Since Donald Trump’s rise to power, it has become difficult for anyone to ignore the US presidential elections. Japan, America’s closest ally in Asia, has been urging Trump not to make any deals with China that could disrupt years of collective efforts to control Beijing and maintain peace in the region.
Tokyo has also increased its efforts to engage with Trump’s supporters, as his victories in Republican primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire have seen him emerge as the front-runner in November’s presidential election.
An article from Reuters highlights the changes in the Trump Age, with some of Trump’s most radical followers, led by the Heritage Foundation with its Project 2025, planning ways to eliminate the “deep state” in a second Trump administration and allow him to rule freely.
It is unclear how serious President-elect Donald Trump is about policies he has advocated, such as saying “sayonara” to Japan and South Korea if they don’t contribute more resources to their defense or abandoning the nonproliferation policy by giving them the green light to develop their own nuclear weapons. Trump, like the late Kim Jong Il of North Korea, is mainly a showman, but his actions may be more substantial than marketing slogans.
The US political/military relationship with the rest of the world is influenced by the names and backgrounds of the top people he taps to run the country. However, many prominent names in foreign/defense policy are not likely to be part of his hiring pool. During his campaign, relatively few prominent people endorsed him, with nearly the entire Republican senior foreign policy establishment publicly disseminating him.
In August, Chris Nelson of Washington’s Nelson Report identified three people as Trump’s Asia policy brain trust, including William C. Triplett, II, a retired aide to the late Senator Jesse Helms. However, Triplett never replied and his chances of landing a job have not been confirmed.
Trump’s victory speech included the words “I am reaching out to you for your guidance and your help” to unify the country. He may choose from his small band of loyalists for top jobs, such as a one-time presidential contender like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for secretary of state or a hardliner like former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who wants the job and has supported him vocally.
There are numerous career professionals in the State Department Foreign Service and military who are used to carrying out presidential orders. For instance, a generation of rookie diplomats who worked in the Vietnam War saw their role as carrying out policy, not making it. Soldiers are trained to leave the decision on when, where, and whom to fight to politicians.
If Trump pursues unsound policies, it is possible that some previously anonymous subordinates will help him trash the current world system. Career professionals may follow Trump’s lead unless he orders something they see as stupid, using their relationship with him to persuade him to reconsider. In 1979, Democrat Jimmy Carter postponed his plan to bring US troops home from South Korea, demonstrating career professionals’ influence on Trump’s decisions.