Sunday, October 5, 2008
With the nuclear deal between India and US set in stone, India now has access to US civil nuclear technology. This will without a doubt, give India a much needed boost to its nuclear weapons programme. Pakistan and China are of course quite unhappy about US' move, but such is the fickle world of politics; where allies can be gained and lost in a blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, this deal might very well ignite the nuclear arms race in Asia, destabilising country relations in the process. Perhaps this is also America's way of pressurising Pakistan to cooperate with them to eradicate the Taliban? The Taliban has always been a thorn in the flesh for the folks at Washington, and Pakistan's on and off relationship with the Taliban certainly doesn't alleviate the situation. The rise of India is worrying the Pakistani officials, and with this nuclear deal, Pakistan has to think carefully on how to navigate her way to a future where her sovereignty will still be respected.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Perhaps a last attempt to consolidate any remaining power he still possesses, Malaysia's Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that the government will spend a staggering amount of RM207.9 billion on cash incentives that will no doubt aid the people to cope with the ever rising costs of living. Pity that this came too late, especially since the ruling coalition party was soundly defeated in the recent elections. Some might even say that if the government has been doing its job well, there will be no need for such drastic actions at all. Perhaps he is panicking from Anwar's recent landslide victory in the by-election?
I would advise PM Abdullah to relinquish his power and appoint a worthy successor soon; for such desperate clinging to his waning authority is certainly quite futile. To quote from the most famous stratagem of the 36 Stratagems; "If everything else fails; retreat!". Since PM Adbullah has lost most, if not all, of his credibility, it would be unwise of him to continue battling with the opposition. He would certainly face an inevitable defeat if he persists, as his attempts to talk down his enemies will only add strength to the voices of the opposition. Perhaps he could engage in a proxy battle with Anwar through his successor, though such actions would only cause more political turmoil.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The map above shows the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline which runs through Georgia and extends from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. You can observe that the pipeline is strategically located to bypass both Russia and Iran. It is not difficult to conclude that the BTC pipeline allows the various republics which separated from USSR to deliver their petroleum to the world market without Russia getting in the way. If Russia could find a chance to attack Georgia and "accidentally" destroy the BTC pipeline, it could greatly boost the political might of Russia, who already provides a quarter of Europe's oil supply.
Back in 2002 when the construction plans for the BTC pipeline was announced, Russia did not have the power to oppose the United States and the world to prevent the building of the pipeline. It would also have been foolish for Russia to attack the pipeline directly. So Russia patiently bided her time, stirring up separatist movements in South Ossetia and provided assistance to the republic in various ways. Finally, the perfect opportunity to attack Georgia arrived; 8/8/08, the start of Beijing Olympics, and United States' military forces were greatly weakened by the Iraq war. With the world distracted by the Olympics and US' forces too divided, Russia successfully carried out their plans and defeated Georgia in a short span of five days.
Just like Sun Tzu said, "He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight". Choose the right timing to attack and you can achieve your goals quickly.
Monday, July 28, 2008
In Sun Tzu's Art of War, the welfare of the people is always stressed as the utmost importance in any situation. It is quoted in the book that "... The leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril". A nation is nothing without its people and the leader must always govern with the well-being of the people in his mind.
As recently witnessed in Malaysia, the ruling party, Barisan Nasional, experienced an embarrassing defeat in the elections. It lost sight of their main goals, the very reason that they were elected in the first place; to alleviate the suffering of the people. Now, another similar incident has happened in the West, where Britain's ruling party, Labour, lost the Glasgow East by-election.
Labour had held Glasgow East at the previous election with an overwhelming majority of 13,507 and the support of more than 60 per cent of voters. However, all was seemingly lost when Glasgow East was conquered by the Scottish National Party with a staggering swing of 22.54%.The reason for this shocking defeat? The people were furious with the Government over the ever escalating cost of living. It topped the voters' list of concerns and coupled with the fact that Glasgow East is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, quickly brought the defeat of Labour in the election.
When the people feel neglected and suffering is abound, the leader has failed in his duty and just like the General who does not follow the Art of War, the incompetent leader should be sacked.
