Friday, September 21, 2007

Motivation, Greed or Grievance?

Theorists have examined the motivations underlying the creation and sustenance of rebel groups by their leaders. Paul Collier[1] argues that rebel groups are motivated primarily by greed. Collier attributes this concept to a theory of predation where rebel groups engage increasingly in criminal activities based more on greed than grievance. An analysis of rebel groups like the LTTE confirm that rebel groups are indeed raising funds through criminal activities and that part of these funds are filling the coffers of its leaders. The LTTE is estimated to be raising between $100-250 million annually through drug-trafficking, smuggling of contraband goods and arms trafficking[2]. Reports also indicate personal enrichment by the organizations leader, including evidence to suggest that at least one of his children has been educated in a western country.

However, many of the rebellions under study in other scholarly work seem to describe rebellion as a reaction to political or societal conditions (grievance). Ballentine and Nitzshke [3] argue that the question of greed versus grievance must be approached based on a political economy approach. They claim that although rebel groups have engaged in criminal activities for self financing, there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating a mutation of motives in rebel organizations from political aims to economic aims. The argument is based on an analysis of nine rebel movements in Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Kosovo, Sri Lanka and Burma. Ballentine and Nitzshke however state that in a rebellion political and economic agendas can be mutually reinforcing. Therefore it is safe to conclude that rebel organizations could have two agendas; one political and the other economic. Hence they could have both political and economic interests in sustaining conflict.

Unfortunately, and particularly in the case of Sri Lanka, it is often the grievance/political reasons that are commonly highlighted for the emergence of the LTTE. The greed/economic reason for rebel groups to sustain war is often completely disregarded. On the other hand, for a democratically elected government, sustaining war is an economic burden. Although a few rogue elements may make a ‘quick buck’ through arms procurements, a government as a whole will hardly gain any economic outcomes by waging war against a rebel group.

[1] Collier. P. (2001). Economic causes of civil conflict and their implications for policy. In Crocker, C., Hampson, F.O., Aall, P. (Eds.) Turbulent Peace (pp. 143-162). Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press. 145

[2] Bhatt, S. & Mistry, D. Cost of Conflict in Sri Lanka. Strategic Foresight Group Report. Ehsaan Prints, Mumbai. 2006. P 65

[3] Ballentine, K. & Nitzshke, H. (2003, October). Beyond greed or grievance: Policy lessons from studies in the political economy of armed conflict. IPA Policy Report. International Peace Academy.


defenceAnalyst said...

Agreed. Those with the authority must make the call now!

Sarinda Perera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarinda Perera said...

There should be a clearer distinction drawn between the 'rise' of the LTTE and the 'contemporary' movement. If we're talking about motivating factors for the genesis of the LTTE, to regard greed as a primary motivational factor would be to miss the point. Tamil grievances of the past that radicalised scores of youth have been well documented. They included contentious policies on language, education and religion, followed by successive abrogated pacts as well as ethnically motivated riots in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981 and 1983. The impact of these on ordinary Tamils should not be missed.

Prabhakaran, then a middle-class Tamil youth, was a member of the Tamil Manar Peravi (Tamil Students' Federation) founded by P. Sathyaseelan. The movement was formed to oppose the standardisation policy on education introduced by the Sirima Bandaranaike government. Despite evidence of VP's lack of academic enthusiasm, what must not be missed is the sentiment occupying the youth of the time. Prabhakaran's own father was among Tamil civil servants directly affected by the Sinhala Only Act in 1956. It must also be noted that the LTTE is not the only Tamil insurgent movement to have been established - there were 36 such movements in the 1980s. Why were they formed?

In the present context, it takes a lot more than greed or coercion to get hundreds of people to give their own lives for a cause. The likes of Pape and Silke have examined suicide terrorism in more detail. In the case of the LTTE, the primary motivational factor common to its cadres has been 'liberation' of the 'homeland.' A deeper exploration of these perceptions is required in order to identify causative factors for the rebellion.

Indeed, there has been some monetary gain involved, as your post has correctly cited. However, to say that nothing has been made on the side of the Government would be very remote from the truth and I believe that much of the public is well aware of this. Some politicians and certain military officers of the past have not remained unscathed on matters of malpractice vis-a-vis military procurement - this has been well documented in the media and court proceedings over the years. The extent of wealth made by certain individuals in categories mentioned escapes common imagination, when considering the salaries and official entitlements of these persons. Admittedly, your post has acknowledged this.

While the theories cited would indeed provide some insight into certain matters and select groups, a more careful analysis is required for the case of the LTTE.

If the LTTE is to be defeated, this must be done militarily, ideologically and politically. Thus a careful dissection of its ideology and motivational factors is essential for its elimination from the roots.

Defencewire said...

speaking for defenceAnalyst, I must say that this is one 'cross section' of the issue. What defenceAnalyst has applied here is the elite predation model to answer how elites manipulate the masses for violence based on their own politico-economic interests. This naturally means both sides, but in this article, it is confined to LTTE since the grievance argument has no meaning for the LTTE now. The LTTE has long since mutated from the aggrieved to the aggressor within its own community and outside. This article is limited to the addressing of that particular issue.

I personally disagree with Robert Pape's ideas on Sri Lankan suicide bombers and their motivational factors. Our colleague, SDS, had the opportunity to engage him personally in a foreign country. We will post another article on this specific issue in the days to come. Castedeus, we value your contributions.

Sarinda Perera said...


Sometime back, last year to be slightly more specific, I was browsing the website of the Ministry of Public Security, Law & Order. I believe this was roughly around the time when it was first set up. To say the least, I was very concerned. It was my understanding that the website was an effort at counter-propaganda versus Tamilnet. In my humble opinion, the effort was a disaster. Simply put, it was very distasteful. It lacked completely in finesse and professionalism. Obviously, I was utterly ashamed.

It is my understanding that your site is operated independent of any establishment. Your work is tasteful, professional and despite the fact that I may not agree with every word expressed, is well worth the read. Naturally, quite the contrary to the website I refer to above. I hope the authorities will take a cue from work such as yours..... in the 21st century, one hardly expects to move backwards.

Keep up the effort.... I know I will keep coming back.

Defencewire said...

I think I speak for all four of us here. For us, government does not mean political parties. Also, a government cannot perform all that is required for the good of a people on its own. It is also OUR responsibility to do what little we can and to avoid 'state failure'.

We bow our heads to you for disagreeing and for coming back to our blog and treating our work with respect!

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