Failure of LTTE’s 9/11 style air attack on Colombo emphases an unmentioned historical curse that has LTTE. This curse has repeated itself throughout history. Namely the historical fact that no separatist group with any form of air power has ever survived — let alone achieved its objectives. The examples begin with Katanga secessionist in the 1960s who tried to breakaway from the former Zaire/Congo. Katanga’s air capability included jets flown by mercenaries of European origin. During the Nigerian civil the Biafrans used an “Air Force” of light aircraft (sounds familiar?).
In both cases their larger, better funded foes prevailed. The “innovative” attempt at “air power” destroyed. So were the causes that such “air power” attempted to realise. Both the Katangans and the Biafrans suffered bloody and conclusive military defeats. You don’t hear about either accept in something related to the history of African conflicts.
LTTE air power has always been a propaganda tool as opposed to a strategic weapon. Which makes symbolism of the successful thwarting of the LTTE air attacks on Colombo even more significant. Cornered to an ever shrinking area the show pieces of its “innovativeness” has been swatted out by a lumbering third world government (the Sri Lankan military’s new found agility is hard for many LTTE supporters to swallow). Already, there are comparrisons with LTTE’s obsession with sucide and the fate of Jim Jones’s cult floating about. All this is a far cry from the bad old days of the 1990s when the LTTE seemed unstoppable.
However the LTTE is different from Biafra and Katanga in that it is terrorist organisation firmly grounded in a cult of suicide terrorism and funds itself via a organised crime operations (most famous for its credit card scam). LTTE also has a history of out right extortion and a well established set of front organisations that have circumvented anti-terror laws in their host countries. It will trot on long after its military capability is destroyed. No doubt it will attempt to incite terrorism as often as it can in the hopes of returning to its glory days of tyranny.
For the Sri Lankan government, the hard part of the conflict will begin when the shooting finally stops. When its politicians will be faced with choices needed to create a foundation for a lasting peace. Sri Lanka’s politicians have not had a history of contributing to long term stability. A worrying thought, but a with all things, “We will see”.