21 August 2011

On offensives and counter-offensives

A few days ago I was invited to speak on the above topic at the launch of a website  (www.outofwar.com) and a series of books, a) The LTTE: The most disciplined fighting force, b) Unpardonable crimes against humanity, and c) Our of the cage: the greatest hostage rescue operation in the world.  I offered some thoughts briefly, which I reiterate here with some expansion. 

The subject at hand was of course the direct threat to sovereignty posed by the LTTE and the moves on compromising the territorial integrity of the nation via various articulations of separatism, including the nauseating hurrahing of the 13th Amendment by those who ignore political realities, historical tract, demographic and geographical facts and the practicalities pertaining to regional resource anomalies.  A nation that has had to struggle against terrorism for three decades cannot be faulted for laying it thick on the articulation and not the purpose. 
Offensives can take different forms and can be launched by multiple actors.   The purpose remains simple: extraction of resources, creation of markets, and the exploitation of populations.  It’s a by-any-means-necessary business.  Impoverishment, political instability, disunity, distraction and cultural effacement are among the many methodologies used to achieve the ends envisaged. 
Most pernicious among them is causing rupture in cultural values and the fracturing of civilizational memory and sinew through desecration of artifact, burning of books, purchasing of faith-loyalty, denigration of things held sacred including philosophies that have functioned as both civilizational glue and unguent that heals inflicted wounds.  In this sense phenomenon such as terrorist movements are essentially distractions and costly ones too.
This is why, the end of that war did not coincide with the end of the 500 years long war or the old war of resource plunder, market-securing and labour exploitation.  The end of the terrorist distraction merely gave way to the other and older decoy of non-gun separatism, namely the discourse of mythical homelands, aspiration frilled as grievance and a strange fixation on lines on a map that make no sense in terms of geography, ethnic composition/density, archaeological record, administrative efficacy or resource distribution, but were the product, we have to conclude, of whimsical doodling by some foreigner. 
Even then, this is only indicator of and not the substance underlying intent.   This is not the place to enumerate the full range of offensives that are in operation and could very well be launched for the purposes mentioned above.  Each offensive will have its particularities and each will demand particular strategies. 
What is important to understand is that it’s not new, that it didn’t begin when Prabhakaran murdered Alfred Duraiappah in 1975, when Tamils who made around 10% of the population wanted 50-50 representation in the 1940s, when S.J.V. Chelvanayakam of the ‘little-now, more later’ methodology of executing land theft came up with the Tamil State Party, when Ponnambalam Ramanathan wanted the first local university located in Jaffna and other landmark moments of Tamil chauvinism, or indeed the Sinhala chauvinistic feeders to this process or the buttress provision by Marxists and Christian fundamentalists either due to ideological confusion or on account of operating on the logic that if you hurt the Sinhalese, you invariably hurt a lot of Buddhists, respectively.   All this is frill and more of the means-to-the-end of resource plunder.  That process is 500 years old now. 
It must be kept in mind that ‘threat’ is not always ‘external’.  The external threat has a potent accomplice within.  That accomplice is a facilitator of external-born offensives and indeed, the most wily of the outsiders will for reasons of efficacy often employ elements within the polity and even make out that debilitating policies are actually good for the nation and its citizenry.  All those who pander to Eelam myth models and conjure non-existent monsters such as ‘Geo Political Realities’ or at least make out that irritating bugs are actually vicious werewolves are members of the enemy within.  Everyone who creates chinks in the armour or make bigger the loopholes through which the enemy can slip in, are by omission or commission partners in the fact of offensive putsch against the nation. 
If we have chinks in governance and nothing is done to correct flaw, whoever is responsible is guilty of being an accessory after the fact of invasion.  If there is corruption, power abuse, deliberate erosion of citizens’ rights, erosion of law and order, inequality in the dispensation of justice, compromising of meritocracy, lack of mechanism and will to address articulated grievance, obtain the true dimensions of complaint and so on, each of these things help the offensives against the nation. 
What is relevant to keep in mind is that we are endowed with a philosophy which contains the theoretical foundation that is more than adequate to execute successful counter-offensives regardless of the form that the offensive could take.  In a word, Buddhism. 
Each generation will pick and choose weapon, but the efficacy of particular strategies will always be tested in terms of fidelity to a methodology of engagement that is more than 2500 years old.   Where the political leadership shows fidelity to the Dasa Raja Dharma or the ten-fold charter on governance, if the leaders and a vigilant citizenry regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation are capable of being kind, compassionate, treating things with equanimity and rejoicing in the happiness of others, we are on a sound footing.  If we have it in us to show compassion and also exercise wisdom, we can face most challenges.  If we were only compassionate, there is no doubt that we will all be slaughtered.  If we only had wisdom to depend on, we would quickly turn into the enemy that we try to defeat, such in the nature of human intercourse. 
If we are arrogant, are ignorant and are greedy, then all victories won will soon be divested of lustre and meaning; what was won on the battlefield would soon be squandered in the arena of more civilised but equally debilitating power games. 
In the end, what will save us is not the friend among the powerful, quick footedness in diplomacy or superior technique in all spheres of warfare, with and without weaponry.  These things help, no doubt, but if we don’t fight on the firm territory of ethics, we will be fighting an uphill battle standing on quicksand.  The enemy is right now on shaky ground and that’s a plus for us.  The enemy’s lack of integrity, however, is not reason enough to be complacent and it certainly does not guarantee victory, especially not if we fudge ethics ourselves, in the issue that is at hand or in other matters. 
In short need to get our moral position right as a nation.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my take on offensives and counter-offensives at this moment. 
[Courtesy, Sunday Island, August 21, 2011


Padraig Colman said...

Hi Malinda,

I saw a news item about the presentation. I see Gomin was there too. My blog was mentioned on a government website.


I have subscribed to your blog. Please check mine.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

thanks. great stuff. posted the link on my fb (malinda words).

Anonymous said...

One of the sinister plans by these internal and external enemies is the creation of a false enimity between the Hindus and Budhists. There is much more in common than differences between the cultures. W must be careful not to blame other religions or their leaders as all of them have its equal share of good and bad but we must be careful as a nationand build bridges with the good people.