Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Did "too many generals spoil the battle"?

The “war room” from movie “Dr. Strange Love: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.”
Or were the generals suitable for today's political warfare? 

When Prime Minister, Churchill visited his Cabinet Room in May 1940, he declared: 'This is the room from which I will direct the war'.

That cabinet room became known as Churchill's war room and he held 115 Cabinet meetings till 28 March 1945, when the German V-weapon bombing campaign ended. [Read Wikipedia here.]

Barisan Nasional introduced the concept of war room to direct and monitor it's political campaign in the recent general election.

One can expect the room is filled with people, computers and information on candidates, contested seats, opposition, campaign message and issues, news, polls, projections, etc. for the generals to work out campaign strategy/ies. 

However, did the war room helped make BN's political battle as strategically organised, disciplined and dedicated, and precise like any military campaign?

The Malaysian Insider's Editor, Jahabar Sadiq wrote a report on BN's war room. Off course one can't be too trusting of MI. However, Utusan Malaysia carried a report on this similar issue and Johor blogger, Mael Pengerang here posted something on the war room too.

The American Heritage Dictionary described war room as "a room in which strategic decisions, especially for a military or political campaign, are made."

Essentially, a war room is filled with members with specific expertise and authorities, and latest available information to assist strategic and tactical decision making to guide the ground troops.

We like to share and comment on Jahabar's report which to the best of our knowledge, there is some truth, some spinning and some was based on ill-informed source. Nevertheless, it is something worth pondering for BN, if their wish to learn something fast out of it: 
BN’s reduced wins put spotlight on ‘war room’ strategists

May 14, 2013
The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — Questions are being asked about Barisan Nasional’s (BN) “war room” strategists whose plans with a substantial budget did not appear to stop the ruling coalition from losing more federal and state seats in the May 5 general election.

The BN war room was tasked with selecting the candidates and advising various strategies to win the polls. It counts Rompin MP Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, PWTC chairman Datuk Seri Dr Alies Anor Abdul, Petronas director Omar Mustapha Ong, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor, party information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan and former minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh as among its members.

The war room seem useful as a guide to assist Ahmad Maslan and other party leaders carry out their  work, but one wonders who was the Churchill that provide the leadership and gave strategic direction to the war room.

And, did Ahmad Maslan and the various branches of ground troopers manage to execute their instructions?

A source inside hinted the war room as a hot place to be with too many clashing egos that operationally led to it's ineffectiveness. So did "too many generals spoil the battle"? Or were the generals suitable for today's political warfare?

Read to hear Jahabar's source complained: 
“It was just a crapshoot. Their ideas didn’t work and their white list predictions were wrong,” a senior Umno divisional leader told The Malaysian Insider on condition of anonymity.

The war room had stuck to its prediction of BN winning between 145 and 150 federal seats and also getting back Selangor in Election 2013 although some senior BN leaders were privately doubtful of the figures.

And by noon on Polling Day, the war room had issued its “white list” of 118 federal seats it was sure to win, but some like Pasir Mas, Shah Alam and Lembah Pantai were lost, which some Umno divisional leaders said reflected the disconnect between the leadership and the ground.
Opps .. that 118 white list. 

The subsequent part of the report could not be confirmed but it smells some spinning to fill up MI's political agenda for the opposition offensive psywar.  We grey out the following comment on Dato Zulkifli Nordin.

Poster boy of Umno’s insensitivities

The Malaysian Insider also learnt that Jamaluddin was behind BN putting Perkasa vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin as their direct Shah Alam candidate despite his controversial remarks that offended Indians about their Hindu faith.

It was understood that Jamaluddin felt that Zulkifli’s candidacy would not be too much trouble as the latter had already apologised to the Indians for his remarks which he claimed were made when in PAS.

But sources said the strategist did not consider that Zulkifli would become the poster boy of Umno’s disregard for sensitivities of non-Malays.

“The most galling thing is they put Shah Alam on the white list because they thought the Malay majority there would support Zulkifli. How wrong they were,” said an Umno source, commenting on the strategy that backfired.

On the contrary, Jahabar. 

