RSIS Luncheon Seminar by Assoc Prof Alan Chong, Military Studies Programme, IDSS, RSIS
Civil-Military Relations in Singapore: Militarized Civilians Preparing for ‘Crisis’ within a Calibrated Nationalism
Presenter: Assoc Prof Alan Chong
Discussant: Ms Yolanda Chin
The Singaporean polity has created the ‘militarized civilian’. Militarization may in one sense be a matter of inducing civilians to sign up for a uniformed career in the armed services while retaining the prospect of re-entry into civilian careers and lives. In a second sense, militarization is equally about volunteering sacrifices, or becoming disciplined by involuntary forces, for the grand object of a common defence or other communitarian purposes. The Singaporean case hews more to the latter meaning. It poses a challenge to civil-military theorizing by suggesting that the militarized civilian can be an effective soldier habituated to regular ‘crisis’. This is explored through a short history of civil-military ties in Singapore, and two dimensions of ongoing crises: the parameters of a politically dramatized National Service ritual; and the constant propaganda of geopolitical dangers threatening the Republic. Conceptually, the ‘militarized civilian’ illuminates the study of civil-military relations in non-western contexts.
The RSIS Luncheon Seminar series is open only to RSIS staff and PhD candidates.