Catch the recent “Politics, Power, and Preventative Action” podcast interview with RTJ founder Mark Mateski.

Sri Lanka and COIN

Abu Muquwama asks whether the case of Sri Lanka’s rapid destruction of the LTTE shows that there is an alternative to population-centric coin and links to a Indian Defence Review story relating “lessons” of the conflict. These lessons include stonewalling the media, NGOs, and foreigners and giving the military complete operational freedom. So what does the apparent crushing of the LTTE mean?
      First, states should only choose methodologies that are appropriate to their values, capabilities, and the task at hand. If population-centric counterinsurgency fulfills those requirements, so be it. If enemy-centric counterinsurgency or a straight-ahead counterterrorism campaign works, then all the better. Given the fact that the Sri Lankan civil war had long since become a war of movement, an vigorous offensive strategy was appropriate. Anything else would have been a half-measure. Second, states quelling internal rebellions tend to be more successful at counterinsurgency in general. There are many disadvantages that accrue to an overseas occupier that local forces acting within their own turf do not face. Lastly, we should take note of the unique nature of Sri Lanka’s case. The island state is ultimately peripheral to most great powers besides India, has no strategic natural resources, and lacks the emotional appeal of the Israeli-Palestinian case. There is not a well-connected Tamil lobby in the United States or Europe.
      In short, the Sri Lankan military did what they wanted and the world met them with flat indifference. The UN protested, but without any follow-up the threats were useless. Such an advantageous set of affairs is unlikely to be available for the United States in any future conflicts. There is little relevance for us other than the always helpful realization that we cannot become too attached to any one method of fighting guerrillas and terrorists.

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