Learning from Israel13 min read

Also published at https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/from-israel-to-sri-lanka-the-political-power-of-the-defense-agenda/

Presidential politics are bad, particularly how it intertwines with the presidential system and the central role of defense and violence in maintaining political power. This examination is not a critique of foreign policy in isolation but a broader analysis of the mechanics of political authority within the presidential framework of the United States and Sri Lanka. My aim is to dissect how violence by way of conflation not only perpetuates but also emboldens the presidential system, transforming defense into a pinnacle of political maneuvering.

The U.S. presidential system, designed to balance power among branches of government, inadvertently elevates defense to a cornerstone of political power. This phenomenon becomes particularly evident in periods leading up to presidential elections, where defense and military policies often become focal points. The intricate dance of power in the U.S. is not merely a domestic affair but is deeply influenced by and intertwined with international dynamics, especially evident in its interactions with Israel and the broader Middle East conflict.

The situation in Palestine

Historical and contemporary evidence suggests that the most militant factions within the Palestinian cause, like Hamas, have occasionally received support from entities with connections to Israel. This complex relationship between supposed adversaries feeds into a larger narrative used by political leaders to justify aggressive foreign policies. In recent times, attacks by Hamas on Israeli soil have been portrayed by some as validations for pre-planned retaliatory strikes against Palestinian territories. Such portrayals often oversimplify and obscure the premeditated nature of political violence, serving to support a narrative that empowers the existing presidential administration.

The role of U.S. presidential candidates in this geopolitical chess game is critical. Throughout their campaigns, candidates often make multiple trips to Israel, each visit serving as a symbolic reaffirmation of unwavering support for Israeli policies. Their reluctance to condemn or even address the complexities of Israeli-Palestinian relations points to a deeper political strategy.

The public reaction, both domestically and internationally, to these policies offers a stark contrast to the positions held by political elites. In the Western world, severe demonstrations and public outcry against military assaults on Palestinian territories illustrate significant public dissent against the official narratives and actions. Yet, this widespread public opposition often finds no echo in the corridors of power.

This dichotomy between public sentiment and political action becomes most apparent during election times. Voters, often disillusioned with the choices available, find themselves selecting the lesser of two evils, typically opting for candidates who, despite a general public opposition to war, appear comparatively pro-war when compared against public sentiment.

Our context

The essay also draws parallels with historical instances where political leaders have used similar strategies to entrench their power. A notable example is the UNP during the 1980s, which managed to initiate and sustain conflicts on multiple fronts as a strategy to consolidate power. The government’s interactions with militant groups such as the JVP and LTTE, and its subsequent militaristic stances, were not merely responses to security threats but were strategic moves designed to solidify governmental control under the guise of national security.

The UNP’s ability to manipulate political narratives around these groups was a masterclass in political strategy. By conflating the causes these groups stood for with their most extreme actions and players, the government was able to alienate them from mainstream support, thereby justifying its own use of force as necessary for national stability. This strategy of engaging with and then publicly combating what it portrayed as radical elements allowed the government to appear both strong and justified in its use of power.

The tactic of engaging with or even empowering what can metaphorically be called “idiots” — groups or individuals whose actions are easily condemnable — ensures public support for countermeasures, which are often disproportionate. As these selected adversaries react with predictable violence, the broader cause they represent loses public sympathy, allowing the state to enact more severe counter-violence, all under the banner of maintaining public order and national security.

Recent news

Our recent political landscape has been marred by controversies that challenge the very fabric of our domestic sovereignty, yet these issues remain largely overshadowed by other national concerns. A glaring example of this is the recent election for the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Despite the uproar from those who position themselves as staunch defenders of national security against foreign interference, there is a striking silence on more direct threats to our sovereignty.

The election of the TNA leader, a matter still pending in court, is clouded with allegations of manipulation. The media, for its part, has largely failed to give this issue the attention it deserves. It is widely suspected that underhanded tactics influenced the outcome of this critical vote. The individual who emerged victorious is known for his hard-line separatist views concerning the use of the Tamil language—this victory marks a significant affront to our collective national integrity.

Even mainstream politicians, who are otherwise vocal about minority rights, display a hesitant stance when it comes to concrete reforms that could foster true national unity. Ranil Wickremesinghe, considered a prominent advocate for minority rights, albeit constrained by his backing by an SLPP government, has shown reluctance to implement basic reforms. These reforms are essential for addressing long-standing issues that affect not only the Tamil community but all minorities.

