Nonetheless, in modern warfare, the need to protect civilians is in constant tension with the desire to destroy the enemy. Getting that balance right has been a rocky process, with one mistake after another jolting U.S. policymakers into improving the way the military deals with civilian harm…
If American leaders abandon the war-fighting model they ultimately adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq, they may find it harder to counter a more brutal and cynical narrative about the best way to win a war — one that treats civilians as irrelevant.
In 2009, the Sri Lankan military cornered an estimated 5,000 or more Tamil Tiger insurgents on a narrow strip of land, alongside hundreds of thousands of uprooted civilians. By shelling the area indiscriminately and summarily executing the group’s escaping leaders, the government wiped out the insurgents — and killed tens of thousands of civilians in the process. Just like Russia’s brutal war in Chechnya during the first decade of this century, Sri Lanka’s campaign proved that if a government is willing to expel aid groups and journalists and employ indiscriminate force, it can defeat insurgents.
To make matters worse, Sri Lanka has been actively promoting its model abroad: since 1999, its leaders have been traveling to other countries facing domestic insurgencies, including Myanmar (also called Burma), Pakistan, and the Philippines, to share the lessons of their victory. They have staged annual defense seminars attended by military officers from across the world. Sri Lanka’s lethal counterinsurgency strategy requires having a strong stomach for civilian bloodshed and turning a blind eye to international criticism. But there are countries willing to go this route, because it can work. As one of the world’s leading exporters of military ethos, aid, and training, the United States can and should provide a counterweight.
The leaked World Bank spreadsheets broken down by village for the north of the island estimate numbers of returnees to the former conflict area in mid 2010. The Bank also cites Statistical Handbook Numbers for population in 2007 – before the fighting intensified. The two sets of data reveal 101,748 people missing from Mullaitivu District – the area that bore the brunt of the final fighting…
Nearly four years on there is no agreed death toll, even to the nearest ten thousand lives. That’s why an international investigation is required to establish the truth about what may be one of the least reported but worst atrocities of recent decades – both in terms of the speed and the scale of the killing.
Quoting a World Bank document, she said one lakh persons were missing between 2006 and 2010 and there had to be an explanation on where these people are.
The United States will invariably look to strengthen military ties with Sri Lanka. Strategically speaking, it would be unwise for Washington to further antagonize Colombo and lose an ally in a region where it intends to maintain a significant presence in the coming decades. Sri Lanka is not a top tier foreign policy priority for the United States, but the Obama administration will be reluctant to cede all influence there–especially as China’s foreign policy agenda continues to expand…
With Obama currently looking at major shifts within his foreign policy and national security team, few decisions about Sri Lanka are likely to be made until 2013.
The confluence of the militarized economic development, widespread corruption, alleged war crimes, the concentration of all powers in the executive presidency, and family members easily getting elected to parliament, along with the arrogance and jubilant aftermath of the Eelam War, has presented a negative international image of the once-Buddhist and democratic nation.
“Events in Sri Lanka mark a grave failure of the UN to adequately respond… during the final stages of the conflict and its aftermath, to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of civilians.”
“Our policy is not to contain China,” said George E. Little, the Pentagon press secretary. “It’s to continue to strengthen our defense relationships with our allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific.”