Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Israel and Singapore: Best Small Armies Surrounded by Muslims
In the late 90s through 2002 I made a dozen trips to Asia with Singapore as the destination or one of the stops on the way from Europe to Australia or Hong Kong. I always brought my bicycle. I rode at odd hours of the day or night. Singapore is the farthest point in the world in the Northern Hemisphere from the the Northeastern U.S. so I was always dealing with jet lag.
Singapore is so well lit everywhere on the main island that I seldom bothered with bike lights. I would ride out to the airport before dawn or in the evening. Sometimes I would see a sight like the one above: a Royal Singapore Air Force jet fighter screaming into the air on full afterburners. At the time I was visiting, their main fighter was the F-5, now it is F-15s and F-16s.
Singapore has one of the best equipped, best trained militaries in the world. It boasts the largest air force in Southeast Asia with more than 100 fixed wing fighters, plus helicopters including Apache Longbow attack helicopters and transport aircraft. The Singapore navy has new submarines and destroyers. This small, rich nation spends 20% of its annual budget on the military. The $12 billion annual expenditure is about the same as neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia combined, though they have nearly 300 million people.
Singapore shares a lot in common with Israel:
Singapore has a population of six million and a land area about 2/3rds of New York City.
Israel has a population of 8 million and the area of New Jersey.
Both countries have the same motivation for their armies: they surrounded by nearly 300 million Muslims.
This summer I will be visiting Israel for the first time. I might see fighters scramble there if I am riding a bicycle at dawn or dusk.
These two small countries are young, surrounded and have the two best armies for their size in the world.