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Total Destruction of the Tamil Tigers

Total Destruction of the Tamil Tigers Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review May 2016 Title Total Destruction of the Tamil Tigers
Author Paul Moorcraft Publisher Pen & Sword
Published 2015 ISBN 9781781591536
Format 184 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $34.95


'It was a four-dimensional war, a land, air and sea and underwater flight.'

That's author Paul Moorcraft describing the decades-long 'Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam' – LTTE – insurgency against Sri Lanka's government.

Now he deftly distills the war in Pen & Sword's superb Total Destruction of the Tamil Tigers: The Rare Victory of Sri Lanka's Long War – available in North America from Casemate.

'Much (wordy) academic energy has been invested in trying to find precisely the nature of the LTTE insurgency,' the respected researcher notes. And Moorcraft unearths answers through unprecedented access to Sri Lankan, Tamil, UN, diplomatic and NGO records and participants.

He also eschews opaque academic argot and confusing claptrap for a compelling, spellbinding study. Coverage spans 16 chapters over 184 intriguing, illuminating pages. Contents neatly divide into four sections:

  • Beginnings
  • Main Combatants
  • Climax
  • After The Shooting War

Moorcraft charts the conflict's 'rise', first three 'Elam Wars', futile ceasefires and peace initiatives, Sri Lankan strategy, insurgent and government actions, international meddling, key players, and final stages. Coverage appropriately climaxes with Chapter 13 'The Cage' – the fascinating Tamil Götterdämmerung.

Along the way, he ladles heaping helpings of fascinating facts. The Sri Lankan Navy's noteworthy size, strength and building capabilities. The surprising role of railroads in the island's northern and eastern areas. The evolution of airpower employment. The genesis of LTTE leader T V Prabhakaran. The Sri Lankan pair who forged ultimate victory.

Details also abound.

For maximum destructive power, second-generation LTTE suicide jackets contained a 1:2 ratio of ball bearings and explosives. The Tigers' Tank Regiment sometimes 'very cleverly' improvised 'tractors and earth-moving machinery' into armored assets. The Sea Tigers sank a remarkable 56 vessels. And the Tamil diaspora forged funding networks and propaganda programs that today's Jihadist movements might envy.

Charts recap organizational structures of the LTTE and of Sri Lanka's chief of national intelligence. A handy list recaps acronyms and abbreviations – but some key terms don't appear. Four pages of maps geographically and chronologically chart the conflict. And 24 pages of B&W photographs visually spice the stew.

Student of counterinsurgency campaigns? Add this splendid study to your library. I loved it.

Rabidly recommended!

With thanks to Casemate for the review copy.