Those Invincible Guerilla Armies

I’ll spend some time tonight collecting amusing quotes from defense commentators who explain that guerrilla armies and nationalist forces can never be defeated (and reining in my own hubris by pointing out that history shows us that things change over time), but for now let me toss out this:

Fierce fighting was reported Sunday in Sri Lanka in what appeared to be a final battle with Tamil separatist guerrillas as the country’s president declared that the quarter-century civil war had ended.

The Sri Lankan military reported that the last of tens of thousands of trapped civilians were pouring from the combat zone after months of bloodshed and that the remnants of the guerrilla force were launching suicide attacks as troops closed in on them.

On the verge of defeat, the rebels offered to lay down their arms, saying they wanted to protect civilian lives. There was no immediate response from the government, but it has ignored rebel calls for a cease-fire in recent months.

“My government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation finally defeated the L.T.T.E. militarily,” said President Mahinda Rajapaksa in reference to the rebels, who are formally called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

That’s verified by the LTTE themselves (h/t Moderate Voice):

Surrounded on all sides by the Sri Lankan Army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers as they are more commonly termed, have announced their surrender amidst news their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is dead.

The final round in what has been a long and drawn out campaign by the militant group for an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka came as news surfaced that the Sri Lankan military has recovered more than 150 bodies from the last remaining LTTE stronghold.

3 thoughts on “Those Invincible Guerilla Armies”

  1. The Russians did it first, in Chechnya. Where they won.

    There is a Western approach to counterinsurgency. Done properly, it is effective. It is not the only approach. Or the only approach that can be effective.

  2. If, God willing, the Tamil Tigers are finally defeated, their fate is typical. Most historical insurgencies went down to defeat after a protracted struggle. It is rare for an insurgency to be short-lived, and rarer still for it to succeed. Historians pay less attention to the failures.

  3. One of the questions asked over in comments at The Belmont Club is did UN interference in Sri Lanka make the conflict last longer and cause more deaths. Good question. Think about how effective the UN is in southern Lebanon at making sure Hezbollah does not rearm as is their charter there.

    It seems the Chinese stepped up and helped the Sri Lankans defeat the LTTE. And the Sri Lankan government told the western press to STFU and stay out of the way.

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