SINGAPORE: Singapore’s deterrence and defence capabilities are “second to none” in the region. But countries with inferior military might could weaken Singapore by exploiting issues that cause tensions among groups, said Assistant Professor Michael Raska from Nanyang Technological University on Wednesday (Mar 14).
Speaking at the first public hearing of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, Dr Raska, who is from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, added that cyber-enabled information conflicts essentially challenge concepts of deterrence.
The changing character of conflict invites “asymmetrical types of strategies” that may offset anyone’s military inferiority and achieve similar political outcomes, he said.
Dr Raska was responding to a question from committee member and Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, on the first day of the committee’s public hearings in Parliament.
“If you want to weaken Singapore, but you don’t think you can do it through military means in the first place, the logical conclusion is that you must first engage in information warfare?” Mr Shanmugam had asked.
Dr Raska said that was correct.
“I think there’s a sense in Singapore of a type of invulnerability towards these kind of threats because Singapore is so small, it can block any sort of external foreign media interference, and it can basically identify this kind of attack,” he said.
“But I believe this is not necessarily correct, because that type of crisis is not necessarily from within Singapore.”
“SUBTLE INFORMATION” CAMPAIGN TO IDENTIFY FRACTION POINTS
Countries could use a “subtle information” type of gradual campaign that would identify society’s fraction points and political fraction points that create tensions, he said.
“These points are any issues that either put specific groups together or put specific groups apart. And so once you have done that, then you can essentially from outside tailor specific communication towards Singapore,” he added.
“If Singapore is hit by cyber or information type of attack, in conjunction with a terrorist attack, how does Singapore deter them in the first place, and how does Singapore respond militarily? Particularly if these attacks can happen far away, from places where conventional reach is not viable,” he asked.
In his written representation to the committee, Dr Raska added that under the changing nature of conflict, Singapore and the Singapore Armed Forces will likely have to “redefine its objectives necessary” to achieve “victory".
"The use of social media campaigns in conflicts is becoming as important as winning the military campaign," he said.