Recently I received the preliminary report from Jessica Utts, professor of statistics at University of California at Irvine. She has spent some weeks examining and analyzing the deaths and violent attacks in the Sri Lankan civil war for 26 months – two years before and two months after our Peace Intention Experiment.
The results she has reported thus far are extraordinary – suggesting that our Peace Intention Experiment may have been pivotal in helping to hasten the end of the war, which now appears imminent.
In order to show whether an effect is higher or lower than predicted, statisticians often use a trend-analysis plot.
Dr. Utts created just such a chart for all of the 26 months. The chart revealed that the violence vastly increased to levels far higher than predicted during the week of our experiment and for a few weeks afterward, and then plummeted to below what was expected.
In fact, the violence was the highest it had ever been over the entire two-year period during the very week of our experiment.
In this graph, you’ll see the analysis. The red line represents the average of predicted levels.
The fifth point from the end - the every high one - is the week of our experiment, and the four points afterward are the after effects. As you can see, the violence levels are far than predicted, sharply drop after the high week of the experiment and then fall below what is expected.
From the perspective of these two-plus years, our week of intention may have proved pivotal. During that week, the Sri Lankan army won a number of strategically important battles, which enabled them to turn around the war.
One week ago, on January 2, 2009, the army finally expelled the separatist guerrillas from their capital of Kilinochchi. Today, they recaptured the strategic Elephant pass, opening up the entire northern Jaffna Peninsula – where mainland Sri Lanka connects with the northern peninsula - for the first time in nine years, liberating the entire Wanni district – the very target of our intention.
This is the first time in 23 years that the government has taken full control of the strategic 142-km long A-9 road, which was the supply route of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel forces.
Those of the LTTE terrorists that remain – and analysts believe the numbers of trained fighters have shrunk to 2000 – have been wedged into a tiny corner of northeastern Sri Lanka of about 330 square km. The military believes that they will move operations to the eastern port of Mullaittivu for their final stand.
So was this down to us and our intention? Certainly, in September, the rebels had a tight grip on the north. Although the army had made some inroads in August, even as recently as May commentators believed that peace talks were out of the question.
Now, after all the decisive wins in September and January, many political analysts have laid down predictions that the 25-year-civil war will end in 2009.
This could have been entirely coincidental – or it could be the result of intention. Only more Peace Intention Experiments will give us the answer.
But why did the violence initially increase before drastically falling? We don’t know the answer to that, either? It could be
2) our intention to lower violence had the effect of accelerating the army’s victories over the rebels so that further violence would end
3) our intention made things worse before they got better
Until we run another Peace Intention Experiment, we won’t know the answer. But as Jessica succinctly put it, when noting that the highest weekly total for violence in the entire 26-month period was our very week: “Weird, huh?”