Thursday, November 23, 2006

Southeast Asia

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.

10 Comments:

Blogger sam said...

Wretchard,

Do you see this spilling over into Malaysia? I was there on vacation last April. Drove a car from Penang across the peninsula to the east coast, hugging the Thai border all the way across. The Malasian people were all very friendly. I had a great time. What a great and beautiful country. I sure hope that doesn't happen.

11/23/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

One problem with calling it "the war on terror" is that it means our oponents are allowed to use asymetrical warfare whereas we must fight on our best behavior, with our hands tied behind our backs. We should be destabilizing the Iranian government by supplying weapons to those who want to overthrow them, but when they use those weapons they become "terrorists: and we become a "state sponsor of terrorism". As a result, American soldiers who fight too "aggresively" are court marshalled and jailed by their own government, while vicious murdering terrorists incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay are fattened up then released to satisfy the bleeding hearts at the BBC.

We are helpless to prevent Iraqi insurgents from killing and torturing innocent civilians, but when the Iraqi government captures a terrorist we step in and demand he be treated gently.

Islamofacism is not the greatest threat to Western Civilizatio, political correctness is.

Muslims LOVE killing other muslims. Maybe we should be encouraging this trend.

11/23/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

peter grynch wrote:

Muslims LOVE killing other muslims. Maybe we should be encouraging this trend.

As soon as Iran and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Syria get those nuclear weapons they want so badly, they will conclude, like the USSR and China before them, that they can't use them against a nuclear superpower without committing certain suicide. So they will look around and pick fights with their muslim brothers, and you will get your trend.

11/23/2006 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

All of the issues surrounding the war on terror would be brought sharply into focus if for example an American Indian tribe were to claim a right to develop and deploy (or perhaps just acquire and deploy) let's say nuclear weapons on its own sovereign territory. What is an appropriate versus a 'disproportionate' response rapidly comes to appear different if the problem is next door, as opposed to being in 'a far away country about which we know little'.

As you suggest, a sharp response to many of these problems now would most likely be the truly pacifist way to go, but tender urban consciences in the West shy away from the possibility of becoming tainted by involvement with an error.

11/23/2006 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wretchard wrote: Thailand illustrates the case where it is not possible to "cut and run" unless Thailand can be persuaded to give up its own territory.

Unless? More like "even if".

Though I'm uncertain about how fervently zealous the Muslim antagonists are with regard to proselytising others with fundamentalism. Seems to me it's a plain case of separatism.

What bothers me is that Thailand actually ceded the four states of Malaya (given to Siam in exchange for support of the Japanese) after World War II in exchange for admission into the UN. If that set a precedent, then this current separatist movement might never be contented.

11/24/2006 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WC, the principal of MAD (mutually assured destruction) assumes that both players have the same concept of rational actions. For russia/china/the US/etc in the cold war, both sides thought that choosing to die in a MAD exchange, or choosing the high chances of death in a near MAD exchange (such as if one side had anti-missile defences) was an irrational action due to their leaders having either not believing in an afterlife (in the case of the communists and many western leaders), or believing that large scale killings of the civilians of either side was wrong (the case of the west, and probably the communists), and an uneasy peace was the rational choice that resulted. However, for radical islamists, according to their thought processes, if the nuclear powers respond to a nuclear attack from islamic countries, muslims are instant matyrs with 72 virgins waiting on them hand and foot. If the nuclear countries do not respond, they will eventually be dominated by the islamic world, again, a victory for the islamic countries. Therefore, it would be irrational in the radical islamic mindset for them to not use nuclear weapons on the west and the rest due to the fact that they win either way in a nuclear attack. That said though, they probably will start fighting amongst themselves as well (they already do enough of it).

11/24/2006 12:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

skane wrote:

WC, the principal of MAD (mutually assured destruction) assumes that both players have the same concept of rational actions.

The same dynamic works for the war on terrorism. You don't see Zarqawi or Saddam or the princes in the KSA or Bashir Assad strapping on suicide belts. It's always the low-level brainwashed flunkies they get to do that. Nukes can reach out and touch even the big boys, so they will fall into line under the tried and true logic of MAD.

11/24/2006 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Karensky said...

It is more and more evident that the source of this assymetrical warfare is the Saudi export; the Imams. If our pampered liberal citizenry must be spared the horror of the eradication of the Whabist export commodity we are now presented with the simple solution-assasination of Whabist imams sent in to start the assymetry.

11/24/2006 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger enthymeme ∙ said...

Why would it "spill" into Malaysia? Malaysia is a Muslim country that won't provide a hinterland for Thai separatists. They 1. have nothing to gain from it 2. value bilateral relations more than they do Muslim separatists 3. work under the auspices of ASEAN for the most part and will do nothing to upset it.

It's an absurd proposition that Malaysia would ditch ASEAN goodwill for a bunch of malcontents in southern Thailand.

The Malaysian prime minister Badawi is a moderate for the most part. A placid modernish sort of Islamic scholar who understands the tension between Islam and modernity, and perhaps privately thinks many things he would not say in public (that is, he is privately more critical of Islam than he might appear to be). Not one likely to stir the pot.

Now an opposition Islamist party like PAS would another matter - should they come to power (very unlikely), who knows what kind of madcap policies they'll sanction? That said, it is highly doubtful that they'll manage to attract more than a minority of seats in parliament - UMNO has a good hold on the Malay vote, and the Chinese MCA (part of the ruling triumvirate) and its base will never accept an Islamist Malaysia of the kind envisaged by PAS.

11/24/2006 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

Woman Catholic demonstrates whistling past a graveyard. Men have never been constrained by the dictates of reason.

11/24/2006 09:52:00 PM  

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