In our opinion, BN's machinery could not match the well oiled PAS's Shah Alam machinery already with the head start for Zulkifli to fight.While a large portion of PAS members, supporters and sympathisers are not keen to the liberal ways of Khalid Samad, they are reminded of Zulkifli's excessiveness in his days with PAS.  It is compounded further by the insufficient time for Zulkifli to shed the misperception of a political frog changing partisanship for political convenience.

Back to further comment on the war room:
“There are conservatives with a big ‘C’ and there are conservatives with a small ‘c’. The strategists just did a desktop analysis but did not figure that there are new voters apart from substantial number of Chinese and Indians there,” he added.

He explained that the desktop analysis done by the war room contributed to the belief that BN would do well and even get back its two-thirds parliamentary majority in Election 2008.

“You can’t assume that a Malay majority seat will go back to you or think that you can share the Chinese and Indian votes and later predict you win big nationally and Putrajaya,” said the source.

The subsequent part of the report is something new.
Outsourced strategies
Another Umno source noted that BN had also outsourced some of the strategy to public relations and branding experts such as APCO’s Paul Stadlen and TV3’s Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan but it appeared to no avail.

Stadlen has been Putrajaya’s main contact with the international media while Farid had been seconded from TV3 parent, Media Prima Bhd, to the Prime Minister’s Department for the past few years.

“They were spending money on local newspapers with shrinking circulation and TV stations that did not appeal to the young. What a waste of time and money,” he said.

It has been estimated that BN had spent more than RM100 million directly and indirectly for the massive media campaign that encompassed print, television, billboards and online sites for Election 2013.
.. in world of Hypermarket
The source, who had been involved in election campaigns since 1999, said the war room had experienced people such as Idris, Tengku Adnan and Jamaluddin but they were incapable of fighting the new media or adapt strategies to attract votes from the younger generation.

“The mainstream media had blacked out the opposition but in the social media, whatever bad we or the mainstream media did, it was amplified online and made people hate us further. As it is, they don’t even read or watch what we do,” he added.

We also held the view that the communication strategy was too MSM-centric and lack understanding in the mechanics and proprietary knowledge on blog and social media.

One source told us that there is a study done and it mentioned the most effective political campaign instruments are ceramah and pamphlets "distribution game."

Both are areas BN is not strong.

It didn't reach

Furthermore, there was no clear psy-war gameplan. If there had been any relayed to the bloggers, it was not a psy-war gameplan but ad-hoc reaction.

By right, in areas or segments where BN can't think of a strategy or gameplan, they should emulate the opposition and do it better. Pakatan has the brain reserve from abroad to strategise for them.

And as raised in our previous posting, the party election machinery was generally complacent and not functioning.

For many years, the party bosses was made aware of the incompetence of Ahmad Maslan but for whatever reason/(s), they refused to heed and take the drastic action. Information Chef is supposed to strategise information dissemination and not be a weekend rubber tapper.

One source raised: 
Election machinery meltdown
Hardworking but wasn't thinking far
Other BN sources also pointed out that the coalition’s machinery did not appear to work as well as expected, in a repeat of what happened in Election 2008, against Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) machinery that comprised grassroots members and youths.

“Ahmad Maslan proudly said there will be 66,600 ceramahs but where? It was so hard to even organise one because there were no speakers of national stature or from other component parties,” said a winning BN candidate who declined to be named.

“I had to do everything on my own and get people to speak in the one main ceramah I had,” he said, adding

“I saw others who were just talking to their election machinery.”

Despite the lack of help, the BN man said he did better than Senator Raja Datuk Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, who lost in Lembah Pantai despite devoting his Federal Territory Ministry resources on the city constituency.

“Raja Nong Chik was a minister and he had focused City Hall’s efforts on Lembah Pantai but yet failed to win. The war room thought he would so they white listed that place but you can see how fallible they are,” he added.

Part of the reason for Raja Nong Chik's lost was that the war room failed to realised the implication of an expose by a Unit Media Baru blog member from Penang of an alleged sexual indiscretion by Nurul Izzah. The rating chaser fell for a PKR trap.

The public was already about express their disgust with personal attacks after the Stopa Spender episode. Nurul was sharp to sense it and capitalised the opportunity with her female tears. The report on Nurul is not right, so we greyed it.
Last-minute tactics switch
The BN sources agreed that the war room strategists had made assumptions without checking with local divisional officers and ground reports.

“There was so much raw data coming in but not much analysis as everyone kept to themselves for fear of leakage,” said one source.

