Archive for the ‘Geopolitics’ Category

Voir mon premier article pour le magazine Diplomat Investissement.

https://www.diplomatinvestissement.com/fr/news/2068/le-capital-humain-richesse-ultime-de-lafrique

by Richard Martin

© Kheng Guan Toh

I’ve been answering questions lately (from my daughters, among others) about the threat of war, specifically nuclear war. This obviously comes from the worries about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and intentions, as well as American ones.

Although this concerns military strategy and geopolitics, the underlying analytical approach can be applied to any consideration of threats, whether a generic SWOT analysis, or the evaluation of a specific security or competitive menace.

Threat analysis goes beyond risk analysis. Risk is the product of the probability and impact of a negative event or cause. Risks are usually categorized under three headings: natural, technological, and human. Focusing on the last, there are criminality, security, labour conflict and many other sub-categories of human originated risks. The problem, however, comes in evaluating the likelihood of a human risk. If we are considering only generic risks, we can talk about probability and impact in abstract terms. For instance, what is the probability of a criminal act? We can use statistics about, say, white collar crime in corporate settings as a starting point for assessing the risk. There are statistics describing the probability of certain acts in certain situations along with average impacts (including their statistical distribution).

But how can we assess a specific threat where there is no historical or statistical data to illuminate the analysis? That’s where military-style threat analysis can be very useful. Military threats are broken into two parts: capability and intent. Capability is self-explanatory: What can the potential or actual enemy do? What are the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of his forces? How many tanks can he deploy? How many aircraft? In the case of North Korea, how many nuclear bombs, of what type, and through what means can they be delivered? I discussed this at length in early September with Dr. Sean Maloney of RMC, an expert on nuclear history and strategy.

While there is uncertainty in capability assessment, at least we’re dealing with tangible realities. Intent is a completely different ballgame. How do we know what the enemy will do? How will he react to our own threats or efforts at conflict resolution? These are imponderables and we must consider a range of scenarios to determine the inevitable commonalities that arise in each, so we can prepare for them. We must also examine the action-reaction cycles that occur because of the moves and countermoves by both sides.

An analogous approach can be used in analyzing and assessing business threats, even though the stakes are obviously of a completely different order and importance. Whether you’re trying to assess your competitors’ next moves, or your market’s reception of your new product, you can learn a lot by considering the threat as both capability and intent. This allows you to disentangle what is possible (given assessed capabilities) from what is probable (given assessed intentions) over a range of scenarios. The insight gained can then be incorporated into your own strategy and contingency planning.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Strategic Readiness Bulletin Number 2 – 8 September 2017

By Richard Martin, founder and president, Alcera Consulting Inc.

Richard Martin issues Strategic Readiness Bulletins on an as needed basis to clients, key decision-makers, and other influencers, to highlight recent or evolving risks, threats, and opportunities for companies and organizations resulting from chaotic change as well as international and national situations of a political, economic, technological, or social nature.

It was my great pleasure to interview Dr. Sean Maloney on 7 September 2017 on the topic of North Korea and nuclear weapons. We explored a number of issues and questions:

Copyright : Michael Borgers

  • Does North Korea really have nuclear weapons?
  • If so, what kinds and how many?
  • Is the threat credible?
  • What are the means of delivering these weapons?
  • Who is most threatened?
  • How can this threat be countered or deterred?

Sean is an international expert on nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy. As you’ll hear, he doesn’t just parrot what you hear in the media. I’m sure you’ll find it most enlightening, no matter what your interests and point of view.

 

Dr. Sean M. Maloney is a Professor of History at Royal Military College of Canada and served as the Historical Advisor to the Chief of the Land Staff of the Canadian Army during the war in Afghanistan. He previously served as the historian for 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade, the Canadian Army’s primary Cold War NATO commitment after the re-unification of Germany and at the start of Canada’s long involvement in the Balkans. Dr. Maloney has extensive field experience in that region, particularly in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia from 1995 to 2001, where he inadvertently observed the activities of the Al Qaeda organization and its surrogates. His work on the Balkans was interrupted by the 9-11 attacks. From 2001 Dr. Maloney has focused nearly exclusively on the war against the Al Qaeda movement and its allies, particularly on the Afghanistan component of that war. He traveled regularly to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2014 to observe and record coalition operations in that country and was the first Canadian civilian military historian to go into combat since the Second World War. He has authored fifteen books, seven of which deal with the Afghanistan war, as well as the controversial Canada and UN Peacekeeping: Cold War by Other Means, 1946-1970 and Learning to Love the Bomb: Canada’s Cold War Strategy and Nuclear Weapons 1951-1970.

You can find out more about Sean at his website www.seanmmaloney.com.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc.

 

 

by Richard Martin

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting in my hotel room in Dubai. I’m here to conduct courses in strategic and operational management and leadership. I’m pondering the power of a vision and the means to achieve it.

I first was in the United Arab Emirates in December of 2002, as I prepared to deploy to Kuwait as the Canadian Forces Liaison Officer to the Coalition Forces Land Component Command prior to the invasion of Iraq. I was able to get into the city of Dubai on a few occasions with some of my colleagues for some R&R. The city has grown a lot in just those 15 years, and even since I started conducting courses here in 2014.

