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Full Access Confessions of a Small State: Singapore’s Evolving Approach to Peace Operations

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Confessions of a Small State: Singapore’s Evolving Approach to Peace Operations

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Being a small state, an interest in upholding international rule of law has long shaped Singapore’s contributions to international peacekeeping. While this remains the overarching rationale, Singapore’s approach is undergoing subtle yet significant changes, from its mission profiles, widening perceptions of security interests, capabilities contributed, to deepening cooperation with foreign partners. This paper analyses these policy developments within a broader historical and theoretical context, drawing on recent literature about small states and peacekeeping. The first section examines how Singapore’s self-conscious sense of being a small state underpins its participation in peace missions and the constraints it faces. From its initial milieu goals of supporting international law, the tiny city-state has branched out to join US-led stability operations that are presented as serving its direct security interests in a globalised world. The second section analyses how Singapore compensates for its resource limitations by developing comprehensive training packages with other nations. In the field, Singaporean forces are also increasingly embedded with more experienced countries and contribute higher-end niche capabilities. The final section presents some challenges, including doctrinal questions, recent attempts at institutional streamlining, and structural reform of Singapore’s armed forces that remain essentially trained for territorial defence.

Affiliations: 1: Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

10.1163/187541111X613623
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Being a small state, an interest in upholding international rule of law has long shaped Singapore’s contributions to international peacekeeping. While this remains the overarching rationale, Singapore’s approach is undergoing subtle yet significant changes, from its mission profiles, widening perceptions of security interests, capabilities contributed, to deepening cooperation with foreign partners. This paper analyses these policy developments within a broader historical and theoretical context, drawing on recent literature about small states and peacekeeping. The first section examines how Singapore’s self-conscious sense of being a small state underpins its participation in peace missions and the constraints it faces. From its initial milieu goals of supporting international law, the tiny city-state has branched out to join US-led stability operations that are presented as serving its direct security interests in a globalised world. The second section analyses how Singapore compensates for its resource limitations by developing comprehensive training packages with other nations. In the field, Singaporean forces are also increasingly embedded with more experienced countries and contribute higher-end niche capabilities. The final section presents some challenges, including doctrinal questions, recent attempts at institutional streamlining, and structural reform of Singapore’s armed forces that remain essentially trained for territorial defence.

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2012-01-01
2016-12-08

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