“They also changed tactics without considering what had been done in the past few years on the ground,” he added, pointing out the last-minute switch for four-term Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman was one such mistake.

He said that the presumed MCA candidate Jason Teoh had done some ground over the past two years in Gelang Patah “but the war room panicked like MCA just because Lim Kit Siang was contesting there”.

“So, they thought Ghani can do the job but it was a massive loss as he doesn’t know the area well although his office is there. Perhaps Teoh could have done better as all he had to do was win over the Chinese voters,” said the source.
He added Lim’s presence with other top DAP leaders also cut BN’s popular votes and losses in the Umno bastion state.
“The machinery got frightened of Lim and just gave up,” he added.
Sorry Jahabar ... the report on Ghani is also not quiet right.

We disagree. Your source is probably ill-informed. Naughty of you still trying to head-on the Malays and Chinese. The comment is not worth highlighting. It is left greyed.

The same ill-informed source continues: 
The source said this was repeated in other states where DAP had made a big push, such as Negri Sembilan and Selangor but the war room strategists did not react as they were just focused on winning more federal seats.

“There was just this huge disconnect. And that was reflected in the expected results and what we finally got,” he added.
Each state had it's own war room to focus on the state's own campaign.

Too many cowboy lunatic pilot

So it is not quite right. However, we will give the opinion due respect but for now, we are sticking with our view that BN poor performance was a case of Cinami, Calun and Complacency.

Bigdog has his own view of systematic failure in the system here. For other problems with war room operation, they can translate from this article here.

Our next posting will be on UMNO's attitude and foolishness in facing up to a general election that is an important crossroad in the party's history.

It is inconceivable such attitude could still persist in facing a Pakatan Rakyat that is organised, sophisticated and formidable by virtue of the foreign backing for a 'regime change'.

The Generals failed

We are trained in the classical strategic management and we aced it during our MBA. After strategies are formulated, the choice of General or CEO is an important step in implementing strategy.

For the important and strategic war room operation, it looks like the problem may have been at BN's strategy formulation process. In this political war, it was the generals who formulated the strategy.


Tok Mudim said...

Salam Bro Aji

I am more interested in the sudden increase of PAS Adun seats in Selangor ( in Malay dominated area where PR are against BN )

Come next GE, I am sure that DAP and PKR will find a strategy to deny PAS more seats when facing Umno, beside putting more anwarisna in PAS Selangor.

Surely they dont want PAS to have the most seats in Selangor DUN.

But the Malay in Selangor would rather vote for party that safe guard the interest of Malay and Islam and at the same time to reduce the vice activities in Selangor.

There will come to a point where PAS will clash with DAP/PKR when
both party want to become the champion of their supporters.

It will be an interesting topic to see later.

my 2 sen tot

Anonymous said...

"...Zulkifli's excessiveness in his days with PAS."

Are you sure it was only with PAS and not also recently?

Anonymous said...


As a young voter vote for BN yet seeing Liow Thiong Lai won with a small margin, i wonder whether are there miss calculations or just simple lack to understand young voter sentiment. From my experience younger Malaysian are tend to believe and spread lies from new media, while conventional mass media has the chance to get to younger voter, yet they screw-up by concentrated mostly propaganda like "sayangi selangor" that were aired nation wide. For the survival of BN beyond 14th GE, new mechanism is needed to get to younger voter. It is as same as corporate continuity plan, which imo BN lack.

Anak Bentong

Anonymous said...

1. Percaya atau tidak, ada di antara bilik gerakan tidak tahu wujudnya war room (WR)... kelakar? Tapi benar!

2. Paling penting yang tidak diendahkan 'war room' ialah saling berhubung di antara pusat dan negeri. Arahan mungkin diterima dari WR tetapi WR pusat gagal menerima respond dari negeri disebabkan kegagalan negeri menerima maklumat dari cawangan-cawangan tertentu dan seterusnya bertindak sendirian.

3. Sikap WR pusat - maklumbalas yang diterima dianggap sebagai "NON ISSUE" dan remeh tanpa membuat kajian terperinci.

4. Sekali lagi sikap WR Pusat - tidak mesra bloggers dan kumpulan-kumpulan cytroopers. Kebanyakan yang berada di dalam WR Pusat, bukan 'players' dlm cyberwar... dan apabila mereka bukan players, mereka akan hanya menyalur maklumat seperti seorang pensyarah memberi nota-nota untuk dibaca dan kemudian disimpan tanpa mendapat maklumbalas input nota-nota tersebut.

