Diplomacy & Deterrence

Q1: ‘Military deterrence plays a greater role than diplomacy in maintaining political stability.’ Do you agree? Explain your answer. [13] Military deterrence involves the use of armed forces to deter any potential aggressor. Singapore has adopted several deterrence strategies. The first is building a citizen armed force so as to be militarily self-reliant and ready to fight off aggressors within a short time span. Secondly, Singapore has ensured that all civilians have a part to play in protecting their country through Total Defence. Through this defence, any potential enemy who wants to attack Singapore will not only have to fight the SAF, but also take on all Singaporeans. This will make the enemy realize that attacking Singapore would be a costly attempt which should be avoided. Thirdly, Singapore has built a defence industry which is responsible for building up the fighting capabilities of the SAF and maintaining weapon systems and equipment in the best condition. This ensures that the SAF remains self-reliant in essential weapons and equipment and the performance of the SAF is enhanced. Lastly, Singapore engages in military cooperation with the armed forces of other countries due to shortage of suitable training areas. Military cooperation takes the form of bilateral and multilateral defence exercises. Through this, the SAF will be able to improve their combat skills as well as forge strong military ties with the other countries which will enhance Singapore’s security. However, diplomacy involves forging relations with other countries to promote common interests and resolve conflicting interests in a peaceful manner. Singapore practices three types of diplomatic relations – bilateral, regional and international. Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has established bilateral relations with many countries to serve its interests. Some of the benefits of its bilateral relations are new trading opportunities, transfer of technology and skills and the exchange of cultural ties with other countries. Singapore also extends a helping hand by providing humanitarian aid to developing countries in the event of crisis such as natural disasters. Secondly, Singapore joined ASEAN, a regional organization. As a member of ASEAN, Singapore actively tries to maintain peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia. For example, it has taken on a leadership role in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) which allows ASEAN members to discuss important issues with other countries. Singapore also shares its technological knowledge and expertise with other ASEAN countries like Vietnam to help in their industrialization efforts. Finally, Singapore joined the UN, an international organization. It uses its UN membership to voice its opinions on world affairs and regularly sends in police, SAF and civil service officers on UN peacekeeping missions to various countries. Hence, by building close personal ties and extending goodwill with other countries, Singapore will be able to seek help from its friends in times of need. Additionally, if other countries benefit from Singapore’s help, then there is less chance of Singapore being threatened by them. The establishment of trade partnerships with numerous countries will minimize chances of conflict as both parties will have much to lose. It is in this way that diplomacy is able to maintain political stability. Both diplomacy and deterrence are equally important because one factor cannot make do without the other. Both act as twin pillars of Singapore’ defence policy. Although diplomacy promotes greater cooperation and understanding between countries, it does not guarantee that others will naturally reciprocate these feelings. Therefore, deterrence strategies must be put in place, not to threaten others, but rather to safeguard Singapore’s sovereignty in the event of an attack.

