"Hence, to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting," says Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.
Sun Tzu's warfare dictum cuts to the chase of the hidden dangers of the supposed "destabilization" plot allegedly instigated by some retired military officers against President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
To make the point clear, if the "destabilization efforts" conveniently look as if these are aimed at Mr. Marcos Jr., many overlook such efforts as also directly aimed at the military, particularly since the country's military now faces external security threats from China.
As one Filipino analyst put it, "Any destabilization effort might simply be caused by forces that are really going against the policy of the government. Right now, the most critical policy is our security and foreign policy that's supported by countries who share our values for a rules-based order."
Bluntly speaking, "destabilization efforts" are serious psychological operations (psyops) aimed at sowing confusion and disorientation in the military, thereby undermining or subverting the military's willingness to counter or fight foreign threats.
Admittedly, the country is a weaker nation than China.
One military analyst says, "A weaker nation always remains at the mercy of a stronger opponent. It does not mean that having only a top-class military equipped with the latest weapons of war is enough to ensure survival; it actually means that the nation should be at peace with itself."
Being at peace means a nation shouldn't lose trust in its civilian and military leadership, enabling both to have the capacities and capabilities to counter external security threats.
It is in the above context that we can interpret Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr.'s warning last week that the military brass would act "swiftly but judiciously" against active-duty troops who would participate in any moves to destabilize the administration.
What Brawner essentially means is that he wants to keep the peace in the military. He obviously doesn't want the military distracted from its reoriented mission of shoring up the country's external defenses.
Brawner presumably knows that distractions — involving spreading false rumors and disinformation-based narratives — will subvert the military's information-psychological stability, bring about information paralysis, and undermine its leadership's crucial decision-making capabilities.
Most security analysts often call such a disinformation ploy "black subversion," which, if left unchallenged, often dupe politicians, academics, journalists, soldiers, and all of us away from the real threat.
Insofar as who among former military officials are supposedly involved in "destabilization efforts," Brawner alluded to a group of retired generals questioning the quick results of the last presidential elections.
But the group's head, retired Army Gen. Eliseo Rio, quickly shot down such suspicions.
Instead, Rio strongly hinted that instigating military adventurism has more to do with the rumored fallout between erstwhile allies, the pro-US Marcos and the pro-China Duterte camps.
"We know that there are now issues that are causing a serious split between the Marcos and the Duterte camps like the ICC (International Criminal Court), CIF (confidential and intelligence funds), proposals of civil disobedience like not paying taxes, and using the military to conduct lifestyle checks on members of Congress, etc. Talk of destabilization may result from these issues," Rio said.
But regardless of who are the retired military groups or what the issues are creating tensions in the military, the point is this: Anyone with doubtful self-interests, whether foreign or domestic, will try to create as many politicized conflicts within the military as possible.
If left unchecked, the military courts will be unstable. And once there's instability, more extreme, disruptive, and violent tension will definitely be exploited and encouraged, eventually leaving the country helpless amid the grim chaos.
We cannot allow such reckless machinations even if we have some reservations about this government.