Rules Are for Schmucks: Caving In Again

A mosque in Mindanao, Philippines. Photo by Dr. A. Hugentobler via Wikimedia Commons.

Picture a gang, unpleasant and armed. Let’s call them the Bandits. The Bandits’ hobby is murdering people who aren’t loyal to them, taking their money and goods, extorting “protection payments” from private businesses, and systematically dismantling every element of the civil government elected by the people of their territory to provide for their mutual benefit and protection.

Are we for these folks, or against them?

Do we oppose the Bandits as forcefully as we can? Or do we say, “Okay, you win, might makes right. Let’s negotiate, and strike a deal to let them have political control over the regions they’ve been terrorizing. Then we can go back to watching American Idol.”

Well, it depends. Ordinary bandits, we resist. But those who claim to be acting out of religious belief, otherwise known as Muslim insurgents, benefit from different rules because polite society feels it’s taboo to criticize their more theological dispute. The government of the Philippines, at the urging of Uncle Sam, recently signed a deal with a Muslim gang that has been pillaging southern Mindanao for decades, giving them “autonomy” and promising a withdrawal of nearly all government troops.

This is no small potatoes insurgency. Over 150,000 lives have been lost, three million residents have been displaced, and the rebels even boasted about receiving funding directly from Osama bin Laden himself.

Giving in to ordinary thugs would be bad enough. Giving in to Muslim militants, though, is far worse. Ordinary thugs only want your money, your property, and the opportunity to brag about their spoils. Muslim militants want all those things too, but they also want to keep you from drinking beer, eating pork, watching forbidden movies, and reading forbidden books. And that’s just for men. For women, forget about being a full human being, and get used to your new half-chattel status.

The rebels say they want to establish a “new form of government” on Mindanao. New? Hardly. Muslim theocracy, which is quite contrary to the democracy the Philippines has enjoyed since independence, has been around for a thousand years. As one rebel leader put it, “What we want is an Islamic state, an Islamic people, an Islamic constitution.”

Muslim theocracy is unpleasant enough even in areas where most of the population is Muslim, but evidence indicates that Muslims actually comprise a minority in southern Mindanao. If they were a majority, they could try to get what they want by winning elections; but they’re not, so they’ve been shooting people instead.

No democracy is perfect, but the people who study such things rank the Philippines among the most democratic countries in Asia. The ones who rank the lowest? You guessed it: the Muslim theocracies, like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. That’s why the Muslims there have resorted to armed force‑left to their own devices, Filipinos would never agree to the imposition of sharia law. Now we’re rewarding the bandits with the power they seek.

There is no need, by the way, to contrast the Philippines Muslim terrorists with hypothetical “Bandits.” There is a real outfit, Joseph Kony’s vicious “Lord’s Resistance Army” operating in and near northern Uganda, that fits the Bandits model quite closely. Most observers agree that despite its name, Kony’s LRA has nothing to do with the Lord, any more than drug cartels have anything significant to do with the worship of dressed-up skeletons. Imagine the reaction if the U.S. State Department one day proclaimed “Good news! We’ve struck a deal putting Joseph Kony in charge of northern Uganda!” To the (very limited) extent that Americans know or care about what happens in Africa, the reaction would be one of horror. Yet when Muslim terrorists, whose body count Joseph Kony can only envy, are given the same deal, there are smiles all around.

Is this liberal guilt at work? I think it’s something far worse‑a sense that it’s somehow fitting for Muslims to run Muslim-majority territories, Jews to run Jewish-majority territories, Buddhists to run Buddhist-majority territories, and so on. What’s wrong with just letting humans run human-majority territories, and leaving the supernatural out of it?

If there is one thing we can learn from history, it’s that partitioning territories based on religious lines never works. NEVER. Look at India and Pakistan, northern and southern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, Greek and Turkish Cyprus, Serbia and Croatia, and, most recently, northern and southern Sudan. It turns out that strengthening the hand of the God experts on either side of some politician-drawn line tends to make things less peaceful, not more. The better way for people to get along is to tell the God experts they can keep spouting whatever supernatural babble they choose, but they are not allowed to run the government, and political boundaries are not going to be drawn with them in mind.

Over the decades, I’ve contributed well into six figures worth of cash to the building of America’s military machine. (I started trying to do the math based on my taxes to get a specific number, but it got too depressing, so I gave up.) So here’s a little note I want to attach to my next tax return:

Dear Pentagon:

Muslim thugs like the armed gangs in the Philippines are exactly the people I want you to protect me against. Do it in a smart, cost-effective way, which almost certainly means not involving U.S. personnel directly. But get it done. Don’t just cave in.

Your Funding Source.