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LIFE MATTERS: Only Unity Amidst Diversity Can Defeat an Adversary

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By COL Dencio S Acop (Ret), Ph.D.

Only unity amidst diversity can defeat an adversary. There are many factors that ultimately determine the final outcome of conflict. While it is historically true that there have been instances when a lesser force emerged victorious over a larger one, the other way around has been the default. History is replete with examples. But before we delve into it, allow me to advance my thesis from such premise with the following arguments. First, the superiority of numbers achieved through unity amidst diversity has been a crucial element that brought about victory throughout the history of human conflict. Second, while the world remains the battleground of human divisions, the unifying effect of universal Christianity and the ways of peace also remains to be the only hope of human salvation. And third, the Philippines today exemplifies the unity amidst diversity that must be achieved if it is to successfully defend itself against an invading China. 

First, the superiority of numbers achieved through unity amidst diversity has been a critical factor that brought about success throughout the long history of human conflict. Persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero, Queen Boadicea in 60 A.D. successfully united the divided Celtic tribes and reigned triumphant in several battles against the Roman Empire in Britain until she was defeated by the superior generalship of Governor Suetonius Paulinus. In 52 B.C., Vercingetorix attempted to unite the various Gallic tribes in the Battle of Alesia against the Roman Army led by General Julius Caesar. The late arrival of Gallic reinforcements was key to Gallic defeat which led to the capture of Vercingetorix and the annexation of Gaul (present-day France) into the expanding Roman Empire. While most of its allies did not survive the Ottoman Empire, the Ottomans were nevertheless triumphant during their reign between 1453 and 1550 by being allied with the Crimean Muslim Tatars, the Indian Mugals, and France. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the conquest of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) by Mehmed II. It was common in the early years of warfare for victorious armies to enslave surviving enemy soldiers and make them part of their ranks replacing those lost in battles. Professional soldiers from other countries would also volunteer to serve in foreign armies like the French Foreign Legion. Thus, an early army could compose men from different cultures. For instance, German, Hungarian, Slavic, French, Venetian, Genoese, Spanish, Sicilian, and English experts served in the Ottoman Army helping it to catch up with the latest military technology. 

In later centuries, France supported America in its 18th century revolution against Britain. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the much-dwindled Confederate Army was eventually overwhelmed by the superior Union Army thus winning the war. The same thing happened in World Wars I (1914-1918) and II (1939-1945). By 1918, the superiority of the Entente (Allies) composed of France, United Kingdom, Russia, United States, Italy, and Japan ultimately overwhelmed the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. By similar token in 1945, the Allies made up of Great Britain, United States, France, Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent China, outnumbered and outpowered the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, Japan, and to a lesser extent Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Croatia. Today, we see alliances forming from the adversarial relationship of China and Russia against the United States. In what is developing to be some kind of Hybrid War (between Cold War and a Hot War), these two alliances are becoming clear across the globe. On the one hand, the Russia and China-led coalition includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, North Korea, Iran, among others. On the other hand, US allies include United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, India, Philippines, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Thailand, Taiwan, among others. These defense partnerships are formalized through collective defense arrangements. On the part of the US allies, they include the North Atlantic Treaty, Australia-New Zealand-United States Treaty, Philippine Treaty, Southeast Asia Treaty, Japanese Treaty, Republic of Korea Treaty, and Rio Treaty (22 countries). On the side of Russia, there is the Collective Security Treaty consisting of six post-Soviet states. It must be noted that China and Russia have a declared ‘no limits’ partnership and that both countries are nuclear powers. The US also has two other allies which are themselves nuclear powers: the United Kingdom and France. It is also essential to point out that while numbers play a crucial part in the adversarial game of violence, an actual nuclear confrontation will negate any such advantage. It is estimated that only a few nuclear explosions are enough to assure a ‘mutually assured destruction’ outcome for the entire world.                    

Second, while the world remains the battleground of human divisions, the unifying effect of universal Christianity and the ways of peace also remains to be the only hope of human salvation. Population Education estimates that today roughly ‘85% of people around the globe identify with a religion’. Of this figure, around a third of humankind are Christians. Christianity believes in the moral law and life after death personified by the savior of the world, Jesus Christ. This moral doctrine is the same law that inspires the preservation of human life and the advocacy of peace at every opportunity of human existence. If any part of humanity in the world prefers peace over war, that part advances a fundamental belief of Christianity which is the sanctity of life. The varied and deep divisions across peoples all over the world have often resulted in man killing fellow man through human history. In the preceding section, this literary has tried to illustrate how only unity amidst diversity can achieve victory in whatever end is aspired for by man. Today, the world’s nations are once again polarized by forces that make man mad: power, scarce resources, divergent cultures and ideologies, pride, destructive habits, and simple hatred. Just to summarize, today’s nations are again deeply divided between the contrasting powers of the United States on the one hand and China and Russia on the other. The US champions the reigning liberal order while Russia and China challenge this status-quo with the alternative order of authoritarianism. 

