What is fairness in this world that does not disadvantage others?

Quite a bit has been debated recently on MOM’s nudge to put Singaporeans as the employers’ first choice rather than the foreigners. Many online, especially the opposition, argue that no enough is being done by the government for its citizens. Breakfast Network has a good article on it here. SgPolitics also has an article here.

The heart of the issue is an age-old conflict between the landlords and the workers. While the landlords want to increase profitability by employing cheaper workers, the workers obviously want better paying jobs. While the government seeks to placate the local workers by giving them “fair advantage”, the government also has to enable the landlords, or employers to earn profit. For, at the end of the day, without profitable businesses, the economy will not grow and jobs will be gone, no matter if they are offered to locals or not.

I seek to propose that both the landlords and the workers must see their businesses as a system. For the workers, they need to see that for the businesses to hire them over the foreign workers, they must offer other capabilities or add-ons otherwise unavailable to the foreign workers. You want an advantage over foreign workers, let your capabilities be that advantage, not legislation. As for the employers, please see that locals do offer that extra benefit once they are properly motivated.

Here’s a problem caused by our prosperity. We take job opportunities for granted and lose the drive to excel. Please recognize that “Fairness” comes at a cost that our next generation may have to pay later. One does not have to look far to see the effects in certain countries in Europe.

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Democracy in Cambodia

Reading from The Diplomat’s article on Cambodia and its democracy process, one gets the feeling that, once again, democracy is the best and sometimes only way for a country to succeed. (What is success to a country?)

After narrowly winning the election in July midst a slew of alleged election flaws, Hun Sen sworned in as Cambodia’s Prime Minister. Despite also all the failures, the opposition still managed to win 55 out of 123 seats. However, in protest to Hun Sen not agreeing to their demands, the opposition, led by Rainsy and Sokha boycotted the National Assembly. As a result, only 68 lawkeepers of the National Assembly were took their oath in Sep 13 and Hun Sen was the head of the new government.

With China’s support, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) can continue to grow and shape the country economically. In fact, its seems that business is as usual in Cambodia. By boycotting the Assembly, the opposition, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has de-linked itself from any progress that the ruling party has promised. The other option it has is to incite mess protests and de-stabilize the system which it hopes to take lead in.

The concepts “democracy” and the “one person one vote” are actually two separate ideas. First taking form in Athen, democracy was a system where citizens spoke and voted directly on laws of the city state. However, not all (in fact, most aren’t) of the people in Athens are citizens. At the end of the day, any organization, be it state, company or family can be led effectively for any extended period of time only if the people in it are contended with their leaders. Democracy, a very abused word, has claimed to champion that cause.

In effect, however, I propose that ANY system allows its leaders to make its people content is a good system. If Cambodia needs a strong government that allows it to push forth its economic plans (assuming that the leadership really does it), it is a good system. There is no need to critize it. Not all transparency is healthy, in fact, too glaring a spotlight may be datrimantal to the growth process. The system must allow grievances and feedback to be brought to its leader and that the least of the populace is taken care of.

By de-linking itself from the National Assembly, the CNRP is not helping the country. It is only left with the option of de-stabilizing the system and thereby take control of it. How is the common people going to benefit if it just changes one set of leaders with another if neither are capable to working the system?

Authority of Others

It has been a while since I posted anything. However, before I post something about the politics of our world, here’s something philosophical to tickle your mind.

As C.S. Lewis puts in The Case for Christianity, “Believing things on authority only means believing them because you’ve been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority.” How many of us have seen New York, Paris or Beijing? Yet we believe that they exist. I advocate that the pen is mightier than the sword, but the pen and the words that it conceive are formulated on the basis of logic and holds credibility.. To not believe on authority is to live everyday not knowing anything at all. “A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life” C.S. Lewis

The other side of the argument is to base all your beliefs on a single source, or a set of sources, each quoting from each other. To do so would be no less different from a cow following his cowherd to the slaughter house, believing that more grass is available there. I would urge a thinking mind, to compare different sources. To read more and diversely. To choose your first impressions wisely.

Lastly, I would like to share this following website a good friend recommended. An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.

New era of Conflict

When is a nation at war? The other day, a website reminded me that even sometime as simple as a map is not as clear cut as we believe it to be. Is a nation at war only after the declaration by its political leaders? Consider the case of terrorists, they would probably consider themselves at war at all times against nation states which may or may not consider themselves at war, since it would dignify the terrorists to a status of equalhood.

