17 May, 2022


Global Overreach Of Domestic Conflict

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

This piece is not centred on the UNHRC resolution cum hybrid war-crimes tribunal nor is it about the Paranagama and Udalagama Reports. Readers have had saturation coverage on these. This article deals with ethnic (an umbrella term for race, religion and language) conflict and war in other parts of the world, principally the Middle East and notes that the relative quiescence in Lanka should not lull us into naive complacency or insensitivity that could aggravate the return of conflict. I say up front and will not repeat it, but implicit in this article is the demand that ethno-haters such as Wimal and the BBS be dealt with firmly if and when they incite violence. The Ranil-Sirisena government must not repeat the criminality of SWRD and JR whose slackness, or in truth calculated inaction in refusing to put down hoodlums at the first sign of trouble, encouraged widespread carnage. Let’s call a spade a spade; SWRD and JR are culpable of opening the door to ethnic bloodshed.

The thesis in this essay is in three parts: (i) Poverty and agony (eg. war torn Syria and Iraq) in the ‘poor-world’ breed ethnic confrontation. (ii) Poor countries in particular are fractured into hostile religious and racial segments – Sunni-Shia, Sinhalese-Tamil-Muslim, European-Slav, Han-Uyghur and more, embroiled in localised conflicts. (iii) It is entirely, absolutely (find more adverbs if you can) inevitable that, either for humanitarian reasons or in pursuit of their own gains, global and regional actors will be drawn into such conflicts; thereafter the trumps are in the hands of the big players.

From 1948 to 2015 we failed to sort out these concerns within our own spaces, so India, the West and UNHRC became involved. Eventually they dictated terms. If now we fail to conduct rigorous investigations via the domestic (or hybrid, I don’t care what it is called) mechanism, then prosecute and finally punish the guilty, hostility with the Tamils will resume, will grow and foreign intervention will resume. Make no mistake; the domestic mechanism does not mean culprits are off the hook. Quite the contrary, it means that Lanka has a last chance to identify perpetrators and hang them with a local rope; otherwise the crisis will go global again.

This country has experience of regional and international interventions from the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement, then a global pariah status and now to this domestic/hybrid tribunal; but the degree of such intervention has not been as profound as the Balkans (ex-Yugoslavia) from 1990 to the de facto secession of Kosovo in 2008, or what is now happening in the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and parts of Turkey). Though the term Levant (from the French for ‘rising’, that is the east) also includes Palestine cum Israel and Jordon, this essay, which focuses on the intervention of foreign actors in the current war in the Middle East, pays no attention to these three.

Russia: Putin’s game plan

In the hey-day of the Soviet Union Moscow was a great power in the Middle East whose writ extended from Nasser’s Egypt through Bathist Syria and Iraq, Kurdish regions in Turkey’s east and south, to Afghanistan after 1980. That’s all gone. De facto neutralisation of Iran, the most important nation in the Middle East in 1979, played to the advantage of the Soviets; but Ayatollahs are sworn enemies of godless communists, so the gain was minimal. Afghanistan seemed at first to be a gain – I remember the NSSP rejecting my assessments early in 1980 and making ludicrously wrong judgements – but it was the graveyard of the Soviet military. In line with the theses underwriting this essay the CIA did its bit to bury the Soviet military.

Putin’s game plan is to restore a degree of Russian influence in this region and he has caught Obama and the West with their pants down. But let us inquire; what is primary in this theatre, foreign intervention or sectarian conflict? Did internal distemper open the door to foreign involvement or is great power rivalry the primary cause of conflict. At first sight moron Bush’s invasion seems the origin of it all, and there is merit to that view, but the actual roots of conflict are much older hostilities involving Sunni Arabs, the Shia, Kurds Christian and Moslem, Alawis (Bashar al-Assad’s Shia sect) and the Turks, a people of Central Asian origin. Yes, dynamite waiting to be lit; but the idiocy of George W Bush was that he prematurely lit the fuse prior to Iraq’s anti Saddam Hussein revolution which was coming to fruition and explosion of the Shia majority versus Sunni minority (Saddam was a ruthless reviled Sunni) powder-keg that would then light up.

