increasing rate. Thailand illustrates the case where it is not possible to "cut and run" unless Thailand can be persuaded to give up its own territory. Nor, as Israel's experience shows, is exchanging "land for peace" always going to work. Therefore it becomes an unavoidable task to find a solution. To find a way to rein in, or harness chaos; to "identify leaders with the authority to make deals"; to address the tactical challenges of continuous, low-intensity attacks and terrorism. Realizing that a problem won't go away isn't the same as wanting it to stay. Often a determination to face the problem constitutes the most authentic form of pacifism; it just has bad press.