By Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka
Sri Lanka faced and fought a terrorist threat for thirty years and prevailed, ten years ago. Just recently, on Easter Sunday, we were confronted by a new terrorist threat.
So, Sri Lanka is not apologetic, when I say that we view all these problems through the prism of the existential threat that terrorism in all its forms poses to Sri Lanka, a small island.
Terrorism can be fought, and sustainable socio-economic development can be guaranteed only by a strong State. By a strong State I do not mean a dictatorial State, a totalitarian State, an authoritarian State. Sri Lanka has never had any of that, we’ve always had a democratic State. But, whatever the form of the State, there has to be a State, which is strong, and which is efficient. There is no other way, in which development and security can be ensured and the threat from terrorism can be met.
We have to ask ourselves: why has there been a proliferation of terrorism in recent decades? Terrorism has existed for a long time, but why has there been a proliferation? Why has there been a proliferation of hybrid warfare? Hybrid warfare itself is perhaps a hundred years old, there were foreign troops on the soil of Russia after the 1917 Revolution, but why has there been a proliferation of hybrid warfare? What is the relationship between the two?
It has been our experience that the proliferation of terrorism in its most virulent forms, and the shrinking or besieging of States go hand in hand. These are dialectically related.
It is no accident that during the post-Cold-War period, we have seen what I would call “Statocide”: the serial assassination of States, the besieging of States, the subversion of States, the external intervention into States, and the ending of States.
That is why you have a proliferation of terrorism, because the State is the bulwark against terrorism; and when States are ended, terrorism arises, from where it is hidden or it is drawn in, because there is a vacuum.
If we are to end terrorism, if we are to implement a sustainable and just socio-economic development, we have to preserve the State; we have to defend the State; and in order to do so, we have to do something about the global matrix, which weakens the State, and provides a permissive global environment for the proliferation of terrorism. What is this matrix? How has this come to be?
The Cold War ended, or was sought to be ended, by one system, which tried to end the Cold War by transcending it, and even ending its own system. Whether it was wise or not, it is the subject for historians, not for us, to speculate on. But another system did not want only to end the Cold War, it wanted to win it. So, these were two rival conceptions: end the Cold War by transcending it, or win the Cold War.
And that is what is still going on – a global project, in which hybrid warfare has become globalized. Hybrid warfare is the form that Cold War takes at the present moment. Cold War is hybrid war. Hybrid war is Cold War.
It has grown to a point where there is an obvious attempt to deploy in a way that creates a giant encirclement of the Eurasian continents, of the Eurasian core states from the western end, from the Russian border, through the Persian Gulf, and into the so-called Indo-Pacific, which does not exist on any world map. Hybrid warfare is part of that.
That project of unipolarity and unilateralism naturally implies the subtraction of States, because every other State is supposed to be either junior partner, or a satellite, or a vassal or simply be destroyed.
That does not help small States like Sri Lanka protect itself against proliferating terrorism. It does not help us implement socio-economic policies, which are sustainable, and can prevent the kind of social alienation that provides a domestic basis for terrorism.
So that macro-problem, that mega-problem, that world-systemic problem has to be addressed. Otherwise, we will be simply tinkering around.
How is this to be addressed? The problem is not one of a President, or an Administration, or a country, or the people of a country, or the society of a country. Every country has people who are peace-loving. This has to do not only with ideology, because you have neo-liberal and new conservative ideologies and administrations which have supplanted each other, but have acted on a continuant, in the service of this project of unipolarity and State diminution, or State degradation.
This is the problem we have. On the one hand, from the point of view of countries like Sri Lanka, the preservation and protection of the State, not its hypotrophy, but its preservation as an efficient State, and a global coalition of States against terrorism are very reasonable, rational, and logical ideas and projects.
What could be more reasonable than a coalition of States, irrespective of their ideologies, against a common foe of terrorism? The problem is that this human reason, this product of a human mind, this logic, goes against the logic of a system; as I said, not a President, not an Administration, not a country, it is not just a competition of great powers. It is a system.
When there was rivalry between the two systems, one system withdrew, or ended itself, and the other didn’t. It is the logic of that global system that has to be counted in the interests of countries that are faced with the threat of terrorism and a hybrid war.
And make no mistake, countries like Sri Lanka have seen terrorist movements use hybrid war. It is not just States, that use terrorism as part of a hybrid war. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam used lobbying in the so-called liberal societies of the West to mount pressure on Sri Lanka as part of their secessionist war, in which they used suicide bombers. So, terrorist movements use hybrid war. It is not only states that use terrorist movements as part of hybrid war.
I would conclude by saying that protesting – well, protest has its place, but protestation alone will not do. Hybrid war is a war of ideas. Hybrid war is political-military-ideological warfare on a world scale. It is part of an attempt to change the correlation of world forces.
Strategic stability on a nuclear level alone will not solve the problem. Strategic stability is the upper-level, or an epiphenomenon, of something that is far more fundamental, and that is, the correlation of world forces on a world scale. That is sought to be changed in one direction by a system that is now on a strategic offensive. This cannot be changed by protests or preaching. It can only be changed by a countervailing balance of forces.
And that is why I will conclude by saying that the only sure way, the only historically effective way of countering such global trends is to form a United Front, of a global united front, but seen in concentric circles: united fronts at continental level, at regional level, and at the global level of states, which have shared values and a common interest in protecting state sovereignty and fighting against terrorism and hybrid warfare.
(The above presentation entitled “Proliferation of Terrorism, Hybrid threats and Statocide” was made by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Russian Federation, in the session on “Ensuring national security and sustainable social and economic development of states in the face of growing hybrid threats” at the 10 th.,International Meeting of High-Level Officials, Responsible for Security Matters in Ufa on June 18)