Putin’s advantage is that he is intervening on behalf and at the invitation of the ‘legitimate’ government which sits in the UN and is recognised by most countries including Lanka. America and its allies are hamstrung in their intervention on behalf of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) because no one recognises FSA as the legitimate government; they are ‘good guys’ struggling against a homicidal dictator. The US, Russia and the key regional power Iran, have Islamic State (IS) in their sights as a common enemy, but Russia in addition liberally targets FSA much to Assad’s delight. The US cannot hit Assad’s military assets without a Security Council resolution; that would be an act of war with all sorts of complications. Things could get worse; Putin could commit ground troops to Syria without concerns of legitimacy at the invitation of the Syrian government in the certainty that he will not come up against American forces. He is unlikely to send ground troops into this quagmire because of the bloody nose the Soviets suffered in Afghanistan but Iran has a military presence in both Syria and Iraq. But who knows the long run; the stakes are high for Russia and Iran if they emerge as the heroes who vanquished IS, the likely endgame seems to be a political solution in which Assad survives at least transitionally, Russia recovers its lost position in the region, and Iran graduates as regional kingmaker. For the West, not a nice picture of changing global balances.

What about the people?

While this drama is played out among the gods what of the people? Refugee flow into Turkey and thence to Europe is the tip of an iceberg; millions have been bombed out of homes and cities and forced into mud and squalor or refugee camps abroad. The world is so interconnected that the refugee flood has become Europe’s biggest crisis in 25 years. At the same time IS, a Sunni extremist semi-loony outfit, is gaining popularity among Sunni radicals for reasons traceable to items (i) and (ii) of my three point thesis. IS will not disappear quickly though it will be exterminated eventually as it is fanatical, irrational and psychopathic. In the meantime, calamity upon calamity is descending on all the peoples of the region. The restructuring of power between the West, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States may be resolved during a putative Hilary Clinton presidency, but internal tragedy will persist much longer.

In the Ukraine too the root was confrontation between Russian speaking Crimea cum two provinces in eastern Ukraine and the rest of the country; again ethnic conflict, this time in the shape of language driven fratricide. Moscow’s fret and fear was that NATO was (how foolish the West has been) creeping right up to its borders. At some point in the future Moscow and Kiev will reach a deal, Western sanctions will be lifted and NATO will promise guarantees. That side of the matter will fade from the headlines; the internal agony of the Ukraine will persist.

I could go on with the complex story of Iraq where a marginalised Sunni minority sees IS as its saviour. The Shiite state in Baghdad has support and troops from Shiite Iran but the only effective force in the country are Peshmerga fighters of the northern Kurdish minority Province. The Kurds are an effective force against IS in Iraq and Syria and there is no love lost between them and Assad; the Turks too want to see an end to IS and Assad; but Turkey abhors Kurds, has treated them abominably for generations and is now locked in civil-war against Kurdish movements within Turkey. Sunni-Shia-Kurdish-Turkish, can you see your way through this maze? Where will this mad sectarianism end? Libya defies description; west-central Africa including Nigeria is a new twist – converted Muslim extremists versus more recently converted Christians. International intervention in this part of Africa is still minimal because no great power has a loaded agenda in these sub-Saharan desserts or in Ebola affected tropical rain forests along the river Niger.

It does not need a magic wand to prevent such disasters in Lanka, only common sense and firmness; the two go together. If the government is firm people will support accommodation. People will come out and speak up. I have written before of the need for a concerted plan of action and it bears repetition. Public awareness has to be raised. Chasing out racist mobs without completing the task of raising understanding is like taking aspirin without curing the root of an ailment. Civil society and government must together evolve a programme of sustained civic action and education to teach pluralism, ethnic and religious tolerance, recognition of minority status and a bold commitment to justice. Appropriate government ministries, including Mano Ganesan’s I guess, have to gird up their loins and shoulder the responsibility. Schools and religious bodies must be drawn in, civil society energised. Mano’s predecessor Vasudeva achieved little of note in this respect; how could he, it would have meant flying in the face of the Rajapaksa ethos. A civic action and education programme will cost less than one-tenth of one percent of budgeted government expenditure. A large increase in the education budget has been promised; a small portion could be set aside for two or three years to get this done. All this is doable; the shortfall is political vision and leadership will.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Mr K D

    Can we start with a constitutional ban on political parties with explicit ethnic or religious identities like HELA Urumaya, TAMIL National Alliance and MUSLIM Congress?

    Armed with that we can immediately move into lock up Weerawansa and Wingeswaran in the same cell.


