CNN.com - Manila begins Iraq troop pullout - Jul 13, 2004
I suppose I am a little surprised considering that Manila (like Bulgaria) has till recently pushed the line that it would not give in to the kidnapper's demands. After all, what is the point of being part of the 'coalition of the willing' should it seem that the nation is ready to be taken hostage? To be fair, Manila is planning to withdraw the troops and this merely pushes it a month forward. However, the perception would be that Manila has in effect appeased the terrorist. After all, why else would the terrorist bother with such a demand, if all they were 'simply' concerned about was the withdrawal of the troops? Yes, we have to accept that the life of a civilian and his family is at stake but at the same time, we have to balance that against the aims and prestige of the nation of Phillipines as well as that of its soldiers. Eventually, the question is raised wherein lies the purpose of the withdrawal?
What would be some of the reasons a nation might consider given the undertaking of joining the Coalition in the liberation of Iraq? One, there's always altruism and the unity of the brother and sisterhood of mankind. If so, surely the safety and security of the people and state of Iraq should be measure against the possible life of a citizen. And even if arguments were made that 53 boots on the ground would not make any concrete improvements or that it is simply a rescheduling of a planned withdrawal, then firstly, why was this not done in the first place but was instead the reaction to a terrorist atrocity, secondly, what about its impact on existing humanitarian aid? The very act of pulling out, especially in conjunction with the hostage taking merely adds to the long list of injustices perpetuated by the International Jihadist Organisations, which coupled with the pullout by Spain, merely proves to them the 'weaknesses' of democracies and the benefits of divide and rule. And considering that troops have been sent to what is effectively a combat zone, then why the dicotomy between the possibility of the loss of the life of a soldier which Manila had sent on its orders and that of a civilian who has gone there willingly, or at least without some form of governmental coersion?
So let's consider the self interest of a nation in going into Iraq. Considerations raised would range from the need to enage the current hegemon and staying on its good side to considerations of geopolitics and the world's addiction to oil to the need to combat the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass (heck even local) destruction. If so, then the importance of a safe, stable and (hopefully) democratic Iraq becomes ever the more important, especially as a bulwark to the more extremist and radical elements in the region (of which I think OPEC qualifies). Bringing the question to a more domestic level would lead to puzzlement especially when one considers the problems Manila has been having with its own Muslim seperatist in the Southern islands, which very likely, has links to the broader terrorist organisations. It thus becomes even more bewildering that Manila would make any move that could conceivably weaken its hand the next time a standoff occurs between it and organisations like Abu Sayif, especially since Manila has had always taken a very firm stance against them, even to the point of refusing to negotiate with them regarding hostages. Another domestic issue raised here is simply that analogies wtih Spain are quite dissimilar in that the war was never quite an election issue for either the government of the oppostion, or that elections were to be forthcoming (they've just ended and it looks like the incumbent President Arroyo has won) or that the people are likely to take to the streets yet again in an effort to 'impeach' the president. But on the flip side, Phillipines' international prestige looks set to take a hit. We already know that the Bush administration has come out expressing regret and this would surely detract from the moral courage and contributions that Manila has done thus far. And furthermore, it would seem likely that nations would consider any future Filipino alliance or alleigence in a slightly sour light.
I think, it is time to reinforce the fact that this is a war, one fought not just with conventional weapons and targets (and unfortunately, unconventional ones as well) but as well as one being fought on an ideological plane, a battle for the 'hearts and minds' of peace and freedom loving people everywhere.