Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Conscription Part 4/5: False Security

Most supporters of conscription would argue that conscription is vital to national security, without explaining why, thinking that the answer is glaringly obvious enough.

It is in effect, a baseless truism. We are always told that Singapore is a small defenceless nation (but see Liechenstein's counteraction to the issue of size), and that we are the 'Israel' of Asia. As such, it is crucial that we have the means to defend our nation. In other words, it is drilled into us the vulnerability of our situation. We are manipulated into feeling fear, fear for our livelihoods, our families. We are brainwashed into thinking that conscription is the solution to allay such fears. Fear is a highly motivating factor, the fuel that drives us into accepting conscription for what it is.

Offering an alternate view, I suggest that it is possible that not only is conscription not providing the National Security we so desire, but that to ensure the safety of national security of Singapore, conscription of our population may not be the appropriate or exclusive way.

Firstly, the conscripts (usually 18-20 year old boys fresh out of college or polytechnic) are hardly army material. A true soldier is one who is born a soldier, not one who has spent his lifetime indulging in the excesses of civil society. Granted, the 2 years spent 'militarising' these conscripts do make them tougher as persons, but to expect these people to go to war against professionally trained soldiers who spent their entire lives in the military...well, to be very optimistic, underdogs do sometimes win, especially in Hollywood movies.

Secondly, the reservists (usually 30+ year old potbellied men), who will be even more unlikely to be in the shape which is required in the army if we are to win wars and defend our country.

Thirdly, the regulars. Not only are their numbers insignificant, most of them (with the exception of certain Special Forces which I unreservedly admit are quality military personnel) are too civilianised. Lets face it, our military is hardly militant. Many of them still lead a life with the excesses and comforts of civil society. Most regulars you see are not at all combat fit, nor are they militarily skilled. As an organisation they are perhaps efficient at peace-time operations such as National Day Parades and paperwork but their capabilities should the uncertainty and tension that would ensue should a war arise will be in doubt.

Then there is the unfortunate forced mix of regulars and conscripts. The concept of meritocracy through the ranks is undermined because very often, there are conscripts who are more competent than their superiors, who are the ones promoted by virtue of their permanence in the army. When this happens, there is an imbalance of power which will result in incompetency and conflict.

When you have such a unfortunate mish-mash (rojak) of personnel who are clearly not of military mould, the army is nothing more than a facade of numbers, which is actually the case-plan for the army. The numbers are merely used as a deterrent rather than any cause of action. This discomfiting thought sits uneasily with the whole concept of security because this means we are basically employing a false sense of security as national security.

Perhaps, the hiring of external forces (mercenaries) should be extended, so that our army can not only bark, but also deliver a vicious bite. Many will of course question their loyalty to Singapore but conversely, I suggest that these mercenaries, if hired to defend Singapore, will actually show MORE loyalty than our local troops. This is because they are skilled and trained in the codes of warfare, which includes HONOUR. In contrast 'civilian soldiers' are more attuned to the civil society where it is basically a rat race, 'every man for himself' mentality. When such a mentality is brought into battle, it will only result in self interest trumping the duty felt towards safeguarding the country.

And this discourse assumes that the threat to our security is real and that our army is primarily purposed to counter such a threat. We have already seen how futile our attempts would be to defend our nation with such a system.

Now, would there actually be a nation that would attempt an invasion of Singapore? Our paltry defence is just a minute factor to be considered by a would-be invader. More important considerations a would be invader would take into consideration is the possibility of military, economic, social and political repercussions of their own. Only in the unlikely event of a nation amassing enough economic and military power to launch a World-war degree of war would they attempt an invasion, in which case, our defense would hardly be viable against such a force.

If so, that would make conscription for the purposes nothing but a sham, a sham that toys with our minds, by playing to our fears, by playing to our sense of duty. A false sense of security that doesn't achieve the security we were psyched to believe. One that doesn't justify the sacrificies we make to uphold. Even the bluffs about how hiring mercenaries 'will not work as we need indigenous citizens who will be loyal' can be easily unfounded. Perhaps a more truthful reason would be that 'indigenous citizens are a cheap and viable source of manpower'.

Then why does the government insist on conscription? Granted, we are a viable source of manpower, but the costs expended on our training is not minimal. There must be a specific reason for NS.

P.S There are other military and also non military alternatives (to be loosely summarised in the final part) conscription but I limit considerations to options appropriate to our situation.

10 Comments:

Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

I believe that for protecting installations and persons deemed as critical by the Powers-That-Be, we already use professional mercenaries.

We just call them Gurkhas guards.

12:14 AM  
Blogger redrown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:22 AM  
Blogger redrown said...

In effect the Gurkha guards are being used to protect installations and persons deemed by the Powers-that-be to be most vital to our nation.

Which is evidence of how much confidence the Powers-that-be place on our own indigenous forces. The Powers-that-be recognise all to well that our 'forces' are nothing more than a facade.

Gurkha guards are indeed mercenaries, and indeed there is no reason not to incorporate more of their forces(and others), maybe even replacing our indigenous forces, such that we have a real army.

[Edited previous post for grammar]

1:44 AM  
Blogger Bunnybear said...

As a side note, according to my Nepalese schoolmate, the Maoist insurgents in Nepal are more than a match for the Gurkhas.

Just curious, but where do you think Singapore can recruit mercenaries from? Or maybe we can make our own Foreign Legion... tough and disposable.

8:49 AM  
Blogger redrown said...

Ideally renowned forces like the Gurkha Guards would be best, but there is limitation to their numbers. Also there are other mercenerial forces who perhaps wouldnt be best suited for assimilation into our forces due to their negative affilations (eg with terrorism).

As you suggested, I was thinking more on the lines of actually recruiting men from other countries and training them in our military grounds. Similar to hiring foreign ground labourers such as construction workers or domestic helps, except that they are hired to be soldiers. Not only will they be cheap to maintain as a force, it is perhaps easier to instil a stricter and more regimental discipline in them (less welfare given to them than locals for example). Currently foreign ground labourers and domestic helps are given very restrictive salaries and rights, so I don't forsee any difficulty in imposing a similar policy towards these soldiers.

Issues about loyalty I have already dealt with in the passage. No worries about the military power falling into foreign hands either, as the upper echelons should still be filled by regulars.

7:15 PM  
Blogger redrown said...

make that indigenous regulars

7:16 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

It would be very stupid to invade Singapore, because we have almost no natural resources. Invasion would destroy what *is* useful and valuable - our human resources and infrastructure. Nonetheless keeping up a siege mentality suits the purposes of the Powers That Be.

No intelligent mercenary is going to be a turncoat - no one would hire him ever again. I'm not sure that the defence of a nation could fall entirely onto the shoulders of mercenaries, though. To supplement a part-regular and part-volunteer (ie voluntary slavery) force, perhaps.

I'd say the more pressing issue regarding regulars is that they're useless, rather than civilianised. A good deal of them are utterly useless in peace, to say nothing of war.

Though the SAF is sucky, the other armed forces are suckier, and that's what matters.

In any case, besides defence, slavery performs another important function: Social Engineering. Subduing a populace, if nothing else.

Civil society and civilian society are not the same, btw.

1:37 PM  
Blogger redrown said...

Excellent addendum to my points.

Incomptency of the regulars could be the ultimate flaw in a mixed non-conscripted force In many ways its a big flaw in the current conscripted force as well.

Thanks for your pointing out the errata in the post. Will strive to be more precise with my terminology in future posts.

8:00 PM  
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