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Sri Lanka Army

Defenders of the Nation

31st August 2018 17:18:09 Hours

Defeat of Tamil Tigers Diminished Birth of Many Insurgencies - Dr. David H. Ucko

“Since defeat of Tamil Tigers by the Sri Lankan government, we haven’t seen many insurgents going toe-to-toe against States. They loseor at least they don’t win.Localized insurgencies must be recognized as potentially existential threat to notion of State,” says Dr. David H. Ucko of Sweden, Director, Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program, College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University, Washington, DC commenting on ‘Role played by Violent Non - State Actors’ under the Session 1 theme, ‘Political Extremism’.

Delivering his 20-minute presentation to the Session 1 in Day - 2 at the ‘Colombo Defence Seminar - 2018’on Friday (31), the speaker covered a wide spectrum of violent manifestations, across the globe and asserted the importance of identifying their behaviour.

The notion of winning back populations and territory, of connecting these positively to the government, by far exceeds state ambition and, often, capacity as insurgency is changing, or perhaps it hasn’t changed, but we need to change the way we think about insurgency.Traditionally, insurgency seeks to create counter-state and as both Mao or Chedid mobilizing politically and capturing state through military means are obvious as many examples from the Cold War proved.

“Yet since defeat Tamil Tigers by the Sri Lankan government, we haven’t seen many insurgents going toe-to-toe against states. They lose- or at least they don’t win.ISIS and some factions fighting the Syrian war are exceptions but also illustrate the point: once they gave up on their asymmetric advantage - the shapelessness, the dispersion- once they claimed territory and tried to build, they became a far easier target for largely conventional clearing operations.States struggle to follow up on these operations and deal with political and social drivers of alienation.

Speaking on ‘insurgent’s dilemma’, difficulty of asserting yourself as a start-up of challenging state authority, and of establishing yourself sustainably as the new source of power, he said track record is abysmal: not many recent cases of insurgent group winning militarily over a state and establishing itself as the new authority has done. Yet ifthis form of insurgency is dying, it will (has already led to) adaptation. Herein that one finds the potential rebirth of insurgency as a strategic threat to democratic norms and stability,Dr. David H. Ucko said.

Commenting on three broad trends; localized, infiltrative, and ideational, he went on to explain each term in an elaborative manner.

In localized insurgencies, the group survives by aiming not for regime change, but for shared sovereignty with the state, so that its subversive agenda can be pursued without provoking an armed response.I don’t see rural conflict disappearing due to urbanization, but what happens on the periphery will become increasingly peripheral to the concatenations of power and people in sprawling city-scrapers. Elites will simply give up on the hinterland: cede that which they can’t hold and focus on where they think the future lies.

Challenge to how we conceive of insurgency: Tend to see it has centered on the government as the seat of power and involving a zero-sum competition between state and challenger in which both pursue the same goal.

In infiltrative insurgencies, the group removes from the view which renders the insurgent project vulnerable to military targeting. Rather than overthrowing the state, they penetrateit quasi-legally, with violence used covertly and without attribution, Dr. David H. Ucko pointed out.

“Specifically, the group poses as a legitimate social movement by exploiting social and political causes and communities, yet uses covert violence and intimidation to infiltrate the institutions of formal political power, and use these to implement its an extremist agenda. Critical here is the appearance of legitimacy. Violence and intimidation will continue, but they are made to look random and unconnected to the group as it produces a low-signature approach that minimizes international censure and removes entry points for military response. Localized insurgencies must be recognized as potentially existential threat to notion of state, he added.