Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Moros The Same

The title for my dissertation at LSE was "Islam and the Philippines: Effects of the United States Occupation on the Muslims in the Southern Philippines, 1899-1934". In it, I argued that through disarmament of the population, education, and political empowerment, the Americans effectively gave the "Moros" -- Muslim Philippinos -- the opportunity to influence their own path. For the first time in 400 years, Moros were ready to decide for themselves what was best and what was next. That was in 1934.

This article (here) sums up nicely how the story unfolds: Basically, after Philippine independence, the Northern (Christian, Manila-based) Philippinos dominated and suppressed the Muslims, leading to bloodshed, retaliatory killings, and civil war. Groups dedicated to defending the Moros way of life and to battling against the Manila-based administration exist to this day, some (notably Abu Sayyaf) with purported ties to Al Qaeda. The conflict is not simple, and it is not one-sided.

The above cited article makes the case for mediation between the two groups, semi-autonomous status for the Moros, and development of the southern islands -- not military campaigns and cycles of retaliation.

Re-enter the United States, and this time it's not General Pershing and American doughboys in the jungle. That is so 1911. This time, it's combat advisers and drone strikes. Make no mistake about it: drone strikes are good at assassinating specific targets (read: killing people). They are not, however, good at solving a 400 year old political, social, economic and religious problem.

If the past ten years has taught us anything, it should be that we cannot kill our way out of a complicated situation.

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