It’s gaudy and slick, hyper-modern and traditional, avant-garde and retrograde, all at the same time. If you like cutting edge architecture in the most bizarre locations with basically nothing around it, then you must visit Dubai. The skyline looks impressive from the sea, but when you’re in the city, all you see during the day is buildings, roads, and a haze combining humidity and dust and the beige-grey desert merging into the same coloured sky on a horizon that you can never quite make out. At night, it’s lights everywhere, sometimes quite pretty. Not as gaudy as Las Vegas, but still extravagant.

What is it about cities in the desert that makes them so attractive to adventurers and admirers alike? There is really nowhere to walk, as everything is designed around roads and a superb metro system. But even if you could walk, you wouldn’t want to for most of the year, as it’s extremely hot and humid. As I write, it’s forecast to go up to 45 C today, but the humidex is predicting 81 C!

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the most famous state, was founded in the early 1970s under the visionary leadership of Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi has most of the oil, but Dubai has the chutzpah and international reputation. The current ruler of Dubai is Sheikh Mohammed, who acceded to the post upon the death of his older brother in 2006, but who was also the de facto ruler for a decade before that.

It’s hard to believe, but as late as 1965, the city had a population of only 20,000. Most of these were huddled close to the Dubai Creek, a small inlet from the Persian Gulf. It was a marketplace, but the majority lived off fishing and pearl diving! Now, it’s a global trade and financial centre, and increasingly a manufacturing location and tourist destination. People from around the world come here to work, to make money, and to play.

Most of what Dubai is today, from Emirates Airlines (based in Dubai), the Burj Khalifa (the tallest freestanding building in the world), to the Palm Jumeirah (artificial islands shaped like a palm tree), is a result of the vision and leadership of Sheikh Mohammed. One of his many books is available for sale everywhere, appropriately titled My Vision. As prime minister of the UAE, in 2010 he issued a long-term federal vision for the country, called Vision 2021. Not many countries are led this way—essentially as an integrated organization.

It’s an interesting study in the power of vision combined with the resources to achieve it. Contrary to expectations, though, the city isn’t built on oil money. Exactly the opposite; it’s designed to avoid dependence on oil and natural resources. A possible example for many other jurisdictions around the world.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Since the IS-perpetrated terrorist strikes in Paris there has been surge of “advice” and debate on the best strategy to adopt against the Islamic State in the Middle East. The problem is that most of the discussion confuses tactics with strategy and then presents these as mutual exclusive. Air strikes are not effective. No, air strikes are the way to go. No, we need to put boots on the ground. Actually, no. We need to concentrate on humanitarian action.

In reality, all of those approaches are needed in order to create dilemmas for IS and its operatives. You have to take the fight to the enemy by seizing and maintaining the initiative. Air power must be combined with ground forces in order to achieve maximum synergy and effect on the battlefield. You can knock out a command post, but that only creates a delay and temporary confusion. You can buy a bit of time, but it’s all much more effective when you can hit a command post and use the ensuing confusion to launch a ground assault. Moreover, you have to realize that a command post is a physical entity, but a headquarters with its commander and staff are a team. Command, control and communications (C3) can be degraded, but it is much harder to eliminate them entirely, especially if the enemy has a very decentralized structure with competing factions.

Here is a non-exhaustive listing of other thrusts in the strategy:

  • Economic warfare to disrupt the enemy “home front” such as it is,
  • Financial warfare to disrupt and interrupt the flow of funds, because gold is the sinews of war,
  • Humanitarian aid to support the non-belligerent population and refugees,
  • Psychological warfare against foreign and home-grown terrorist threats,
  • Information warfare to degrade the enemy’s psychological and media warfare capabilities and build up domestic and foreign support to fight IS, and
  • Numerous other aspects of combat, kinetic and non-kinetic.

The basic point here is that you need a strategy that attacks and “pinches off” IS wherever it tries to operate. IS combatants in a theatre of war must be treated as prisoners of war, while those who have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity must be treated as such. IS and allied terrorists operating in other nations must be treated as criminals.

Another critical point is to realize that there is no such thing as a “war on terrorism.” You can fight an identified enemy, opponent or belligerent group. You can’t fight a tactic, much less a vague concept.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

The great 19th century military theorist Clausewitz wrote that — I’m paraphrasing here — the first and most important task of a leader is to understand the type of conflict or struggle he is engaged in. Poker players apparently have a more mundane way of putting things. If you’re the only one at the table who’s wondering who the patsy is, then you’re it.

