Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reasoning with the enemy

I've always said that what made me an effective intelligence officer for the Catholic Student Councils was that I knew for a fact that the "other side" - meaning the radical student/youth organizations - plays dirty.

It's not actually as... negative as it sounds, since we're talking about moral relativism here: for them, everything was justifiable if it advanced Joma's revolution. Nothing was exactly "wrong" for them if it advanced their agenda. We Catholic SC leaders just happened to operate under a different set of rules.

But then, that's where the problem arises.

Henry Kissinger's book, Diplomacy, is truly teaching me a lot. True, I already knew that there was a high level of relativism in the realm of political action, but its fascinating to see it happen on the level of historical figures. Because, this way, it drives the point home: the person you are negotiating with in good faith might not be dealing with you in the same terms.

Take for example all those concessions and negotiations with the North Vietnamese. The Americans - as portrayed by Kissinger - were giving so many concessions on the basis of building a level of confidence between them and the communists. The Americans were acting and negotiating on the basis of resolving an issue not only through force of arms, but through the redress of what to them are the outstanding issues of the Vietnam War.

But as Kissinger pointed out, the North Vietnamese were operating on the premise that nothing short of conquest of the South, the imposition of communism throughout the whole of Vietnam, was the goal. There would be no compromise, no peace, no concession. As Kissinger said, Hanoi was happy to pocket everything that Washington gave, but never gave back. That the United States continued this line of engagement for four Presidents astounds me.

This is but one illustration on how important it is to know the context of the person(s) your dealing with. Some say that the reason why Gandhi's style of revolution worked was that he was dealing with the British and their long tradition of liberal democracy; Imperialists as they British were, they do regard themselves as democratic, God-fearing creatures. It is a very interesting thought experiment to substitute, say, the Nazis to the equation and see how even a non-violent protest fares against history's worst authoritarians.

I saw on the banner of PDI that the AFP is considering a long ceasefire - three years! - with the CPP. Given this, I am seriously thinking of sending the Chief of Staff and his Commander-in-Chief a copy of Kissinger's Diplomacy so that they remember context, and who it is their dealing with.

Peace talks are wonderful things, I would concede. Woodrow Wilson's ideals for a peace that allows even the defeated to keep a large measure of dignity is a very ideal outcome. But, again, this is falling into the trap of regarding one's antagonists as beings who think the same way as you do. They don't. There is a world of difference between a communist, especially one who has gone up a mountain, and a liberal democrat. The value systems are just too different to reconcile, especially since the former is all-too-willing to kill you if you won't agree to their ideology.

Again, I'm not saying peace talks shouldn't be pursued; they should, in fact. All I'm saying is that there's a danger to thinking that people who have pursued an ideological rebellion for nearly four decades, who were not above culling their own ranks in order to maintain ideological purity, would suddenly begin thinking the same way as we do.

There must be no illusions here: the CPP-NPA-NDF has as its goal the supplanting of all our liberal democratic traditions and institutions with the monochromatic systems and beliefs of communism. The communists have said time and again that they are willing to do everything - everything! - to see this goal achieved.

The AFP and our national leaders must never forget this fact, even if our civil society leaders seem to have done so.

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