Sri Lanka and the Scars of War: A Review Article

Although the vainglorious war President Mahinda Rajapaksa has since failed to win reelection and his successor is, reputedly, a more moderate member of the same party, the process of rapprochement between the Singhalese Buddhist majority and the Tamil minority (to say nothing of the also victimized Christians and Muslims) remains far from complete. When the wounds of the savage American Civil War are not fully healed, how could anyone expect the mood of the island to be cheery and forgiving? Read more »

Will bombing ever get rid of Islamic State?

My contribution in the excellent magazine Prospect to the public conversation in the UK last week about bombing Syria in the wake of this week’s parliamentary vote. It tries to explore what exactly kinetic military campaigns can do to counter terrroist oranization, using a few historical examples to outline some successes. Will Bombing Ever Get […] Read more »

Good News from Sri Lanka: Is It Sustainable?

Less than a month into his presidency Maithripala Sirisena seems free of the Ravana-complex, and he’s saying the right things. For instance: “What this country needs is not a [demon] king, but a real human being.” Better yet, in his first address to the nation he promised to lead the country back to a parliamentary system of governance. Nice words. And they come with promising deeds as well. Sirisena has replaced the much resented Governor of the Northern Province. Not only has he installed a career diplomat instead of a general who fought against the Tamils in the civil war, that very diplomat served on a Truth Commission in favor of investigating abuses during the last phase of the war. But these are early days. It won’t be easy to make reparations to the Tamils without alienating the Sinhalese majority. We can only hope that Mahinda Rajapaksa won’t have the last laugh. And how about China? It’s said that Sirisena plans to make some changes in that relationship. Any reduction in Chinese influence should make New Delhi happy—and Washington, too. Read more »

Double Standards: Buddhists, Muslims and Murder

Particularly poignant in regard to the Muslim-bashing in Myanmar has been the restraint and remoteness of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s virtual saint who is reputed to have meditated regularly while under house arrest. During those long years as a political prisoner she was globally admired as a martyr of conscience, and she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent resistance to military rule. Since she’s been free to speak out, however, she seems to have lost her tongue. She certainly hasn’t been campaigning very vigorously to protect the lives and human rights of Myanmar’s Muslims. The Lady is a politician, it seems, not a Buddhist saint. Why is the world giving her such an easy pass? Read more »