Monday, August 5, 2013

K Shanmugam: SG overcoming its smallness

The article link.

The article concludes:

Singapore's size, he said, means that people will talk to us only if we are relevant. And he added: "We are only relevant if we are successful."

Well this is not wrong, it is missing something vital too. North Korea is not successful but far more relevant to its neighbors and the world than us - They have nuclear weapons even if its numbers can be counted on one hand and with no ICBMs to deliver them.

Being relevant through success is not good enough. What we need but not by the same means as Pyongyang is leverage, which is what the North Koreans possess in spades.

No country possess all leverage. We will have to choose and invest for leverage in the most critical areas. In particular we need the most leverage over Indonesia and Malaysia. We cannot have direct leverage over them but indirectly. I would love to see that they need our cooperation even permission on somethings they need badly. This can be anything and it is expected to change over time.

Today most of our leverage is in the SAF which is not the best idea. The whole point of the military is not to directly use it making its possibilities for leverage limited. Unlike the big powers, most times we can't even use it as an extension of our diplomacy. We could only use it in cooperation with them.

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