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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1827

The morning after Muhamalai

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Talks or no talks, Sri Lanka retains the right of preventive self-defence. If we do not take the war to the Tigers and keep them off balance, they bring the war to us. However the goal of our military operations must not primarily be the occupation or re-occupation of territory - which is difficult to defend without danger of overextension - but to draw out the Tigers and use our superior firepower to inflict maximum casualties, "annihilating the living forces of the enemy" as the post-war world’s greatest general, Vietnam’s Vo Nguyen Giap, used to put it.

Chechen model

To identify the best ways to overcome the LTTE threat, Sri Lanka need not necessarily follow the advice the Big Powers give us, but must follow the policy discussion within these countries themselves, while making adjustments for the difference between their resources and ours.

Recent Western attention has focused on the use of local warlords, mostly but not always ethnic, religious or tribal, as an instrument of strategy. Newsweek magazine admits ruefully that “The rest of the world may not have noticed, but Russia’s president has won the Chechen war. He did not start it, but he prosecuted it with the full might of Russia’s military.” Newsweek’s reporters Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova admit that “Drive down Victory Boulevard in Grozny and you’d never think there’d been a war in Chechnya. Five years ago this broad avenue looked like Stalingrad after World War 11. Now it’s flanked with new apartments and boutiques selling Italian clothes.”

The key to Russia’s success (it succeeded in killing Shamil Basayev the feared terrorist leader) was twofold: its conventional military including its air-force was unleashed; and it appointed as Prime Minister of Chechnya, a 29 year-old warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, an ex-separatist rebel, whose father Ahmad Kadyrov, also an ex-separatist leader, had switched sides and joined President Putin, was appointed Chechen president, but was killed by the separatist terrorists. Newsweek’s story focuses on the importance of the young warlord and is entitled ‘Ramzan’s World’.

It is the combination of Russia’s conventional and Kadyrov’s unconventional forces that won the Chechen war. What Newsweek refers to reprovingly as ‘the Chechen model’ is relevant to the anti-LTTE struggle. It sums up that model thus: “If Putin used divisions of artillery and 1.000 kilo bunker busters to subdue the rebels, Kadyrov had another way. He got down and dirty, fighting – and winning- Chechen style. Those methods have been simple, violent and effective. At their core is the so-called Kadyrovtsy, a private irregular army of close to 10,000 former rebels.” (Newsweek , Sept 25, 2006, pp. 22-26)

War and Warlords

The crucial importance of alliance with irregular militia which have a local political, social and cultural base, is set out in a most serious Western periodical, The National Interest, the journal in which Francis Fukuyama’s seminal essay The End of History made its debut (before it was developed into a book as The End of History and the Last Man).

An article in the journal’s summer issue is provocatively entitled In Praise of Warlords and is co-authored by John C. Hulsman and Alexis Y. Debat. Hulsman is co-author with Anatole Lieven of Ethical Realism and American Foreign Policy. Debat is senior fellow at George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

The authors urge a return to that soldier-strategist who pioneered the use of such forces, Col T. E. Lawrence, the legendary ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Lawrence helped the British defeat the Ottoman Turkish Empire by rousing the Arab tribes, and his feats, such as the taking of the port of Aqaba (at age 29) and Damascus (at 30) were achieved through highly mobile guerrilla tactics waged by a numerically much smaller force than the Turkish enemy. 50,000 Turkish troops were held down by 3,000 Arab rebel irregulars under Lawrence’s command!

The National Interest article revives Lawrence’s conclusion that such warlords are the indispensable building blocks for nation and state-building, and goes on to argue that they must be politically enabled to play this role through ‘broad local autonomy’.

The lesson is clear and unambiguous. In Sri Lanka’s war, the K faction is the X factor. Karuna crossed over from the East to thwart the Jayasikuru operation, and a few years later, a mere 1,500 crack fighters under his command rendered our encampment at Elephant pass untenable and forced us to retreat before he could break through and overrun it. The result of the battle at Muhamalai on October 12th would have been very different had Karuna been fighting at our side.

Unlike in the East, in the North the Tigers are fighting for their homeland on their homeland. We have no choice but to fight them because they regard that homeland as existing outside our common homeland Sri Lanka. But we cannot fight them while regarding that area as our Sinhala homeland (as in "May Sinhala Apagey Ratai"). It can be re-taken only if we appreciate that it is the Tamil homeland within the larger Sri Lankan homeland. The LTTE cannot be beaten by purely military means ( the militarist myth), any more than peace can be obtained by purely political or diplomatic means (the pacifist myth). It requires a political solution that enables Karuna and Douglas to recruit forces running into the thousands.

We can be certain of winning the war even in the largely mono-ethnic Jaffna and Wanni theatres if (a) Karuna has been involved in drawing up the battle plans and (b) the opposing LTTE cadres know that in addition to the Sri Lankan armed forces, their legendary former commander has taken the field, leading a well-trained, equipped and formidable Tamil formation.

But how will Karuna’s TMVP (the K faction) and Douglas’ EPDP be strengthened politically so as to enable it to fulfil their potential as allies, in this strategy? While a federal system, by that name, may not be desirable, necessary or feasible, the Pancha Maha Balavegaya’s present preference for a Panchayati Raj meant for rural self-government and manifestly not for ethno-national or ethno-regional problems, will certainly not puncture or punch out Prabhakaran!

Third World on Terrorism

The opening paragraph of the section dealing with ‘terrorism’ in the final declaration of the recently concluded NAM summit in Havana, Cuba, should cut through the political, psychological, moral-ethical and definitional fog that obscures much of Sri Lankan thinking, Sinhala and Tamil, on the central issue of the LTTE and how to deal with it.