This author posits that in the absence of any human solution to its impending doom by nuclear annihilation, the world led by its leaders ought to consider a faith-based solution which is the way of peace. I am a Christian but it is not my intent to marginalize other faiths. That is counterproductive even to my own faith. I am merely saying that today is a time when the divergent world needs to converge if it is to survive. The most effective and efficient resolution to the world’s biggest problem is unconditional unity amidst its diversity. Tolerance leads to peace. Continued division leads to hate. Continuing hatred leads to intolerance and war against neighbor. War leads to mutually assured destruction. Either way, we faithful believe the war does not end with the destruction of our bodies. Thus, the faithful are not the ones who will push the first button. We believe in the just war theory which advocates only a defensive war. All the faithful espouse just peace. Those who do not betray the author of life who is the only one who can take a life for whatever reason. Men have been authoring life through the centuries when they did not write it. This makes any type of war other than just war morally and legally abhorrent. I can speak for catholic Christians for I am one. Ours is the universal church which began with Jesus Christ who fulfilled the prophecies. With Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, he won the war over the lying prince of the world. This victory won by Christ for all the world, past, present, and future, is the truth. The Messiah came into the world in order to establish truth and gather the world away from the dividing lies of the ‘scatterer’. This truth is the basis of all moral law. While the uniting victory amidst diversity in the world is truth, the enemy that all must unite against despite this diversity is lies. The conventional and nuclear wars the world continually fight are merely the smokescreen for these lies (sin) which every human soul battles from birth. The world often does not and cannot see it yet because it is still to become a soul. It is this very same reason that the ancient, universal church has guarded the truth from Jesus to Peter to all the shepherds of the flock to this day. This truth is being challenged by lies now more than ever. Technology has facilitated lies disguised as alternative truths to pull people away from genuine truths. And as truth gets pushed further and further away, lies are becoming dominant pulling the world closer to the devilish madness of mutually assured destruction. The real protagonists are truth and lies. And they lie deep within the hearts and minds of the leaders of China, Russia, and the United States. They lie within the hearts and minds of us all. ‘As the battle between truth and falsehood intensifies in our time and involves the use of sophisticated technological means, we, who are disciples of Jesus, must hold aloft the banner of truth, confident in the protection of Jesus’ efficacious prayer to the Father’ (Jn 17: 11-19).      

And third, the Philippines today highlights the needed unity amidst diversity that must be achieved if it is to successfully defend against an invading China. It faces an ‘invasion’ that involves not just the potential application of military force but economic and ‘gray zone’ tactics which are already underway. While the past administration of Rodrigo Duterte unusually pivoted to China, the current leadership of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has returned the Philippines to the liberal orbit of the United States as his father and other former leaders had traditionally maintained. The Philippines is a former American colony whose relationship with its former enemy turned benefactor dates back more than a century. Filipinos have always thrived whenever they were united. And they have always fallen when they were divided. Christianity, which is a legacy from Spain since 1521, has united Filipinos until this day. But despite a common enemy when Filipinos decided they have had enough of Spanish abuse, the ‘Indios’ were sorely divided by their deep ethnic biases against one another. Liberal democracy and along with it, western education, did for a time unite Filipinos. But even the ideals of freedom and enlightenment could not unite them against the evils of corruption which ate away at every progress Filipinos made in their march through civilization. It is corruption that has massively decayed Filipino society to the point that their leaders sold their nation to an enemy like China. It is the same corruption that drove Filipino elites to greed condemning millions of their ordinary citizens to abject poverty and ignorance. Despite the internal divisions wrought by the dictatorial Marcos Sr. regime, a fed-up Filipino population rose up after twenty years to launch the world-renowned ‘People Power Revolution’ in 1986 to oust a dictator. While repetitive coup attempts sought to divide the nation, a united Philippine military rose to defeat one rebel attempt after another to sustain a hard-fought democracy. 

In the face of today’s Chinese ‘invasion’, the Philippines is uniting with allies to preserve Philippine sovereignty and uphold the international rule of law violated by China. Despite a 2016 international arbitral ruling upholding Philippine claims over China’s in the disputed South China Sea, Beijing has refused to honor such ruling and instead continued to ‘invade’ territory that belongs to the Philippines. The arbitral ruling also favors other claimants to disputed territories in the South China Sea prompting them to unite against China. Furthermore, it upholds much-needed freedom of navigation through international waters considering that more than 60% of global maritime trade, over 22% of total global trade, and a third of the global shipping pass through the South China Sea. Consequently, more countries than those with China are up in arms to support the Philippines and international freedom of navigation. These countries include the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, and the claimant countries among others. Unfortunately, the Philippines is succeeding at unification more externally than internally. It is an open secret that President Marcos is feuding with Vice-President Sara Duterte politically. The vice president is a mere puppet of the former president whose term was constitutionally limited to only six years. For his infamous ‘war on drugs’ which killed some 21,000 drug suspects, Rodrigo Duterte is to be arrested for ‘crimes against humanity’ by the International Criminal Court. Naturally, Duterte and his co-accused which include two former national police chiefs allegedly want to preserve allies in government who will ‘protect’ them from the ICC. Filipinos are deeply divided by their political, economic, and cultural biases which are marred by far-reaching corruption. They are only united by their Christianity but even this has shown signs of erosion with Protestant and Born-again sects eating away at the predominantly Catholic majority. But against a common enemy whose ‘invasion’ is real and deadly, Filipinos must rise up amidst their diversity to have any chance of victory. Or continue with their dividedness and fall to a foreign invader a third time.                   

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