Thursday, February 17, 2005

Conscription Part 5/5: Is Attack the best form of Defense

Even with the number of conscripts in our army, the size of our army is paltry compared to neighbouring countries in the south. Should any nation south of us choose to wage warfare, it will only be a matter of time before the siege succeeds in breaking us down. Of course, the plan is to 'hold the fort' till our 'dearest allies' aid us. Mobilisation of a distant army takes time, and much damage will have been done, including probable near-total decimation of our army and much of our populace, before it can be righted by our 'dearest allies'.

Our army is actually assembled for a primary singular purpose which involves a country north of Singapore which rhymes with 'Truly Asia' (hereby TA), whom which Singapore shares a relationship that can be best described as 'decidedly frosty'. This is due to another anomaly in the developed nation that is Singapore. Unlike most other advanced nations, Singapore ultimately lacks a basic essential resource required for self sustenance. Whatever the historical basis for the anomaly, it is an issue which is still unresolved today. In a completely non foolproof way, a treaty which is by all accounts an exploitative one lying much in favour of Singapore is adhered to by TA, not because they feel that it is ethical to 'honour the contract', nor is it because they are a benevolent nation extending the hand of goodwill, but because of the fear of a reprisal from a military primarily poised to defend(attack) should TA attempt anything funny, such as turning off their taps.

So what is the best standard of defence? Instead of thinking on military terms, why not think in terms of social, economic and political policy? Instead of depending on TA for a vital resource, why not be self sustaining? Self sustenance is vital for every nation, and despite our advanced society we are ultimately not self sustaining. Perhaps some of the funds which has made Singapore to an advanced society could be funded for alternative sources of this scarce resource? The stigma attached to NEWATER is perhaps unfounded but certainly one which is largely unacceptable by the masses, so why not turn to desalination? The argument against it is that it is costly, but so is building the Esplanade, the NEL lines, the Circle Lines, etc. We are an island surrounded by water. Perhaps there is more to meets the eye in the reluctance of turning to desalination.

And instead of insensitively making jibes about our neighbouring countries, could our leaders perhaps be more tactful when it comes to sensitive issues? Pride brings downfall and it is undoubted that our neighbours are catching up with us economically. Our leaders should take steps to improve diplomatic relations, decreasing the need for military presence. Where there is a lesser threat, one may take lesser steps to counter a threat. In many amicable neighbouring countries (such as US / Canada), there is virtually no military presence. The size of Brunei's military is less than 100k, and they are in the same region as us. Admittedly our demography is considerably different from theirs, but ultimately the point is that it is possible that national security can be achieved in other ways than conscription. In fact, given the state of our conscripts, not to mention the social benefits should conscription be discontinued, perhaps pursuing such methods would better ensure the national security we so desire.

Such collateral issues may not be instantly recognisable as safeguarding our national security since they are by and large indirect means rather than direct means. But as I have said if we are being conscripted, we must know why we are being conscripted. 'For National Security' would be the popular response, but if one opens his eyes wider he will perhaps realise that there is probably more to it than meets the eye. There are alternate/better means to achieve this aim, but it would take a toll on other resources such as government finance and even government pride. I reiterate that it is very possible that we are truly being exploited as a source of labour, by playing to our nationalistic pride and our the fears for the security of our families and ourselves. The government reaps the benefits of our manpower, for the supposedly 'incidental' purposes of National Day Parade, SAF Day Parade, and various marathons etc. Again, they benefit from these Parades as these parades instills a sense of patriotism (or cynics may say, nationalism) in the average citizen. The presence of the conscripts are the source of manpower required to carry out such a scaled event on a regular basis. So that also answers your question about whether NS instils patriotism in Singaporeans. Yes it does, in a most indirect way. [For those who are unconvinced by the power of such parades, attend one such parade rather than catching it on TV]

While they advantageously reap the toil of our labours, it can be seen that on their part they have hardly lifted a finger. They are indisposed to invest more resources on overcoming the self-sustenance issue. While the Gov has taken some steps towards resolving this issue, you would be inclined to think that as the very issue of 'self sustenance' is one of first-rate importance and given the efficient standards of the gov, something foolproof would have been done by now. Why then is there still so much uncertainty? Also, a certain leader's pride is valued more than the toils of the entire nation. He simply cannot hold back on his jibes on a nation that 'broke his heart' so many years ago. Consequently, we must bear the brunt of the costs of his pride.
This concludes the 5 parter on Conscription.

The intent is to make people think about why they are serving 2 years of their lives, rather than just taking it as something that is in the natural sequence of life, and going through the motions, since it involves 2 prime years of their lives. I would think that one is entitled to know WHY and WHAT FOR he has devoted 2 prime years of his life and that one SHOULD be interested in knowing.

It should also be fairly obvious to most who have gone thru or are going thru NS that it is a total load of BS, not quite what most of us expected when we were enlisted. The gov should stop treating its citizens as if they are naive kids to be exploited and manipulated at their will. The least they could do is paint the real picture of the situation and stop the pretentious 'wayang', the single thing that the SAF excels in.


Blogger Daniel said...

Although I haven't read through this concluding entry, I must commend you for your effort.
If only more people would read this. You'd think there'll be some kind of upheaval?
I can only imagine what writing this kind of discourse would do to you in totalitarian countries like North Korea or Saddam-era Iraq. heh.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous chanky said...

Beautifully written and objectively critiqued.

