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I have linked to the writing of Mack Williams in other posts (for example here), and in his more recent post here there is still little I can disagree with.

I strongly recommend you read the full post, but the summary is…

  • Australia is just about the last friend in/adjacent to the region that would support any US confrontation with China in the the South China Sea.
  • Vietnam has recently come to the Chinese party (pun intended). Vietnam was the last bastion of resistance among the terriorial claimants (which included Malaysia and the Philippines), leaving the US locally isolated in opposing the Chinese presence.
  • Indonesia has already stepped away from any territorial claims, and Brueni lacks the geopolitical weight to have their view considered.

With Thailand accelerating away from democracy and into the Chinese orbit at similar speeds, the much heralded US pivot to Asia outlined here already appears a distant memory and dismal failure.

Furthermore, Mack Williams mentions that “the chances of the US being able to base major military operations out of ASEAN ports (other than to a limited extent Singapore) are slim”. The US certainly began laying the groundwork for this naval presence a couple of years ago, as noted here.

If the US really does consider Singapore as their port of choice in any looming conflict then I hope, for their sake, that events turn out better than the last Western imperial force whose wishful geopolitical thinking centred on the rhetoric of “Main fleet to Singapore”.

Readers who missed that history lesson can get a good summary from Wikipedia here, which describes the Singapore strategy as…

..the cornerstone of British Imperial defence policy in the Far East during the 1920s and 1930s. By 1937, according to Captain Stephen Roskill, “the concept of the ‘Main Fleet to Singapore’ had, perhaps through constant repetition, assumed something of the inviolability of Holy Writ”.

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The strategy ultimately led to the despatch of Force Z to Singapore and the sinking of the Prince of Wales and Repulse by Japanese air attack on 10 December 1941. The subsequent ignominious fall of Singapore was described by Winston Churchill as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”.

In any case, President Trump gives little indication of being a man who learns from history.

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