Monday, June 30, 2008
I was quite surprised when I read this piece of news. Anwar Ibrahim charged of sodomy again? Returning to politics with much fanfare by dealing a grievous blow to the BN party, with the opposition party winning a third of parliamentary seats and five states, it is very unlikely that he'll ruin himself by getting into such a detrimental scandal once again. Though I do not wish to point any fingers, but it is very clear that someone want to get rid of Anwar once and for all.
If Anwar is really innocent (and most likely he is), then the stratagem used in this situation is the famous 无中生有, or translated as "creating something from nothing". By creating a plain lie and making people believe the lie, your goals can be achieved and your enemy defeated. However, this strategy was already used as Anwar had been charged with sodomy during 1998 and jailed for six years. Fortunately, he was cleared of the charges in 2004 by Malaysia's highest court. It is extremely unwise for a strategist to repeat the same tactics as the enemy can easily predict your plans and counter them easily. Nonetheless, for Anwar's case, even if the sodomy charges fall through, his reputation has already been negatively affected. Perhaps he shall do the same to his perpetrators too? (some mudraking would do the trick) Lying low for the moment to wait for this incident to subside is another alternative too.
Seeing the state that Malaysia's politics is in, I find that the employment of this stratagem is a foolish one as this does not serve any purpose in restoring peace and order to the country. The plan may even backfire and hurt the reputation of the perpetrators instead!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Here's an excerpt from a letter that Carl von Clausewitz wrote to his wife, Countess Marie von Clausewitz, while he was stationed in Poland.
"When I first beheld you, I felt
As though in the presence of an angel's majesty,
I trembled through and through
And my heart whispered as a childlike prayer:
Stay, kind stranger, stay here in this world below,
Through your eyes' beautiful gaze, bless and
Lead me back to life's tranquil peace
From all the storms of life!
You gave me your hand in friendship,
Under an angel's protective wing.
Our path winds gently through life,
And in heaven resides our bliss."
When I first read this beautifully written lines, I was so surprised! The man who is known to prescribe total wars, defeating your enemy till they have no means of countering your actions, was actually such a romantic! Then the words of my mentor came into my mind. My mentor once said that truly brilliant strategists are really more artistically inclined and not so logically based. It makes so much more sense now, otherwise how would have Clausewitz made that bold move to convince the Prussian King to defect from Napoleon's army? If Clausewitz had failed, he would have been put to death for treason. Many people would not have taken such a risky gamble if they were in his position.
Friday, June 20, 2008
At a time when many financial institutions and traders are reeling from the shock of the subprime crisis, one man rose above all to become the big winner - his funds posted phenomenal results: the older Paulson credit funds rose 590% last year and the newer one 350%.
So how did John Paulson do it? Like all master strategists, he had a keen eye for details and could see what many others fail to observe. He assessed the battlefield he was in thourougly and adapted his strategies accordingly, unlike the other investors who were blinded by the unbelievable profits to be made from the booming housing market at that time. He realised that the growth of the housing market cannot be sustained and many lending institutions were making risky loans, causing debt collections to be extremely difficult. Also, he was sure that the financial instrument credit-default swaps, a sort of "insurance" against the housing loans, was grossly underpriced and ignored by many traders who were oblivious to the housing risk. By implementing complex debt trades that would pay off if mortgages lost value and buying up the swaps, his funds made tremendous gains when the housing market crashed. Truly ingenious!
In addition, like Sun Tzu, he understood the power of information gathering and most probably he had many informants who kept him updated on the health of the housing market as well as the activity of the big lenders. With the precious information, Paulson was sure that he made the correct bet and patiently waited for his strategy to succeed. He did not have to wait long for results to show; in the fall of 2007, the ABX subprime-mortgage index crashed into the 20s.
Just like Hannibal of Carthage, Sun Tzu, and many other great strategists, John Paulson prevailed when many others crashed and burned.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
A very interesting piece of news! This is an incident where it is quite clear that a stratagem is in place. The island chain Senkaku/Diaoyu/Tiaoyutai has long been disputed by China, Japan and Taiwan. Then unfortunately, a collision took place near the island chain between a Japan and Taiwan vessel. What happened next was rather intriguing; Taiwanese papers made a big fuss over this accident and various protests directed against Japan took place. Many wondered: isn't Japan one of Taiwan's closest allies? Why is Taiwan doing this to their "best friend"?
