Archive for the ‘The Military Organisation’ Category

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.


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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.

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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.

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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!

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A commentary by colleague Paul Mitchell of the Canadian Forces College, published by The Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies, (and available here) for your reading pleasure. While Paul’s focus is on Canadian strategic requirements, don’t let that fool you into thinking it is irrelevant to other countries. The strategic dilemmas that Paul identifies apply pretty much to any country thinking of acquiring the F-35.

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A colleague, Fitriani, from RSIS’s Indonesia Programme, penned this commentary, which was picked up by Today (available here). A worthy subject, indeed, and a well-written and argued piece!

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We expect that the armed forces of a state is a rational instrument of national policy. That is after all a key take-away from Clausewitz’s teachings on strategy and war. But what does it mean: the military instrument as rational?

A friend, TX Hammes (of The Sling and Stone fame) has contributed an interesting piece to Warontherocks.com, which can be accessed here. In this piece looking at the United States’ national military strategy, Hammes argues, “Strategists are keenly aware of the necessity to match ends, ways, and means in times of war. Unfortunately, in peacetime, strategy is often subordinated to the politics of defense dollars going to Congressional districts or the inertia of programs of record. Yet it is equally important to consider strategy in peacetime – particularly since it should drive force structure and procurement decisions.” He further notes that “the key is to build a flexible force with capabilities across a wide range of possible conflicts within the limited means provided.”

In concluding, Hammes argues, “Strategy is not just about aligning ends, ways, and means in wartime. Just as critical, and perhaps even more difficult, is aligning ends, ways, and means in peacetime (emphasis mine). The strategist must ensure that the military structure the population is willing to pay for (emphasis mine) is well aligned with the likely contingencies while remaining flexible enough to deal with the inevitable surprises. In times of austerity, such strategies must start with limited means and devise different ways to achieve the strategic goals.”

The Singapore Armed Forces has enjoyed relative largesse throughout its history, relative, that is, to the entire national budget of Singapore in any given year. I am not about to suggest that this defence budget, as a percentage of the national budget, ought to change. Nevertheless, changing the share that defence maintains of the national budget ought to be something that the electorate of Singapore ought to be thinking about in a serious and considered manner.

It goes beyond the citizens’ gripes about conscription/National Service, although the institution of National Service ought to be considered. What it really goes to is the theory of war and victory that Singapore’s policy makers hold, which ought to shape and structure the character and make-up of the SAF. Is the SAF a rational instrument of Singapore’s national policy? I am prepared to accept that it CAN BE, but ONLY IF IT FITS THE NATIONAL THEORY OF WAR AND VICTORY. Which means, by the way, that if the SAF does not fit this national theory of war and victory, Singapore’s policy makers ought to seriously consider the possibility of realigning the SAF to return it to its rational moorings.

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