The idea of tragedy, its Greek or Shakespearean conception, pertains to ‘ethical struggles’ facing individuals who commit certain actions, subsequently causing ‘tragic’ consequences. Greek tragedies like Oedipus and Antigone or Shakespearean tragedies such as Hamlet and Macbeth provide examples of protagonists who confronted with certain ethical quandary commit actions (killing etc.) causing negative consequences for them and others. This theatrical conception of tragedy may also be applied to analyse political tragedies in national and international contexts.
A nation or a state may confront tragedies as a result of certain cause of actions it embarked on for normative reasons. Examples of humanitarian operations or liberation struggles equally embraces ‘an ethical’ dilemma of undertaking violent means for liberation, independence autonomy etc. On the other hand, the responsibility on the part of the international community or powerful states to intervene in domestic conflicts of states is often justified on ethical grounds, and perhaps such interventions could create more tragedies for the nation already in conflict.
In the international scenario, the so-called global war on terrorism was a very ambitious and idealist project of the Bush administration with normative goals, which brought tragic repercussions for not only the terrorist outfits or the state leaders facing the US military intervention, but for thousands of civilians, non-combatants etc. in several countries.
"Indian intervention in Sri Lanka’s ethnic war in the late 1980s was aimed at solving the domestic crisis of Sri Lanka. India in way justified its intervention as a part of its duty to create regional peace and prevent political destabilisation of a neighbouring state"
The military intervention by the US and its allies was projected as humanitarian tasks, the liberation of civilians and establishing democratic rule in the states which had authoritarian rulers denying democratic space for individuals. Looking along this line, the US’s interventions were not to create tragedy, but to prevent tragedies. However, the end results glaringly visualise that the countries which experienced the US military interventions have faced enormous humanitarian tragedies.
Indian intervention in Sri Lanka’s ethnic war in the late 1980s was aimed at solving the domestic crisis of Sri Lanka. India in way justified its intervention as a part of its duty to create regional peace and prevent political destabilisation of a neighbouring state. Despite India’s attempt to convince the LTTE on a power sharing mechanism, the war ravaged the country throughout the last two decades or more. In this scenario, the killing of India’s Prime Minster was a huge tragic incident which shocked the entire world. Thiruvenkadam Velupillai Prabhakaran, the protagonist of this tragic story, like any tragic hero, continued his ‘idealist’ war, unaware of his ‘limits’, for a separate state until he faced his atrocious defeat and death in May 2009 in the hands of the Sri Lankan army.
Sri Lankan government justified the last phase of the ethnic as defensive, humanitarian rescue operation of the civilians caught in the rebel held areas of the Wanni jungles of Northern Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan government also attempted link its military endeavour against the LTTE to the US led global war on terror. Somehow, the continuance of domestic tragedy in various guises continued for so long and many people lost lives while the international community and its strong members observed in dismay.
For Bush or local leaders, the idea of ‘elimination’ of the terrorist cadres who perpetuate violence with the use of equal or more intensified means of violence could be justified since it was meant to liberate or free another community under the control of the terrorists. However, the truth remains that the cost of any war on any human community is incalculable and never justifiable on any ground. Though the enormous military effort by the Sri Lankan government could annihilate the LTTE outfit, internationally, the military action on the LTTE has been interpreted as a ‘humanitarian tragedy’ in a domestic conflict.
In his address to the 68th General Assembly Meeting of the United Nations, on Tuesday 24 September 2013, Sri Lanka’s President reiterated his commitment to democracy and non-alignment. Yet, he pointed out that there has been “attempts to impose a type of democracy”, externally on countries with different cultural values. As he observed, “...the growing trend in the international arena, of interference by some, in the internal matters of developing countries, in the guise of security, and guardians of human rights” is a “disturbing” phenomena. Indeed the President’s concern over the international interference in domestic affairs of small states emanates from his own experience of dealing with the international community after May 2009.
In the same address, the President also remarked that in spite of “the visible progress and consistent engagement with UN mechanisms” Sri Lanka has been unfairly been subjected to “disproportionate emphasis..., and the unequal treatment through the multilateral framework”. .
Sri Lanka’s fear for international interventions is grounded on the conviction that credible investigation on humanitarian tragedy could bring tragic repercussions on its war heroes and political leadership. The LTTE being a non-state actor faces less danger in such international actions, and more less its main leadership, except for a few, has been annihilated in the war. At this juncture, to avert any possible tragedy, Sri Lanka has got to act realistically, while adhering to the international norms and creating ethnic harmony at the domestic front.
The dawn of democracy in the North with the establishment of the Provincial Council presents a possibility of huge democratic opportunity. It is true that in the face of international intervention, small actors like Sri Lanka are circumscribed by their own limitations and weaknesses. The small state suffered for long with manmade tragedies, today, should find its reliance based not on vengeance or ethnic fragmentation, but on forgiveness and political unity.