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Is it a war?

Everyone and his favorite newspaper all proclaim that there is a war going on in Mindanao. But over in Filipino Voices – this collective I haven’t contributed to in a while – a nice discussion is shaping up about the use of the word “WAR.”

Dean Jorge Bocobo – the blogger behind Philippine Commentary – sets out his argument this way:

I think we really must reserve the word “WAR” for conflicts involving sovereign states unless we want to adopt the neologism “war on terrorism” which would be fine with me. But as far as I am concerned suppression of the MILF is a police action to enforce the laws of the land against, murder, arson, kidnapping and hostaging as human shields and other criminal acts (including possible violations of the Human Security Act, even if it is a Terrorist Bill of Rights).

I’m not just nitpicking words because it is the constant portrayal of this conflict as a war that obscures the moral high ground we must reach: Justice for all in a system of democratic equal protection that is blind to color, creed and gender.

By treating it as war, we actually legitimize the MILF’s staunch refusal to disarm and negotiate in earnest. We must fight as much, if not more for the advantaging of the Bangsamoro people themselves than other Filipinos who would not fall into a new sultanate ruled by sharia law for Muslims only and a different set of laws for non MUslims or cases involving them both.

cvj – he of the Placeholder blog – retorts:

DJB, isn’t that being Orwellian, i.e. reserving the term ‘war’ only for conflicts involving sovereign states? After all, there is such a thing as Civil War.

Hoookay.

I agree with DJB. The offensive against the MILF is a police action aimed at suppressing lawlessness. For one thing, there is a significant consensus that ‘war’ properly refers to a conflict between nations, carried on by authority of their respective governments. I am nowhere near ready to consider the MILF a nation. Hell! Nothing negates their much vaunted claim to represent the Bangsamoro people – which I’ve never believed anyway – than the fact that, in their campaign of retaliation for the scuttling of the MOA-AD, they’ve been victimizing Bangsamoros anyway.

So, I don’t see how anyone can still believe in the fiction that the MILF represents anything more than their own interests. As far as I am concerned, the MILF is nothing more than a group of thugs – bandits, gang-bangers – who are out to use deadly means to force the outcome they want. And so moving against them is really nothing more than an exercise of police power – the inherent authority of a state to regulate behavior and enforce order within its territory.

And with regard to cvj’s retort … might this not be just an instance of an Orwellian strategist, denouncing Orwellian strategies? LOL?

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7 Responses

  1. cvj says:

    For one thing, there is a significant consensus that ‘war’ properly refers to a conflict between nations, carried on by authority of their respective governments – Rom

    So if you and DJB agree, that it makes a ‘significant consensus’? Despite your claim of ‘consensus’, there are wars that involve a conflict within nations such as the Afghan Civil War (1996 to 2001), the Bosnian War (1992 to 1995), the Lebanese Civil War (1976 to 1990), Somali Civil War (1988 to present) and the Rwandan Civil War (1990 to 1993) which was followed by the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

    BTW, calling me ‘Orwellian’ does not directly address the issue i raised. That falls under the logical fallacy of tu quoque which is a variant of the ad hominem fallacy.

  2. rom says:

    cvj: why so serious, uncle? LOL! And why think that only DJB and I agree? As for the definition of war, I think the qualifier ‘civil’ war accounts for difference between war in general and internecine strife, in particular. A civil war, in other words, is merely a species of war.

    oh, and I was merely commenting on the irony of your comment; not even trying to debunk your argument or anything. for one thing, there was nothing to debunk. simply calling something orwellian doesn’t directly address the question of whether or not DJB’s definition was correct. Does that fall under the logical fallacy of tu quoque? Or is it just a case of et tu, brute?

  3. cvj says:

    Rom, if you accept that civil war is a ‘species’ of war, then it contradicts your statement that “‘war’ properly refers to a conflict between nations, carried on by authority of their respective governments “ in the sense that the latter definition excludes the former. It’s like saying that jazz is not music because it is not classical music.

    there was nothing to debunk. simply calling something orwellian doesn’t directly address the question of whether or not DJB’s definition was correct. – Rom

    But I did not ‘simply call something Orwellian’. I did further explain what i meant when i stated…“i.e. reserving the the term ‘war’ only for conflicts involving sovereign states? After all, there is such a thing as Civil War.” Even if i did not use the term ‘Orwellian’, DJB would have known what i was objecting to. I thought you should also have understood that as well since you quoted me in full.

  4. rom says:

    cvj: and in a civil war, uncle, don’t both sides have their own respective governments (presumably including everything that would make up a legitimate government)? In which case, a civil war is actually a war between two putative states, each claiming legitimacy. this is what makes it a species of war in general.

    as for your so-called objection, let’s break it down. You start by calling DJB’s definition Orwellian – presumably to discredit it by claiming that ‘reserving war for conflicts of states’ was a misleading use of the word, so as to enable other forms of conflict to be referred to with less incendiary labels. There’s your fallacy right there.

    Then you try to recover by saying: “After all, there is such a thing as Civil War.” which really isn’t saying anything at all, because it is implicit in the term civil war that you have two competing ‘governments’ or ‘quasi-states’- only they’re within one nominal state – the legal existence of which is practically suspended pending the outcome of the civil war, i.e., if the confederacy had won, it would be the CSA, not the USA.

    So, since that concept is abundantly clear, your objection tends to look like semantic hairsplitting; hence, not an objection at all.

  5. cvj says:

    Rom, can you identify the fallacy associated with my objecting to DJB’s reserving the the term ‘war’ only for conflicts involving sovereign states? And how can you claim that my giving the counterexample of a Civil War (as a war that does not involve two sovereign states) be an ‘attempt to recover’ unless you’re saying that i was aware of such fallacy being committed?

    It is not a given in a Civil War to have two competing governments or ‘quasi-states’ although i agree that is a possible outcome. A Civil War may also involve one of the parties trying to take control of the existing government controlling the same piece of territory. For example, the Spanish Civil War and the Lebanese Civil war weren’t fights between different putative states, but different factions competing for power in the same state.

  6. rom says:

    cvj: You start by calling DJB’s definition Orwellian – presumably to discredit it by claiming that ‘reserving war for conflicts of states’ was a misleading use of the word, so as to enable other forms of conflict to be referred to with less incendiary labels. That’s a kind of ad hominem, isn’t it?

    tries to recover – well, ok. maybe you weren’t aware of how lame the misrep was.

    Oh, gawd, uncle. I’m not gonna write an entire treatise on what constitutes a civil war for you. Look it up in wikipedia or something. And incidentally, just calling something one thing doesn’t necessarily make it so, eh?

  7. cvj says:

    That’s a kind of ad hominem, isn’t it? – Rom

    No, it isn’t. Even granting your assessment that my usage of ‘Orwellian’ was a misleading use of the word (an assessment i don’t agree with as explained in the next paragraph), that still does not qualify as an ad hominem fallacy because Ad hominem is an attack on the person which i did not do.

    Rather, what i took issue with is his strictly limited definition of ‘war’ which i considered Orwellian in the sense that it is his attempt to manipulate language for political purposes.

    Oh, gawd, uncle. I’m not gonna write an entire treatise on what constitutes a civil war for you. Look it up in wikipedia or something. – Rom

    You really want to take this route?

    And incidentally, just calling something one thing doesn’t necessarily make it so, eh? – Rom

    Whether or not what is happening in Mindanao is already Civil War (or something leading towards that) was not my primary issue. As i mentioned above (at 12:04am), my primary purpose in bringing up Civil War is to provide a counterexample of a type of war that is not between sovereign states in order to show that DJB’s definition of War was too limited.

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