Singapore's decision to commit military personnel and equipment to the multinational coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a difficult but necessary step towards shoring up the Republic's own security. It is difficult because of the risks to SAF servicemen, which they will have to be trained specifically to guard against. Also, Singapore's move no doubt might attract the wrath of the murderous terrorist group.
However, the decision to deploy military assets is a necessary one because inaction would make the country even more vulnerable to the terrorist scourge. In the final analysis, Singapore's security is tied inextricably to that of an international community threatened by the millenarian group's violent, expansionist and non-negotiable agenda. Not only is ISIS determined to set up a global caliphate, but it also has made serious advances on the ground. According to a report this month by the Soufan Group, a security consultancy, the nucleus of the caliphate extends from the north of Aleppo to the south of Baghdad and includes the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. About six million people on either side of the Syria-Iraq border live under ISIS, whose mediaeval governance is marked by cruelty that even other terrorists abhor.
These are not insignificant stretches of fallen territory and captive populations. ISIS' capacity to draw in fighters from, and spread back into, distant regions, including South-east Asia, is underlined by the composition of the international coalition confronting it. The campaign brings together countries with differing political and strategic interests, but it is united by the need to meet a clear and present danger posed by a well-armed and motivated group of religious zealots seeking to impose their extremist writ on both Muslims and non-Muslims. Unmoved by international law, force is the only reality that they preach and the only deterrence that they understand. Force therefore has to be used to disperse ISIS and destroy its capacity to create international mayhem.
Unsentimental globalists by necessity, Singaporeans will recognise the nature of the ISIS threat. Fighting it is not a question of a small state getting involved in others' distant wars, but of stopping approaching aggression far from one's shores. The decision to despatch liaison and planning officers, a tanker aircraft and an imagery analysis team represents a calibrated contribution to the anti-ISIS campaign, in keeping with Singapore's limited but specialised capabilities. This effort deserves the support of citizens. Muslim Singaporeans, in particular, would appreciate the need to combat a wayward group whose goals and strategy could create a civilisational gulf between religions.