5. Sepatutnya, WR adalah "rahsia" tetapi sekiranya ABITW sendiri mengetahui siapa yang berada di dalam WR Pusat, maka ini adalah kegagalan paling BESAR untuk sesuatu WAR ROOM.

Anonymous said...

BN needs to be ruthless and yet seems nice. Macam Obama .... nampak macam baik on the mainstream media tapi kempen dia underground ruthless memburukkan Romney.

Romney always on the defence. He should just ignore the attacks and focus on his strength which is being a better businessman. Instead Obama's team manage to turn his strength into a weakness. Diaorang pun don't beleive their luck after election and openly taunt Romney.

Najib punya masalah percaya sangat war room dia. Risau kalau Najib sendiri tak boleh fikir Worm Tounge and Kingdom of Rohan punya scenario nih

Anonymous said...


Malas cakap ajer. War room ada pkr dan dap sympathiser. Segala dalam tu belah sana tahu

Anonymous said...

Ada omar ong maknanya agenda MI5. Padan slogan dan message BN mondom. Semua tak boleh.

Anonymous said...

Pada pandamngan saya kegagalan BN di dalam mempengaruhi Pengundi adalah kurangnya sentuhan dari segi emosi:

i. Kekuatan dan kecekapan Anwar ibrahim memainkan emosi terutama golongan muda dan pelajar (tumpuan nya kepada pelajar)
2. Kempen perkauman DAP...yang dibuat di dalam bahasa Cina yang tak diketahui oleh bangsa lain apa yang dia janjikan.
3. Kelalaian PM atau pemimpin kanan mempengruhi minda Penuntut Universiti dan kolej dan Institut Perguruan, kurang turun padang di Universiti/kolej/Institut Perguruan. Maklumat daripada anak saya di Institut Perguruan dari fbnya lk 70% bakal guru ini lebih berat ke arah PKR dan pembangkang.Oleh itu saya yakin next PRU jika masalah besar ini tidak ditanggani segera PRU14 akan jadi teruk.(Alhamdulilah FELDA nampak sudah ok)
4. Kurangnya/tiada media TV memainkan lagu patriotik/lagu emosi yang boleh menyentuh perasan kecintaan (masa Dr mahathir lagu My way..menambat hati)...juga beberapa lagu lagi. Pihak anwar ibrahim menggunakan lagu-lagu disetiap ceramahnya...dan dapat menarik perhatian.
5. Pembangkan menggunakan baner-benar provokasi , yang boleh membawa orang berfikir berkali-kali dan beremosi...tetapi BN slogan straight foward....Contoh: Kita undi BN...Pembangkang: Saya Undi PR (fikir mana lebih kuat). PR gunakan airmata Tok Guru...dah tentu mencuit perasaan...
6. Selogan UBAH amat berkesan. (Seperti juga Selogan 2008 nafikan 2/3 juga amat berjaya)
6. Penggunaan Mimbar...ada Imam jemputan Sekolah seperti di Ipoh Jumaat secara terangan mengajak undi PR dengan dalil-dalil (pada masa sekarang minda anak-anak ini telah diasuh dan next 5 tahun semua dah sedia).
7. Next PRU...Pelajar-pelajar dari Timur Tengah lebih 60% adalah PAS..fikir.
8. Kot mana pon pemimpin yang menggunakan pendekatan agama adalah paling berkesan.Contoh: Pembiayaan Sekolah-sekolah Thfiz...agama rakyat...bukan setakat bantuan tetapi involment ...

Anonymous said...

Another reason for BN failure was people not reading umno blogs like yours Because most of the the time you all write to hantam anwar only So people don't take it seriously when you write things that make sense like this article
Why don't you all stop already with the anwar baiting and go back to being proper journalist s that write good political critiques
After all you will definitely agree anwar is a spent force right?

war lord said...

what I dont understand, during the last 7 or 8 by election, BN wins all the seats.

I believe there was no war room generals except local war lord doing all the job

Anonymous said...