According to the no. 34 stratagem of the famed Thirty-Six Stratagems, aptly named 苦肉計 or literally translated as "Inflict injury on one's self to win the enemy's trust", one can pretend to be injured or harmed by a mutual enemy so as to gain the friendship of another enemy. In Taiwan's case, acting as if they were being "bullied" by the Japanese, they are trying to gain the trust of Beijing. Since President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan is keen on improving relationship with China, the outcome of this incident isn't that surprising. We can also see the United States stepping in to diffuse the situation; although I believe that their motives are not that simple, as closer ties between Taiwan and China certainly do not bode well for the influence of America in Asia.
However, I would like to warn Taiwan that Japan is a very valuable ally and it is indeed foolhardy to injure this relationship. It is well-known that China isn't very fond of Japan, so by distancing itself from Japan, Taiwan is showing that it is sincere in improving its relationship with China. But the cost for this strategy might be too heavy for Taiwan to bear, for their connections to Japan are perhaps one too many. In addition to the trade and tourism links, Japan hinted that it could possibly join the US in defending Taiwan during a cross-strait conflict.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
From the picture above, you can see very well that South Koreans aren't very happy with their President allowing the import of US beef once again. To be honest, I really pity President Lee Myung-bak; he's really trying to save the economy of S.Korea, but with the hard-handed tactics used by the States, he has to make this extremely unpopular decision.
The Americans used one of the main tactics as described in the Art of War: Attacking the enemy's weakness. S.Korea's economy is largely export dependent, and if President Lee Myung-bak refuses to import US beef, the FTA between Korea and America is most likely to fall through, thus posing a great threat to the financial well-being of S.Korea.
However, I believe that the Americans should have used a more subtle method to mitigate this problem. They should know that the true reason why so many Koreans are taking to the streets; it's not really because of the beef, rather it's because of the strong anti-American sentiments present in the hearts of the Koreans.
Traditionally, the ties between Korea and US has been strong since the Korean war, where the US offered a great amount of assistance to the South Koreans, but they (S.Koreans) increasingly feel that US is becoming more selfish and overbearing. Especially with the Bush administration (not again), issues including trade policies like the current beef deal and military presence in Korea, are really upsetting the Koreans. The Americans should try to repair the broken relationship, instead of exacerbating the situation by forcing Korea to import US beef. If the Koreans can be convinced that the US is once again their greatest friend and ally, I'm sure that much more lucrative deals can be accomplished between the two nations.
I sincerely hope that the new President of the States will look into these problems and try to solve them amicably, as the current diplomatic strategies employed will only breed resentment in the Koreans and further degrade the relationship between the two countries.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
With Hilary Clinton officially out of the Presidential race, Obama should be more than relieved and fully focus on his fight against McCain. Or is he?
As we all know, Obama has to select a running mate for his election campaign and the burning question that is on our minds: will he choose Hilary Clinton? Sun Tzu mentioned in Art of War that one should never ever forge an alliance; unless you read the mind of your neighbours. While gaining powerful allies is indeed a boon, one must be wary of 'allies' with ulterior motives. If you cannot fully grasp the thoughts of your neighbours, than perhaps it is wiser to keep your distance away from them.
However, in Obama's case, rejecting Hilary could be tantamount to casting her 18 million supporters aside. Hilary won 8 of the last 15 nomination contests, capturing a vital portion of the voters - blue-collar whites, older women, and Latinos. She also managed to gain hold of the swing states which voted in favour of the Republicans back in 2004. Besides, being a rather inexperienced Senator, his chances may be greatly boosted if he has Hilary, a politics veteran, by his side.
On the other hand, if Obama chose Hilary to be his VP, he may risk being overshadowed by the Clintons if the Democrats win. With the influence and charisma of the Clintons, Obama may be reduced to a mere "shadow President", with the main power in the hands of the Clintons. This may also give Hilary a chance to consolidate her forces to run for the election again once Obama's term is over. Since Hilary is a much more experienced politician, Obama is unlikely to stand a chance if an internal power struggle really breaks out.
