The text below (in bold) does not come from me–I wish it did!!! Rather it comes from a reader of the now-defunct blog that I was part of (military studies@rsis) in response to a piece that I had written on 3 November 2012, entitled “Measuring Military Strength, How Much is Enough, and does Singapore Need Conscription?”.
As a layman, I benefited much from reading this blog. The fact that more than half of the NS men failed the old IPPT and the progressive lowering of training rigor shows that the Singapore conscription model is far less robust than what the SAF would like the public to believe.
Besides political inertia, a equally likely explanation is the unique military industrial complex of Singapore where the institution of SAF is so closely linked to the ruling party, both using each other to grow and advance its own interests. Indoctrination can always be disguised as nation building. On the other hand, the SAF, like all institutions, want to ensure its survival and maximize its growth. This is particularly so when PSC awards generous scholarships to a small segment of society and later offer military top brass lucrative positions in political and through Temasek and GIC, commercial arena. The incest is a deeply entrenched tradition in the Singapore system.
But to ensure the survival of both the ruling party and maintain a robust defense, drastically shortening the NS duration is long overdue. First, it will at least improve the livelihood and retirement adequacy of a already rapidly aging population living in a high cost city with very little social protection. It will also help in some ways to improve procreation and arrest falling fertility. Wasting the most creative and useful part of a person’s life is a crime. But it is hard to fight against inertia and political interests. The shortening of the wait for enlistment is a case in point. Why has it got to wait for so long before those in power realize that SAF has been wasting people’s lives for so many decades.
The growing doubt over the NS policy and the low morale show that the moral justification of conscription has morphed into a immoral one – Singaporean men are systemically discriminated by the state while allowing unchecked influx of immigration to create unfair competition. How effective is conscription when the conscripts see conscription as meaningless and downright immoral.
If Singapore is a small state in middle east, then the aforementioned case against conscription will not apply. Unfortunate, Singapore is in the increasingly peaceful Asean.
LAYMAN’s observation about the intertwining between the SAF and the ruling PAP is an astute one–which was why I said earlier that I wish the observations above were mine!
It also brings me to a thought experiment that I have been running in my head: what happens if a future Singapore government decided to abolish conscription???