In the last week we’ve seen just how amateurish the Obama administration is when it comes to the Great Game of great power relations, war, and diplomacy. The Keystone Cops routine that is the Obama policy on Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be funny were the consequences and implications not so deadly and ominous. President Putin of Russia is not so dilettantish in his approach to Syria. He sees the civil war there as a struggle to maintain and reinforce his influence with thugish regimes all around the world. It is also a confirmation within Russia, if any was needed, of his status as a classic strongman. The situation is even starker for Assad, for whom this war is not just a political struggle, but a fight to the death. Given what has happened to other dictators after their downfall throughout the world (Mubarak, Khaddafi, Saddam), it’s not surprising that he sees things in this light. The US is playing with its credibility and standing on the world stage and its ability to influence the policies and alignments of other nations. Obama is also gambling with the prerogatives of the office of president as commander-in-chief. All because he apparently doesn’t have the stomach for the fight — which came with the job — or because he doesn’t realize how significant the current crisis is.

We can see this all the time in organizations and business. A market leading company sees a new product as a minor irritant or insignificant (as one of RIM’s co-CEOs Mike Laziridis said on seeing the first iPhone) whereas the attacker sees it as a matter of life and death. An executive is playing nice, but there are other people in the company who are gunning for his position.

Food for Thought
Are you in a fight? Do you know its nature? Do you competitors or opponents view it in the same light? Are you willing to pay the price to win or to “fall on your sword”?

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

As I write this article, President Obama is weighing the wisdom of launching some kind of attack by the United States against the Assad regime in Syria for its use of chemical weapons against part of the population.

I’m not going to join the chorus of those saying Obama should do this or do that. Rather, I wish to point out the inherent uncertainties, risks, and ambiguities involved in strategic decision-making at the international level when it involves conflict and the game of great power relations. Obama’s decisions in this conflict hold lessons for all of us, especially strategic leaders in business, government, public safety and others involved in weighing heavy risks and evaluating them against potential benefits of action…or inaction.

The first thing that strikes me is the overall ambiguity of the Syrian situation. It isn’t at all clear to me that there is a “good” side and a “bad” side. Sure, the Assad government is supported by Iran, Russia and, somewhat obliquely, China. Assad’s Alawite regime has also ruled the country for decades with an iron fist, but is the opposition any better? Moreover, the ramifications of any action by the US or other Western countries are likely to be mind-boggling in their complexity and scope. Can we really predict what will happen next, or what the outcomes of US actions are likely to be? The Middle East is a powder keg. Any decision to act has to be for the right reasons, and in this case, that would have to be reasons of state (raison d’état).

Speaking of which, what WOULD be the ostensible goal of a US-led intervention in the conflict? And why are chemical weapons any worse than others? Does the image of innocent children killed by sarin gas disgust us more than if we saw them mutilated by artillery shells or machine gun bullets? What is the REASON for the US and it’s allies to intervene? What are they expecting to achieve and to what end? As I wrote in Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles, selection and maintenance of the aim is the master principle of war and strategy. Is the US intervening just to assuage the collective conscience of part of the American public, or is there a greater raison d’état?

In setting strategic objectives and overall strategy, a leader must identify the ends, ways, and means of the particular military operation. He or she must also communicate these within the needs of security and confidentiality. The ends are the goals: What are we trying to achieve? The ways are the courses of action that are realistically at our disposal? As I learned in the army, there is always more than one way to achieve an aim, and they all have their inherent costs and benefits, risks and opportunities. Third, the ends and the ways determine the means that must be assigned to achieving the mission. There is an expression in French, which, loosely translated, means “We must give ourselves the means of our ambitions.” In other words, are we willing to pay the price to achieve our objectives, and is this price in line with our overall interests and purposes?

There is much public (and media) outcry about the situation in Syria. But what would the US be actually achieving by a military intervention? What is the purpose and what higher aims does it serve in the national interest? I know this may sound crass for all those people in Syria who have lost their lives in this civil war, but there are other civil wars around the globe, although not necessarily in such dangerous geopolitical regions. And why did the West, led by the US, aid the Libyan rebels, who turned out to be not exactly saintly themselves, while the West has hesitated to aid the rebels in Syria? There are many reasons, such as the refugee crisis in Italy that was caused by the civil war in Libya, as well as the fact that Syria is directly next to highly strategic countries, such as Turkey, Iraq, Israel, and Lebanon, plus the seemingly unwavering support of Iran and Russia.

All this goes to show that international relations and geopolitics require a decision calculus that varies from one situation to another. No two conflicts are ever alike, even moderately so. And as Sun Tzu said over 2,000 years ago, “War is the greatest affair of state, it must be thoroughly pondered.”

The last element that I find of interest is how Obama is must now perhaps eat his words from last year, when he said that if Assad used chemical weapons then the US would intervene. In leadership involving any kind of conflict or showdown, threats can’t be bandied about idly. If you utter a threat or a warning, you have to be ready to act on it otherwise you will be perceived, correctly in my estimation, as a lame duck.

Leadership isn’t easy, as we can see with the Syrian crisis. Selecting the best aim and developing a strategy and plan to achieve it are the most critical tasks of any strategic leader. Only time will tell if Obama is correct in his actions, whether he decides to intervene or not on behalf of the international community. Paraphrasing Sun Tzu, we can say that we need to thoroughly ponder strategic leadership. It holds lessons for all us, not just those making decisions over conflict and war.

© Alcera Consulting Inc. 2013. We encourage the sharing of this information and forwarding of this email with attribution. All other rights reserved.