The reforms in question are straightforward and aim to enhance local governance and cultural integration. They include establishing local police force whose members are residents of the areas they serve, engaging in domestic discussions on land use, and ensuring sufficient public resources to address language barriers. Such measures are fundamental to building a more inclusive and unified nation.

Ironically, while society in Colombo may extend considerable leniency towards transgressions such as vehicular manslaughter committed by their youth, there is a stark resistance to empowering other provinces in similar ways. The demand that police forces be staffed predominantly by individuals from within their own regions is a rational expectation. It reflects a desire for autonomy and respect within the local governance framework, which is essential for genuine national unity.

As we navigate these turbulent political waters, it is crucial to reevaluate our priorities and address these pressing issues with the seriousness they deserve. Only by confronting and rectifying these internal discrepancies can we hope to forge a truly cohesive and resilient nation.

The Easter Attacks Connection

The complex relationship between the state and organized extremists is vividly illustrated by the numerous inquiries into the Easter Attacks. It has become evident that the National Thowheeth Jama’ath was financed by both international and domestic government entities. While the funding from Saudi Arabia to fundamentalist Muslim sects is concerning, more alarming is the involvement of intelligence service members who had close interactions with the National Thowheeth Jama’ath. We are left with two possibilities: either our task force is exceptionally efficient, able to find and dismantle all their safehouses swiftly, or the reconnaissance for such operations was already prepared.

We might consider that the Bodu Bala Sena genuinely enjoys widespread local support, which is challenging to reconcile with their minimal organic online presence. Alternatively, as reported in the news media, they could be receiving substantial state sponsorship. It’s crucial for the public to question why broadcast media persistently promotes individuals and groups like the Bodu Bala Sena and more recently Premakumar Gunaratnam, a convict and Australian citizen, especially when they appear to lack significant public backing.

Addressing JVP strength during May Day

May Day rallies spotlight the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) not as a fleeting sensation as some media portrayals suggest, but as a steadfast and consistent voice in the Sri Lankan Parliament. The JVP has been vocal on several critical issues: the role of the Executive Presidency, the hurried privatization of state-owned assets, and the pervasive corruption among the political elite.

Contrary to what some narratives imply, the public’s attendance at JVP rallies is not just passive observation but a calculated demonstration of support for the party’s stance on key issues. This participation highlights a collective dissent against certain governmental policies rather than an endorsement of a militant JVP-led government.

There is also an intriguing aspect of manipulation in how the JVP is positioned within political dialogues. For example, a significant incident involved Sirasa, a media outlet owned by the Capital Maharaja group, which seemingly orchestrated Anura Kumara Dissanayake to ask their question in parliament. This question, which Dissanayake brought up in parliament, pertained to PVC piping and subtly benefited the media group’s associated manufacturing interests, showcasing a complex interplay between media and politics.

Despite these nuances, it’s essential to clarify my personal stance. My critique is not an endorsement of the JVP, which many view merely as a vessel for protest rather than a viable governing power. Historically, the JVP has thrived as an opposition force, adept at critiquing the status quo without holding actual power. This position allows them to remain untainted by the compromises and corruptions of governance.

Furthermore, the potential for power to corrupt is a significant concern. Anura Kumara Dissanayake, if ever seen as a probable winner in a presidential race, could face the classical dilemma of power corrupting even the most steadfast communist ideals. The prospect of him leading could test his integrity and mental balance, illustrating the transformative and often detrimental impact of power on political leaders.

Sajith’s bid

Sajith Premadasa’s first attempt at securing the presidency was far from successful. Despite outspending his rivals, his campaign ended in a decisive loss. The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has pointed fingers at the UNP for his defeat, though the UNP had largely distanced itself from his campaign efforts.

In his presidential campaign, Sajith adopted a controversial strategy that has been a hallmark of his political lineage: the use of state machinery to tackle social issues through force. A critical area where this approach was evident is his stance on drug policy. In many civilized nations, drug addiction is treated primarily as a health issue, addressed through rehabilitation and decriminalization strategies, including the provision of methadone. However, Sajith’s policies blurred the lines between drug users and drug traffickers, treating all involved with a heavy hand.

This tactic is reminiscent of strategies employed by his father and other historical figures, where the consensus on the negativity of drug use was leveraged to justify aggressive crackdowns. This approach, as depicted in media like “The Godfather” and “Scarface,” often results in the unintended consequence of increasing the profitability of drug trafficking. Harsher crackdowns can paradoxically enhance the power and wealth of those involved in the illicit trade, intertwining criminal enterprises with political networks.

