National Security; a mere reliance on the military?


As a developing nation, at present, it is justifiable to say that Sri Lanka has progressed in various aspects. Its citizens benefit from peace and have complete freedom as well as numerous opportunities to build better futures for themselves. Simultaneously, Sri Lanka faces potential threats from certain parties. The first duty of a government is to protect the nation from these threats and ensure its safety, because national security is the foundation of freedom and prosperity. As a result, the Government must be fully aware of all issues affecting the country,including defence, foreign policy, economic affairs, and internal law and order. Therefore, a comprehensive national security strategy must be created to deal with them.

A viable national security strategy must always meet ends with means, goals with resources, and objectives with the capabilities required to achieve them. The strategy must be in line with the aspirations of citizens and must have widespread public support. To achieve comprehensive security, it is preferable to achieve national cohesion, political and economic stability, the dismantling of terrorism, the combating of extremism, and the formulation of effective responses to external threats. The Government must make every effort to remain aware of a constantly changing situation and respond appropriately to developments and challenges. Only then, can national security be guaranteed.

It is not a trivial matter for a government to deal with the security of a State alone in the face of current development and other factors. It means that the military is very important, especially when dealing with a prominent subject area of a State such as national security. Military forces from developing countries have become increasingly important as facilitators of their government’s foreign policy, taking part in peacekeeping operations, military exercises, and humanitarian relief missions.

After World War II, the concept was further developed in the United Kingdom. Initially, military strength was emphasised as a primary factor. However, at present, it is non-military or physical security, political security, economic security, environmental security, energy and natural resource security, information technology security, and societal values, among other aspects,and is extensive in scope. Accordingly, to secure national security, a nation must protect economic security, energy security, environmental security, etc.

The national security of any nation is directly impacted by violent non-State actors, drug traffickers, multinational organisations, non-governmental actor activities, and natural disasters, in addition to other nation States or traditional enemies.The national security of a State is a combination of several disciplines such as physical security, political security, economic security, ecological security, security of energy and natural resources, and the security of information technology.The following in-depth analysis will prove how crucial they are to the development of the country and the administration of the entire government.

Practically, national security is related to the quantification of physical threats and the military capabilities used for them. In further consideration, it can be identified as successfully confronting and defending against other physical threats including terrorist attacks and military invasions through military mobilisation to secure its borders. Considering other States in the world, most of them, especially South Africa and Sudan, use their military forces to defend themselves entirely. States such as France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are investing heavily in military capabilities and have allowed their Armed Forces to conduct military operations abroad.

The majority believe that the national security of a country depends on political security. However, international law including military law, the efficacy of international political institutions, diplomatic relations, international negotiations, and other security entities all play a unique role in ensuring political security.

The development of the national economy, formal maintenance, and economic security are significant challenges for a State when focussing on economic interactions in the context of international relations. Other facets of national security are unmanageable. The world’s most powerful nations are developing strategies for market protection, access to other nation’s resources, and economic security. Developing nations may be less secure than economically developed nations due to unemployment and low wages.

Furthermore, ecological security is a significant factor influencing national security. Environmental security or environmental protection has focused more on the ecosystem and biosphere’s integrity. It is undeniable that the State has a stewardship responsibility for its ability to sustain people’s lives in a variety of ways. In light of increasing environmental damage caused by human activities, more focus needs to be given to environmental system protection. Surface erosion, deforestation, biodiversity threats, the impact of climate change on ecosystems, and the nature of environmental threats to their functioning have all been constantly debated key points among various stakeholders.

Water, energy sources, land, and minerals are considered energy and natural resources. Sufficient natural resources are essential for a nation to develop its industry and economic power. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq partially occupied Kuwait to capture oil wells, and one of the reasons why the United States counter-invaded it, is because those wells are economically very valuable.Water resources will cause conflicts between many governments, including India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. The links between security, energy, natural resources, and their sustainability have been incorporated into national security strategies and resource security as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

When it comes to national security, information technology security is another major concern. This is also referred to as computer security or cybersecurity. This covers the security of electronic devices such as computers and smartphones, as well as the security of private and public networks and wider technical networks such as the Internet. Due to the advancement of this field through the expansion of computer use in many societies, the protection of hardware, software, data, tools, and methods of access to systems is done naturally. Unauthorised access to civil and military infrastructure is currently a major threat, with some critics referring to cyberspace as a war zone.

Thus, it appears that national security is threatened in various aspects. Indeed, there are many issues related to national security. They are as follows:

I. Consistency of Approach

The aforementioned various dimensions of national security often create conflicts with each other. Maintaining a large military force is expensive and has many consequences for a country’s economic security. Internationally, public expenditure on the Armed Forces varies by country. According to World Bank reports, in 2015, 4% of Germany’s, 9% of Chile’s, 14% of the US’, 15% of Israel’s, and 19% of Pakistan’s public expenditure on the Armed Forces can be identified.

