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Is National Service still required in Singapore?

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Old 09-12-2018, 04:15 PM   #1
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Is National Service still required in Singapore?

Years after its creation, the reasoning behind National Service has fundamentally remained the same. It functions as a deterrent, as our medium to convey to the rest of the world that our military should not be taken lightly. With this policy, Singapore has fifty thousand conscripts and can mobilise one million reservist soldiers, an admirable feat considering our size. It is a strength that lies beyond just numbers. Make no mistake, it is a political statement, one that ensures our entourage know the perilous consequences if they ever have the audacity to wage war upon us.

Beyond just the deterrent effect, the tangible benefits are real. Without a shadow of doubt, compulsory enlistment guarantees that we are better equipped fend off attacks. Months of training metamorphoses boys into soldiers, familiarizes them with rifles, grenades and trenches. As such, if war does occur, every single man knows what to do. Everyone knows their specific function, who their platoon mates are and how to be deployed. Mobilising our soldiers and giving out orders can be done efficiently. Rather than coming face-to-face with an untrained army, our enemies will encounter the full-fledged male population. Although we may be outnumbered, national service ensures scarcity meets quality, and that is a frightening thought.

As a result of the strident demands of national service, our economy stands to gain because our men are more disciplined, decisive and possess a greater mental fortitude. These skills, which are at the heart of the success of the military, are transferable to the workforce. In this tiny island of Singapore, which has no natural resources, our economy depends entirely on the productivity of its populace. Amidst the fierce competition from the world, this country breathes because of its people. They are the pillars of our economy. National Service churns the machines of our economy and is fundamental to its continued success.

Although there is a crystal-clear need for national service, I am convinced that twenty-two months is not required. Six months is more than enough to achieve the same results as twenty-two months of service. More than six months and the learning curve will no longer go upwards, as the marginal benefit drastically drops. While the infant months comprise of crucial basic soldiering skills, the latter months are characterised by redundancy and little new knowledge obtained. Learning the skills to shoot accurately, throw a grenade, survive in the forests will do wonders for a soldier. This, however, is only taught within the first few months. Over time, the tasks become increasingly redundant as a soldier’s routine is spent half of the day waiting in bunk and the rest running up and down the same hill, doing the same drills. This is by all means counter-productive because this means that the soldier’s skillset hardly changes between several months in and two years in. I am certain that in a war, two years of repetition will hardly make us better. It is time the government looked at it from a more practical standpoint. It is about time they questioned how much better such a long period in the military would actually prepare us for war.



Perhaps the biggest problem to why two years of National Service would not achieve potency lies behind the science of compulsory enlistment. In theory, the ability to have every single man to be part of the military sounds great, but in practice, the result is adverse. Forcing people into the army and potentially endangering their lives leads to many being extremely reluctant to serve. Rather than putting in the maximum effort to the job, many simply do the bare minimum and await the end of the day. Many of them famously “act blur” and evade responsibilities. After all, unlike a real job where there is real monetary incentive, there is little to motivate a person who was forced into service. This lack of enthusiasm and passion towards National Service can best be exemplified by their happiness towards "ORD-ing", a term for leaving the army. This speaks miles on how egregious the morale actually is in the Singapore Armed Forces. We can draw a sharp contrast when looking at the voluntary force of the United States, whose military sends shockwaves throughout the world.

Compared to fifty years ago, when Singapore was in a vulnerable position, times have changed. It is no longer necessary to have a two-year conscription. In light of its new-found position in the world, war in Singapore is almost inconceivable. Alongside New York, London and Hong Kong, Singapore has risen to be one of the four biggest financial hubs in the world. We also possess the second busiest port in the world, connecting trade between the East and the West. Evidently, an attack would be detrimental to the global economy and result in a contagion effect worldwide. Every single second of a war would result in a world-wide economic disaster, and I am convinced that big players, who have colossal stakes in the trade routes, as well as gargantuan amounts of capital stationed in Singapore, would not allow a single second of war to unfold. And for anyone who dares to attack Singapore, it would take an incredibly irrational decision for them to attack Singapore knowing the dire, definite and massive backlash they would face from states all over the world. Thus, I do believe that a lengthy two years of national service has lost its charm in the Singapore of today.

