Search This Blog

Monday, November 11, 2019

Militancy - Why do They Persist?

When United States military had managed to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011, the world had thought that the war against militancy would soon be over.  So did Sri Lankan government when they killed off Vellupillay Prabhakaran in 2009.  And so too those who had fought against Nazi Germany, when Adolf Hitler killed himself with his wife, Eva Braun in an underground bunker just before the fall of Berlin to Soviet Russian onslaught.  Thus, when United States announced that they had managed to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS / IS / Daish, they had not actually accomplish any objective but merely pushing the organisation further underground.

The problem with fighting a war is not just winning the war, but to eliminate remnants of support to the defeated regime or the defeated figure.  Failure to do so will allow the the defeated party to rise again from the ashes.

In an essence, when these figurehead were defeated, their supporters continue to exist.  If not kept in check, these supporters would continue to deify the defeated figurehead, turning him or her into an cult personality and ideology around the deified figurehead.  When the deified figure is killed, this actually makes it harder as the deceased deified figure can now be exploited to be a martyr to the cause that he or she had been part of.  

Essentially, this is what had happened to al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed.  On one part of the militant group, they see him as an example; ie to fight to the end.  On the other hand, the fact that Osama was part of mujahiddin forces which was recruited by CIA to fight in a proxy war against the USSR, his death is merely seen as United States covering loose ends after his utility had ended.  Similarly, with many speculating that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed off as his utility as head of Daish had ended for CIA.  

Delegation of Moral to Ideological Need
But to their supporters, they will continue to be seen as heroes.  Regardless of the deaths and destruction that they had wrought upon the world, to their supporters, these are unfortunately part and parcel of the war they are part of.  The deaths and pain felt by innocent civilians are nothing but collateral damages that they would have to bear to see their utopia to be fulfilled.  So far, the best movie scene that encapsulate this ideological argument can be seen in a 1999 Hong Kong movie Purple Storm

In that movie, the protagonist Todd Nguyen was a Khmer Rouge terrorist that was captured after he was injured and had lost his memory.  The authorities had fed him with false memory convincing him that he was an undercover agent.  His father who was also a terrorist had managed to rescue him.  A triggered explosion by Todd's wife, Guan then brought memories of how he had planted a bomb on his child's baby carriage and sacrificed his child in a terrorist attack.  He had delegated the future of his child to the ideological cause that he had believed in.  

Defeating Ideological Movement - Not Just a Military Victory
How is it possible then to defeat these militancy when defeating it only drives the movement deeper underground?

History is full of examples how these militancy can be reduced.  Perhaps the best example can be found in our own history.  In our own fight against communism, we succeeded not because we had better armament and better trained men.  But because while we fight against them, we listened to the grouses that are faced by their former supporters and surrendered personnel. We talked to the very people that they are trying to recruit.  And we gave them a better option, a life without a war, a life with opportunities to improve themselves and their family.

Resonating Voice
In fact, the very reason why government propaganda was able to resonate with these bandits was because the Government had not only listened to their side of the story and their grouses, they were given the responsibility to help their erstwhile comrades to surrender, with their annihilation as the last resort.  In essence, they were asked to help to get their former comrades, men and women who could have at one point of time saved their lives in heat of battle, to surrender and gain a better life.  So they would see the folly of their past actions.  

Trust Given is a Trust Earned
Quite a few former guerrillas were given such task.  The most important former guerrilla to be given such task was Lam Swee.  Formerly Central Committee Executive for Southern region which covers Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor, Lam Swee was instrumental in getting trade unions to be part of the communist's overarching socialist front in Malaya.  Thus when he surrendered in 1950 in Pahang together with Osman Cina, it was a huge blow to Communist Party of Malaya.  

Combining him with intellectual propaganda warrior, Tan Sri Too Chee Chew, the propaganda that they created had weakened the communist insurgents' morale.  As they knew how a communist would think, how a communist behave, and even how they speak, the propaganda they created resonated with the communist, leading to many of them desiring to surrender.  

As part of the war effort against the communists, the government had placed a price on the head of every communist, including for each recovered weapon.  While the bounties offered did reduced many communists into traitors to their erstwhile comrades, some of the more responsible cadres balked at the thought of being paid for betraying their comrades.  Instead, they had asked for the opportunity to convince their former comrades to surrender.  This was the predicament that was faced by Malayan Special Branch.  

Leaving No Men Behind
In one of the most successful anti-insurgent operations launched in Malaya during the Emergency era,  the surrender of Hor Lung, another Central Committee Pulitburo member for Southern Region in April 1957 had provided this very kind of opportunity.  Knowing that their struggle was over, he was not willing to abandon his men to oblivion and had negotiated with Special Branch to help him to meet and negotiate with his men to gain their acceptance to lay down their weapons.  The operation, code-named Junto was so successful that nearly all communists in Johor had surrendered by 31 December 1958.  A total of one hundred sixty communists, twenty eight of them unit leaders had surrendered with around three others killed. 

For his effort to convince his men to surrender, Hor Lung was paid a total of $400,000, of which he would later used to invest in a timber concession.  Not only he did not abandon his men, he had been paid handsomely for his effort.

When Hor Lung's reward was made known to the public, some media were aghast at the amount paid out and had interviewed Tunku Abdul Rahman for his view.  Noting that the operational cost to fight the communists threat was costing the Federation a total of $350,000 per day, he closed the issue by saying the following words, "We have to get results.  We cannot stick strongly to principles.  If money can buy the end, then we must use it.  On principle, of course, Hor Lung should be hanged."  (Excerpt from page 319, The War of the Running Dogs : 1948 - 1960 by Noel Barber).

Not Isolated Incidents
In fact, throughout Malayan Emergency, it was the communist leaders that took the initiative to have his or her whole unit to surrender to the Government.  This feat was later repeated again during the Second Insurgency and Sarawak Insurgency.  

Ultimately, this very same tactic was the key in defeating the communist in 1989.  Planning to launch the third wave of insurgency against Malaysian Government in the event if Haadyai negotiation had failed, Chin Peng had already infiltrated several units into Peninsular Malaysia.  Led by Cheong Chor, he was certain that Cheong Chor would be his trump card to force a favourable result to him. 

Unbeknownst to him, Cheong Chor had already been captured and so were most of the armed work force that had been infiltrated earlier.  A few units were actually in fact, consist of purely surrendered enemy personnel operating under Special Branch.  According to late Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng in a verbal interview, it was when Tan Sri Rahim Noor, then Head of Special Branch pulled him aside to tell him that his trump card had already been captured, that Chin Peng had finally agreed to the Hadyaai Agreement.

Yet, Americans and most other countries failed to appreciate that to win the war against an ideologically strong enemy, they should not chop off the head.  Chopping off the head would only result in new heads growing to replace the lost head, or in worst case scenario, more heads to grow to replace the lost head.  Like the Hydra of the Greek mythology, the multi-headed snake was an immortal.  Every time a head is chopped off, two heads grew in its place.

And similar in this case, Daish not only was partially impacted with the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, they had foreseen this possibility months ago, and had groomed a successor in his place.  But compared to the mythical Hydra, Daish may be a far more dangerous foe now, as the new head is a virtual unknown that makes eliminating him, an even more impossible task to accomplish.

Not to forget, the folly of Americans of financing their future enemies.  Yesterday was Osama, then we had Daish.  Who would be the next?  Heck, they had even financed Uncle Ho Chin Minh during World War 2 to fight against Japanese troops.  Look where that got them in Vietnam War?

No comments:

Post a Comment