01 August 2017
Under President Donald Trump, the United States has become a distracted power. Ongoing investigations into alleged Russian involvement in last year’s presidential election cast a long shadow over the presidency, and healthcare policy has become a war of attrition within the President’s own party.
Meanwhile, rumblings of discontent and rumours of impending resignations (and actual dismissals) hardly inspire confidence. This has disrupted the administration’s ability to think strategically about global affairs. America’s position of leadership has suffered as a result.
In South-east Asia, this is evident in how discussions on the US role in regional affairs tend to centre myopically on one thing: freedom of navigation operations, or Fonops, in the South China Sea.
But to talk Fonops without accompanying conversations on strategy is to put the proverbial cart before the horse ; ubiquitous naval vessels plying the South China Sea doth not a strategy make.
Many analysts lament the lack of strategic vision in the Trump administration’s approach to the South China Sea. Such a strategy can be crafted on five pillars: international law, deterrence, incentives, diplomatic engagement, and keeping an Asean focus.
…Joseph Chinyong Liow is dean and professor of comparative and international politics at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. He is the author of Ambivalent Engagement: The United States And Regional Security In South-east Asia After The Cold War (Brookings Institution Press, 2017).
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 01/08/2017