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Choice Between Guns and Butter

Choice Between Guns and Butter

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Jul 08, 2013
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07/10/2013

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By M.A.Sumanthiran-
 
2013-07-07
 When it comes to public goodslike the common defence and market efficiency, every State has a choice. According to theinfamous analogy, in the zero-sum game of budget allocation, every State can decide whether to prioritize guns or butter. Guns represent the State’s ability to protect her stored capital andButter represents her ability to generate capital. According to this simple analogy, a certain balance is clearly required as one without the other is bankrupt. Post-War societies present aunique opportunity. In a post-war society where peace has been won, Guns are (at least temporarily) obsolete. Thisfact provides post-war societies with an opportunity for unbridled production of ‘Butter’Simple manifestations of this over simplified economic principle are abundant – Germany andJapan post-WWII being the most obvious examples. Intervening variables certainly exist andthe nomenclature ‘Post-War’ carries no written expiration date; it could dissolve at any momentfor any number of reasons. But the central principle is not a prescription for a proper ratio between Guns and Butter, it is a description of the ratio’s simple uncompromising truth: a lossin one is a necessary gain in the other and vice versa. The abiding question for Sri Lanka is:how can we expect an increase in Butter if we have had no decrease in Guns? Strange bedfellows The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Urban Development are strange bedfellows. Theformer is charged with protecting the country from enemies of the State and providing for thecommon defence. The latter, the Ministry of Urban Development, is supposed to facilitate there-settlement and re-building of communities of citizens. Through this reconstruction, affectedcommunities can recover their losses and start contributing to the common goods of market
 
efficiency and production. The Army co-opted the Ministry of Urban Development several years ago and acts as theactualizing force for development initiatives. But the Army cannot wear these two hats at thesame time. They cannot assume both roles under the boundless mandate of protection withoutanswering a central question – are occupied territories home to enemies of the State or citizensof the State? If Tamils and Muslims are enemies of the State, then the peace rhetoric is empty.The Army’s goal could not be development but instead occupation, subjugation andcolonization. But if Tamils and Muslims are citizens, then it is not the development side of their mandate that is misappropriated; it’s the defence side. Why do citizens need an occupying Army? Why should this occupying Army be tasked withregional administration and rebuilding? If the people of the North and East are full citizens thenthey do not require any extraordinary defence beyond that allotted to the rest of the country.The Sri Lanka Army cannot exercise both defence and development roles simultaneously. If theArmy is in fact operating under their defence mandate, are we as a nation willing to fund andtolerate the whole-scale occupation of the North and East. Are we willing, Sinhala, Tamil andMuslims together, to risk a precarious peace and an un-paralleled opportunity for growth sothat the government can manufacture an enemy worthy of occupation? After almost 30 years of calamity, will we now again trade Butter for Guns?Army’s role As is typical of militia, the SL Army is organized. It is funded to a fault. It has the backing of the central regime. But do these facts make it uniquely equipped to tackle development in awar-torn region? Advocates of the Army’s continued role in the North and East seem to react explosively whenexamples of post-war culture in the Global West are cited. While the examples of post-WorldWar II and post Soviet bloc countries are pertinent, perhaps it is appropriate we compareourselves to politics closer home who are experiencing many of the same challenges we arefacing. We need not look farther than Sub-Saharan Africa to see what happens when a societystarts to rely on an easily mobilized military instead of investing the time and resourcesnecessary to develop a robust federal administration. Countries like Zimbabwe fall prey to avicious cycle of [lack of resources poverty dire needmobilization of the
militarydisplaced labourdependencelack of resources poverty and so on, and so
forth]. Mobilizing the military cripples both public and private sector growth. Jobs are insteadmonopolized by the only available organization of manpower that is the military. This cycle is perpetuated when the community comes to rely on the goods and services provided by themilitary, which leads to a lack of resources and a repetition of the cycle. Positive example Many would point to Senegal and the Armée-Nation as a positive example of militaryinvolvement in civilian affairs. The Partners for Democratic Change characterizes Armée-
 
 Nation as ‘Senegal’s model of civil-liberty collaboration that promotes development andsecurity.’ Interestingly the organization lists three central goals of Armée-Nation to which theystrive to hold the Senegalese military accountable. The goals are to ensure that: (1) securitysector agencies can contribute to the development of their country by improving civilianrelations with government and civil society; (2) security forces have respectful, collaborative,and inclusive relations with the civilian population; (3) and security sector agencies are clearlysubordinate to and respectful of civilian authorities and remain politically neutral. Armée-Nation and the unusual success Senegal enjoys relative to its neighbours illustrates thatthere is a bright line between effective and ineffective military involvement in post-war society.Firstly, the organization and resources of the military can only become part of a greater development and reconciliation plan if the military actively seeks to improve civilian relationswith the government and civil society. The only way to accomplish this goal is by investing anddeveloping at a provincial level. The Central Government must empower locally elected individuals to make policies benefittingthe constituency they are immediately accountable to. This model only works when a degree of autonomy is awarded, otherwise each Province remains wholly unequipped to meet its owndevelopment challenges. The SL Army can improve civilian relations with the government andcivil society by allowing such a process to happen organically and without impediment. Insteadof the SL Army assuming the role of local government, it should look to transition as muchresponsibility as possible to justly-elected local provincial administrations. Secondly, the SL Army must foster ‘respectful, collaborative and inclusive’ relationships withthe civilian populations they are involved with. Unfortunately, civilian relations is not a primary consideration for the SL Army. Civilians are routinely displaced from their homesdemonstrating the Army’s lack of respect for private property. Many displaced civilians arecaught like fish out of water separated by forcible relocation from their livelihoods with little tono means of supporting themselves or their family. The most recent land grab in Jaffna totalledapproximately 6,400 acres and affected several thousand Tamil people. The SL Army could notdemonstrate less concern for civilian relations and this is a crucial aspect of post-war posturing. Involvement Thirdly, the SL Army must be subordinate to civilian authorities and remain politically neutral.It was recently reported that the Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General MahindaHathurusinghe and the Northern Province Major General, G.A. Chandrasiri, have interviewedand chosen 20 candidates for the Northern Provincial Council Election. The Army’s clear demonstration of partisanship and political posturing destroys any credibility they might haveotherwise possessed as a body answerable to the whole of Sri Lanka. Their involvement inelections is not only spurious, but perhaps most tragically it completely undermines the questfor reconciliation. Is that what the Army of Sri Lanka is – an agent of a particular political party? How can lasting peace be forged on such terms with such agents purporting to providefor our common defence? The whole nation should feel marginalized and uncomfortable withthe Army’s political activity.

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