The most daring and successful LTTE attack since the start of ‘Tamil Eelam War IV’ is clearly the Anuradhapura Airbase attack by 21 LTTE ‘Commandos’ who first entered the base as a group of civil construction workers. The result was the loss of 32 valuable aircraft, including two brandnew UAVs brought from Israel. The attack tells you a lot about the organization for ‘Tamil Eelam’.
The Tigers, many would agree, do it through cunning and deception. The response from the government’s side to such aggression has always been an aerial bombardment. Unfortunately for the Sri Lanka Air Force, the targets destroyed in aerial bombings have been limited. Whatever that was hit, except of course Thamil Selvan, has largely been publicly unverified.
On the other hand, Tigers make sure that the attack is carried through in person, often video taping the entire attack and maintaining radio contact right throughout. This they then publicize internationally. For those looking from the outside, this looks heroic, daring and clever—how a non-state group minnows a state. The modus operandi for these attacks is using valuable manpower on suicide missions; a quality the LTTE has achieved by unhinging itself from all military ethics. How does the LTTE manage this from an organizational standpoint?
In many ways, the Tigers are like a profit-making company. As long as the end meets the means and the means meet the end, the sacrifice of men, women and children in counterforce and countervalue targets is acceptable.
The goal is to maximize the return on investment made by a section of the Tamils. In layman’s terms ‘You give me your guilt-money, I give you Eelam’. The overt goal maybe Eelam, which in negotiations theory is called Positional Bargaining, where you say you want something, but have other interests that needs to be fulfilled first. These are covert goals. Examples of covert goals include the Tamil Diaspora Refugees’ interest in living out the rest of their days in the comfort of the Developed World or for Prabhakaran to immortalized himself or to see his daughter graduate from a College in Ireland.
The means of achieving both the overt and the covert goals could intersect each other at different intervals. As long as they do not separate from each other entirely, the two goals can coexist. But this does not explain why the Tigers have had the success that they have had in unconventional terms. To achieve the overt and covert goals successfully, there should be a flexible pursuit of more than one means of achieving that goal.
The means of achieving the overt goal is as wide as your imagination. The means are after all limited by only your imagination. The means employed by the LTTE so far include assassination of Tamil opposition leaders, assassination of Sinhala opposition leaders, raising garrisons of brainwashed suicide bombers, strengthening the cadre through forced recruitment of women and children etc etc. The ability to generate as many means as you possibly can can increase your chances of achieving the goal. Flexibility usually comes from the capacity of the leadership to hold and control power. Power is force. Force is equal to threat.
Operating within an impoverished minority group, this threat is implemented through thuggery and the gradual elimination of all resistance to thuggery, like moderate politicians for example. This is made possible by a one-sided International Consciousness on the issues in Sri Lanka.
The one-sidedness was initially because the governments of Sri Lanka, since Independence, had made serious errors, thus giving ample opportunity for cetain dormant ‘aspirations’ of the Tamil elites to be realized. Government’s over the years haven’t really improved much. Look for example at the recent attacks on journalists reporting the war.
However, government’s are usually on a short lease. We have seen many Administrations come and go, but the people of Sri Lanka remain. So does the LTTE, by the way.
What distinguishes the present Administration from their Opposition is an initiative to respond militarily to the Tamil Tigers which is approved by the majority because of the LTTE’s own actions. In one respect, the present Administration is an equal matching force to the LTTE. But this should be limited to areas where there is an LTTE, instead of being unleashed in the public eye in the south.
Every which way you look at it, the reality is that the general public will always outlive and outlast government. The general public means those that can make decisions for themselves without help from an armed agency for example, through its own right and power to vote. We saw this in the recent elections in the East to a small extent. Given the opportunity, the Tamils will indeed vote and make decisions for themselves within a democratic system.
The LTTE is no exception to the vulnerability of mass choice. If the current campaign becomes successful any further, small desenting opinions within the LTTE and the Tamil community will become larger and louder. Isolated incidents of extreme violence just won’t cut it for the LTTE anymore. Losing territory but continued insurgency from within the same territory is not a proper Return on the Investment made by the Tamils. Eelam after all is a consciousness tied to land. Incapacitated and unable to hold and retain the ground beneath its feet, the Tigers will lose its stripes and with it the legitimacy to represent the ‘aspirations’ for Tamil Eelam.