18 May, 2024


Postscript: Lessons Of The War & Peacemaking – Reply To Mark Salter’s End Note

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Mark Salter’s promises of ‘finality’ of responses are belied by his renewed assertion of ‘endings’.

Contrary to Salter’s slippery use of the term terrorism, it is definable as the witting targeting of non-combatants, i.e. innocent civilians. This certainly characterizes the LTTE and on occasion, the IRA.

Fascism however is a system of internal organization as well as strategic policy characterized by a combination of terrorism, totalitarianism and exterminism. This is why every fascist individual or organization is terrorist but not every terrorist is fascist. Fascism is not a description that fits the IRA at all, but is an exact fit for the LTTE.

Salter is ignorant of the description of Prabhakaran by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John F Burns, writing in the New York Times: “the Pol Pot of South Asia”.

He also bypasses my quote from Emeritus Professor Walter Laqueur, world renowned expert on Fascism as well as on guerrilla warfare, in which he says the only parallels he knows of for the ruthlessness and fanaticism of the Tamil Tigers are the European fascist movements of the 1920s and ’30s (‘The New Terrorism’, 1999). Prof Laqueur is the author of two famous volumes called ‘Guerrilla’ and ‘Guerrilla war’, studies of guerilla movements and warfare worldwide, and it is utterly significant that he does not see any parallels between the LTTE any other guerilla movement anywhere in the world. Nor does he draw the slightest parallel between the Tigers and any Communist or leftist movement or states. As the Editor of the Penguin/Pelican Readers Guide to fascism, “the only parallel [he] can think of for the LTTE is the European fascism of the 1920s and 1930s”.

Salter also ignores the characterization by The Economist (London) of the LTTE as “almost classically fascist”.

So, contrary to Salter, it is by no means a definition that is the sole denunciatory preserve of Dayan Jayatilleka.

None of these movements could be dealt with other than by military defeat and destruction and none of these wars could be brought to an end by negotiations. Peace was achieved only by military means.     

For the study of the war and the Norwegian effort to yield useful lessons for readers, I shall end by quoting my own list of lessons learned, presented at scholarly conferences from the NUS (2010) to Yale (2011), and contained in my book ‘Long War, Cold Peace’.   

“The main lessons then are, in the form of thirteen theses, the following:

Thesis I Early reforms may undercut the momentum of an insurgency; delayed ones will not.

Thesis II The success of efforts at conflict resolution depends crucially on the intrinsic character of the armed non-state actor in question. One size does not fit all.

Thesis III Distinctions must be drawn between terrorist movements and armed resistance movements as well as between rational albeit extremist/radical organizations and non-rational, fanatical or fundamentalist ones.

Thesis IV Further differentiations must be made with regard to the stage of growth of the armed struggle and the character of the organization that exercises fluid or entrenched hegemony or monopoly within that struggle.

Thesis V Military action must not be the first resort or the main aspect of policy in the first instance, though a security component may be needed to effect and safeguard reforms.

Thesis VI However, if the armed struggle is monopolized by a fanatical organization which violates humanitarian norms and resorts persistently to terrorism (defined as the intentional or witting targeting of noncombatants), then the military factor in the state’s response must perforce acquire greater importance.

Thesis VII The political, social and military tracks of a multi-track strategy must not undermine each other; they must demonstrate policy coherence and converge on a clear strategic goal.

Thesis VIII In the case of an armed struggle that has grown to the point of large unit conventional or semi-conventional combat, it must be recognized as a war and must be fought as such.

Thesis IX The objective of such a war could either be the defeat of the enemy or driving it to a negotiated settlement that is balanced, mutual, reciprocal and verifiable, rather than a breathing space for rearming, regrouping and renewal of the insurgency.

Thesis X Third party efforts at conflict resolution must not depend solely or primarily on those states which have ethnic constituencies, indigenous or immigrant, drawn from only one of the belligerents. Though such states may be the ones to be automatically drawn in, and therefore most strongly motivated to play a role with its attendant risks, such embedded lobbies of co-ethnics in a zero sum situation will vitiate attempts at conflict resolution because the intermediary will not be perceived as a neutral umpire, and there will be a backlash. Ideally the mediating/intervening state should have, in its make-up, no correlative reflecting the conflict, or should fairly evenly represent all the belligerent communities, or should be a regional coalition which collectively neutralizes the profile of unevenness in the composition of any one state.

Thesis XI In the extreme case of an insurgency that is dominated or monopolized by a terrorist and or fanatical organization and has grown to the level of a war, the objective of state policy must, indeed can, be nothing other than the military defeat of the enemy, the destruction of its military apparatus, the neutralization of its leadership and the recovery of all terrain lost to it, in short “the annihilation of the living forces of the enemy” as the world’s greatest living strategist, Vietnam’s General Vo Nguyen Giap, put it.

Thesis XII Such a war must not be punctuated by ceasefires and negotiations which debilitate the morale of the armed forces.

Thesis XIII In the case of an outcome of the decisive military defeat of the enemy, socio-political reforms could parallel but must at least follow the military victory and do so swiftly. If not, there could either be a reactivation of the insurgency or the permanent alienation of a section of the citizenry which either supported or came under the influence of the armed struggle or belong to the same social constituency from which it sprang and share the insurgents’ sense of collective grievance.” (Long War, Cold Peace, Vijitha Yapa, Colombo, 2014, pp. 7-9)

That’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject.

