Saturday, August 22, 2009

Doctrine of equal misery

My experience with the Service was not a particularly pleasant one. It was arguably the lowest two-year point of my life. In the capacity I served, I had no identity, no autonomy, no society, and I saw myself as mere cannon-fodder and slave to all. My proudest accomplishment was being singled out to exhibit my latrine-cleaning prowess, though my admiring audience left behind a stampede of bootmarks all over my spotless floor while they inspected every pristine surface and nodded their approval.

But it was my Service to my nation, and if it saw fit to deploy me in such a manner, then that was my duty. So I protected what was mine and thus earned my Citizenship with a monkey-wrench in one hand and a toilet-brush in the other. The Service was a humbling experience for me, and I probably still bear some psychological scarring from those days, but unlike my fellow citizens writing in today's Forum pages I see no reason for our new citizens to share that experience with me.

It's with a misplaced sense of fairness and justice that today's letter writers are proposing some kind of equivalent Service for our new citizens. But insisting on equal misery is neither constructive nor effective for the purposes of national security. Military service isn't primarily for the purpose of making people unhappy (although that might be a consequence) but it is for the purpose of keeping our nation safe from the threat of external armed aggression.

Unless we're already under attack, a rational defence force isn't likely to stick a gun into the hands of just any turnip that fell off the turnip truck and give it instructions to guard the nation with its life. From a security standpoint, it isn't wise either to give a newbie citizen access to our sensitive sites and facilities, or give him much opportunity to rise in the ranks such that the top brass could possibly comprise of his fellow first gen newbies. Yet, if we don't give them these opportunities but still conscript them into our military, there'll be cries of discrimination, making everybody defensive and nervous around everyone else. Best wait a generation or two, when they've sunk in their roots deep, then they'll actually consider what's ours theirs too, and therefore worth defending.

Besides, the military isn't the only line of defence we have. Our defensive doctrine relies on five pillars working together: military, civil, economic, social and psychological defence, so in reality everyone contributes to our overall national defensive strategy. I'd rather let every citizen serve where they can contribute best. For the newbies, that's in the pillars of economic, social and psychological defence, maybe civil too. But to serve in the military we'd have to build some trust over a couple of generations before we let them wear the green No. 4.

And to the letter writers, you may yourselves have worn the green as your Service via military defence. But going public with your stinky attitudes is actually undermining at least two key but undervalued pillars: social and psychological defence by your petty, unfriendly, jealous, shortsighted, us vs them mentality. Sure, you've served the military, but your Service counts for nothing if you do a Disservice to our overall defence strategy.

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