Sunday, December 21, 2014
New acronym for Islamic State may soon take root in Singapore
A new acronym, Daesh, looks poised to soon become part of defence conversations in Singapore.
It's an Anglicised shorthand for an Arabic phrase that stands for the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria", better known as ISIS, ISIL or simply IS.
The acronym has been embraced by Western nations now ranged against the Daesh, as well as Arab nations whose cultural sensitivities have made them attuned to how the IS public relations machinery loathes that term because it sounds like an Arabic word for stomping out something underfoot.
For those not already acquainted with Daesh, the term represents an armed entity whose structure and ethos must be understood yet not feared, tracked but not antagonised because drawer plans for defeating this entity will prove elusive. This is especially so because our notion of deterrence and how Daesh sees deterrence from its worldview are divergent. What we think would deter under a rational actor model of strategy may not apply in the case of Daesh strategists because their militants are undeterred by a "swift and decisive response" and may, indeed, seek it in their quest to become Shahids.
In time to come, it is likely that Daesh will be used interchangeably with "IS" by the defence leadership in Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Once the ball starts rolling, the mainstream media too will adopt the term in its reports of MINDEF/SAF affairs and so the term will take root in the local defence eco-system.
Or so we think.
As we do so, we must recognise that injecting a new term will prove difficult, especially when numerous local media reports have already referred to Daesh as IS. It will be difficult to undo mindsets now that the Islamic State has developed what marketing gurus call brand equity. What's more, the term Islamic State rolls off the tongue more effortlessly and far more evocatively than Daesh - which could prove a tongue twister especially for folks confused as to whether the "e" should remain silent or not.
Remember that two decades after MINDEF/SAF tried to junk the term "reservist" with the clunky moniker, Operationally-Ready National Serviceman (NSman), the term "reservist" still refuses to die.
And even among better informed defence journals, the acronym RSAF conjures visions of a "Royal Singapore Air Force" flying top cover over Her Majesty's Realm in the Far East.
With Committee of Supply speech writers due to swing into action after the year-end holiday season to prepare drafts for next year's Committee of Supply debate over the (expanded) Defence Budget, it will be interesting to see how fast, how deeply and how readily the term Daesh takes hold in Singapore.
With the SAF contributing military forces for the international effort against Daesh, MINDEF/SAF must soon fall in line with the shop talk adopted by Arab and Western forces fighting the same armed entity. If we don't do so, quotes from defence watchers may confuse people as to whether we are fighting one and the same armed entity in the same military operation.
And so, Daesh is IS. Or IS it not?
Posted by David Boey at 5:21 PM