Friday, 26 October 2018

Of Geopolitics and Games

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Life is a game in which only the fittest survive"

I have always found geopolitics to be a fascinating subject. The world is composed of groups of people who have divided the Earth into various chunks. Peaceniks like to say that the world is one family - "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". However, the world doesn't run on such idealism. Many countries, in reality, are trying to increase their spheres of influence while trying to undermine their rivals. Some countries vie for regional dominance while others try to be superpowers.

Any country that is seeking to be a dominant player in the game of geopolitics tries to subjugate their competition by adopting a few tried and tested techniques. One of them is the use of financial pressure. The US, with her dominant position as the world's largest economy, is able to pressurise other countries such as Iran, Korea and Russia through sanctions. By imposing trade embargos and preventing other partners from trading with them, the U.S. tries to exert stress on them. While larger economies such as Russia and India may not feel the pressure as much, smaller countries do. Eventually, such countries yield and toe the line.

There are two aspects to note here - The country that intends to apply pressure needs to be an economic giant with considerable clout and that this method is an overt action. The former limits the number of countries that can pull it off to a very small number of elite nations. The U.S., the E.U. and China are among those that could pull it off.

Countries that cannot use this method may resort to an alternate method. This alternate method that may be preferred by countries with clout when covertness is preferred. This method involves creating internal strife in the target country. There have been numerous examples of this: Pakistan stokes violence in India, Saudi Arabia and Iran in several countries in the Middle East including Yemen, and the U.S. has been notorious for this in numerous instances, with Syria being the most recent victim.

The idea is to prop up opposition by the citizens of the target country and to paint the government as an evil and fascist. Once these rebels gain momentum, they will receive extensive media coverage which in turn will help recruit more people. The government in its attempt to curtail protests will inevitably use force to some extent. The rebels then cry foul and paint a picture of victimisation and accuse the government of using excessive force on its own citizens. The incessant media rhetoric will force other countries to intervene and legitimise the claim of the false opposition. Foreign powers then justify arming and training the rebels to help bring down the evil, fascist incumbent government and replace it with a government of the people, for the people and by the people. The real intent, of course, is to replace the government with a puppet government that toes their line.

The target country has to exhaust her resources to cull the armed opposition. The weakened nation now becomes a sitting duck for external powers to take over or may become an unstable region where proxy wars are fought.

The beauty of these two methods is that the country that wishes to impose its will on the target country does not expend significant resources or incur losses in terms of human resources. The financial method results in the crippling of nations that are very dependent on foreign partners. The latter causes the downfall of the nation due to the infighting of her own citizens.

Red Alert 2 was a popular command and conquer game of yore. In the game, one can choose to represent a country and skirmish with opponents. The game allows the construction of buildings such as barracks and war factories in order to create infantry and mechanised units. The game can be played in numerous ways. One can create a large number of tanks and fight a bloody war or perform multiple shoot-and-scoot operations.

Ore miners are units that help in the collection of ores (unsurprisingly) and help in the generation of revenue. Yuri is the name of a unit who can perform mind control on enemy units and convert them to his side. I decided to use a combination of the two methods listed above in the game and was impressed that they worked remarkably well in the game producing the same results as the real world.

During the course of the game, I initiate blitz attacks on the enemy's ore miners in "shoot and scoot" operations. In essence, I try to take them out as quickly as possible. This creates a financial constraint on the opponent as the revenue generation begins to decline. With lesser money coming in, the enemy's ability to produce attack and defence units gets severely degraded. This slows down the enemy's unit production. However, pushing this beyond a limit forces the enemy to sell existing structures to raise funds to build ore miners in a bid to increase funds. This is very similar to the trade embargos and sanctions of the real world.

I use the Yuri units to convert enemy units. A single special unit called Yuri Prime has the superpower of being able to project his mind control ability at a phenomenal range. I use this unit to convert units deep inside enemy territory. The opponent, on suddenly perceiving an enemy in the middle of its territory, destroys the "enemy". Yuri Prime then proceeds to convert another unit, often the unit that just killed the previous "enemy" unit. While Yuri Prime guffaws maliciously at the irony, the enemy begins to lose its units at an alarming rate.

This attrition combined with the enemy being forced to sell its defensive units to raise funds makes it extremely vulnerable to an advancing army.

On several occasions, I have had to use not more than three tanks to decimate an entire camp. I could do with fewer units because there is no resistance to prevent this onslaught. My games have often ended with a loss of just a handful of my units - perhaps 3-5, while the enemy has lost hundreds.

Being dependent is often the main cause of one's downfall. Nations that aspire to become superpowers must invest heavily in developing infrastructure and human resources. Patriotism needs to be instilled in the citizenry in order to prevent brainwashing by foreign powers that hope to create havoc by hollowing countries from within. Citizens should become more mature and realise that everything that is described in the media and on social media is not necessarily true. If we do not take care of these aspects, we will end up selling our assets and killing our own units in order to pave the way to a foreign power to invade us without breaking a sweat.