KRI Usman-Harun 359: Geopolitics is domestic politics



KRI Usman Harun.

After the initial reaction to the naming, it is a good time to reflect on reality. The reality of geopolitics.

Someone once told me, geopolitics is “all about winning votes”. Geopolitics is domestic politics. I am in no doubt that this is linked to Indonesia’s upcoming elections, and its moves to stir nationalism. Perhaps we can be comforted by that. But we should also be reminded to be vigilant. Because despite all the handshakes, all the smiles, and all the selfies taken, governments do to each other what wins them votes. There is no stronger drive than each country’s self-interest. If it means to cooperate, good. But if it means to invade another country half a world away, if it means claiming all of the seas to yourself, or, to insult others by honouring criminals, then it will be done. We should never be gullible, and forget that.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned much is what LKY did in May 1973. He went to Indonesia and sprinkled flowers on the two dead Marines. Imagine that. Imagine what LKY must have felt – or any Singaporean who had to do that. With all his pride, with all his ego, he must have felt like it was eating him outside out. But that’s him. Pragmatic, practical. If it means its good for Singapore, he will do it. We can disagree with him on many things, but regardless, I have much respect for him. How many leaders are like that today?

One last point about defence and National Service. If you are combat-fit and served in an operational unit, you will know this. Often, our NSFs train alongside our neighbours – regular armies – and stand as tall, if not taller, than them. Because our guys are well-trained, motivated, professional – but most importantly, because our guys know they are defending the red dot they stand on, not like some regular shipped to a far-flung base. That, more than any capabilities we buy, is the deterrent. “That even with a stick, we will chase you out of our land”. The two years of NS brings something invaluable to this country.

As we move into the future and decide what we do about NS, I hope we will do so not only considering the internal circumstances, but also appreciating the external, enduring realities.

Yongcong Choy


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