Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ceasefires: When Concepts Give Way to Practical Failures

A ceasefire is a temporary cessation of violence that does not settle the larger conflict but is intended as a step in that direction. In other words, it is not peace but an act that may or may not lead to peace. Therefore, from the very outset, the parties involved in such an agreement, and those that expect peace (i.e. International Community, Human Rights groups etc), must realize its unpredictable outcomes. If a Ceasefire has lost its characteristics, it is only natural that parties may resort to war to settle their differences. If indeed such characteristics have been compromised, pointing fingers at one party alone, for the failure of a Ceasefire, maybe counterproductive in the long run.

In theory, a Ceasefire may contain the following characteristics;

  1. Overcome the polarizing effects of violence.
  2. Establish a baseline of trust.
  3. Create an opportunity to gain support of all stakeholders.

The first characteristic is conditional upon a strong political commitment and concerted leadership from BOTH sides. It is also conditional upon the interests and commitment of international players. Unfortunately in the case of Sri Lanka, such commitment and leadership was lacking in both the local and international arena.

Trust among adversaries is a difficult proposition. Rousseau states that “Trust is a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another." Lewicki describe trust as "an individual's belief in, and willingness to act on the basis of, the words, actions, and decisions of another.

Trust builds along a continuum of hierarchical and sequential stages. These hierarchical and sequential stages of building trust can be upset by ‘Trust Violations’ resulting in ‘blame games’. Trust violations occur when the trustors’ (i.e., the victim's) confident positive expectations of the trustee (i.e., the offender) are disconfirmed.

Gaining the support of all stakeholders is also limited to theory. Whilst many stakeholders may support a Ceasefire, those left behind may become spoilers, or simply lose interest as political commitment, leadership and trust among parties fade.

The Ceasefire concept has a long way to go. In fact, Ceasefires often create more problems than solutions. Relying on Ceasefires without clear commitment from one or more sides to a conflict and without a baseline of trust is a difficult proposition. If a ceasefire loses its vital characteristics, then it should be abrogated. In popular culture, a Ceasefire is deemed the solution to the problem. Sometimes it can be seen as a problem on its own merit. A Ceasefire may become problematic when it is;

  1. Subject to manipulation by one or all sides in a conflict.
  2. Freeze, and thus legitimize power and resource inequities between adversaries and within their respective constituencies.
  3. Allow time for warring parties to reconstitute their forces, possibly set the stage for a more destructive conflict in the future.

In Sri Lanka, the latter observation is more the reality. Parties who withdraw from a Ceasefire do so when they reach a position of relative strength over its opponent. In three previous occasions, it was the LTTE that withdrew from the Ceasefire. Now it is the government’s turn. Those who wish to blame or point fingers at the government must realize three things.

  1. The Ceasefire concept is an abstract desiring much evidence to support continued adherence (except in limited cases like Northern Ireland).
  2. It has not always overcome the polarization effects of violence, failed to establish a baseline of trust and failed to include both stakeholders and spoilers alike and
  3. Provided undue advantage to parties to become stronger militarily.

10 comments:

defenceline said...

'Scrapping of ceasefire has weakened Lanka's position'

Colombo (PTI): Accusing the government of "war-mongering", Sri Lanka's main opposition party on Monday claimed the decision to scarp the ceasefire had benefitted LTTE's aspirations for a separate state, weakened the country and "disappointed" the international community, including India.

"This self-serving decision of President Mahinda Rajapakse has weakened us (Sri Lanka) both internationally and domestically; it benefits only the LTTE's aspirations for a separate state," the United National Party said in a statement.

"Friendly countries such as the US, Japan and India as well as the UN have voiced their strong disappointment and disapproval of the current situation. Many donor countries are of the same view," it said reacting to the decision to scrap CFA with effect from Jan 16.

The UNP said military assistance to Sri Lanka from the US, India and the UK "symbolised the international community's faith in the ceasefire agreement and their backing for the ongoing peace initiative".

"It is clear that not only have the blood-thirsty and war-mongering rulers of this country lost touch with reality but they do not have the capacity to learn from past experiences -- both internationally or locally," the UNP said.

The party sought to know how the President intended to conduct peace talks with the LTTE from "this weakened position".

"President Rajapakse should explain to the people of Sri Lanka why he was abandoned the framework for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in the country.

defenceline said...

