Bilahari: Trump is 'toast' in US election unless major external shock happens

He cited the double-digit lead Biden has on Trump in all post-debate polls, including the one by Fox News.

Kayla Wong | October 15, 2020, 05:39 PM

U.S. President Donald Trump will be defeated at the polls this coming U.S. election unless a major external shock happens, retired diplomat Bilahari Kausikan opined.

Biden leading all post-debate polls

The former permanent secretary at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the forecast in a Facebook post on Thursday (Oct. 15).

He said given Biden's double digit leads in all post-debate polls, including that of Fox News, former Vice President Joe Biden is set to win the election unless there is "a major external shock like a war or a significant terrorist attack against U.S. assets".

Bilahari further cited a "very respected American political commentator", though he did not give specific names, who posited that a candidate has to win the popular vote by at least 4 per cent in order to win the electoral college vote.

Therefore, Biden's victory looks likely for this year's election.

No fundamental shifts in U.S. foreign policy if Biden wins

Sharing his views in an Oct. 6 commentary in the The Straits Times (ST), Bilahari also said the world should not expect fundamental changes to the United States' foreign policy, should former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden win the upcoming election.

Any changes under Biden will be mostly "style and atmospherics and in the processes by which decisions are made and communicated", he added.

He further explained that while U.S. President Donald Trump's personality is "unique", his policies were symptoms of transformations in American politics and global trends that started way before he was elected in 2016.

Similarly, the presidents who come after Trump will have to manage these trends too, he opined.

Elaborating further on these ongoing changes, Bilahari said the American people have borne the risks of the Cold War for over 40 years, and were then asked to bear with the unceasing conflicts in the Middle East after 9/11 while having to deal with the economic and socio-cultural disruptions brought about by unimpeded globalisation.

Therefore, it would not be surprising if the Americans are no longer willing to put up with any burden to "maintain international order", he said.

Biden's China policy would be similar to Trump's

On the U.S.'s approach to China, Bilahari said although Biden will "try to stabilise relations" with China, he will still continue to be tough on China.

Saying Biden's China policy would be "Trump-lite", Bilahari said the Democratic presidential candidate will not be quick to remove existing tariffs Trump has placed on China, adding that Trump has "normalised the use of tariffs".

You can read more on what he thinks of former president Barack Obama's approach to U.S. foreign policy in his entire op-ed here.

Taiwan poses greatest risk in region, but China is not going to use force

In a video interview with ST, Bilahari also touched on whether war is possible between the two major powers.

While the U.S. and China are likely to be restrained, he said Taiwan is "the most important red line in the region" as it is an issue that can "easily get out of hand".

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. is obligated to regard any coercive moves by Beijing against Taiwan as a serious threat to the peace of East Asia, making the Taiwan Strait a potential flash point for conflict. 

Still, Bilahari posited that war in the region is unlikely, saying: "China is never going to eschew the use of force; that does not mean it will use force."

While China has increased its frequency of patrols in the Taiwan Strait for instance, there is nothing that the country has done recently that is as drastic as what they did in 1995 and 1996 when they were firing missiles across Taiwan, he elaborated.

"Balance of terror"

He then explained the importance of deterrence, saying that as nuclear weapon states, both the U.S. and China stabilise their relationship by "a balance of terror", or the prospect of mutually assured destruction.

"There are going to be alarms, excursions, tensions, but I don't think either of these are irrational powers, and so things can be kept under control," he said, but added that Taiwan is an exception, as it is where "the risk of things getting out of control is highest".

He said: "Taiwan, to any Chinese administration, is a neuralgic issue. It's not something they can give up without jeopardising their own right to rule in China."

Taiwan is one of Beijing’s “core interests”, which are issues on which the party leaders would not compromise.

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Top image via ST interview