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Culture and National Security

The main problem with many developing countries comes from the failure of governments to make the right choice, cautious treatment and commitment to cultural matters.

The authorities in power underestimate the value of culture in development, security and defence. The capacity of a nation to survive is highly dependent on the prevailing cultural values. Many scholars maintain that culture has a huge impact on human beings in any society. Culture helps human beings to adapt to the social and natural environment and increase their chances of survival.

Culture constitutes every human activity including social, economic, moral, religious, political, philosophical and technological values. According to Tylor, culture is a ‘complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.’ Culture is not only the material aspect of the society. Downs defines culture as a mental map that guides us in our relations with our surroundings and with other people. Therefore we can say that culture is the totality of humanity that gives order and meaning to human activity.

Culture and national security have direct relations. A country that develops and preserves its culture has high probability of achieving greater levels of national security. A nation may be considered secure if there is a high probability of the occurrence of its preferred national values and high ethical standards. Every nation has its own culture of security and protection mechanism that guide and ensure peace and order within the society. Culture as the totality of the way of life of a people has enormous security influence on the nation. For example, we can say that the diversity and unity of the Eritrean culture is the foundation of the existing peace and stability.

The constructive traits of the Eritrean culture such as discipline, honesty, a strong work ethic, initiative, inventiveness, self-sufficiency and loathing of dependence as outlined in the national charter of Eritrea, are our source of pride and strength. The Eritrean culture characterized by love of country, respect for humanity, love of truth and justice, self-reliance, respect for law, solidarity between men and women and self-confidence are indispensable for national prosperity and security.

The diverse cultures of Eritrea have been the source of power, unity, beauty and security. National security is concerned with the survival, peace and progress of the society as a whole, and a prudent cultural policy is an important instrument that helps achieve sustainable security. The concept of unity in diversity of Eritrea is a reflection of a tolerant cultural policy designed to channel the collective behavior of the people in the direction that maximizes national objectives. We should, therefore, renew our commitment to develop a tolerant and democratic culture based upon the culture developed during the struggle for independence that rejects divisive, backward and narrow sentiments.

In Eritrea every national policy, from education to defense, takes into account the culture of the Eritrean people. All development and security measures are based on the national identity and culture of Eritrea. The material, spiritual and security needs of Eritreans can only be achieved after the development of the Eritrean culture. A strong national culture is the foundation of a developed economy, a modern political system and reliable peace. No society has become prosperous without having a climate of peace, and there cannot be peace without developing a peaceful culture.

Security like culture is not easy to define. But for the sake of convenience let’s put security as an absence of threat to territorial integrity and sovereignty, independence, socioeconomic interests and political stability. Up until now there exists no cloud of fear in the sky of Eritrea. Many attempts have been made to demolish our cherished values. However, the extraordinary resistance of the Eritrean people has foiled all the evil attempts that threatened our survival. After Eritrea has triumphed against all kinds of trickery and subversion, the deaf ears and blind eyes of the world are open to hear and see the action of Eritrea.

The strength of an army is measured more by the culture than by its training and weaponry. The culture of discipline, faith and commitment are the best assets of the Eritrean defense forces. The culture of heroism and 
sacrifice that developed during the struggle for independence is the best quality of Eritrea’s defense. One of the objectives of the national service is “to preserve the courage and culture of heroism that the people of Eritrea have shown during the 30-year armed struggle and pass them to the next generations.” In Eritrea, defending against external aggression and internal subversion is the duty of every citizen. As a result, despite the volatility of the region in which Eritrea exists, the nation is one of the most secure countries in Africa.

In a pluralistic society such as that of Eritrea, it is imperative to promote values which minimize confrontation. The government’s policy that supports unity in diversity and equality of cultures, including languages, allows for tolerance and the overall security of the country.

It is culture that unites us and defines us as an entity. The resistance capacity of the Eritrean society against foreign aggression and internal subversion stems from the constructive aspects of our culture. The culture of unity and solidarity is the key for our survival. A society that does not respect its own culture cannot defend its interest. As a developing country Eritrea has scored spectacular success in maintaining cultural balance and in preserving cultural identity which are necessary for nation building. Security and prosperity cannot be attained without the proper cultural instrument. A clear policy on culture that favors the most highly valued cultural elements is vital to stimulate creativity, increase security and enhance the moral health of the nation.

Global powers have a tradition of collecting and using culture and identity-related information of the global community to craft their national security strategy. Social scientists are mobilized, and policymakers have access to key insights into foreign populations. Colonialists, for example, in an attempt to trample the occupied populations, first study and then rob the subjugated people’s culture. Once they destroyed the identity of the colonized people by robbing them of their culture, they ruled for centuries without much difficulty.

National security, apart from protecting the nation from aggression and insecurity, has to do with the preservation of the core values of the society and the possession of the means and capabilities to protect them. National values include the legal and moral footing of the country which are vital for the normal functioning and development of the society. Eritrea’s national culture is the product of the rich experiences of the people over the years which have been enhanced during the past 28 years of independence. In the new era of peace, progressive culture and increased awareness of the importance of security should be indispensable instruments of national security and prosperity.

Culture affects the ability of countries to establish and sustain economic prosperity, political stability and security in many ways. The culture of the Eritrean society has long been described as “Guardian without army.” The exceptional peace and security prevalent in Eritrea is more a result of the culture than the work of the security forces. We must maintain the positive and constructive aspects of the Eritrean culture that has enabled us to secure unity and victory.

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