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Peter Brookes: Philippine Pullout - Terror Wins (Again)
Peter Brookes: Philippine Pullout - Terror Wins (Again)


About the Author

Peter Brookes writes a weekly column on foreign policy and defense for the New York Post and is penning a book on national security affairs for McGraw Hill due out early next fall. He appears regularly on national TV and radio.
Prior to joining the Heritage Foundation, Brookes served in the Bush administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, where he was responsible for the development, planning, guidance and oversight of U .S. security and defense policy for 38 countries and 5 bilateral defense alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.

Brookes has a distinguished military background, including active duty in support of military operations in Iraq/Kuwait (Desert Storm); Haiti (Restore Democracy); and Bosnia (Joint Endeavor). He flew reconnaissance missions in East Asia and the Persian Gulf while stationed in Japan covering military matters related to the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Iran and Iraq. His personal awards and decorations include: the Joint Service Commendation Medal; the Navy Commendation Medal (3 awards); the Navy Achievement Medal; several naval and joint unit awards; the Defense Language Institute’s Kellogg Award; the Joint Chiefs of Staff service badge; and Naval Aviation Observer (NAO) wings.

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July 14, 2004

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Once dubbed the "sick man of Asia" due to its anemic economic performance during the 1980 Asian boom years, the Philippines can now add the title "weak man of Asia" - for caving in to terrorist demands in exchange for the release of a Filipino truck driver in Iraq.

By being the first country to pull its troops out of Iraq over a terrorist hostage situation, the Philippines has in one fell swoop: a) encouraged terrorists thugs to take more hostages in Iraq-and beyond;
b) emasculated itself at home in the face of a growing Muslim terrorist insurgency; and c) stabbed its ardent counterterrorism supporter and 50-year ally, the United States, in the back.

Of course, it's understandable that Manila wants to secure the safe release of its native son. But its decision to yield to terrorists' demands - even temporarily - demonstrates that terrorism pays dividends and will encourage its continued use as an evil tool of influence across the globe.

In fact, by bringing its troops home, the Philippines will put other foreign workers in Iraq directly in the terrorist crosshairs. Whose workers will be next and what will be the demands?

This weak-kneed decision won't help things at home, either. The Philippines has suffered 73 terrorist incidents since 9/11, including 163 deaths and 675 injuries.

Manila is facing a serious terrorist insurgency in its southern Muslim-dominated islands, and its show of weakness in Iraq will only make matters worse.

Southeast Asia al Qaeda affiliates Jemaah Islamiya, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyef Group intend to establish a theocratic Muslim state on the large southern Philippine island of Mindanao. They are working in cahoots and already have set up joint training camps there.

Employing the law of unintended consequences, the Philippines may be putting its 10 million overseas workers in harm's way as terrorist pawns as well. (Filipino expatriates, as many as 500,000 in the Middle East, remit $8 billion a year to the Philippines, accounting for 10 percent of the country's economic output.)

How long before a terrorist group snatches overseas Filipinos and hold them hostage in exchange for concessions on independence for Mindanao?

Once one of the most outspoken supporters of President Bush and the War on Terror, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appears to have lost her nerve on fighting terrorism abroad - at a minimum.

Moreover, the Arroyo decision is also particularly offensive to Washington, which has been incredibly generous in helping the Philippine government fight terrorism since 9/11.

  • Washington spent over $100 million training, assisting, and equipping the Armed Forces of the Philippines for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home as well as peacekeeping duties abroad.

  • The U.S. also gave Manila tens of millions of dollars in social and economic aid to address the problems contributing to the southern Muslim insurgency and terrorism.
    Arroyo's decision also calls the Philippines' reliability as an ally into question. American allies Japan and South Korea faced similar situations in Iraq, but gritted their teeth and held firm despite political turmoil at home.

    The Philippine pullout is small in significance militarily - 51 troops from a multinational force numbering 150,000. But it's huge politically because it could lead to a chipping away of international resolve in Iraq.

    Negotiating with terrorists never pays and the consequences of the Philippines' actions in Iraq will reverberate far and wide in the War on Terror.

    We can only hope that after Spain's abrupt decision to retreat from Iraq this spring, the Philippines will be the last nation to appease these bloodthirsty criminals in Iraq - or anywhere else.

    Peter Brookes, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, is a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs. E-mail: peterbrookes@heritage.org

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    © 2004 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Mr. Brookes is a Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. This column originally appeared in the New York Post. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.


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