"In the President's Office in Colombo officials talk about the 'Rajapaksa Model' (of fighting terror). "Broadly, win back the LTTE held areas, eliminate the top LTTE leadership and give the Tamils a political solution." Sunimal Fernando, one of Rajapaksa's advisors, says that the President demonstrated a basic resolve: "given the political will, the military can crush terrorism." This is not as simple as it sounds. Like most poll promises he did not have plans to fulfill his promise to militarily defeat the LTTE. Eelam I to III were miserable failures. So the 'Rajapaksa Model' evolved, it was not pre-planned."
The article lists the principles as:
• Unwavering political will
• Disregard for international opinion distracting from the goal
• No negotiations with the forces of terror
• Unidirectional floor of conflict information
• Absence of political intervention to pull away from complete defeat of the LTTE
• Complete operational freedom for the security forces -Let the best men do the task
• Accent on young commanders
• Keep your neighbors in the loop
Most western readers will find the lack of concern for civilian casualties in this strategy disconcerting. The article highlights the broad condemnation Sri Lanka received for its approach.
COL Gian Gentile and Ralph Peters have both criticized FM 3-24's unwillingness to consider alternate, more violent, and less population centric conceptualizations of counterinsurgency. Is the Sri Lanka model a valid option for western forces, if it ultimately solves the problem faster and potentially with less cost and casualties? After examining the subject the past few years, ruthless COIN approaches seem to work in a number of cases. The Sri Lankan approach resembles Russian efforts in Chechnya, which were similarly ruthless yet generally effective at suppressing the rebels. A similarly ruthless approach defeated and forced the submission of the US Native American tribes in the 19th century. However, an easy counterpoint to the "ruthless" method's effectiveness is its failure during the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan, which assisted in the creation of many of today's problems faced by ISAF.
On another forum, a respected colleague argued that the more violent approach to COIN might ultimately be more humanitarian. He suggested population centric COIN, while humanistic, takes longer, with uncertain probabilities of success, and often in the end creates more casualties among the population through inept execution than a ruthless enemy focused campaign.
This utilitarian view of force is tempting to those looking for a quick and alternate solution to the complex campaigns that trouble the US and its allies. Ultimately, neither the US or its allies are —to accept the high collateral damage cost and potential resulting excesses (war crimes) adopting such an approach would engender. Nor do I think we would do well to our standing as a society or nation to accept the ruthless targeting of the populations that support insurgents. Therefore, I believe that the operational strategy of population centric COIN continues to represent the only viable approach for the US military and its allies to wage counterinsurgent warfare.
Disagree? Sound off in the comments or at the Council.
UPDATE: Corrected name of individual who contributed the Indian Defence Review Article. - Niel