Diplomacy & Deterrence
Q2: “In Singapore’s defence strategy, deterrence is more important than diplomacy.” Do you agree? Explain your answer. Singapore needs to deter potential aggressors because they may assume that as a small country we are weak militarily. Therefore our military strength does not correspond with the size of our national boundaries. Our citizens’ army is among the best in the region, they train in all kinds of terrain and airspace e.g. in Taiwan, Australia, etc, and they are equipped with the state of the art weapons and equipment from our own defence industry as well as those bought from other countries. The small size of Singapore may seem that we are vulnerable but a potential aggressor with knowledge of our true military capacity will know that they will be against one of the best if they mess with us. They will think twice when they know that Singapore has the capacity to respond with all its might and they will suffer high casualities and probably fail in their battle against Singapore. Deterrence is important if Singapore wants to show that she is serious about protecting her soverignty and national interests. Just as a home owner would deter robbers by investing in good locks / padlocks, strong window grills, alarm system, etc. because his home is worth protecting, any country must also be willing to invest in effective forms of deterrence to protect its soverign status and national interests as these are vital to its very existence. This explains why the Singapore government allocates a high portion of its budget [a quarter or close to a quarter] on defence spending even in times of economic recessions. Since the country’s very existence is at stake, spending on defence cannot be compromised. It also explains why the government goes all out to reinforce the importance of total defence among Singaporeans through campaigns, public messages, special programmes in schools, emergency exercises and so on. Deterrence is an important part of Singapore’s policy of self-reliance. Singapore cannot assume that another country will come to its aid in times of crisis unless some vital interests are involved. Few leaders would be willing to jeopardize their political careers by taking military action in conflicts especially if the outcome is uncertain. Unless their own security interests are directly threatened, substantial military involvement by another country is rare beyond peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations. Even the world’s current superpower, the USA, will not and is unable to intervene in every one of the many crises around the world. American interests do not require them to do so, and the international community itself is overwhelmed with such crises and cannot respond to them as they are costly in terms of human lives and resources. This means that Singapore needs to ensure that she is prepared to deter possible military aggression herself as dependence on other ‘friendly’ countries for help is too shortsighted as a defence strategy. This explains why we recruit our own young men to form a citizen’s army and we have our own defence industry. Diplomacy, on the other hand, facilitates communication between the political leaders of Singapore and other countries or organizations. We have diplomats and embassies in other countries and we allow foreign countries to set up their embassies and station their diplomats in Singapore. Our leaders have frequent meetings with the leaders of other countries. All these facilitate communication between Singapore and other countries and this ensures that there are proper channels to resolve any conflicts Singapore might have with another country. Without these channels, a small disagreement can be blown out of proportion and can become serious. This explains why although Singapore has conflicts with some of its neighbours such as Malaysia [water agreements, dispute over Pedra Branca, among many other outstanding issues], with the Philippines [over the case of Flor Contemplacion] and with the USA [over the Michael Fay case], these problems did not lead to war or cutting off of ties because of the existence of good diplomatic relations. These matters were discussed peacefully through

Diplomacy & Deterrence
negotiations, meetings, appointing a mediator or through the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. Diplomacy prevents war / minimizes friction and this is the best defence. Skilful diplomacy projects a favourable image of Singapore and helps it in its efforts to achieve its objectives. Close diplomatic ties with other countries promote better understanding and cooperation between Singapore and other countries. It enables Singapore to spread goodwill when she demonstrates that she wants to contribute positively as a member of the international community. E.g. As a member of ASEAN, Singapore shares technical knowledge and expertise with other ASEAN countries. She also has close cultural exchanges with them. Through such diplomatic efforts, goodwill is promoted and misunderstandings can be avoided or prevented from becoming serious. Since 1989, Singapore has sent more than 400 police, SAF and civil service officers on United Nations peacekeeping missions to various countries. By participating actively to facilitate the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts, Singapore has contributed to reducing conflicts in the region and the world. This is important because any instability in the region can affect Singapore. Even events in Europe or America can affect Singapore politically and economically. Thus through her diplomatic efforts to promote world peace / understanding / cooperation / etc, Singapore makes the world a safer place for herself. Thus diplomacy is important in Singapore’s defence strategy. Diplomacy alone may not be enough to ensure peace and stability between countries as it makes the country vulnerable and over-dependent on others’ goodwill and friendship for its survival. For diplomacy to be effective, it has to be supported by military deterrence. Diplomacy depends to a large extent on the willingness of countries to cooperate. This requires them to compromise and accommodate. Cooperation among countries is possible only when there is trust and when countries are willing to discuss and settle issues, based on international law. When these conditions are absent, diplomacy alone cannot guarantee that small countries like Singapore can protect its rights. Thus, Singapore needs to ensure that its armed forces are powerful enough to deter any aggressor. Hence, diplomacy cannot be effective without deterrence as a country’s defence strategy. This is why Singapore has adopted a two-pronged approach of diplomacy and deterrence as its defence strategy. Military deterrence alone without diplomacy is inadequate because it would make the country look belligerent and would be too expensive to maintain. No country can survive on its own. It has to establish ties with others to survive. In addition, without diplomacy, a country which builds up its military strength will be suspected by other countries of wanting to threaten them if there are no friendly diplomatic ties. In addition it is important for countries living in the same region to cooperate to maintain peace. Singapore knows that any outbreak of war in the region and even in other parts of the world can also threaten her own national peace. Thus she has joined ASEAN and the UN and established military cooperation with many countries like Australia and New Zealand. Together with other countries, Singapore can be more effective in safeguarding peace in the region and the world. For example, cooperation with Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the USA has enabled Singapore to avert a possible terrorist threat from the Jemaah Islamiah. Singapore’s military cooperation with Malaysia, Britain, Australia and New Zealand in the FPDA [Five Power Defence Arrangements] ensures collective efforts in response to threats to regional peace.

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