National Service for the 21st Century

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The Straits Times | April 26, 2014

By Parag Khanna

"SWITZERLAND doesn't have an army, it is an army."

So described the American writer John McPhee the Swiss military in his famous reportage La Place de la Concorde Suisse.

For over 200 years, conscripted Swiss men have trained to mobilise to defend the whole country in less than 48 hours. In a referendum last year, an overwhelming 73 per cent of Swiss citizens showed continued support for mandatory conscription.

Singaporeans also believe that full-time national service (NS) is essential for defence, identity building, fitness and other reasons. But like all venerable institutions, NS must evolve with the times to remain relevant to the challenges it is designed to address.

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