“INSSSL Defence Review 2018” launched by National Security Think Tank

On the 25th July 2018, the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) launched the Second Volume of its flagship journal, the INSSSL Defence Review 2018. The event was graced by the presence of members of the diplomatic corp, distinguished military officers, academics, authors and reviewers.

The Defence Review stands as the sole academic journal of the Ministry of Defence to be endorsed by His Excellency the President Maithripala Sirisena, comprising scholarly articles relating to traditional and non-traditional security issues. The published works comprise premier research of the highest national regard. The following is a review of the journal by Ms Shenali Pilapitiya Research Assistant INSSSL Undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley Political Science and Legal Studies.

The Second Volume of the INSSSL Defence Review seems to perfectly encapsulate the ever-changing world we live in, as security concerns increasingly move out of the conventional, militaristic sphere and manifest themselves in the form of socio-cultural dialogues, the arts, the environment and our education system. Hence, as security concerns supersede conventional boundaries, we must now adjust our cognitive lenses to embrace critical, unconventional and nuanced approaches to research. I feel that this has been achieved by the 2018 review, yet is also an area for further progress to be made.

 I would first like to commend the cognitive lenses explored through the Defence Review. Military and Civilian personnel contributed to this review, reflecting a conscientious effort to explore security and insecurity in both traditional and non-traditional ways.

 To begin, Professor Eugene de Silva grapples with key questions of whether politicization exists within intelligence agencies, and whether such concerns can be addressed through a dynamic approach to freeing the intelligence cycle of such convolutions. This, in short, seems to encapsulate the goals of the INSSSL review – recognizing existing problems in new arenas of security, working towards multidisciplinary solutions, and launching independent, new thought processes to achieve such goals.

 The navy perspective of Captain R Joseph in his paper on Maritime Blindness demonstrates how individual experiences can enrich our understanding of security at a national level, as we tap in to the expertise of a single navy official, through his independent body of work, to apply his knowledge at a national and regional level in maritime law.

 Professor Stephen Nagy explores socio-economic security, bridging connections between Japan’s ventures in maritime strategy and economic relations. Once again, this demonstrates the multidisciplinary cognition that is crucial to national security in the 21st century, recognizing the nuances of traditional security such as maritime ventures, and the economic, social and cultural undertones of such endeavors.

 Dr. James Ross perhaps best encapsulates the way in which cognitive lenses are being readjusted in the 21st century, looking at symbolic and cultural security through music, and how the arts can prove a transcending security force. He ties into his independent experiences in artistic fields to contribute to the review in a distinctive way.

 Ms. Vibusha Madanayake encompasses a progressive mindset in her paper on why the youth rebel, urging the creation of a new political climate that is conducive to uplifting the youth, and devoid of corruption and malpractice.

 A particularly local outlook is achieved through Ms. Isuri Siriwardhana and Ms. Thilini Kasturi’s case study of environmental democracy on Sri Lanka, once again providing a progressive and new proposal for governance in Sri Lanka, which focuses on merging democratic institutions with environmental protection.

Finally, Squadron Leader Gunaratne and Major Lasantha recognize traditional security concerns through an exploration of nuclear proliferation and geopolitical significance of South Asia, tapping into their expertise in military service to do so.

 Of course, this review does not encompass a single, holistic outlook on security concerns, in the same way that policy briefs, or national security doctrines might. In this sense, the Defence Review constitutes the preliminary phase of national decision making. Individuality is preserved in this Defence Review, each body of work embracing its author’s unique perspectives and thought processes. I believe that this is critical within a think tank or any body of policy making. By acknowledging the individuality of such works, we also recognize the humanness of the issues at hand. Security concerns are not reduced to something that needs to be ticked off of a federal checklist – they present real life concerns of people, and the Defence Review allows those with a passion and background in these areas to explore prospective solutions. 

 At the same time, it is essential that personal biases or experiences do not cloud our research, particularly within the realm of security, where the prospect of “perceived threats” can be harmful. Bellicose rhetoric such as defining states and non-states as “enemies”, “malicious” or “insidiously motivated” will do more harm than good when drafting security solutions.

 The Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka is focused on policy, not politics. This is a key distinction to be made, especially when attempting to secure our nation in a way that uplifts and safeguards all of its people. Politics are connotative, referring to the activities associated with the governance of a country or area. It is therefore difficult to ignore the dynamics of power-play that dictate politics. Policy, on the other hand, is not motivated by power-dynamics – the goal is to better one’s nation at a social, cultural, environmental, economical and political level. The cognitive lenses of this Defence Review assure that this will be achieved.