Military action not our only 'big stick'

Republic of Singapore Navy littoral mission vessel RSS Justice (at right) and the Malaysian Marine Department vessel MV Pedoman (foreground), which was anchored within Singapore port limits.
Republic of Singapore Navy littoral mission vessel RSS Justice (at right) and the Malaysian Marine Department vessel MV Pedoman (foreground), which was anchored within Singapore port limits.PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

In the current sea and air territorial spat with our neighbour, Mr Cheng Shoong Tat recommended tit-for-tat action (Time S'pore responded like-for-like to Malaysia; Jan 15).

Every true Singaporean will be tempted to fan the flames of retaliation and raise the drum beats of conflict, and I am sure many will be on his side.

However, the Government advocates all to keep calm, stay united and resilient.

In other words, do not aggravate the situation. Our MPs are also very anxious about how to advise their constituents.

Should we limit ourselves to reacting in only these two ways?

Theodore Roosevelt was a wise and popular US president, and oft-quoted for his foreign policy methods.

He had one called "big stick diplomacy".

His policy was to "speak softly and carry a big stick". He used carefully-crafted negotiations with the unspoken threat of American military might.

Singapore's "big stick" need not be military.

It could be economic, social or related to other matters of national development expertise, not forgetting our strong defence cohesiveness, our mighty reserves and honest upright standing in the world.

Furthermore, as long as our cause in the dispute can stand up favourably in international mediation, we have nothing to fear.

Wong Bheet Huan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'Military action not our only 'big stick''. Print Edition | Subscribe