On August 9 1991, during Singapore’s 26th National Day, Malaysia and Indonesia conducted their largest joint military exercise in Malaysia. The military exercise codenamed Malindo Darsasa 3AB involved many paratroopers dropping at the closest area to Singapore, Johore, just a few kilometers north of our shores. Malaysia and Indonesia knew that with SAF resources tied up celebrating our National Day, Singapore would likely be vulnerable and they wanted to test our reaction. No matter, our well-trained and well-funded SAF was equipped enough to place its forces on alert despite multitasking in the National Day. The Singapore military has once again proved itself to be capable and prepared to handle any form of threat.
Indonesia recently named it’s new warship with the names of one of it’s terrorists who bombed, killed and maimed many Singaporeans during the Confrontasi period. Calling a terrorist a hero in your country is not fine, but something Singaporeans can live with. Naming a warship after him ensures his name will continue to be repeated and reminded in times to come. It is the same as wanting to antagonise the families and by extension the people of Singapore who lived through that period. Sovereign rights is not an excuse for a failure in morality.
The above my friends, are just all but 2 examples showing that our own neighbors view us as nothing as more than a Little Red Dot that can be extinguished and cowed into submission whenever they please, if only they had the means to do so.
Through sifting through many sites in cyberspace, I have seen vehement, articulate and if I may agree, passionate articles asking for defense spending to be reduced and the funds be allocated to toxic, slippery slope welfare spending. When Singapore spent millions for buy the F-15 fighter jets to protect us, there were arguments against them, saying why can’t we spend it on healthcare, or education, or workfare blah blah. When these jets took to the skies for the first time to commemorate our 2010 National Day, I saw many people including my anti-defense spending friends ooh and aahing the flypast, what hypocrisy.
When our government recently announced its intention to get the F-35, I see the same rehashed arguments once more. These F-35s specifically the B-variant are one of the latest 5-generation stealth fighter jets in the world, second only to the F-22. In fact, the B-variant can do what the F-22 cannot, take off and land vertically. This ability is very useful in land-scarce Singapore and in case our limited runways get bombed to oblivion. We can hide our F-35s anywhere and hit the enemy before their own jets can take off. This is a fighter jet that suits Singapore.
To purchase such amazing weaponry to obtain an edge over our potential adversaries, we have to keep our defense spending up. If it means that slightly less money has to be spent on toxic welfare, then so be it.
Let me now take care of my critics arguments. The first issue is a contribution to a regional arms race. I do not disagree with that observation. Late last year, Indonesia purchased Leopard tanks from Germany, probably in response to our own purchase in 2006. For those who say we should not up the ante again, let me tell you, you are idealistic fools. The military planners of other nations are not going to sit still even if we decide to rest on our laurels. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is still alive and well even if humans are the dominant species. The theory of evolution is now extended to the international arena where countries are the species. Continuously evolve or be wiped out.
We cannot put a cost to a nation’s security. Today we may say, let’s cut the defense budget by half to about SG$5 billion so our people can live more comfortable lives and have more holidays like the high-unemployment French. Tomorrow, we may have no Singapore left to enjoy that 5 billion saving. The Japanese took over Singapore in weeks in WW2. Without our expensive and vital aircraft, navy ships, tanks and artillery deterring our potential enemies, we may not have this peace to have this conversation. So save that 5 billion and lose that peace or make it worth it, your choice.
The famous American diplomat Henry Kissinger once said, “there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests”. That neatly sums up regional and international relations. Kuwait was saved by the US only because it had oil. Russia was allowed to march unopposed into Georgia because the NATO nations saw no value in it’s protection. Singapore has no oil or natural resources, so if we are not responsible and defend ourselves, who will, the US? Don’t kid yourself and bury your heads in your idealistic sand. Singapore can vanish in a heartbeat and the rest of the world will barely blink.
I can bet, those naysayers who criticized the future F-35 purchase will ooh and ahh again when these aircraft perform in it’s first National Day. I can already envision its maiden performance, these aircraft will taxi in front of the crowds, perform a thunderous vertical takeoff, turn and nod at the crowds like the Apache attack helicopter, make a flyby around the Marina Bay Sands and land beautifully back in front of their eyes like a graceful swan. I will say, see I told you so, hypocrites!
Let me leave you with an article and a quote by former Lieutenant General Winston Choo.
“If we do not have a strong and capable SAF, we leave ourselves open to being cowed, intimidated and vulnerable to pressures from larger states.”