I have some questions about the current conflict in Sri Lanka. If we can answer them, Sri Lanka might be able to find peace after the dust clears.
First, are the government’s actions legal? If the Sri Lankan military are doing all they can to minimise civilian casualties, including letting them escape, then it should be legal. The problem is that reporting on this conflict (like most) is very difficult and determining lies and truth about this conflict (like most) is even harder.
Second, how do you wipe out a terrorist movement? I recognise that not all war is wrong, at least in this warlike world we live in, and that sometimes fighting is necessary to make progress on peace. If possible, it may be a good idea to try to wipe out the terrorist group altogether. That said, how does one go about doing that? The conventional wisdom is, for every terrorist killed, another is created, or two or five are created, as angry friends and relatives swear revenge; but the more I hear conventional wisdom, the more I doubt it. Surely, if they know who the members of the movement are, they can wipe it out. Then again, perhaps there is more to the Tamil Tigers than their members and their bombs. Perhaps they have long ago spread their doctrine to the rest of the Tamil population of Sri Lanka and a new movement can start as soon as the old one dies.
Third, is war the best way to deter a separatist or terrorist movement? Decisive military victory makes it possible to secure peace. After a conflict, the reconciliation can begin. But again, perhaps this conflict will create more angry people, and more desire for separation among Sri Lankan Tamils. The Sri Lankan government has its work cut out for it if the next step is to securing long-lasting peace. And if that is not the next step, expect another Tiger movement.
I believe that most people in Sri Lanka want peace after all these years of bloodshed. If the political leadership of both sides is committed, and works fast after this battle that the Sinhalese seem poised to win, then there is a chance for a lasting peace in Sri Lanka.