I refer to the article http://theonlinecitizen.com/2012/06/conscription-necessary-or-outdated/
The bugbear here is: is there a threat?
The author claims that “South-east Asian region in which we live may have experienced a history of inter-state tensions, but by no means are we in a situation where another country is threatening to destroy us from the face of this earth. For most of our history, we have lived in peace. We are currently in peacetime. Short of a real threat of war, conscription in peacetime is not necessary and is illegitimate.”
I would like to remind the writer of these incidents:
1. Communist threat
2. Operation Konfrontasi
3. Mahathir’s threat (shutting off our water, all the way to 2000s)
4. Taiwan’s threat (Chen Shui Bian’s comment that Singapore is a size of a snot)
5. Pedra Branca’s Incident
During the dispute, Malaysian vessels often infringe into the territorial waters and (unverified) sources claim there were shots fired (as warning) at the Singapore Patrol Vessels.
In the pacific there are other conflicts which would affect us adversely or get us pushed around as an outpost if we do not maintain a deterrent force.
Consider these unresolved tensions:
1. India and China/Tibet dispute
2. China and Japan tensions
3. Japan and Russia unfinished war
4. Japan and North Korean tension
5. Unfinished war of China and Taiwan
6. Unfinished war of the Koreas
7. Pacific Conflict of China and Philippines
8. Malaysia and Indonesia Islands dispute
9. China and US tensions
10. Afghan War
11. Tons of others situations (Sri Lanka LTTE unrest, Kosovo, Iraq, terrorist insurgencies)
And at home (although slowly waning), the matter of water with Malaysia.
The lists goes on…
Despite that “norms of international relations are vastly different today“, we also cannot disregard global wars and terrorist threats. Political stability in Singapore is an exception, not a norm, we must keep it this way.
In most other parts of the world, governments change overnight. Who is to guarantee that a radical party with extremist philosophy, ambitions and perhaps hawkish views won’t be installed? In many parts of South East Asia, politicians are always looking for avenues to appease disgruntled citizens, and many of them often point to Singapore (and Malaysia), as the source of their poverty.
I quote the article: “Detractors would counter-argue and say that even though no such existential threat exists, we should still maintain a sizeable force to act as a deterrent. That seems acceptable, but is it necessary to conscript every single male with force to achieve this?”
Here are questions I’d like to present to the writer:
1. Why do you think the current force is too big? As compared to what army?
2. What do you think deterrent is met with?
3. How large do you think a suitable, sizable force is?
4. If we do not “conscript every single male”, then how do you judge who gets in and who does not?
The writer talks about “force multipliers”. These modern combat weapons such as advanced bombers, ballistic missiles and unmanned drones are employed. However, just as the term “unmanned” is misleading (although no life is at direct stake, however it still does require a man to operate it), likewise, behind every ballistic missile comes an entire team of logistics, technicians, weapon specialists, maintanence crew and operational staff running the show
War is not won by missiles alone. The reason America has to deploy ground troops and a huge army into Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate that you still need human presence. No we do not live in the age of Star Wars and no, there is no droid infantry for us to command. As we modernize our equipments, so do the foreign armies around us: Malaysia has 12 million soldiers. Indonesia, with a population of 200 million (vs. Singapore’s 5 million), maintains a commando force larger then our entire SAF. The SAF have a total fighting force of 934,000 men, only 30,000 are regulars.
I find the below comment from the author rather amusing:
“We thus need to ask ourselves: what are we trying to have a deterrent against? If there is a country out there for some reason bent on activating weapons of mass destruction and annihilating us with them, there is nothing we can do about that at the present moment. One such warhead can wipe us off in a second”.
Does the writer suggest that if we cannot do anything, we leave it to fate and just do nothing? The author also speaks of other forms of warfare, cyber, economic etc. But fact is, nothing holds most power then the sword. In the face of a physical war, economic, cyber and other forms of warfare is just fluff.
He quotes “Everyone should have the right to live his life as he chooses as long as he does not interfere with the equal rights of others, and thus no one has the right to initiate aggression against someone else” – now these are all lovey dovey liberal philosophies. The world however, does not work that way.
The author then propose an outrageous proposal: “Let soldiers be hired the same way as hospitals hire doctors”! This is a typical strawmans argument. Everyone can be a soldier. Every man, women and child. But not everyone can be a doctor, hence the different in profession.
He continues: “Let us consider this philosophical point simply: our government employs/hires many people to do all kinds of things, receptionists, to administrators, to economists. We don’t conscript those people, do we? There is no shortage in many of those places and the government isn’t compelled to use force to fill those spots. Even within the highest ranks of the military, we don’t conscript our Chief of Army, or other generals at that level. Why? In simple words, it’s because those individuals voluntarily offer their services in return for a market wage, and thus there isn’t any shortage. Coupled with monetary compensation at market wage, there are definitely scores of individuals who will gladly volunteer their life to defend Singapore, without government coercion. This can happen if we professionalize the armed forces and allow it to competitively recruit individuals to its ranks.
Generals need men to lead. A Platoon Sergeant is merely “Sergeant” without a Platoon? What is a Commanding Officer without a battalion? The writer suggests Mercenaries. Are our current regular force not professionals? No one shudders at the thought that their son or daughter is joining the army as “mercenaries”. The author is simply trying to conjure an imaginary boogeyman.