by a Special Defence Correspondent
“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
Nationalism and patriotism have the potential to unite a nation and instil a sense of shared identity, but their abuse by those who do not understand the importance of national interests can jeopardize a country’s long-term well-being. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, these concepts have been widely misused for political purposes, making it rare to find genuine nationalists and patriots. Instead, the country is plagued by pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots who exploit public sentiment and national interests for their own personal gain, posing a threat to the country’s future prosperity.
Pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots are individuals who use nationalist rhetoric for their own political gain, without any real understanding of what it means to act in the best interests of the nation. These individuals are often more interested in promoting their own personal agendas than in advancing the greater good of their country.
One of the key dangers posed by these individuals is that they are often willing to play politics with everything, including national security and foreign policy. They may take positions that are popular with their base or that score political points, but that ultimately weaken the country’s position on the world stage. For example, they may oppose important trade agreements or alliances that are critical to the country’s economic or military strength, simply because they do not want to be seen as “weak” or as ceding control to other nations.
Irony is pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots often lack a nuanced understanding of the complexities of international relations. They may take simplistic, black-and-white views of issues, failing to appreciate the subtleties of diplomatic negotiations and compromise. This can lead them to take hardline positions that are ultimately harmful to the country’s long-term interests.
MP Wimal Weerawansa’s recent statement in Parliament claiming that Sri Lanka is at risk of becoming an American colony is a prime example of how pseudo-nationalists can harm a nation’s long-term interests. By making baseless accusations that US officials disarmed Sri Lanka’s intelligence agency, including its Director General, Weerawansa is playing on people’s fears and prejudices instead of offering constructive ideas for the country’s future. Weerawansa’s political opportunism resembles the behaviour described by Samuel Johnson’s famous saying, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Unfortunately, Weerawansa is not the only one to play this game. Unfortunately, Weerawansa is not the only one to play this game. Many politicians, NGO activists, and religious leaders have criticised intelligence agencies and security apparatus without any real understanding of their structures and vital roles in keeping the country safe. In Sri Lanka, people often blame intelligence agencies without recognizing their hard work and limited resources to protect the country from potential dangers.
Moreover, Weerawansa’s claims are not only baseless, but they also show a lack of understanding about how intelligence agencies operate. It is highly unlikely that any foreign country, let alone the US, would demand that another country disarm its intelligence agency. Such a demand would be seen as a violation of national sovereignty and would likely trigger a diplomatic crisis. Instead, visits between intelligence agencies are often conducted in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, with both sides learning from each other and sharing best practices.
Furthermore, by making such claims without any evidence to back them up, Weerawansa is potentially damaging Sri Lanka’s relationships with other countries. Such unfounded accusations can be seen as inflammatory and can lead to a breakdown in trust between nations. This can have serious consequences for Sri Lanka’s foreign policy and its ability to engage in diplomatic negotiations. By playing politics with everything and making baseless claims, such individuals can undermine a country’s relationships with other nations and damage its reputation on the world stage. It is important for citizens to be vigilant against such individuals and to support leaders who are committed to acting in the best interests of the country, rather than advancing their own personal agendas.
Sri Lankan intelligence agencies have demonstrated the importance of cooperation in achieving strategic objectives and fighting common enemies.
Needless to say, cooperation between intelligence agencies is critical for the safety and security of nations around the world. Sharing intelligence and working together to achieve strategic objectives on national interests is a well-known fact. Intelligence cooperation enables nations to fight common enemies such as terrorists and drug traffickers, and it is essential in the fight against transnational organized crime and other threats to national security. Leading intelligence officials from not only the United States but also countries such as India, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia, among others, often visit Sri Lanka due to our country’s commitment to maintaining neutral foreign policies and strategic defence partnerships. We believe that politicians and others who do not fully understand the depth of these partnerships should refrain from making political statements that could potentially cross these boundaries.
As Chen Wen, Director-General of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of State Security in China, says “intelligence cooperation is a vital tool for enhancing international security and countering transnational threats. China is committed to working with other countries to promote intelligence sharing and cooperation.” Similarly, General David Petraeus, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States, says “the ability to gather, analyze, and share intelligence is the key to national security. Intelligence cooperation among nations is, therefore, a vital component in maintaining global security and stability.“
Concurrently, Sri Lanka is one of the countries that recognize the importance of intelligence cooperation, and its intelligence agencies have been working closely with their counterparts in other countries to achieve strategic objectives. In the past few months, Sri Lankan intelligence agencies, with the support of their counterparts, have successfully accomplished many operations. These operations have contributed to the protection of national security and the safety of Sri Lankan citizens.
Data gathering and analysis are critical components of the intelligence process. Intelligence agencies collect and analyze data to transform them into actionable intelligence. This process is complex and time-consuming, requiring adequate resources and skilled personnel. Intelligence cooperation allows countries to share resources, skills, and knowledge, making the intelligence process more efficient and effective as it is critical for the safety and security of nations.
Sri Lankan intelligence agencies have demonstrated the importance of cooperation in achieving strategic objectives and fighting common enemies. Data gathering and analysis are critical components of the intelligence process, and intelligence cooperation allows countries to share resources, skills, and knowledge, making the intelligence process more efficient and effective. It is essential for nations to strike a balance between cooperation and protecting national interests. Intelligence cooperation is not only critical in fighting common enemies but also in advancing economic, political, and social interests.
Our intelligence agencies work tirelessly to protect our nation with limited resources, and without strong partnerships with each country, our security is at risk. Therefore, it is crucial that politicians and other members of society approach these issues constructively and prioritize national interests. Unfairly targeting and using them as scapegoats by pseudo-nationalists for political gain will have only unwanted tussles between our strategic partners. It is the responsibility of politicians and society as a whole to understand the complexity of intelligence work and the challenges they face, rather than using them as a convenient target for blame. A constructive approach to intelligence cooperation and strengthening national security is crucial for ensuring a safe and prosperous future for any nation.
The views expressed are the author’s own