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Latest comments

  • 11

    DJ, the Spinmeister for War Criminals,

    You think people don’t see through the name dropping you do repeatedly, reflexively, and robotically?

    There are many average journalists who have won the Pulitzer prizes, including many weekly columnists at The New York Times and The Washington Post I am familiar with. John F. Burns was a war correspondent, known for his sometimes lyrical writings, but his choice of words was meant to impress his audience through reductionism, not to reflect the truth in all its complexity.

    If Burns had come into contact with Gotabaya’s white van murderers or been present in the Vanni in the final stages of the bloodbath, or the bloodbath and beheadings and display of naked corpses of JVP women, he might well have used the same Pol Pot/ Khmer Rouge label for Premadasa, the Rajapaksas, the JVP, the Sinhalese as a people, and yourself as a person.

    Walter Laqueur was almost certainly ignorant of the actions of Deshapreme Janatha Viyaparaya, PRRA, Razeek group, Pillaiyan group, EPDP, and others, Chemmani Mass Graves, rape and murder of Krishanthi Kumaraswamy and her family, the butcher of children Sunil Ratnayake, the disemboweled bodies of a Mannar family, and so on. Stop your BS and start telling the truth for once.

    • 6

      Dear Dayan if we are to use your definition as yardstick of wittingly targeting innocent civilians, Sri Lanka government falls into the category of terrorist. Similarly by resorting to terrorism, imposing totalitarianism of suppressing dissent by killing Tamil journalists and practicing racial discrimination and committing exterminism of murder and ethnic cleansing of Tamils and cultural genocide, Sri Lanka government is also fascist. In fact the worst terrorist fascist is Sri Lanka government and not LTTE.

    • 3

      You are shame to Sinhala Buddhist worse than the war criminals themselves

  • 5

    The war had a winner (Sinhalese) and a loser (Tamils). Hard truths.

    • 5

      There is second innings in cricket and return match in football. Wait for a powerful team backed by truth and justice for the final score.

  • 6

    So, according to Dr. DJ, the LTTE would have been OK if it wasn’t Fascist. Ergo, it’s OK to kill innocents if you are a Communist, Muslim, Buddhist,
    Christian but NOT Fascist. It’s also OK to be a separatist terrorist if you are an EPRLF Provincial cabinet minister. I think I am beginning to understand Dr. DJ.

    • 6

      old codger

      Let me tell you how this person you mentioned has been behaving badly:

      This man never lifted his fingers against EPRLF nor against IPKF during their reign of North East, never questioned their share of war crimes and crime against humanity. He is a hypocrite as he has always been.

      One he wrote he was engaged in Clandestine Work in India. Never Clarified as to the nature of the work, the employers, ….. Was he spying in India?

      He never questioned ballot rigging conducted by EPRLF being protected by IPKF.

      He did not want Mahinda to conduct 2013 elections for Northern Provincial Council. Instead he wanted Mahinda to appoint an Interim Council, comprising unknown Tamils.

      He is a permanent member of the war crime deniers club.

      Just after the 2015 elections he typed it was not decisive victory because majority of the majority (Sinhala/Buddhist) did not vote for Sirisena as if Sirisena was not legitimately elected as the President.

      He is a self-confessed war monger.

      • 4

        old codger

        He agreed with Weerawansa Mahinda was not just a name but Mahinda was a country. Please read below dumbass typing:

        “Throughout the meeting was the rising chant from the crowd, “Mahinda! Mahinda! Apata Oney Mahinda! (“We want Mahinda!”)”. So Wimal was probably right when he said to rapturous applause “Mahinda is not a name, Mahinda is a country!” The great Vietnamese leader Le Duan who succeeded the legendary Ho Chi Minh and led the anti-imperialist war to victory often said ‘Socialism and the Nation are One’. For the people who swarmed over Nugegoda in February 18th, Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Nation are One.”
        The Rising: Nugegoda Feb 18th
        By Dayan Jayatilleka

        Well if you want to know more about him please refer to CT from 2011.

        Like his single handed Generals, Gota, Mahinda, ………… he too was responsible for single handedly stopping a severely reprimanding UNHRC resolution, so does he boast. Forget the role of Hindia and USA.

  • 3

    Dear Mark and Dayan
    I am a bit surprised that both of you have discussed LTTE to this detail comparing and applying political science definitions and narratives/worldly references of various conflicts etc.
    As a Tamil Man born and bread in Jaffna I am fully versed with the Facist Nature in which we were all taken for a ride for 70 years by FP/ITAK/TULF under the cover/disguise of the democracy (with the conniving neighbours) resulting in the phenomenon LTTE whom you have applied all kind of scenarios to rationalise?? not sure the benefits of the analysis/who this is serving right after a parliamentary election??
    Is it possible you both can focus on what created all this in the first place….FP/ITAK/TULF sought solutions for the problems they have identified as the issues in a post colonial developing Nation and led the children and the mother Nation into this trap, death and misery etc.
    Given they still won 10 seats to the parliament would not it be appropriate you discuss their journey and their activities to date bench marking against every law of the land/international norms/democracy??? for all the destruction Mother Lanka has been through to date?? applying geo political nature/regional politics comparing other Nations how they have overcome this type of party handicap in a democracy??

  • 6

    Right! Enough of this crap.
    We are going to nominate both of you for a Graetian award this year.
    Don’t complaint. This crap deserves only that.

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