For example, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the conquest of Crimea in 2014 need to be pointed out. Due to the unilateral security measures taken by the States, the political security in the international context and the rule of law is being undermined and the authority of international institutions is under threat.

Moreover, the pursuit of economic security in competition with other States causes overall soil erosion, biodiversity impacts, and climate change. On the other hand, mitigating or adapting to environmental change causes a national economic crisis. As a result, if these conditions are not effectively managed, national security policies and measures may become ineffective or even counterproductive.

II. National versus Transnational Security

National security strategies have recognised that without regional and international security, it is extremely difficult for any State to provide security to its citizens. This is well illustrated by the publication of the national security strategy of Sweden in 2017. Furthermore, more security measures, combating epidemics and infectious diseases, combating terrorism, extremism, organised crime, and drug trafficking, ensuring reliable food supply, energy security, dealing with climate change, implementing peace and development measures, and related activities are discussed in more depth in this scope.

III. Impact on Civil Liberties and Human Rights

Indeed, national security approaches have more complex implications for human rights and civil liberties. For example, military personnel’s influence on civilians’ rights and liberties, the use of the Armed Forces and Police Forces to control public behaviour, the surveillance of people in cyberspace, including surveillance, military recruitment, and recruitment practices, will undoubtedly demand impacts on civilians and civilian infrastructure. However, there are also opportunities to safeguard national security, good governance, and the rule of law. Invoking false pretences to suppress opposing political and social views is bound to endanger national security.

In terms of world history, the USA Patriot Act was passed in 2001, and Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the National Security Agency was collecting people’s personal information. These issues have sparked widespread public interest. The question they raised there is whether individual rights and liberties should be suppressed in the interest of national security during military conflict, and to what extent a State can impose such restrictions in the absence of war. However, in the Sri Lankan context, these facts can be interpreted very differently.

The LTTE, recognised as the most ruthless and organised terrorist organisation in the world, hindered the nation’s progress for almost three decades. However, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces militarily defeated the LTTE by May 2009 and dismantled terrorism in Sri Lanka. Development of the North and East, contribution to agriculture, rehabilitation of ex-LTTE members, the launch of strategies to create human capital through them, systematic vaccination during the Covid-19 pandemic, and protection of civilian life and their properties in natural disasters can be well illustrated by the humanity of our Armed Forces. In the event of a violent situation in the country, the Security Forces will never use force unless they feel that the general control of the society is being lost. It should be noted that they have always respected citizens’ rights.

At present, allegations of war crimes pose the greatest threat to Sri Lanka’s national security. The LTTE claims that former Heads of State and war leaders of Sri Lanka massacred innocent Tamils and violated human rights. The reality is, the LTTE violated the rights of Sri Lankans. The hypocrisy is, it was the LTTE which violated human rights.

Why is the international community not paying attention to the human rights of the innocent Tamils who were killed by the LTTE?

Why is it that the international community does not find out how many children were forcibly recruited by the LTTE at that time?

During the last days of the war, the terrorists used civilians as their defensive shield. The Security Forces were more vigilant as the terrorists were still holding innocent civilians hostage. Can these charges then justify the use of the Tamil people as a shield by the terrorists? If the Security Forces are not tactical, they will destroy the lives of other innocent civilians.

According to Brigadier Chagi Gallage, a leader of the war front at that time,“In the first week of April, we were able to encircle the remaining LTTE armed leaders in the area known as Anandapuram Iranapalai. But the victory of the war was postponed until 18 and 19 May for one reason, that is the LTTE kept ordinary people as a wall for their protection. If we attack, ordinary people will die. But it took us a longtime to save the common people and carry out these attacks. If it is not for the civilians, we would have been able to end this battle by mid-April.”

Considering all, national security appears to be one of the major aspects of a country. When dealing with national security, the relevant authorities must implement the most effective strategies for the advancement of the State. This must be done with the utmost caution, particularly when dealing with a country’s economy and maintaining diplomatic agreements and international relations. Furthermore, it is preferable if it is carried out in accordance with the existing legal scope in the use of military force. Otherwise, civil and military conflict situations can arise in society, threatening the rule of law and the future administration of a country.

About the author:

B. Kavindu M.H. Peiris, graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Laws (Honours) with Second Class Upper Division in the Department of Law from the School of Law, Policing and Forensic at Stafford shire University, United Kingdom. Currently, he is reading for Attorney-at-Law examinations at Sri Lanka Law College.

Please note that all content is written after due diligence and does not reflect the opinion of any government or private institution or university except the author’s personal opinion.

By B. Kavindu M.H. Peiris