Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remembering the end of the Sri Lankan civil war

Conor Foley, in a post that I have previously linked to, mentions the situation in Sri Lanka toward the end of the government's war with the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).
Hundreds of thousands of civilians were blockaded into an area the size of New York Central Park, where at least 20,000 were killed over a three month period. The area was shelled incessantly and hospitals and food-distribution points appear to have been deliberately targeted. Many more died from starvation and disease because the government blocked humanitarian access. Others were summarily executed during the final assault.... There was never even the remotest prospect of a ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Sri Lanka and I only include it in the discussion to show that the option of doing nothing also has moral consequences.
What happened in Sri Lanka at the end of its war is certainly worth recalling. Nothing on anything approaching a similar scale has occurred in Libya. The intervention there may be said to have relied on a reasoned prediction ("reasoned" of course not meaning "infallible") about what might occur in the absence of intervention. Seen in this light, the intervention is defensible, though the continuing debate about it is probably a good thing. Interventions of this sort are necessarily controversial and an absence of debate would be surprising.

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