My advice to Obama: Think carefully before making the decision, because it may be the last that you'll ever make.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Well, apparently in response to the nuclear muck up incidents (Taiwan and cruise missiles), 2 senior officials were dismissed from service. For incidents on this scale, there must be a proper closure, hence the resignation of these 2 officials cannot be avoided. However, whether this is just another cover up or just purely an accident, nobody will know for sure. Until CIA once again decides to declassify their files then.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Great, another shortage. Just what the world needs right now. Why am I not surprised? Since some decades ago, scientists have already warned the world that with the current population growth, the demand will soon outstrip the supply. Coupled with shrinking arable lands, nasty climate changes and overfishing, a global catastrophe of food shortage crisis is indeed very real.
Sadly, many world leaders ignored these warnings and instead carried on with their relentless economic expansion. Sure, many countries have blossomed into impressive economic powerhouses, but at what price? As rulers of their countries, they must always remember that every action comes with a consequence. Worse still, many of the consequences come with long term effects and may affect our later generations.
As enshrined in Sun Tzu's Art of War, a good leader must possess five qualities: Wise, Believable, Kind, Brave, and Firm. A capable government will ensure the happiness of its people, whereas a corrupt and greedy government will doom its people to a life of poverty and suffering. It is time for world leaders to rise above petty squabbles and unite together to solve these problems once and for all.
This is indeed an intriguing piece of news. My main puzzle is that why did US brazenly went ahead with plans to install missile shield in Poland and Czech Republic? Did they not expect fierce backlash from Russia and China? Besides, with US' advanced military technology, interceptors back at American soil can destroy ICBMs from Iran well before they can reach America. Even if Europe needs to defend herself from Iran, it should be up to NATO to deploy the missile shields and not just the United States. Is this move really purely strategic or is it politically motivated? By building missile shields in Europe, it could serve many purposes.
Firstly, many different nations in Europe will be divided over this issue, as Poland and Czech Republic has already responded to Russia's objection by saying that Moscow has not rights to interfere in this matter.
Also, by building missile shields in Europe, US is expanding her sphere of influence in the region. The states where the missile shields are installed will be compelled to be loyal to US since they have received a great favour from the States.
Link to the original news article:
My personal thoughts:
The first shocker is what appears ostensibly to be a mistake: United States had delivered four nuclear fuses to Taiwan. Then the follow-up piece that with hindsight cannot be better timed. U.S. officials reporting on China having set on target far more missiles on the cross straits island. Americans had insisted that the four nuclear fuses were not sent to Taiwan under cover, I think otherwise. Indeed, this is a case of an intriguing stratagem at work.
Let me settle the brutal truths about these fuses. Nuclear fuses are critical devices in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Say, to be diplomatic, country A is working on a prototypical ICBM. If by chance or mistake, these fuses fall into a pair of scientific hands. This could easily spark off of a lightning fast realization of nuclear weaponry. Now, with the arms race heating up across the globe, this could just tip the scales in the favour of country A.
Put in the facts: America is a staunch ally of Taiwan and whether this is a drama of “mis-taking” or not, China will be greatly alarmed. Why? Taiwan is upped several rungs closer to reaching a new power status: a nuclear armed state. You do not have to be a security expert to realize its massively destructive implications for people living in this region of the world. For any step towards nuclear status by Taiwan will irreparably undermine the security of mainland China. Remember, China has yet in to put in place the shield against missiles.
Even if the US wants to continue on benefiting from an estranged relationship between China and Taiwan, this is still a very dangerous drama to enact. Fortunately for us in the region, the newly elected President Ma is much more open warming up to China. Given the timing of news releases so close to presidential change in Taiwan, one can reasonably ask: “What is inside the minds of US strategists?” If my hypothesis of a timely drama being enacted is accepted, then I wish to remind US strategic thinkers to re-assess again the risks. Moreover with the US economy sinking deeper into the subprime abyss, poor Americans are simply in no mood for a global “hot” war.