  • 4

    I suppose this article was written before the US decision to send ground troops into Syria.
    In the Sri Lankan context, I feel it would be best in the interests of internal harmony that the TNA keeps a very low profile on the matter of accountability leaving that to be tackled by the government, the UNHCR and other external forces such as the US and India. It would be best for the TNA to concentrate on matters affecting the living among their people such as the early release of the Tamil prisoners, scrapping of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, getting the lands grabbed by the military released to the rightful owners, proper re-settlement of people, empowerment of the provincial councils through full implementation of 13A etc., etc.
    Sengodan. M

  • 3

    Kneecap Weerwansa and BBS to enhance reconciliation.

    Pity the Professor didn’t know that the Gnanissara Solheim Hybrid turbo charged the push to make Batalanda Ranil the PM.

    Giving Illankai Thamil Arasa KITTU which is the Official Opposition to the Srilankan Government,their own Homeland, exclusively for Tamils is the .ultimate Reconciliation.

    But the Vellala Partners of the UNP Faction of the Government have put the pre condition that the Sons of the South must be punished first by the Hybrid Court imported from the West.

    For the simple reason for killing Pirahaparan and his liberation outfit which inflicted unbelievable misery on our inhabitants for full 30 years using Tamil Child Soldiers, Suicide Bombers, Black Tigers, and two legged normal Tigers.

    Brilliant thesis..Isn’t it !!!

  • 4

    It is obvious this pseudo-intellectual is deliberately referring to Sri Lanka as “Lanka” throughout his irrelevant waffle.

    Though no one cares much about his sly “contributions” to national debate, could people at CT remind him that every country has an officially recognised name and in the case of the soil he stands on, it is “Sri” Lanka.

    He can talk about reconciliation until the cows come home, but such pettiness shows the man’s lack of substance, or brains.

    Why are we not surprised!

    • 1

      Interesting point about the suffix added to the name Lanka in 1972 (Mrs B idea) … It would be nice if Bangladesh and Kenya also change their official country names to “Great Bangaladesh and Sri Kenya or Sir Nigeria” .. India may call it “Srimath Bharatha”… Countries have right to change or add honorific suffixes to their country names..no problemo… As I read, Lankan Hindus protested “Harthal” against the use of the word “Sri”…..

      • 1

        Ahm… It is not a suffix, more like a prefix!

        No wonder we don’t know our asses from our elbows.

  • 5

    Great analysis here KD! Many thanks. Syria and the long suffering Syrian people are New Cold war Scapegoats.

    Divide Distract and rule as with Sinhala Modayas are here supplemented buy the International Community and its govern-mentalities what Micheal Foucault called ‘biopolitics’ – the technologies of and for disciplining bodies and minds constructed as racial/ethnic or abject others – are being played out in the Middle east today.
    A few points..

    1. The new Cold War between the US and Russia is on not just in Syria, Iraq and the Levant- but also in Ukraine – let us not forget where a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down. War has returned to Europe.

    2 Sri Lanka remains caught between the China-India Cold War.. But China is a cooler player than US or Russia at this time because of its own poverty and inequality gap.. and India has its own racist lunatic fringe in power today..

    3. The UN and Red Cross led Humanitarian industry is set be make billions of dollars out of the suffering of the Syrians at this time. The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) a.k.a. fund raising circus is being staged to collect billions of dollars for the humanitarian aid game which was is worth 27 billion and counting in 2014. The funds will be consumed in the form of PHANTOM AID by the humanitarian industry circus… and so the great game that prolongs and protracts emergencies and provides great opportunity for corruption and rent seeking by humanitarians goes on.

    My theory is that countries which stock pile weapons like the US and Russia and possible later China need periodic wars to expend and sell weapons, but US got ECONOMICALLY exhausted with so many wars going out of control during the Bush-mad-man era, and now it is Putin the EGO Maniac who has a chip on his shoulder’s turn to exhaust the Raussian economy.. Wonder if the Russian air plane was shot down or crashed in the Sinai?

  • 4

    Another fine piece from Prof:Kumar David.

    The Line….
    The Ranil-Sirisena government must not repeat the criminality of SWRD and JR whose slackness,or in truth calculated inaction in refusing to put hoodlums at the first sign of trouble,encouraged widespread carnage……

    With respect to SLACKNESS or CALCULATED INACTION,SWRD is guilty.Tarzie Vitachchi in his celebrated book Emergency 58 has said this in no uncertain terms.
    With respect to JR,most commentators of the 1983 pogrom suggest that his role was much more than mere slackness or calculated inaction.He appears on TV SEVERAL DAYS AFTER THE CARNAGE,and and did not bother to even regret the carnage!

