Thursday, April 18, 2019

Deterrence is Force multiplied by the Ability to use it

When you look at emergency vehicles in Singapore from the civil defence and police, you are likely to find studs around the windshields and windows of frontline vehicles. These studs serve as attachment points for wire mesh screens that protect the glassware of Home Team vehicles during operations.

Many of the emergency vehicles that responded to Singapore's Little India riot on 8 December 2013 had these studs but went into action without the protective mesh (which was stored back at base). Twenty-five vehicles had their windshields smashed and windows shattered. Some vehicles were overturned. Five were set ablaze. It was a shambles.

The Singapore Police Force has prepared and practised drawer plans for internal security situations, including riot-type scenarios of a far larger scale than the one that erupted at Little India. TTX, FTX, they've done it all. But the forces trained, organised and equipped with the tactics, techniques and procedures to quell civil disturbances were held in check by authorities.
[19 April 2019 09:50H Edit: Paragraph 169, page 55 of the COI report reads:"The SPF officers’ decision to await the arrival of the SOC before taking action was based on the assumption that the SOC would arrive imminently. The officers did not realise that, due to a delay in deployment and traffic congestion, the first SOC forces would take a total of about 50 minutes to arrive from the time the request for activation was made. Had the SOC arrived earlier, the rioters would not have had as much time to cause mayhem." Click here for full report.]

The chilling police announcement, Disperse Or We Fire, seen so often at internal security exercises, was not broadcast on that fateful night.

After the rioters spent their fury, they found themselves surrounded by police in the small enclave with nowhere to run. Some 40 trouble makers were eventually arrested and the perpetrators faced justice. No lives were lost.

So the Home Team had the equipment (wire mesh protection) but no chance to install such protection before actual ops.

The police had the drawer plans to smash riots swiftly and decisively but held its forces in check for various operational reasons.

Telescope this analogy to the armed forces (generic reference and not specific to the Singapore Armed Forces) and you will find many instances where soldiers, sailors and airmen were caught unprepared by sudden and unexpected crisis.

Tragic are the situations where fighting units have the equipment and training but lacked the tools to do the job when they are needed most because it was locked in the armoury or because the unit was caught in march order with its guns limbered.

British infantry at Isandlwana during the Zulu War outgunned the human waves of Zulu infantry. The red coats would have shot the Zulu attacks to pieces on open ground were it not for the lack of access to rifle ammunition that was locked in packing cases on supply wagons.

Several tactical engagements fought during the 70-day Malayan campaign during WW2 saw British and Imperial units destroyed by surprise attacks by Japanese forces who moved with unexpected speed to catch the units while their vehicles were nose to tail in tight convoys.

Equally tragic are cases where the fighting forces are ready and willing to carry out their duty but are held in check by political indecisiveness or non-military considerations.

The fighting forces may be good to go and excel at what they do.

But when the time comes to press the button, would the political masters have the guts to do so?

As a visiting Israeli general once said: Deterrence is Force multiplied by the Ability to use it.


LS said...

I agree. What is the point of investing so much on expensive military hardware when you do not have guts to deploy them. The military personnel will be wondering what am I training for.

Asuna (*^◯^*) said...

Thanks vy much for another interesting article. My own recall of events suggests not quite an accurate reflection from this statement: “The police had the drawer plans to smash riots swiftly and decisively but held its forces in check for various operational reasons.“

If i remember the sequence of events, Police was not expecting the riot (intel) and did not have adequate manpower and working comms for concentration of forces to assert its presence in the immediate period. While SOC was trained (and subsequently recovered the situation upon deployment) it was delayed (rather than held back) by traffic congestion. I need to check the detailed sequence of events to be sure, but this is from memory.

But i get the thrust of yr argument here.

David Boey said...

Have edited and added a link to the COI report.
Yes, the point is "have but did not or cannot use".

Happy long weekend everyone,


Observer said...

Appropriate force must be applied when used against civilians. If force is exerted too strongly and resulted in fatalities, then it can become a diplomatic incident. Proportionate force should be used to defend and protect. Any decision on the use of force must be beyond reproach. I am all for use of deadly force if Singaporean lives are threatened.

Crimson Crusader said...

If you ask me, I think that if the Singapore police force had used AH-6 Little Birds configured to fire rubber bullets and tear gas for riot control back in 2013, the Little India riots would have been a lot easier for our boys in blue to deal with sooner.

Here's an opinion article from TodayOnline that makes a case for helicopter assets for the Singapore Police Force:

As it is, I believe that the Singapore police force would also benefit from having some hand-me-down equipment from the Singapore Armed Forces like the soon-to-be-retired M113 APCs for serious riot control.