Will Singapore be like Atlantis…if Trump wins?

September 19, 2016

Q: Trump and Duterte seem to have a lot in common. Obama has mentioned repeatedly Trump is ‘unsuitable’ to hold the most powerful office in the world. What’s your take?

A: I can’t read Mr Trump’s mind. What I do know is even if his personality is similar to Duterte. It’s unlikely Trump would be able to realize in concrete terms many of his radical policies. As for Duterte all I can say is he’s unhinged and as for the administrative machinery in the Philippines it’s really orientated towards centralized command and control.

However the same cannot be said about the US – power in the US is not centralized, it’s Balkanized and fairly well distributed amongst the executive, legislature, judiciary and the security agencies – and what you have is really quite a different constitutional and administrative landscape from what’s avaliable in the Philippines – so I don’t see how sensible comparisons can be made between Duterte and Trump. As in the case of the latter he has nothing resembling free rein to do anything radical at all.

Q: So what you’re saying is Trump will be a pretty powerless president?

A: Yes. As Nixon found out the hard way when he was impeached and had to pack his bags and leave the whitehouse within 24 hours. Mini Lee has a lot more power so does Najib. As for Obama and his predecessors, history is quite robust. They are pretty powerless. This is especially so for Obama as when you look thru his track record many of his plans are still stuck in the mud because congress keeps hobbling him. I think what you need to understand is that the US administration is really a first class orchestra and even if the conductor (president) is missing – it can more or less function quite well and the show will go right on. To paraphrase the president is really quite optional.

Q: Does that mean you don’t expect any radical shifts in domestic or foreign policy?

A: There will of course be changes, but to term them shifts implies a very bold directional alteration and I simply don’t see how that can be accomplished given that it comes with cost penalties. As the US is a waning global influencer – it’s not like what it used to be during the time of FDR or even Reagan. These realities would definitely be constraints that not only Trump has to take on board when he assumes the office of President, but anyone as well.

I think on the balance of probabilities, the status quo will be maintained.

Q: So you don’t see Trump defocusing away from Asia?

A: No! Like I said any directional alteration is predicated on not the aperture of opportunities, but rather constraints. By this I mean even if Trump wants to relegate Asia to the back burner of policy formulation that by itself would incur a cost and since the penalties are too exorbitant high to tolerate, it’s unlikely there will be any change.

Q: Are you saying the US will not defocus from Asia?

A: I don’t see how they can without incurring penalties. Historically when Truman took over FDR he much preferred to forget Asia. Even he couldn’t do that and the same could be said about Trump as well. To me there is no possibility whatsoever of the US revising their forward presence in Asia.

Trump of course like Truman before him or even Carter in the case of the Middle East may want to wish the Islamic radicalism away – but never forget geo political realities remain very real and as long as they continue to exact a preponderant toll on US interest. They need a coherent response – so all this talk that we are likely to see a Trump administration watering escalation control assets from the South China Seas is really quite third rate intelligence analysis. Although far from a perfect solution, escalation control remains todate the most effective way to engage China and North Korean in a conflict without resorting to the doomsday option…what you need to appreciate is it’s cheap and very effective.

Till something else that betters the excel spreadsheet comes along – I really don’t see the impetus to shift from the current path. Anyone who tells you different is just a very poor analyst – we have modeled this out in a computer at least 200 hundred times using game theory and on every occasion the pay outs favor the US, so I don’t really see a compelling alternative to change.

That means even if Trump wants to pull the plug on Asia his security advisors will recommend a strong very robust no by telling him plainly – hey the alternative is we may need to plough in 50% of our GDP into this region if we throw out our geo political game plan and switch to a new strategy. So you tell me. What do you think Trump would likely say in the face of those realities. I think what you need to comprehend here is – there is an actual cost to decoupling from Asia.

I am not saying under Trump there would not be a revision of the non escalation doctrine. There certainly would be tweaks but I cannot see how things can change radically from what is postured out there currently, that’s really all I am saying.

As for pundits claiming Trump will do this and that – I think they don’t appreciate the influencing quotient of the security and clandestine services in the US on the policy formulation process.

Q: What do you think about the latest threat that is floating in the internet that Trump would be killed by the globalist. Is there any measure of truth to that?

A: I much prefer not to comment on rumors.

Q: Are you aware of any such threats? And if so how serious is it.

A: Ditto….I don’t wish to come across as rude, but I would appreciate it if you ask me questions that I can respond too.

Q: Trump has publicly stated he is against Nafta and the roll out of TPP. Do you believe he is serious?

A: He may be. That I will grant you. But after his first 100 days in the White House. He will ratify the TPP. As that remains the most cost competitive option to perpetuate US corporate hegemony in the region. To me all this anti TPP talk from Trump is just electoral bait – fact is the US is like a ship with a big hole and the TPP remains the only effective patch to keep global growth alive. That’s the only game in town.

Q: Are you in support of the TPP?

A: No.

Q: Would you like to elaborate why?

A: I much prefer the perceptive reader to fill in the blanks.

Q: Thank you for your time.

A: Thank you for having me.

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