Consider another case of peacekeepers. Sent on a mission to maintain peace in other countries, these military personnel carry out a varieties of roles which they may not be trained for. Binded by a set of Rules of Engagement, their individual conducts affects events beyond their immediate tactical environment. They are in a place of conflict yet by the definition of their country, they are not at war and thus am unable to exercise the full range of actions they are trained in. Especially in times of crisis and personal risk, they have to make calls which will not only endanger themselves but their comrades.

As we consider the paradigms of DIME, the lines are merged together, as the political limits are felt straight at the ground. Generals are handed problems while being tied one-handed behind their back by their leaders. Sun Tzu puts as one of the essentials for victory, “He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.” However, Clausewitz puts that “War is the continuation of Politik by other means.” The troops must be there to achieve political objective and yet at the same time, the political objective can restrain the soldier unnecessarily.

The Soldier of the modern era must be like a fox, no longer just a killing machine. He must be able to deliver security and rationalise within himself the very meaning of security. An order may task him to deliver food relief to certain area or even to ensure stability by controlling access to divided areas. However, when the local infrastructure forces him to deliver the food via the local warlord or a social outcast needs to escape into a safe heaven, how is he going to balance these decisions on ground? Solders, peacekeepers or guardians?

Narrative Led Operations

Much hype has been placed on a certain term recently, “Narrative Led Operations”. It seems that information operations have come to the fore front with the burst of social media and interconnectivity. The need to tell the story or to sell the narrative seems to be more important than the “kinetic” forces. Questions have also been asked if the solider on the ground is able to act in the new environment where the “strategic corporal” is required to make decisions that affects levels beyond his pay grade.

Information Ops is, in fact, an old trade. Vietnam war has been termed a failure on the US side, when the US failed to engage their population and lost the war on the home front. However, there are numerous instances prior and after that where the leaders of the warring nations effectively told their stories and sold the necessities and just cause of the war to their people. The attack of Pearl Harbour, a pre-emptive strike by the Japanese, was not totally unexpected by the Americans (according to some sources). The American leaders needed to convinced its people to bring their nation into the 2nd Great War and the attack of Peral Harbour provided that story. The sinking of USS Arizona and the death of the 1,177 personnel onboard gave the leaders the narrative to bring the nation into a conflict beyond their shores. The two Gulf Wars were not without their stories as well. Ops Desert Storm was the war to free Kuwait and Ops Desert Shield was to remove WMD from the hands of Saddam.

What makes Narrative Led Operations so different then?

Narrative or Info Ops should be and has been part of the entirety to campaign planning. To make Narrative Led the military operations on ground may be too presumptuous as there are simply too many levels of effect for the tactical commanders and his men to consider. Rather than Narrative Led Operations, it would be better off as Clear Communication of Intent.

Another point to consider : Contrary to some academics, we do not stop thinking when we become officers. Rather, we learnt that leading by example and actions speak louder than words. Simply narratives without action to back up the words would lose their meaning with repetition. Words may speak louder at times, but a bullet will prove the loudest in war.

Syria Crisis – Who wins?

The latest crisis to hit the international arena is undoubtedly the Syrian Civil War. Strangely, it has been ongoing since 2011 and has only hit the headlines due to the government’s use of chemical weapons. By using chemical weapons, the government has forced US’s hands into the conflict even as President Obama is withdrawing his forces from the area. Previously, in Aug 2012, President Obama stated his red line by stating that “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.  That would change my calculus.  That would change my equation.” Thus, once the Assad government used chemical weapons against the rebels, President Obama was forced to move or eat his words.

Surprisingly, it was the Russians who came to the rescue of all parties involved, politically at least. By giving the Assad government a way out without US forces crashing at his front door, Putin offers a way by which all parties save face domestically and internationally. It is a funny world when the Russians preached peace to the Americans. This perhaps is another example of how giving credible options to your adversary will enable all parties to come to a win win situation.

So who wins at the end of this “crisis”? The fighting at Damascus still continues as rebels challenge government troops over control of townships and real estates. People are still suffering on ground and, though the images from the chemical weapons are horrific, death by bullets is no less painful.