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Lee Kuan Yew's Other Legacy: Why Singapore Has One Of The World's Toughest Militaries
International Business Times ^ | March 24 2015 | Alberto Riva

Posted on 03/27/2015 8:28:53 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki

When Lee Kuan Yew died Monday at age 91, the founding father of Singapore did not leave just his legacy as the prime minister whose authoritarian policies shaped a backwater British colony into the world’s fourth-wealthiest nation. He also left Singaporeans with one of the most formidable armies in the world. The tiny island state of 5.4 million, with a land area far smaller than New York City’s, has more fighter jets than Spain, Poland or Sweden. Its army has as many tanks as Italy, which is more than 400 times the size. Its navy boasts the only stealthy ships in the region.

The respected defense publication IHS Jane’s called the Singapore Armed Forces “the best-equipped military in Southeast Asia.”

Singapore spends more on weapons than anybody else near it. Its 2013 defense budget was $12 billion, according to an analysis published in East Asia Forum by Michael Raska, a research fellow at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. That money has bought Singapore advanced American warplanes whose capabilities eclipse anything fielded by other states in the region. For example, it flies the latest version of the F-15, a fighter jet so lethal the U.S. has sold it only to four other nations: Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

Singapore’s defense budget dwarfs that of neighboring Indonesia, which spent $7.9 billion that year, but has 250 million people. Malaysia, which lies on Singapore’s other border, spends even less.

Those two neighbors are precisely the reason Lee Kuan Yew decided to spend so much on arms when the nation was established. But the threats facing Singapore in the future may come from further afield, including from China, experts said.

“China’s ‘threat’ lies in its future ability to dominate the South China Sea, exclude the U.S. from the Southeast Asian strategic equation, and then impose its political will on the rest of the region, Singapore included,” said Bernard Loo, associate professor of strategic studies at Nanyang Technological, in an email to IBTimes. But that is not why Singapore is armed so heavily, he added: Malaysia and Indonesia are the real reason.

When Singapore broke off in 1965 from the Federation of Malaya, Lee wanted the new nation to be able to defend itself from its northern neighbor, which later became Malaysia and with which it had until recently a contentious relationship.

“It had to do with Singapore’s utter dependence on Malaysia for sources of potable water,” Loo said. “Malaysian leaders in the past were not averse to threatening to cut off the water supplies to Singapore, if the latter did anything inimicable to Malaysia’s interests.”

As for Indonesia, it’s one of the world’s largest and most populous countries, and Lee feared its sheer size and aggressive “policy of confrontation” in the 1960s. That policy has long ended, but it “continues to worry Singapore’s leaders,” Loo said.

“If the [Singapore Armed Forces] needed to go to war to protect Singapore, the … cause of war would have been the severance of water supplies,” Loo wrote in a blog post citing Lee’s memoirs.

But Singapore is moving toward self-sufficiency in water, and relations with Malaysia and Indonesia are now warm. “Water, in other words, is no longer the casus belli of the hypothetical war that the SAF might need to fight,” Loo wrote.

The strategic focus of the Singapore Armed Forces is shifting, and the reason is found in simple economics: Singapore is a trade hub whose livelihood depends on shipping, and shipping lanes need to be protected from any disruption. The island state has the world’s second-busiest container port, and about one-quarter of world trade passes through the Straits of Malacca, which it shares with Indonesia.

Singapore now needs to “maintain its economic stature, which is dependent on exports, unimpeded trade and communications routes, and reliable external sources for essential supplies such as water, oil, and foodstuffs," Paul Burton, director for Asia-Pacific at the IHS Aerospace Defence and Security consultancy, told CNBC. "The protection of sea lanes and offshore territory is consequently a concern."

That’s why Singapore maintains an air force capable of projecting power far away from the island. Unique among Southeast Asian nations, it has a fleet of air-to-air tankers bought from the U.S., which can extend the range of Singaporean F-15s and F-16s so they can strike thousands of miles away. To do so, they have precision weapons from the U.S. and Israel, including bombs guided by laser and GPS and anti-ship missiles that can hit targets more than 60 miles (100 km) away.

Singapore policymakers do not mention China when discussing their military posture, nor is the government involved in any of the maritime disputes pitting the biggest Asian power against neighbors like Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. But history shows that Singapore’s tiny size means it cannot wait for any enemy to get close. That lesson came from the island’s capture by Japan during World War II, a traumatic event in Singaporean memory.

"The last thing the Singaporeans want is to fight last-ditch battles on Singaporean soil. A lot of this goes back to the fall of Singapore in 1942,” Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological, told Flight Global magazine.“They never want to have this happen again. They will take the war to the enemy."