Nevertheless, from a societal perspective, it is difficult to ignore the fact that National Service has instilled a national identity amongst Singaporeans. Discussions about military life resonates throughout daily conversations. We may be separated by countless of differences; We may not listen to the same music, eat similar food, nor have the same hobbies, but our lives run parallel with our experience in the military. The differences between us are palpable, but yet, they are trumped by our intrinsic sameness. This similarity enables us to understand each other as people. It is another side of life. Experiences such as shooting with the rifle during BMT and the nerve-wrecking experience with throwing the grenade are common to us all.

Despite this, the personal sacrifices are tremendous. The enlistment of males and not females has left a painful dent in society. It has disrupted the momentum of study for boys, whilst allowing the girls to continue. Constant practice is required for the process of studying. Two years of complete absence, replaced with repetitive routines which do not require much thinking, disrupts this flow that was present among boys since PLSE. As a result, when they enter university, two years behind the girls in their batch, they struggle to catch up. Maths, physiques or biology, which was once their forte, had to be learned again. In fact, top universities make it clear that as a general rule of thumb, only a one-year gap is allowed, as they understand the problem that comes along with taking a two-year gap.

Even in the working world, the struggle persists. Naturally, employers despise reservist commitments, especially for officers, and would be more inclined to hiring females and foreigners, who are not bound by it. It gets worst for those who fail IPPT, as they report to camp after work on a daily basis. Singaporeans will always have two lives – military and civilian- and this will haunt them until they are 35.

On a personal level, the truth is that two golden years where we are supposed to peak in terms of ingenuity and talent disappear before our very own eyes. At 18, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook. At 20, Bill gates co-founded Microsoft and at 20 Steve Jobs created Apple 1. On the other hand, we are stuck aimlessly in an army camp for two years during these years when we should be going forward in life, doing something we are a good at. On a sporting level, many talents are unable to shine when it matters because NS takes that chance away from them. Cases such as Premier League player Ben Davis which MINDEF rejected deferment in his most crucial years is an embarrassment for Singapore. National Service takes away these golden opportunities without providing intellectual and sporting talents a chance to shine. They fail to look at issues from a multidimensional perspective and provide a chance for people to exert their talents. It is about time the government realized that it is not only the people who should serve the country, but the government should serve the people as well.

Hindered by strict compliance of rules and little personal voice, our ability to think out of the box, to be creative and invent great things is greatly diminished by our entrance into National Service. The atmosphere in the military camp is not conducive for creativity to exist. Day by day, soldiers are trained to listen to orders and do them, without questioning if there is a better method to do so. Personal voices are not allowed and in fact, may be punished in the military. Two years in such an environment instils inside us the mentality that it is wrong to propose a new solution.
That is exactly why Singaporean universities may never become instigators of change; our students fresh out from National Service will not have the ingenuity for change to occur. It is by proposing new different ideas that we are able to widen our horizons. Disagreeing with others is what helps us gain new perspectives and invent something even better. This, is how society moves forward. The environment in the military breeds an environment where this is not possible.

In light of the above, I do believe that there is still a need to have soldiers, but the length needs to change from two years to six months, to maximise the potentials that the training can provide, and at the same time, minimise the personal costs that those who undergo national service have to go through. Until this change happens, there will forever be an unnecessary sacrifice that every man must go through. Nevertheless, I am hopeful. I believe there will come a day when the government will be able to see things differently.
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Old 09-12-2018, 05:25 PM   #2
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got a TL;DR version?
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Old 09-12-2018, 06:16 PM   #3
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got a TL;DR version?
NS makes Sinkie men stupid as they cannot stretch their brains. NS can be shorter since a lot is wasted waiting around.


I guess that's the basic gist.
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Old 09-12-2018, 07:01 PM   #4
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NS makes Sinkie men stupid as they cannot stretch their brains. NS can be shorter since a lot is wasted waiting around.


I guess that's the basic gist.
Wah type so long to say what has already been said all the time.
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