This roundup includes our latest podcast, publications and stories of interest for the week of 10-14 October.
Publications & Podcasts
The US’ Asia Policy (10 October)
Dr John Bruni was joined by special guest Dr Daniel Twining, Director and Senior Fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, to discuss US’ Asia Policy in our latest STRATEGIKON podcast. Topics covered include: US Asia policy including a look at what the Trump and Clinton camps stand for; Obama ‘Pivot to Asia’; and the increasing importance and complexity of the Indian Subcontinent to America’s ‘grand strategy’ in Asia. Click here to listen
Brexit – the view from Cornwall (11 October)
We published an article by chairperson of our advisory board, CDRE Patrick J. Tyrrell OBE RN (Ret’d) on his assessment of Brexit. Click here to read
Stories to Watch
The Second US Presidential Debate (9 October)
The second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump quickly descended into a combination of high farce and national tragedy.
Clinton, who has pulled away from Trump in the polls and is looking the clear winner, did not appear quite as confident as she probably should have, while Trump was less belligerent, even sullen looking, following the release of his 2005 off the cuff, crude, “locker-room” remarks on how he treats women – and for which he apologized during the debate.
But, forever the street fighter, Trump aggressively engaged the Clinton camp in a no holds barred attack on allegations of former president Bill Clinton’s reputation as a womanizer. He appeared at a Press Conference with a number of Bill Clinton’s ‘accusers’, and then brought them to sit among the audience of the debate. This may not have come as a surprise to the Clinton camp, but this stunt may well have rattled and angered both Bill and Hillary Clinton on the day. However, Trump having opened this Pandora’s box, also exposed himself to similar allegations of sexual misconduct, which indeed did come out later during the week when a former ‘Apprentice’ contestant alleged that Donald Trump forced himself on her, and another woman claimed that she had been fondled by Trump at an exclusive nightclub back in the 1990s.
Having descended to such depths, the presidential debate has clearly demonstrated that neither candidate is fit for office. And while many have suggested that the presidency is essentially about picking the least worst candidate and Clinton seems to fit the bill (pun intended), the United States stands to lose, as does much of the West which depends on at least the perception of an American moral and ethical leadership.
With the unseemly underbelly of contemporary US politics now exposed, the system seems broken and whoever inhabits the White House will go down in history as have been one of two of the worst candidates ever to have stood for the US presidency. And, assuming that Clinton’s ‘least worst option’ campaign succeeds in giving her the presidency, she’ll have to work extremely hard during her first four years to win back public trust, especially from those Americans who have little to no faith in a political elite that has abandoned them to ‘entertaining idiocy’ and venal leadership.
Thailand’s King Bhumibol’s Passing (13 October)
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at age 88. The Thai King died as the world’s longest serving monarch – having reigned in Bangkok for 70 years as Thailand’s head of state. His reputation for fairness and impartiality saw him as a revered figure in Thai politics, even among those who counted themselves as enemies of the monarchy.
Thailand has declared a year’s official mourning. While the ascension of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn as Thailand’s new king has been assured by the Thai Prime Minister, as yet no date has been placed on the ascension.
This is a major milestone for Thailand, a country that has suffered from political violence and uncertainty between the Yellow-Shirts (pro-monarchy) and Red-Shirts (pro-former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006). In 2014, the Thai military staged a coup against the government of Yinluck Shinawatra, sister of the former ousted Thai PM, and declared martial law, putting an end to years of political turmoil.
While all sides of the Thai political equation will likely abide to a respectful period of mourning for King Bhumibol, the time to watch will be the ascension of Crown Prince Maha. Any sign of weakness by the new Thai monarch will no doubt be exploited by Thai leftists linked to the Shinawatra political dynasty, potentially leading to an intensification of political conflict and violence.
Second Scottish Referendum Under Consideration (13 October)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that she was prepared to put together a second referendum on Scottish independence, following on from the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The idea of Scotland breaking the 1707 Act of Union with England is an old notion, but a difficult one to achieve considering the deep social, cultural and economic linkages between London and Edinburgh. This ‘feint’ by Sturgeon seems opportunistic and designed more to solidify her hold on the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership.
The 2014 first referendum on Scottish independence was defeated 55.3% against, with 44.7% in favor. A recent poll indicated that a majority of Scots are not in favor of holding another referendum in the near term. Any attempt to go against this trend will have to be well worked out in Edinburgh. Any misstep the Conservative leadership of Prime Minister Teresa May makes on the handling of Brexit, could well be capitalized on.
The SNP openly colluding with the EU leadership in Brussels to break up the Act of Union may well be considered a hostile act by London and possibly lead the UK and the EU into uncharted waters. Whether Brussels wants to challenge the sovereignty of London over Scotland is doubtful considering that there are much higher strategic stakes for the EU in eastern Europe over Russia and Russia’s position vis-à-vis Ukraine and the Baltic states.