Sri Lankan opposition accuses government of "war-mongering"

Accusing the government of "war-mongering", Sri Lanka's main opposition party Monday claimed the decision to scarp the ceasefire had benefitted Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) aspirations for a separate state, weakened the country and "disappointed" the international community, including India.

"This self-serving decision of President Mahinda Rajapakse has weakened us (Sri Lanka) both internationally and domestically; it benefits only the LTTE's aspirations for a separate state," PTI reported here quoting Sri Lanka's United National Party statement.

"Friendly countries such as the US, Japan and India as well as the UN have voiced their strong disappointment and disapproval of the current situation. Many donor countries are of the same view," it said reacting to the decision to scrap CFA with effect from January 16.

The UNP said military assistance to Sri Lanka from the US, India and the UK "symbolized the international community's faith in the ceasefire agreement and their backing for the ongoing peace initiative".

"It is clear that not only have the blood-thirsty and
war-mongering rulers of this country lost touch with reality but they do not have the capacity to learn from past experiences -- both internationally or locally," the UNP said.

The party sought to know how the President intended to conduct peace talks with the LTTE from "this weakened position".

"President Rajapakse should explain to the people of Sri Lanka why he was abandoned the framework for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in the country.

Panhinda said...

LTTE never trusted the armed forces or the govt. This is despite the fact the govt under Ranil Wickramasinghe govt were making attempts to “build trust” even gravely risking national security. They moved their artillery within range of Trinco port, intelligence operatives were being killed in alarming numbers, bringing in arms shipments and allowed them to expand the propaganda machinery with radio equipment etc. The CFA was already heavily biased towards LTTE but still, the govt insisted on appeasing the LTTE at the expense of the military establishment.

The govt strategy was two pronged - in one hand build trust with LTTE and in the other hand substantial autonomy to NE provinces and bring back the democratic process. This strategy looks good on paper and it probably would have worked in a conventional dispute resolution scenario. However, the reasons of having a CFA for LTTE, or rather Velu’s were diametrically opposite. His plans were to use the CFA to establish themselves stronger in NE including previously cleared areas for a future independent govt from the Sri Lankan state. Balasingham knowing the reality dragged the organisation and Velu as much as possible towards the goal of negotiated settlement initially. The negotiate/not negotiate camps within LTTE were finely balanced until US excluded LTTE from the invitee list for a discussion there.

The only person in LTTE with seniority with realistic expectations was Balasingham. All the others are hardcore paranoid village bunnies living in a la-la land. This is why ceasefires with the intention of a final resolution with LTTE will never work in the future either.

Panhinda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Panhinda said...

I have to apologise for veering off the topic. However, if I don’t write what I have to write, I know I will not get any sleep tonight.

It seems the LTTE has changed its tactics slightly after observing the latest Naval confrontation off the coast of Delft islands. They used two suicide crafts simultaneously against a Dvora instead of just one. They will try this again in the future since it was successful. They use smaller crafts and suicide boats for frontal assault while keeping the bigger Muraj crafts out of the range of cannons.

If the Dvora can somehow avoid confronting the pesky little boats, it can put its guns for better use sinking these Muraj class boats. If each Dvora can carry two or three self-inflating dinghies armed with perhaps 12.5mm - like the ones given by US recently. The dinghies can be inflated and deployed as soon as the clusters are detected.

IntelAttack said...

Dear DefenceWire,
Please do not remove any comments from defenceline as it shows the idiotism and bankruptcy of MAD Supports of LTTE Terrorists.

In case of too long or too much comments, we can always create mirrored blog for defenceline and let the begger post as many comments as he wants there.

Chaminda said...

But why exactly did the government abrogate the ceasefire? Why not just continue the status quo? Is it only to appease the JVP? Or is there any strategic or tactical advantage?

NOLTTE=Peace said...

I will give $100 bucks to anyone who can kick the balls of this Defenceline maggot to realise his mother's milk for posting unwanted crap here!

NOLTTE=Peace said...

Hey Panhinda, Nemesis, GE...etc

How about fixing or Naval cadres carrying long range "Flame Thrower" on board Dvora's to counter suicide craft.

You can create a fire-wall within 50m distance if a suicide craft approaching you.

Panhinda said...

NOLTTE=Peace,

Flame thrower is a good idea. Would the speeding suicide boat stop or blow up because of the flame thrower? If it can, then it may work.

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