Informed by the presence and contributions of 116 heads of state and government (and their supportive political elite) representing all shades of ideological opinion – from Hugo Chavez to Hosni Mubarak - the final declaration of the Non Aligned Summit contains the considered consensus of the global South.

118. The Heads of State or Government reaffirmed and underscored the validity and relevance of the Movement’s principled position concerning terrorism, as follows:

118.1 Terrorist acts constitute the most flagrant violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, in particular the right to life, leading to the lack of the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom of peoples, and that such acts endanger the territorial integrity and stability of States as well as national, regional and international security, de-stabilise legitimately constituted governments or the prevailing constitutional order and political unity of States, affect the stability of nations and the very basis of societies, as well as create adverse consequences on the economic and social development and cause the destruction of the physical and economic infrastructure of States;

The LTTE’s enterprise clearly fits the categories listed above in that it ‘endangers the territorial integrity and stability of the State’ of Sri Lanka as well as ‘national, regional and international security’ - and is therefore banned by India, the USA and the EU. It de-stabilises the ‘legitimately constituted government’ and ‘the prevailing constitutional order and political unity of the State’. It affects the ‘stability of the nation and the very basis of society’. It ‘creates adverse consequences on the economic and social development’ and causes ‘the destruction of the physical and economic infrastructure of the State’.

The NAM Havana declaration reiterates the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation, for self-determination and national liberation. Pertaining to "people remaining under foreign occupation" in situations of colonialism, foreign occupation and alien domination, the reference is clearly to Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.

What of the argument that the Tamil cause, that of legitimate yet unfulfilled Tamil aspirations, in some way justifies Tiger terrorism? The Non-aligned movement, a collective expression and result of strivings for national liberation and self-determination, containing many ex-guerrilla fighters, and still in solidarity with struggles which include Lebanon and Palestine, meeting in the radical ideological atmosphere of Cuba, has this to say about such argumentation:

118.3 Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for whatever purposes, wherever, by whomever, against whomsoever committed are, in any circumstance, unjustifiable, whatever the considerations or factors that may be invoked to justify them.

What then is the way to combat terrorism which commits aggression against legitimately constituted governments and the prevailing constitutional order, political unity and stability of the state as decried in the NAM declaration? The Third World commitment is clear, imperative and should be taken as the programmatic platform and ‘checklist’ of goals and tasks for the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry’s efforts:

119. Acknowledging the serious danger and threats posed by terrorism and terrorist acts to the international community, consistent with and guided by the Movement’s principled positions thereof as well as affirming the need to defend, preserve and promote these positions, the Heads of State or Government agreed to undertake the following measures:

119.1 Strongly and unequivocally condemn, as criminal, and reject terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as well as all acts, methods and practices of terrorism wherever, by whomever, against whomsoever committed, including those in which States are directly or indirectly involved, which are unjustifiable whatever the considerations or factors that may be invoked to justify them, and in this context, reaffirm their support for the provisions contained in General Assembly resolution 46/51 of 27 January 1992 and other relevant UN resolutions;

119.2 Resolve to take speedy and effective measures to eliminate international terrorism, and in this context, urge all States, consistent with the UN Charter, to fulfil their obligations under international law and international humanitarian law in the combat against terrorism, including by prosecuting or, where appropriate, extraditing the perpetrators of terrorist acts; by preventing the organisation, instigation or financing of terrorist acts against other States from within or outside their territories or by organisations based in their territories; by refraining from organising, instigating, assisting, financing or participating in terrorist acts in the territories of other States; by refraining from encouraging activities within their territories directed towards the commission of such acts; by refraining from allowing the use of their territories for planning, training or financing for such acts; or by refraining from supplying arms or other weapons that could be used for terrorist acts in other States;

119.3 Condemn any form of, and refrain from extending, political, diplomatic, moral or material support for terrorism, and in this context, urge all States, consistent with the UN Charter and in fulfilling their obligations under international law, to ensure that refugee status or any other legal status is not abused by the perpetrators, organisers or facilitators of terrorist acts and that claims of political motivation by them are not recognised as grounds for refusing requests for their extradition;

119.4 Urge all States, which have not yet done so, to consider to ratify or accede to the thirteen international and UN conventions and protocols relating to combat terrorism;

119.5 Observe and implement the provisions of all international conventions as well as regional and bilateral instruments relating to terrorism to which their countries are party, taking into account the recommendations of the Final Document of the UN Conference on the Prevention of Crime and Criminal Justice held in Cairo, Egypt in 1995 and the International Conference on Combating Terrorism held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2005

What of the peacenik argument that seeks the treatment of the LTTE as equal to that of the Sri Lankan state and argues for de-militarising both?

107. The Heads of State or Government reaffirmed the sovereign right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms for their self-defence and security needs. They expressed their concern about unilateral coercive measures and emphasised that no undue restriction should be placed on the transfer of such arms.

109. The Heads of State or Government remained deeply concerned over the illicit transfer, manufacture and circulation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world. They recognised the need to establish and maintain controls over private ownership of small arms. They called on all States, in particular major producing States, to ensure that the supply of small arms and light weapons is limited only to Governments or to entities duly authorised by Governments and to implement legal restrictions preventing the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons.

The NAM declaration thus makes short work of such dangerous nonsense, so beloved of the Norwegians, sections of the Tamil Diaspora and peace-freaks in the NGO sector and academia.

- Asian Tribune -

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