    About the IS- The Sunni extremist semi-loony outfit,there is speculation that it is a creation of the CIA?!

  • 0

    The prof has left out one major unifying factor in his Levant thesis. All the local actors cannot stand Israel.

  • 4

    Kumar David,

    You have presented a big global picture of ethnic, racial, religious or language problems.

    Are irrational societies willing to look at it that way?

    They will not, and they will fall prey to the interested world powers than accommodate their local brothers with their legitimate rights.

  • 4

    Well said K.D.
    Yes the short fall of the successive governments since 1947 has been political vision and leadership will to take the country forward.

    Look at what former president MaRa is doing. He is using Buddhist Temples to come back to power.
    Emperor Asoka learnt from the war against Kalinga and embraced Buddhism. Where as MaRa is promoting divisions using language and religion.

    Emeror Asoka’s son Arat Mahinda didn’t accept the throne and went on a mission to spread Buddhism.
    So in the best interest of Sri Lanka’s future and SriLankan Budddhism will Mahinda leave politics and become a real Buddhist Monk ?

  • 5

    Well said, Mr Kumar. However, what you say will undoubtedly fall on dead ears. When Tamils are harmed by Sinhalese, the SL state finds it extremely difficult to take any action and this “institutional syndrome” rips apart this nation since independence.

  • 3

    “Civil society and government must together evolve a programme of sustained civic action and education to teach pluralism, ethnic and religious tolerance, recognition of minority status and a bold commitment to justice.”

    Some time ago,I did write about this action plan in the comments section, to one of the articles.

    KD ,
    thanks for writing an article of its own to stress the importance giving global examples.

    We all must do our part,So the future society doesn’t suffer what we did.It may be late for us, but some day the young ones wouldn’t have to seek refugee status/ migrate fearing for loss of life/dignity.

  • 1

    Bush 11 is referred to as a moron by the author, yet he is the product of not one, but two Ivy-league Universities in the US.
    ” criminality of SWRD and JR whose slackness, or in truth calculated inaction in refusing to put down hoodlums “. Now that is very different from what would be described as pogroms, a term embraced by some with alacrity.
    US (NATO) expansion brought it’s military to the Russian borders, due to the stupidity of Yeltsin and the tolerance of Gorbachev, with the balkanisation of Yugoslavia. Propaganda succeeded just as in Iraq, and the so-called ‘Srebrenica massacre’ is described in some circles the massacre that never occurred. Putin is made of different stuff, and when the US over-reached in Ukraine, the reaction was only to be expected, and it was swift and calculated. NATO (US) over-reach in the Middle East too has now being halted and being reversed. Demonisation of Bashar Al Assad, by the ever-pliant media is now seen for what it is. The poor nationals of Iraq. Libya and Syria deceived to fight within the borders (wars of attrition) to further US interests will hopefully soon cease as they regain their sanity.
    In the UK a leading politician quipped that policy is dictated by Jewish money. The US State Dept is practically owned by the same cr

  • 0

    As Dr. Richard Dawkins in his ” Root to all Evil” states” let’s not forget the elephant in the room — an elephant called “religion”. I think Prof. David has foreseen the future of this part of the world and want to acknowledge us, right?!

    I had a respect to Buddhism/Hinduism as a philosophy but now that i see is bunch of apes using it as a business mechanism. Rationality of Buddhism not there anymore. What they do now is not to educate the mass but just for a living of it’s by the apes who are in advance brainwashed. EGO works. So what we have now are Buddhist performing from worshiping a dead tooth to holy water style Buddhism.

    The other religions are old science rewritten by rulers to manipulate and rule over the apes with the help of head priests and Mullahs. Some follow it by tradition and some driven by EGO again and yet again some use it. They compact a fancy story and the whole truth to a one book and there you go. a perfect cult is established.

    So we have a cult problem by large. How many cult leaders are there in our parliament? They are not for the average folks but for their cult.

    We didn’t see differences when we were children. Now that the media is using ” Tamils” ” Muslims ” Sinhala ” instead they should use “Ape”. And start preaching from formal learning.

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