Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eating ones own words

I find that I have been seduced by the discipline economics and perhaps the dismal science may be blamed for my perennially gloomy outlook on affairs. Some say it is better to be the optimist who sets out hoping the sun will shine rather than the pessimist who always takes an umbrella about on the basis that it will rain; someday. I probably fall into the latter category.

When I started this blog it was mostly to pin down my opinion on events, mostly for my own entertainment, and to reflect on these from time to time.

I have long held the view that the war could not be won militarily. My argument rested on a couple of principles; that the government would run out of money half way and that even if significant advances were made, the Tigers would scatter into a guerrilla force, which would again stretch resources to breaking point. When the Government's money eventually ran out they would return.

The battle is now all but over and the Government has emerged triumphant so my thesis is proved wrong.

I underestimated the determination of the Government. I thought MR was an incompetent duffer, the steely resolve with which he, the Defence Secretary and the Army Chief prosecuted it was something that I had had not reckoned with. As a friend said some months back, in Gotabhaya, Prabakaran met his match.

The economy, although battered proved to be more resilient than expected and even with the impact of the global crunch, the real collapse is starting only now, so we managed to squeak through. The bill will eventually need to be paid and the price will be heavy but as far as this battle is concerned it had no effect. There is also the minor matter of the social and political price, which appears trivial to the public, such things always do, until the bill is presented.


Anonymous said...

I held much the same views as yourself. A few things we didn't factor in.

1. Karuna's defection - loss of manpower and lots of additional intelligence

2. The LTTE had fought as a conventional army for so long (since the late 80s) that they may not have had enough people with experience to fight a guerilla war. Yet. They may still do it in a few months/years from now.

3. A massive recruitment drive by the army. We have more people in combat roles now than at any time previous in Sri Lankan military history

4. A happy coincidence where graduates of many foreign military schools were in mid/mid-senior level ranking positions in the army. There was a dearth of professionally trained soldiers in the 80s and early 90s, but Sri Lanka has been investing in training for years.

5. A change of strategy in how attacks were conducted. I attribute this to point 4 above, but the political will to push things through in spite of casualties is something that SL has not had in a long time. Remember the Muhumalai debacle? Most previous governments would have pressured the army to stop at that point.

Hindsight is always 20/20, eh? The problem is that the militarization of SL will not suddenly cease because the battle is won. In fact, there will probably be a need for more troops (not fewer) to hold onto the ground gained and stop the LTTE (or small armed bands) from regrouping. There may also be a need for tighter security in and around many more urban areas - I'd expect a few Chechen style hostage crises.

At least, those are the reasons that will be given to ensure that the army is not disbanded when things grind to a conclusion in the no-fire zone.

Jack Point said...

Good points Anon, I agree with you.

The dirty war of 1987-89 against the JVP left its mark. The unmarked vehicles carrying death squads, the culture of impunity disappeared from public view for a while but they never vanished completely. They remained below the surface, emerging from time to time with greater force.

Would certain ministers licensed weapons have been ignored so readily, in say 1985? I don't think so, but now they are taken to be the norm.