Lee Kuan Yew said:
'Singapore has to take the world as it is. It is too small to change it. But we can try to maximise the space we have to manoeuvre among the big 'trees' in the region. That has been our approach and we will have to be nimble and resourceful to be able to continue doing so.'
LKY understood that we were a small state and we were price takers of sort. We had to accept the world and to adapt to the world, not to be too swell headed to think we could change the world. We must adapt and try to make the best of the situation by playing along.
Goh Chok Tong said:
'Singapore is a small country, but we do not drift aimlessly. We are not a piece of flotsam. We have a definite place in the world, and a definite view of life, and of what is right and wrong.
Whether it is 1985 or 1998, I expect that we will be guided by the same basic philosophy that every country, big or small, has a right to be itself. It has a right to live, a right to its own way of life.
From this philosophy springs our foreign policy and our defence policy. We will be friends with anyone who wishes to be friends with us. We are not, and will not, be aligned with any bloc, though our ties are closer with the West than with the Communist bloc of countries.'
So you see, Chok Tong is more garang. We would not simply be price takers. We want to be ourself, choose our friends but be friends to everyone who wants to be our friend but not aligned to anyone. But he clarified that we would be a bit closer to the West. Neutrality was still important though a little leaning to the West.
Lee Hsien Loong said:
'Upholding international law and the peaceful settlement of disputes is a vital interest for a small country like Singapore....Nevertheless, Singapore must support and strive for a rules base international order. We have to depend on words and treaties. They mean everything to us. We cannot afford to have international relations work on the basis that might is right. If rules do not matter, then small countries like Singapore have no chance of survival.'
Now can you see the changes? LKY talked about accepting the world as it was and tried to manoeuvre to maximise to our advantage. Chok Tong in a way also accept that fact but would be friends to everyone that is friendly, but slightly aligned to the West. But he still did not dare to think he could change the world to like Singapore.
What is Hsien Loong's position? Upholding international law is a very forceful statement. Singapore now wants to uphold international law, not accepting it as a price taker. Singapore would not accept might is right. Another very powerful statement, meaning Singapore would stand up to it or something like that. Don't push Singapore, we would not allow it.
So, how to fight might is right? Singapore would depend on words and treaties, or military alliances I supposed? Correct me if I did not get this right. The basic position, Singapore would not take things lying down. Singapore will fight for its rights and its principles. You have heard it.
My conclusion, among the 3 PMs, LKY is the weakest. Chok Tong tried to take a firmer middle path. Hsien Loong no doubt is the strongest of the three PMs. He is confident to take on the world, take on any superpowers, to uphold international law and principles. And he would align himself with treaties, no more neutrality or not aligning with any super powers.
Singapore finally has a very strong PM, a strong leader to take on the world, to fight and defend its interests and principles. Singaporeans should be very proud of Hsien Loong, for having the guts to stand up to any country, big or small, on grounds of international laws and principles. His father and Chok Tong both did not have the wherewithal to stand up to big powers. Now you are seeing the real powerful Singapore punching above its weight. Go back and read the news and the comments by our diplomats and you will see how firm and steady they are in defending the interests of small states, defending international laws and principles against unprincipled countries that don't respect international laws.
Singapore has arrived, and Hsien Loong is the One. The strongest of the 3 PMs we have so far. He is now a more powerful statesman than LKY and Chok Tong. Singaporeans got something new to be proud of. Singapore is now an international player that would take a stand, not just a little red dot trying to walk the tight rope. You can expect our diplomats to go around thumping their chests be it China, Russia or regional powers like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand or the Philippines to uphold international laws, freedom of navigation and to protect Asean unity.