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Southeast Asian Affairs 2005 Singapore's Approach to Homeland Security Andrew T H Tan The Threat of Terrorism to Singapore Following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on 1 1 September 2001, Southeast Asia, especially the Malay archipelago, has come into focus as the socalled "second front" in the war against international terrorism. Subsequent events brought home the fact that the events of 11 September 2001 had great resonance within the region. The existence of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated network in the region was highlighted by the arrests in Singapore since January 2002 of 37 members of the regional extremist network, the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The radical Islamist group planned to attack American military personnel at a local subway station, U.S. naval vessels at Singapore's Changi Naval Base, U.S. commercial interests, Western and Israeli embassies, and Singaporean military facilities. Had the planned attacks succeeded, they would collectively have constituted the largest terrorist attack since 11 September 2001. They would have caused many casualties as well as made an immense political, psychological and economic impact on Singapore that would have reverberated throughout the region and internationally. Because Singapore is closely identified with the United States on political, security and economic issues, hosts a naval logistics facility that has supported U.S. naval and military operations in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, and is home to many U.S. multinationals operating in the region, Singapore is aprime target ofradical Islamists. As a consequence, Singapore's response to the war on international terrorism has been the most vigorous of the Southeast Asian states. Like the United States, it has taken homeland security very seriously, and has instituted as a top national priority, the implementation of a new homeland security architecture that would better protect Singapore against terrorism. In August 2004, the government formally Andrew T H Tan is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. 350Andrew T H Tan outlined Singapore's National Security Strategy primarily aimed at countering the terrorist threat. Total Defence Despite the highly publicized post-1 1 September 2001 homeland security responses, however, Singapore's policy on homeland defence predated those seminal events. Accompanying the rapid development of the Singapore Armed Forces since independence in 1965 has been an abiding concern over some serious vulnerabilities emanating from its geography. The small island-state lacks strategic depth with its defences and other strategic targets vulnerable to an external attack, making it necessary to be able to detect and pre-empt any such attack, and also to invest heavily in multiple redundancies and the hardening of critical facilities. The heavily built-up, urbanized and densely populated island is also vulnerable to air and artillery bombardment which would cause devastating casualties unless it also invests heavily in a strong civil defence capability. Finally, the heavy dependence on maritime trade means that it can be blockaded by mines or other means of interdicting its seaborne trade, unless it has a strong maritime defence capability. The circumstances of its independence, namely, expulsion from the Malaysian Federation amidst political and racial tensions; the historical experience of Confrontation with a nationalistic Indonesia under Sukarno; and its uncomfortable strategic location in the middle of the Malay archipelago, have also contributed to a strong sense of insecurity. Acute awareness of its small size, limited resources and geopolitical circumstances has resulted in Singapore developing what amounts to outsiders as a siege mentality. Singapore has adopted an "all citizens to the ramparts" approach, embodied in its doctrine of Total Defence, which not only maximizes the resources for defence but also emphasizes the importance of military deterrence, economic strength, and internal cohesion and stability as the foundations of its security. Through Total Defence, every sector of society is mobilized and has a part to play in ensuring Singapore's security. Under this concept, citizens are organized to defend the country against all forms of attack, both military and non-military. Total Defence consists of Economic Defence, Psychological Defence, Social Defence, Civil Defence and Military Defence. Under Economic Defence, there is close coordination amongst the various government departments providing essential services to ensure that the economy is organized...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1793-9135
Print ISSN
0377-5437
Pages
pp. 349-362
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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