Do We Need An Army?

I had dinner with a friend from Swaziland. He heard that our boy was in the military and he asked, Does Singapore need an army?

My first reaction was Yes! But later on, it became a nagging question that lingered in my head all night.

Do we really need an army? In Swaziland, the army is practically non-existent. A country that small has no real fight against any of the big African boys surrounding it.

Isn’t it even more so in Singapore? How many bombs would it take to blast us out? One? Two?

If an army isn’t formed to fight, then why are all our sons forced to go through two years of their lives in rigorous physical training, or worse, spend two years doing menial tasks?

It’s undeniable that our boy grew up very quickly as soon as he was enlisted. That uniform is like magic. Once worn, it draws out the good side of our boy. Suddenly he seems older and more responsible. Like he can do anything for himself now.

Our boy showing his father how he folds his uniform.

It’s a good thing.. but isn’t two years too long a period of service? Sure we like the transition the military is providing for our sons to become men. But if we are not building an army to fight, do we really need to train our boys that hard and take so much of their time to make them soldiers that may never get to fight?

I’ve always been pro-National Service. I know our country needs a national defence system. But lately, with the injuries and vocational changes our boy has had to go through, I can’t help but have a different feeling about it now.

National Service is a compulsory military service by all Singaporean males. Enrolment begins from age 18. It is compulsory and all have to serve as full time National Service Men for a duration of approximately 2 years. To know more about it, go to Wikipedia’s Conscription In Singapore.




  1. Hi Bing,

    1. Litmus test: Would you leave your doors unlocked if you know your neighbours well (assuming you know your neighbourhood well)?

    2. Quote: “But if we are not building an army to fight, do we really need to train our boys that hard and take so much of their time to make them soldiers that may never get to fight?”

    => Isn’t that the point : )

    • I know the big picture. I’m just being the emotional over-protective mommy who has a boy in the system and it’s not working out well now, so it feels like he’s wasting two years of his life there.

      The question is does it have to be 24 months long? We have one of the longest NS term compared to other countries.

  2. Hi Bing,
    unsure if you have read about the recent online saga whereby Ms Beguia, a Foreign Talent (FT), described Singaporeans as ‘moronic’ whose ‘patriotism’ and ‘loyalty’ will all dropped “at the first sign of trouble.” She added that almost all Singaporean NSmen will “declare they will pack up and run” when asked to fight a war.
    Yes, we do! Army is not only form to fight for war, and i suppose you have witness how much ur young man has grown!

  3. My personal opinion: NS is government’s way to allow boys to become men. Singapore boys are mostly pampered. Taking 2 years of their time away to let them have a taste of hardship so they will work hard in future when they are out in the working world. It also a way to teach them leadership skills and team work. I don’t think they are in NS to fight a war.

    My bro was sent to the hospital on the 2nd day of his NS life. I can almost understand how u feel!

  4. Winston Churchill the great British wartime PM of Britain said: “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”.

  5. Hi Bing,
    My son also went into the army this year and I understand your feelings. I am also worried about him with all the recent incidents My advice to him was to go into the army with the right attitude and to treat each day as a learning experience and to do his best. In hokkien is Ai Kiang but Mai Kay Kiang. With life expectancy now longer I think this 21 to 24 months is well spend as I see a boy turning into a man.
    I also believe in training to fight so as not to fight.

  6. The more interesting question is can we professionalise our defence forces, i.e. move away from a forced conscription model for staffing our army and slowly transit into a fully-professional army made up of mostly regulars or career soldiers?

    If we talk about budget, it’s interesting to note that our annual budget is equivalent to that of a few of our ASEAN neighbours COMBINED and who has a longer coastlines, land mass and airspace to defend?

    Our ASEAN neighbours generally have professional armies and armed forces fighting insurgencies and protecting borders with a much less defence budget than Mindef’s $15 billion annual expenditure.

    The Navy and AirForce are mostly staffed by professional naval personnel and pilots + support staff. Why is the army still so reliant on conscripting people into NS?

    So many NSF are medically downgraded or unfit that it makes a mockery of those of us who were (are) fit for combat roles as conscripts.

    Majulah Singapura

  7. An army is needed for almost all sovereign states.
    But, conscription is NOT THE WAY to have a fighting
    With hi-tech and modern warfare, a small efficient
    professional army is much preferred over a big army
    of unwilling soldiers.

  8. Why does any country need an army. The United States has a defence department. It is really a war department. It does not defend anything. We have been in almost every war since world war II. Maybe we should get rid of the army and see what happens.

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