Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Relevance of Singapore Military History

Singapore Military History
and the relevance of it

I was reading Time magazine last night. Okay, some people might want to ask, why the hell are you reading Time magazine during the exam periods, don't you have exams to prepare for? I don't know what I was doing too, just thought that I might want to glance through it since I had already paid for its subscription.

Then this article caught my eye. I don't have the article here with me cos I misplaced it. Yes, it was just less than 12 hours ago and I misplaced it, this is so amazing. So whatever I'm going to say would be based on what I remember of it, so I might make a couple of mistakes during to my not that strong memory. Anyway, the article was about the Philippines military.

I wasn't really that interested in the Phillipines miltary so I just scanned through it. Yup... The military was need to settle the Muslim militants in the south. Yup... There are lots of violence and trouble in the south, and stuff like that, but this table at the side of the article caught my eye. Military spending, compared.

The Philippines spends about 1.something% of its GNP(or was it GDP? Can't remember) on defence spending. The US spends about 3.something%. Singapore, 5%.

The country which doesn't have any social unrest or fighting any kind of war or really needs any kind of defence spending, is spending more on defence than other countries! Before doing this module on Singapore's Military History, I would have thought that there was absolutely no logic in this, but after weeks of study, I have came to see the light.

Throughout most of Singapore's history, Singapore didn't control its own defences. Right from when Raffles founded Singapore, which I'd use as the starting point of Singapore's history, Singapore's defences were controlled by people outside Singapore. During colonial period, Singapore's defences were either controlled in Calcutta, in India during the times of the East Indian Company, or in London, in Britian under the colonial office. These foreign people controlling Singapore defences some have probably not even been to Singapore, so there is no way they can do a good job out of it. Even if they truly understand the needs of Singapore defences, there was still a big problem as they have to go through to many bureaucracies to get the finances to fund these defence projects.

Being a colony mean not being able to make decisions best for yourself. Finance is big problem in defence. Okay, put it this way, finance is important in everything, especially defence. How else would you get those fighter planes and bombs without money? How else can you manage to form a battalion of soldiers who would fight till their deaths for you without money?

And in colonial Singapore, another loophole of our defences is that even the troops aren't locals. They come from every other part of the British empire, but not Singapore. Without money, without troops, we can tell how pathetic Singapore's defences were like in those days.

With all these as background, how Singapore lost the Second World War, how civil war almost broke out and the confrontation, and the need of strong defences, Singapore is spending so much on defences.

Is this spending worthwhile?
I'd agree that much has to be spent on defences. Singapore is a VERY small island, if danger approaches, it's very easy to take Singapore. Just need to cut off our water lines from Johor, cut off our food supplies from the sea lanes and Singapore would starve into surrender, that is if we cannot fight back.

I'd think that it's good building up an air force for emergencies. Land routes can be cut of easily, not that easy for sea lanes, but it is also possible via a naval blockade which the Germans attempted rather successfully on Britain, so it's only air routes that's not easy to cut off. From the events of the Berlin Airlift, we can see that when all else fails, we won't starve provided we can get airlifts of supplies of food and water. With strong defences, we will survive.

But does Singapore have threat?
Well, I used to think that one day Dr Mahathir would send his troops down to take over Singapore, but now with him retired, and with the smiley and seemingly Mr Nice Guy Badawi in reign, this possiblitity seems to have been minimised by quite a bit. With other territory hungry leaders, like Mr Little Red Dot Habibie gone too, I guess Singapore seems rather safe. Seems is a key word here.

With the rise of terrorism in the region and with the US fighting these terrorisms, Singapore might be drawn into another proxy war as Singapore has all along been a staunch supporter of the US. I don't understand Singapore, why must it lean against some big country, it's not as if that country will really help you out in times of need. So Singapore might end up fighting a war with the Muslims in the region for the pathetic USA.

Quite some time ago, there was a debate about why Singapore don't seem to promote Muslim soldiers, was is a deliberate act of discrimination.

Studying our military history, I traced the roots of the problem. I don't think it's a deliberate attempt, but more of some sort of natural reflex act. I give an example. When someone taps your right shoulder, you'd turn around to find that that person is standing to your right, so after some time of naturalising this act, whenever a person taps on your right, you would turn right, but that person might be fooling you, as well, as teenage kids you might have played this before. Tap on right shoulder but run over to the person's left. Well, this is the case.

Muslim soldiers in our history have provided some problems to the military. Right from the beginning, the was a revolt within the army after ignorant soldiers heard rumours that the waxed paper used to hold bullets were waxed using pork oil. Then there were also other little little revolts of the Muslims in the army. During the war time, Muslims found it hard to fight their fellow Muslims in Turkey, and most recent was during the civil war back before separation, the Muslim soldiers could not muster the courage to fight their fellow soldiers from across the causeway. With all these problems with the Muslim soldiers, it's quite normal for the Muslims to feel discriminated in the army. But like my example with the reflexes, it might not be deliberate. It would take time and sincerity and lots of loyalty to prove their critics wrong.

Some people say what we are studying in the university has no practical use, for this module, I beg to differ. This is one really fun module I really enjoyed studying, and it really opened up my eyes to new ideas. In other history modules, what I was essentially learning were things I already knew, this is different. I like applying what I've learnt to real life. Makes me think that all the money I'm spending for my education is worth it. hehe~

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