Missing the wisdom in the new anti-insurgency policy
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-12-28
During the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) 75th Anniversary celebration, media reported that some military commanders had reacted negatively to the announcement of the government’s new anti insurgency policy.

From “Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch)” in the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration (GMA), the administration of President Noynoy Aquino III (P-Noy) has shifted to “Bayanihan (Community Unity for Development)” — marking civilian-military community building. In tandem with the civilians, the military shall now focus more on community development.

The resisting commanders may have not been properly informed. It’s a major task of the Messaging Secretary is to anticipate possible negative reactions to important policy announcements like this new anti insurgency policy. The Messaging Secretary should have anticipated the need for the main public involved in this new policy — the military — to understand and internalize the wisdom of the policy shift. With no pre-selling, it’s not surprising that we hear some negative reactions from the military.

It’s also understandable for some frontline commanders to react negatively. Their reality is the enemy that they face in the frontline, the ones shooting at them. Every square meter of ground that they’ve won or held against the insurgents was paid for in blood. They’ll naturally resist a new policy they think will make them cede to the enemy ground which was paid for in blood and may have to be recovered again with blood.

However, even the greatest military commanders do not always see the bigger picture. During the Korean War of the 1950s, U.S. President Harry Truman was criticized for not allowing General Douglas MacArthur to use the atom bomb against the combined Communist Chinese and North Korean forces. Historians would later appreciate the wisdom of Truman’s decision. Truman had prevented a Third World War, nuclear at that, less than a decade after World War II.

MacArthur was only seeing China. Truman saw and feared the entry of the Soviet Union if MacArthur used the atom bomb against China. Truman knew that the Soviet Union also had the atom bomb and that it was the Soviet Union that broke the back — single-handedly — of Germany in World War II.

War is costly and unpredictable. P-Noy is wise not to rely mainly on combat operations but to entice the insurgents instead to return to the fold. P-Noy would know the lesson of the successful anti insurgency policy of his mother, the late president Cory C. Aquino. When the historic widow became president in 1986, the Communists were already capable of achieving stalemate in 1988.

She defeated the Reds with the combined civilian (Local Government Department under the late Secretary Jaime N. Ferrer) and military (under Generals Rafael Ileto and Fidel Ramos) cooperation which focused on community development. The policy, which was conducted with the initials CHOD representing the stages of the program, successfully dismantled the Communist political bases.
CHOD stood for:

1. Control - The military has to clear the Communist dominated communities and eliminate the intimidating presence of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component. There can be no community development if there is an NPA presence.

2. Hold — The military must protect the area from the possible return of the NPA or the Communist political operators.

3. Operate — Having controlled and held the Communist influenced community, the Local Government confidence building team can now operate to provide badly needed services that win people’s hearts and minds.

4. Develop — The operation has to achieve development because development is the only guarantee that the community won’t be attracted again to cooperate with the insurgents.

George Bernard Shaw wrote words to the effect that if it is bad enough not to learn the lessons from our defeats, it is worse when we fail to learn the lessons of our successes. The resisting military commanders not only failed to see the big picture. They’ve altogether forgotten recent history and the precious lessons of our successes. They seem to subscribe to that line — “When you’ve got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.” That was the U.S. thinking in Viet Nam and they lost.

Failing to recognize the wisdom in the new anti insurgency policy places the complaining military commanders in the same category where most Filipinos find themselves — benighted. Haven’t they noticed how the U.S. is applying the same formula of development in Mindanao to win Muslim hearts and minds for the big American agenda there? Haven’t they noticed how USAID had shifted all its Philippine activities to Mindanao?

The U.S. has all the military firepower and technology to finish off the Muslim rebels in Mindanao. They could easily justify this action as part of their international War on Terror. They’ve opted instead to win hearts and minds with development.

Our military has been fighting the Communist insurgents and Muslim separatists for decades. In all that time, there has not been any real decisive and conclusive victory. The fact that they still exist and operate proved the inadequacy of relying mainly on combat operations.

If only Messaging Secretary Ricky Carandang communicated all these to the military, then we would not have to explain an otherwise very wise anti insurgency policy.

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