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Israel; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: china; eastasiaforum; f15; f16; flightglobalmagazine; gps; ihsaerospace; indonesia; israel; italy; leekuanyew; malaysia; michaelraska; nanyangtechnological; paulburton; philippines; poland; richardbitzinger; singapore; southchinasea; spain; straitsofmalacca; sweden; vietnam
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1 posted on 03/27/2015 8:28:53 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
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To: sukhoi-30mki

The clandestine role Israel played in establishing Singapore’s army

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.648458


2 posted on 03/27/2015 8:29:11 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Why?

Because beating people with canes for spraying graffiti — is going to piss off the population sooner or later.


3 posted on 03/27/2015 8:31:12 PM PDT by BenLurkin (The above is not a statement of fact. It is either satire or opinion. Or both.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

I spent a week in Singapore 12 months ago, and came away impressed with this city-state. Amazingly clean, modern, crime free city, with more jobs than there are citizens.


4 posted on 03/27/2015 8:31:27 PM PDT by entropy12 (Real function of economists is to make astrologers look respectable.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Thank You, for the information.

5 posted on 03/27/2015 8:34:03 PM PDT by skinkinthegrass ("Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid." Hedy Lamarr)
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To: BenLurkin

“Because beating people with canes for spraying graffiti — is going to piss off the population sooner or later.”

Or stop them from acting like low life slime balls


6 posted on 03/27/2015 8:34:30 PM PDT by Fai Mao (Genius at Large)
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To: Fai Mao

You vill not chew chewvink gum — or you vill pay zee consequences!


7 posted on 03/27/2015 8:36:27 PM PDT by BenLurkin (The above is not a statement of fact. It is either satire or opinion. Or both.)
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To: BenLurkin

Every person I met and talked to in Singapore, and I am a very talkative person, is very happy with how the country is run. I struck up conversations in restaurants, my hotel, and on buses.

Of course they are happy...there are 40% more jobs available in Singapore than there are citizens. And every 6th citizen is a millionaire. That is one of the highest concentration of wealth, if not the highest.


8 posted on 03/27/2015 8:36:46 PM PDT by entropy12 (Real function of economists is to make astrologers look respectable.)
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To: BenLurkin
That's where your wrong. In a previous life, I worked with Singaporeans and, briefly, on assignment in Singapore itself. It is a delightful little country which prides itself on order, cleanliness and good ethics.

Vandalize somebody's car or home and you get your backside vandalized by the law. It seems like pretty fair justice to me.

It was very nice to work in a place where taxes are low, you get to keep most of what you earn and it is basically safe to go anywhere at anytime. Every able-bodied Singaporean of military age also serves in the reserve, much like the Swiss.

9 posted on 03/27/2015 8:37:59 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: BenLurkin

IIRC....can one be arrested for spitting?


10 posted on 03/27/2015 8:38:15 PM PDT by RushIsMyTeddyBear (The White House is now known as "Casa Blanca".)
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To: entropy12

“with more jobs than there are citizens.” That is because they hold this to be true: 2 Thess. 3:10: For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. I have a friend who owns a prime pizza restaurant in the the city/state. Their workers are imported from the US.


11 posted on 03/27/2015 8:38:22 PM PDT by Fungi (Evolution: no science, no truth, no nothing. Full of faith, faith in the "god" of chance.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

” For example, it flies the latest version of the F-15, a fighter jet so lethal the U.S. has sold it only to four other nations: Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. “

Wow. Sounds like we need to replace every F-35 with that F-15 version.


12 posted on 03/27/2015 8:39:08 PM PDT by Redcitizen
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To: entropy12

One in seven Singaporeans is a millionaire.


13 posted on 03/27/2015 8:39:10 PM PDT by gaijin
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Comment #14 Removed by Moderator

To: Vigilanteman

Sounds like their system has worked very well so far.


15 posted on 03/27/2015 8:40:06 PM PDT by BenLurkin (The above is not a statement of fact. It is either satire or opinion. Or both.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Singapore also entered into strategic partnership with the USA, hosting Naval assets when the Philippines closed Subic Bay.


16 posted on 03/27/2015 8:40:23 PM PDT by BeauBo
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To: Oztrich Boy

“Geriatric lives matter!”


17 posted on 03/27/2015 8:40:34 PM PDT by BenLurkin (The above is not a statement of fact. It is either satire or opinion. Or both.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Singapore also entered into strategic partnership with the USA, hosting Naval assets when the Philippines closed Subic Bay.


18 posted on 03/27/2015 8:41:05 PM PDT by BeauBo
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Its army has as many tanks as Italy

Singapore is actually smaller than New York City. I wonder where they keep all those tanks.

19 posted on 03/27/2015 8:43:53 PM PDT by Leaning Right (Why am I holding this lantern? I am looking for the next Reagan.)
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To: entropy12

You may have been impressed by the way they keep order, but you weren’t chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit gum at the time, which is illegal there.


20 posted on 03/27/2015 8:44:15 PM PDT by ansel12 (Palin--Mr President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.)
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