Friday, July 13, 2007

The Ultimate Weapon

The story is headlined "Tamil rebels demonstrate military might ."

It is a lengthy piece:

Tamil Tiger guerrillas in green-striped camouflage assaulted a mock government fort with gunfire, rockets and explosives Friday at a secret training base in separatist-held territory in northern Sri Lanka.

Rebels escorted reporters along back roads to the live-fire exercise to demonstrate they are still a powerful military force despite the government's announcement Thursday that it had won full control of eastern Sri Lanka for the first time in 13 years.

The Tigers said they have simply switched from conventional warfare to guerrilla tactics in the east, noting they hold a swath of territory in the north that they run as a virtual state.

"Gaining territory is not victory, it is a false hope. We will again come out and attack," said Lt. Col. V. Nishaanthan, who led the drills Friday.

So losing territory is no big deal for the Tamils. And switching back and forth between conventional and guerrilla tactics is merely a matter of Tamil choice.

What rot. Strategypage explains:

In response to the lost of their eastern territory, which was about half the area controlled by the rebels, the LTTE said it would now concentrate attacks on economic targets, using its terrorist skills to cripple the national economy. There has been an increase in terrorist type attacks in the north, and the LTTE is apparently trying to goad the army and police into attacking the Tamil population around the capital and elsewhere on the island, to make these Tamils more willing to support LTTE terrorist operations. This shift to an emphasis on terrorist operations indicates that the LTTE is unsure of its ability to hang on in the north. ...

The government declared the LTTE defeated in the eastern part of the island country. The armed forces would now move most of their forces north, to take on the main LTTE force. This was a big boost for morale in the military, which had suffered many major defeats while fighting the LTTE in the past.

The Tamils, who have been fighting for a couple decades and have had enclaves they held against inferior quality government forces, lost one enclave in the east and probably can't hold the northern enclave. But the Tamils, who pioneered suicide bombings, called in the reporters to put on a big scary show. And the AP obliged with a long piece on the military might of the Tamil Tigers. The Tamils hope the AP and others will be the ultimate weapon to save them in defeat.

I suppose I should be encouraged that the press operates this way in areas outside of Iraq. It lends support to the theory that the press is simpy composed of idiots and not just reflexively anti-American.

But it should be useful to see how the press works with terrorists and insurgents without the heated environment of the Iraq War to hinder understanding. The enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan works the press the same way.

The press may neither know nor care that they are being played, but we who read them and make policy based on their reports darn well should care. Our enemies count the press as their ultimate weapon, against which we are helpless to resist.