Ahli War Room gagal !!!
Siapa yg melantik mereka pun gagal dab MUST be ACCOUNTABLE !!!

Ade berani letak jawatan ?

Anonymous said...

and adnan gets a cabinet post for being an idiot. wonder what is najib thinking.

Anonymous said...


ini general semua tak ada kerja cari kerjalah. sudah lingkupkan BN lagi dapat jadi menteri.

Anonymous said...

Harap-harap selepas ini Perdana Menteri akan mengurangkan pegawai-pegawai komiunkasi beliau yang sebahagian besarnya telah basi.

Karakter tukang jaga artis berpangkat Datuk Seri mungkin boleh kembali kepada tugas asal dan tak perlu menjadi hamba abdi buta tuli. Jangan bodek tak tentu pasal lagi.

Event organizer company Pasukan Komunikasi Nasional atau NCT harus dibubarkan. Penyangak NCT tidak menilai dan tidak tahu apa itu Janji DiTepati. Mereka hanya tahu salur dana kepada syarikat sendiri.

Karakter seperti Azman Awaldin, gundiknya Jaqueline dan saudara O, harus disiasat kerana ada maklumat mengatakan kumpulan ini telah menggelapkan dana puluhan juta ringgit.

Mungkin ada ramai yang tidak mempercayai tetapi fakta dan maklumat risikan tidak boleh ditepis lagi. Penyangak yang tikam Perdana Menteri dari belakang dengan Janji DiTepati harus diadili.

Jika tidak percaya cuba audit aset dan pemilikan individu-individu yang disebut tadi. Jangan lupa mahligai diP.Pinang dan Australia negeri sejuk mainan biri-biri. Periksa juga siapa pengarah dan pengerusi syarikay sapu sana sini.

Wahai bekas editor kanan berlagak penasihat memanda perdana menteri, jika ada perasaan malu dan harga diri, mohonlah maaf dan undurlah diri. Jangan khianati kepercayaan Perdana Menteri. Jangan bersekongkol dengan penyangak tak berperi walaupun gaji puluhan ribu diberi.
Berundurlah secara terhormat jika masih ada maruah diri.

Concerned Researchers

Anonymous said...

Its Funny that you should ask the Question who and where is Churchill?

Let's face it, a pedigree like Najib does not like to dirty his hands...

Everything must be done for him especially when it comes to the hard slog of winning a war.

The saying "The Buck Stops Here" is not in Najib's Vocabulary. So stop blaming the workers.

Joe Black

Anonymous said...

War Room failed?! UMNO strategists used wrong & outdated tactics??! Impossible! UMNO is always right dulu, kini, dan selamanya!!

Naah, lets just blame the Chinese!

Burung Merbok said...

" War Room " ini mula berfungsi (tak sehebat mana pun ) selepas Penamaan Calun. Maknanya, pemimpin di akar umbi tidak "disentuh" langsung dalam soal pemilihan calun atau sekurang-kuranya memberi input cadangan. War Room ini lebih memfokus kepada KEPUTUSAN dan tidak sangat kepada STRATEGI untuk menang.

Perlu ditanya tentang komposisi mereka yang dipilih untuk berkhidmat di War Room ini ? Sesuaikah mereka ? Jelaskah tugas yang perlu dibuat ?

Malang sekali buat BN bila War Roomnya GAGAL. Indah khabar dari rupa !!! Too many Generals to fight a war ???

Is it just an UMNO War Room or BN ?
The presence of Omar Ong doesn't merit BN War Room status !

The miss-communication between the PDMs and the state and national war room cannot be down-played. Last minute instructions seems to be the order of the day. Nobody seems to know or acknowledge the presence of a think-tank group. The volume of Opposition sponsored propaganda materials went unnoticed by BN war Room. Even if detected, it was already too late to counter ; and the voters choice for the Opposition was made simpler by BN itself !
BN had no answer at all to the DAP's Red Bean Army. This army did so much damage which none of the so-called Generals seem to realise. Yes, we lost in the PROPAGANDA WAR, period !!!

Anonymous said...

Blame the Chinese?

A vote for UMNO and all its lackeys is a vote of endorsement of them being hamba to Ketuanan UMNOputra

Good riddance...what do you expect the Chinese to do except to say sorry to UMNO as there are other Malay friends like PKR and PAS that they can trust on.


gua link bro

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