The public rhetoric around these policies may be calculated and moderated, but those familiar with the history understand that the networks supporting Sajith are capable of significant violence.

In elite circles in Colombo, it is an open secret that some families supporting Sajith, much like those aligned with former President Sirisena, have members who partake in recreational drug use. Despite their public stance, the dealers supplying these elite circles faced minimal repercussions during Sirisena’s tenure, and it is expected that a similar leniency would prevail under Sajith’s rule.

Sajith’s approach to governance also extends to other areas of administration, such as financial policies. Keeping controversial figures like Nalaka Godahewa close suggests a readiness to engage in questionable financial activities if deemed necessary. This readiness to maintain connections that can facilitate unsavory actions points to a broader strategy of employing whatever means are necessary to achieve and maintain power, including maintaining a state that is capable of exerting considerable violence.

As Sajith prepares for another presidential bid, these elements of his political strategy and their implications for governance and civil liberties are critical for voters to consider. The intersection of political power, aggressive policies, and the backing of influential and potentially coercive forces creates a potent mix that could shape the nature of his leadership and its impact on Sri Lankan society.

Conflation for good

In exploring the mechanics of political maneuvering, particularly through the lens of historical and contemporary strategies employed by Israel, the UNP of the 1980s, and Sajith Premadasa, one uncovers a potent, albeit controversial, tactic: the conflation of issues to justify the use of violence against related entities. This exploration is not an endorsement of their objectives or methods, which some might characterize as harsh or even nefarious. Rather, it aims to illuminate how a determined entity can manipulate circumstances and perceptions to achieve specific ends.

This insight leads us to a critical examination of the presidential system itself, a structure that has drawn widespread criticism and is perceived by many as a hotbed of corruption. It’s worth contemplating a radical perspective: viewing the pursuit of the presidency not just with skepticism but as an outright hostile act. This approach advocates for a collective stance where anyone aspiring to the presidency is treated as an adversary to the public good.

From this vantage point, not only are the presidential candidates themselves viewed with suspicion, but so too are their supporters and advocates. Engaging with or endorsing someone seeking the presidency could be seen as complicity in the historical and systemic failings of past presidencies. Under this harsh lens, mere association with a presidential campaign taints an individual’s moral standing, rendering them guilty by association.

Further, any discussion that diverts from the existential nature of the presidency, such as minor policy tweaks or reformative promises, should be seen as obfuscation or misdirection from the core issues at hand. This radical viewpoint suggests that even dialogues aimed at reforming the system are, in essence, supports for its continuation under a guise of change.

Overshooting to achieve the objectives

Recognizing the extremity of this stance, one must acknowledge that while it may lack a basis in balanced logic, it serves as a powerful tool to force the issue of the presidency’s existential impact into the spotlight, especially during an election year. As political figures like Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa gear up for another presidential race, such a strategy compels them to address their positions more clearly within their campaigns. It forces the acknowledgment of the presidency’s profound implications on governance and society.

The method of campaigning itself could be reinterpreted as an act of aggression, echoing tactics used by gender fluidity movements to highlight systemic injustices. By framing the political campaign as a hostile act, it pressures candidates to confront the intrinsic violence of the political system they wish to lead.

In this charged atmosphere, the public and media can play a crucial role in scrutinizing candidates further. Those currently positioning themselves for the presidency, particularly from the business sector, provide ample material for examination. Their corporate activities, often shielded from public scrutiny during less contentious times, could be rigorously examined to reveal discrepancies or unethical practices.

Thus, the strategy involves generating substantial public discourse and opposition, which in turn creates a landscape where a counter-movement can emerge. This is where one can strategically choose a contender, not necessarily to support them outright, but to use them as a focal point to rally a broader critique of the system. This contender, ideally, would be someone whose potential vulnerabilities can withstand public and media scrutiny, leveraging their candidacy as a case study of the broader systemic issues at play.

The exploration of these themes would not be necessary in a parliamentary system wherein power can be loss at any moment by a vote of confidence. We live in a country wherein Workers Day is somehow a proxy for political power so we must take desperate measures. We must be cold, calculated, and cunning. We must learn from Israel.

One thought on “Learning from Israel13 min read

  1. Your blog is a beacon of light in the often murky waters of online content. Your thoughtful analysis and insightful commentary never fail to leave a lasting impression. Keep up the amazing work!

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