The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Militancy in Southeast Asia and Beyond: Why Total Defence Remains Relevant in the Age of COVID-19
This presentation will outline the evolving threat of transnational terrorism to South-east Asia and Singapore. Drawing upon recent examples of both violent Islamist and white supremacist attacks, the presentation will highlight how the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted on both types of threats. More fundamentally, light will be shed on the ideological basis of these threats, showing how they exploit religion and identity politics for political purposes. Beyond governmental and security force action, ordinary Singaporeans also have a role to play in keeping the nation safe. In other words, it is only through a Total Defence approach that Singapore can remain secure in the face of the rapidly evolving threat of terrorism and militancy.
Kumar Ramakrishna is a tenured Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Policy Studies, as well as Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). He was previously the Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at RSIS from 2006-2015, and Head of the National Security Studies Programme (NSSP) from 2016-2020. He remains as Research Adviser to NSSP.
A historian by background, Assoc. Prof. Ramakrishna has been a frequent speaker on counter-terrorism before local and international audiences, a regular media commentator on counter-terrorism, and an established author in numerous internationally refereed journals. His first book, Emergency Propaganda: The Winning of Malayan Hearts and Minds 1948-1958 (2002) was described by the International History Review as “required reading for historians of Malaya, and for those whose task is to counter insurgents, guerrillas, and terrorists”. His second major book, Radical Pathways: Understanding Muslim Radicalisation in Indonesia (2009) was featured as one of the top 150 books on terrorism and counter-terrorism in the respected journal Perspectives on Terrorism, which also identified Assoc. Prof, Ramakrishna as “one of South-east Asia’s leading counter-terrorism experts”. His recent research has focused on understanding, preventing, and countering violent extremism in South-east Asia.
Information Operations and Cybersecurity
Cyberspace is a multi-dimensional domain where many conflicts today incubate, mutate, and spread to the physical world. In this domain, threat actors leverage information operations and cyber-attacks not only as precursors to acts of violence, but increasingly as means of conducting conflict and foreign interference. Cyberspace threats aim to manipulate the target nation by weakening its national institutions and people. International relations expert Arnold Wolfers was prescient when he argued in 1960 that “national security objectively means the absence of threats to acquired values and subjectively, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked”. As a Smart Nation, Singapore must keep its cyber defences strong, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates digitalisation and affects the geopolitical landscape. This presentation offers an appreciation of the cyberspace threats that Singapore would face in a post-COVID-19 world.
Muhammad Faizal is a Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security at RSIS. He works at the Cyber and Homeland Defence Programme which examines the impact of global trends and technology on national security, including information warfare and influence operations. Prior to joining RSIS, Faizal served with the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore Police Force, and in the National Security Research Centre at the National Security Coordination Secretariat. He is also a regular go-to person on issues of extremism, terrorism, and homeland security for international media outlets such as MediaCorp. He tweets at @jollyman3.
The Rise of Hybrid Warfare in the Asia-Pacific
This presentation examines the manifestation of hybrid warfare and grey-zone conflict in the Asia-Pacific region. This presentation sets the concepts of hybrid warfare and grey-zone conflict within a discussion of why and how a multi-dimensional approach to strategy can be an attractive strategic option for state and non-state actors in the region. Finally, the challenges for Singapore in dealing with hybrid warfare in a post-COVID-19 world are addressed.
Ong Wei Chong is an Assistant Professor with the Military Studies Programme at RSIS. In addition, he was an Affiliated Researcher with the Department of Leadership and Management, Swedish National Defence College and a Guest Professor at the Ecole Navale, France. Wei Chong completed his doctoral studies with the Centre for the Study of War, State and Society, University of Exeter, UK in 2010, where he was a recipient of research grants from the University of Exeter and the Royal Historical Society. His other grants include a three-year Ministry of Education Academic Research Grant Tier 1 grant (2017-2020) for a research project on Cold War insurgency. He is also an alumnus of the Phillip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies Basin Harbor Workshop organised in 2013 by John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
Wei Chong have published with the journal (Pointer) and magazine (Pioneer) of the Singapore Armed Forces; RUSI Journal; Armed Forces and Society; Small Wars & Insurgencies; Defence Studies; The Pacific Review; Asia Policy; The National Interest; The Diplomat; Australian Defence Force Journal; The Straits Times; TODAY; Lianhe Zaobao; Defense News; Canadian Naval Review; and Diplomatie.
Eddie Lim is the Head of RSIS’ Military Studies Programme (MSP), which is the primary source of professional military education (PME) and training for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in the military arts and sciences. He ensures the relevant and timely provision of master’s-level courses at the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College in the area of geopolitics and strategic studies, as well as a variety of other PME courses for the SAF Warrant Officers’ School, the Officer Cadet School, and the SAF Advanced Schools. Prior to this appointment, he was the Head of Strategic Research at the Centre for Operational Learning situated at SAFTI Military Institute (SAFTI MI). In this capacity, Eddie oversaw relevant research at the strategic and operational levels, and contextualised it for educational purposes for the SAF.
Prior to his role at the COL, Eddie was a Senior Lecturer at the Military Studies Branch, lecturing the courses which the MSP undertakes today. After serving his Public Service Commission bond, Eddie obtained a master’s degree in strategic studies from the then-Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies. Eddie is still serving as a lieutenant-colonel in the SAF as an Operationally-Ready NSman, having attended most of the courses at SAFTI MI, culminating in the National Service Command and Staff Course. He is the co-author for ASEAN 50: Regional Security Cooperation Through Selected Documents and is on the editorial board of POINTER, the official journal of the SAF.