Can't imagine the number of S'poreans who fail to analyse the effectiveness of NS.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

Actually the SAF's policy is to fight and win 2 wars at the same time (like the US's). If Malaysia makes threatening moves, we'll launch a pre-emptive attack and capture Johor (water).

Our Army may be smaller, but you forget the slave soldiers. We also have better technology, logistics and organisation; the SAF may have a lot of BS, but other countries nearby are even more "cannot make it".

Water alone is not enough; we also need food. Putative enemies might blockade us. And cross-straits relations are knowingly played up by both sides for political advantage. It's a tacit game which both sides acknowledge in.

What happened to the "alternatives to slavery"?

I'd been fearing and dreading slavery since lower primary, btw. Hao Gong Ming didn't con me.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

agreed agagooga...what good is an army that is made up of lazy mats?
oops, I'm so non-PC.

yes..Hao Gong Min. And those Chinese textbook readers extolling the virtues of patriotism through stories of Yue Fei and stuff.
Insidious propaganda.

1:20 AM  
Blogger redrown said...

daniel: haha...well i certainly wouldnt be hanging around to find out...

chanky: thanks! the trouble is most people are satisfied with answers people give them rather than digging out the truth themselves. Apathy.

agagooga: the pre-emptive attack is what i have stated (2nd para last line).

I agree that countries to the north 'even more cannot make it', which is why SG can get away with what it is doing, but the sheer bulk of forces from a country in the south is a different matter, technological superiority nothwistanding.

The political situation is indeed played up. But just because it is so doesn't make it rightful nor does it make it desirable.

Alternatives to 'slavery' are mercenaries, and indirectly, lessening the need for an army by having better bilateral relations and by being more self sustaining-which includes water first and foremost.

I do not doubt you have feared/dreaded NS since young, as have I and quite a few others as well. But we can only speak for ourselves; the same cannot be said of the masses who entered the army expectantly but exited the army feeling disillusioned.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

We will invade Malaysia. Therefore we don't need to hold out for "dearest allies" to come aid us.

TNI is better than Malaysia, probably, but do you think they can beat the SAF? *shrug*

I didn't say it was right or desirable to play up the situation, just pointing out that the aggression and posturing is largely for show, and to play to a home crowd. Bilateral relations aren't really that bad.

You owe us a post on alternatives to slavery! *pout*

2:13 PM  
Blogger redrown said...

Re: Alternatives

Heheh...The point i am pushing across is that we ought to look at 'security' with a wider perspective. Imho the concept of 'national security' should not just be limited to considering the quantum of manpower or the technological level of the military.

A embroadened view of security includes other circumstances as well.

Let me attempt an analogy. Living in a house, we will feel safer if there are more of us family members at home (manpower). To ensure we have guys at home we will have to be grounded at home(conscription). Alternatively we could hire security personnel (mercenaries). We will also feel safer if we install a burglar alarm(technology). This is the traditional concept of security.

However, we will ALSO feel safer if our house was located in a safe neighbourhood, and if we had good/close relationships with our neighbours (surrounding circumstances). We certainly would feel more at ease if we didn't depend on our neighbour to get our groceries as well! (self sustenance)

So the examples looks at security in the wider context. Hence, the 'alternatives to slavery' is actually lowering the need for the presence of a military, which encompasses the traditional concept of security.

10:53 PM  
Blogger redrown said...

I agree that bilateral relations aren't actually that bad. But the thing is Singaporeans are quite competitive and comparative (Its an inherent trait). And thus they like to compare themselves with M'sians (sort of a superiority complex). Gov and media policy doesn't actually discourage such behaviour.

I think that such behaviour is very negative and I will cover it in future.

About 'dearest allies' helping us, I was discussing about the unlikely possible invasion from a third-party nation (not msia).

I don't know who will win this fight. But I know I won't hang around to find out..heheh..just kidding ISD

11:08 PM  
Blogger Huichieh said...

My critique of all five parts are now available on my blog.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well written and cohesive piece of work. Here's my two cents worth. Most of the regulars in the SAF, mainly the non-commissioned officers(the so called "Specialist" and Warrant Officers) sign on due to lack of a better choice. No other organisation will employ them and give them similar pay and job security, given their qualifications(most are O level or NITEC cert holders). From personal observation, many are there simply for the money. In the words of my former section commander, "I'm here to cheat the SAF". This could not be more apt, considering he sleeps three quarters of the day on a duty day, while his men slog away. In the SAF it seems, working hours and salary, are inversely proportional. Only in the military can such mind boggling and bizarre situations exist.
Regarding the quality of our NSmen(reservist), I agree with the author. Gathering a bunch of lawyers, taxi drivers, hawkers, executives, and making them fight a war should it ever occur, I can only say I'm not too confident. Much of the strength our of armed forces consist of such "paper" units. The system relies an efficient and rapid mobilisation, and that military knowledge still exist in these civilian soldiers.
What I propose is a small, professional, regular military. Keep the numbers low, but pay these soldiers well. Train them hard, provide them with the best of equipment, lodging, food and welfare. With first class training, a sense of genuine pride, and true respect from the civilian population, such a force will truely be one to be reckoned with. Cost wise, it will be much cheaper than conscription. As a deterrance, I believe it will a lot more effective than 300 000 paper soldiers.
Its my dream to see the eradication of conscription in Singapore. Only when that day comes can the male youths of Singapore bridge the gap between their female peers at such a prime age of their lives, in terms of education, maturity, jobs and financial independence.

2:10 AM  

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