Counterinsurgency Meets Soft Power: An Alternative Approach to Deterring Terrorist Recruitment in Mindanao   [open pdf - 431KB]

"Terrorist activity in Southeast Asia remains a challenge to U.S. national security. In particular, terrorist organizations in the Philippines continue to conduct deadly attacks and attract more recruits despite U.S. and Philippine government counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts. Within the last seven years following the 9/11 terrorist attack, the Philippine and U.S. governments have combined efforts to address insurgency as a threat that hinders peace and security within the Philippines as well as Southeast Asia. Despite the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines continues to exist as a hub for terrorist recruitment, training, and operations. A key aspect of hindering insurgency growth within the Philippines is deterring terrorist recruitment by first identifying the underlying conditions that promote discontent among the people of Mindanao that make them susceptible to the ideology of militant Islam and then implementing a strategy that includes a full range of activities from kinetic to non-kinetic methods. It is clear that economic conditions, poor governance, lack of adequate social and educational programs are all contributing factors to the instability of Mindanao. What's not so clear is how to disrupt the cycle that sustains the terrorists while gaining the affection of the Muslim minority who have been in opposition with the predominantly Christian government. This thesis examines the counterinsurgency strategy by recognizing effective practices and identifying shortfalls in the approach. Our findings suggest that by applying a mix of soft power, as defined by Professor Joseph Nye, as well as noöpolitik as defined by Professor John Arquilla and Dave Ronfeldt, in relation to hard power practices, an alternative approach to counterinsurgency can offer the U.S. and Philippine governments a long-term sustainable strategy that will diminish future radical Islamic threats and stabilize Mindanao."

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