Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 11-May-2009
Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Gaza are all following the same path.

Web Log - May, 2009

Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Gaza are all following the same path.

But the end is in sight for Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka, an artillery barrage on a supposed "safe zone" have killed more this 378 civilians, in the bloodiest weekend of the civil war. Government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels blamed each other for the massacre.

In Pakistan's Swat Valley, hundreds of thousands of civilians and their families are fleeing toward government-provided refugee camps, as the army prepares for a major assault on the Taliban. The army claims that hundreds of militants were killed this weekend, but humanitarian groups are warning of a potential humanitarian disaster.

In Gaza, Hamas has agreed to resume talks in an Egyptian-led cease-fire agreement with Israel and Fatah.

Each of these three regions is in the end game of very similar asymmetric wars. In each case, there's a powerful government army (Israel, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) fighting rebels/militants (Hamas, Taliban, Tamil Tigers). In each case, the militants are using civilians as human shields, and even firing at civilians to prevent their escape. In each case, the conventional army is trying to kill the militants, while harming as few civilians as possible. In each case, the government is becoming more and more willing to kill civilians, if that's what's required to kill the militants.

Each of the wars is proceeding along similar timelines. From a low-level conflict beginning in the 1970s or 1980s, the war has flip-flopped between periods of violence and peace agreements. Each new round of violence has been more genocidal that the previous one.

The Gaza and Pakistan wars have not yet crossed the line into full-scale crisis warfare. However, this could happen at any time in either country.

But Sri Lanka is the farthest along of the three countries, having crossed into full-scale warfare in January of last year. (See "Sri Lanka government declares all out war against Tamil Tiger rebels.") The Sri Lanka civil war is in the midst of an explosive climax, and it appears likely that the government forces will defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels in the next few weeks.

But what happens next? What will happen to Sri Lanka when the war is over?

In an article by the Stratfor analyst group entitled "The Conflict in Sri Lanka: A Cornered Tiger Is Still Deadly," the authors write as follows:

"As STRATFOR has previously noted, if Sri Lankan troops manage to crush the remnants of the Tigers’ hard-pressed conventional military forces, the Tigers will have little choice but to give up on conventional warfare (at least for the time being). But the Tigers’ separatist struggle is more than 30 years old and has been marked by great brutality on both sides. Because of this, there is very little chance the Tigers will simply accept defeat and fade into history. Instead, now that the government has the military advantage, the Tigers can be expected to continue their war against the government by melting back into the populace and resorting to guerrilla tactics and terrorism."

The Stratfor analysis provides a wealth of valuable information, but the conclusions are wrong.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, what we're going to see when the war ends is quite different. In particular, the Tigers will indeed be forced to accept defeat.

This is one of the only two "generational crisis wars" going on in the world today. (The other one is in Darfur.) Every generational crisis war has an "explosive climax," and Sri Lanka is in the midst of its climax right now.

This is not just another battle victory. It's a seminal moment in Sri Lankan history. The current situation is so horrible that peace will be accepted by both Tamils and Sinhalese. The Tigers will not be able to continue terrorist acts, because the Tamils won't allow it. A peace treaty will be signed, and both sides will live in peace -- for a decade or two, anyway.

In their 1997 book, The Fourth Turning, the founding fathers of generational theory, Neil Howe and his partner, the late William A. Strauss, described what happens (pp. 258-59):

"The Crisis climax is human history's equivalent to nature's raging typhoon, the kind that sucks all surrounding matter into a single swirl of ferocious energy. Anything not lashed down goes flying; anything standing in the way gets flattened. Normally occurring late in the Fourth Turning, the climax gathers energy from an accumulation of unmet needs, unpaid bills, and unresolved problems. It then spends that energy on an upheaval whose direction and dimension were beyond comprehension during the prior Unraveling era. The climax shakes a society to its roots, transforms its institutions, redirects its purposes, and marks its people (and its generations) for life. The climax can end in triumph, or tragedy, or some combination of both. Whatever the event and whatever the outcome, a society passes through a great gate of history, fundamentally altering the course of civilization.

Soon thereafter, this great gate is sealed by the Crisis resolution, when victors are rewarded and enemies punished; when empires or nations are forged or destroyed; when treaties are signed and boundaries redrawn; and when peace is accepted, troops repatriated, and life begun anew.

One large chapter of history ends, and another starts. In a very real sense, one society dies -- and another is born."

For historical analogies, think of the collapse of Berlin in 1945, or Japan's surrender after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gaza and Pakistan are still some time away from that kind of ending, but this is the kind of future that awaits Sri Lanka, once the current horror ends and a peace is imposed.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Sri Lanka crisis civil war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (11-May-2009) Permanent Link
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