This is a formal announcement for what should already be apparent – this blog has been discontinued. Thanks for paying us a visit, though! Old posts will still be available, though we will not be tracking any comments left.

For more information on the RSIS Military Studies Programme, please visit our website.

Assoc. Prof. Bernard Loo’s personal blog on strategic affairs and regional security concerns can be found here.



Dear readers,

I logged in to this blog, after an absence of 2 years, because there have been a number of comments pending approval over the last few months, and I felt I needed to be fair to those readers who bothered to write in their comments and provide us their insights. For the tardiness, I do apologise.

However, I no longer write for this blog, and my colleagues, with whom I had started this blog, have also since left it inactive.

As such, I would like our readers to know that this blog is to all intents and purposes deactivated. I now write in my own personal blog: bernardloo64.wordpress.com.

I hope to hear from you!

For those of us interested in the role of women in the military services, this article from the BBC is a must-read!

For too long now, the issue of women in the military services has been clouded in misconception, misinformation and misogyny. Women can, and do, contribute a valuable service to the defence of their nations. It is about bloody time this was recognised and celebrated.

Will countries be increasingly buying Chinese? A New York Times article (available here) reports that China’s defence industries are starting to market their products much more aggressively than in the past. The report notes that while China’s defence exports in the past have focused on fairly low-end equipment – small arms, in particular – increasingly, Chinese defence industries have been hawking their drones, combat aircraft and other more high-end weapons systems and platforms.

A critical breakthrough was the announcement that Turkey was buying a Chinese missile system to be integrated into its existing air combat platforms. Given that this decision presents serious technological challenges to the Turkish military – there will be technical challenges integrating the Chinese missile system into their existing platforms – the Turkish decision was, to put it mildly, something of a surprise. One report likens this decision as introducing a virus into an existing system.

How can we make sense of this Turkish decision? Zachary Keck suggests that it might represent a geopolitical move by Turkey, to distance itself from NATO to facilitate a move towards a more independent foreign policy.

For countries in China’s immediate vicinity, the question increasingly may be this: how much longer can we avoid buying Chinese???

Another guest submission, this time courtesy of Sophie Barber. It reflects an area of work that RSIS is particularly strong on, and something that military organisations in the Asian region have actually been spending quite a bit of time working on. Which maybe suggests that at least in Asia, these issues are not very “non-traditional”. I mean, every time the Yangtze River burst its banks in the past, PLA soldiers got to employ a particular skill-set – filling sandbags! On a more serious note, there is an argument that the Royal Thai Navy acquired the helicopter carrier from Spain in the 1990s essentially for disaster relief work. The armed forces of Southeast Asia regularly engage in disaster relief operations. The Singapore Armed Forces actually was instrumental in helping public health authorities get to grips on the SARS crisis when it emerged. The list goes on and on …

Our blog seems to be attracting an increasing number of guest submissions. Here is a submission courtesy of reader and guest writer, Denise Martin on the issue of the management of veteran soldiers. I remember reading some oral histories of soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War, and how difficult it was for some of them to readjust to life “back in the world” as Vietnam veterans apparently used to say. I suspect veteran care these days is probably a whole lot better. Nevertheless, how we value our veterans reflects the moral character of our respective societies.

A really insightful commentary from colleague, Ho Shu Huang (available here). Shu makes the point that national defence is a mission that goes beyond the narrow confines of the military organisation, but one that incorporates other aspects of national life.

This was a fascinating piece (available here) I found on the BBC, about how even al Qaeda is lowering the bar as far as new recruits is concerned.

For some time now, the US military has been experiencing problems in maintaining recruitment levels – both in terms of the absolute numbers of people joining the military as well as the relative quality of these people). This has been an on-going and fairly long-standing problem (see, for instance this report; or this report). A more detailed study of the problems in US military recruitment patterns is available here. The executive summary of a RAND report on this is also available here.

This problem is not unique to the US mlitary. A report (available here) suggests that the problems that the US military has been facing are replicated in the case of the Chinese military as well. A Canadian report expressed concerns about the declining quality of new recruits into the Canadian military.

So now even terrorist groups are starting to find similar problems in finding enough of good-quality recruits. Is this something of a global trend> Certainly worth further examination.

Our thanks to reader Roslyn Wilson for this infographic, the original of which can be accessed here.

A commentary by Conrad Crane, appearing in the latest issue of Parameters (and available here). The first line of the commentary, which is the title of this entry, says it all.

As Crane notes, “Decisionmakers must be careful to maintain enough military power to handle all contingencies, even those involving major ground forces.” These actors, he argues, have to resist the apparent allure of “easy results” by utilising “standoff technology [that] might again lead to an unintended complex conflict in an unexpected place.” Otherwise, the end result will be the loss of “blood and treasure, and perhaps even strategic failure. Those are the costs of an unbalanced force structure and a lack of the full range of military capabilities.”

Wise words!