It’s not that Donald Trump said anything new on Wednesday. His statements during NBC News’ “commander-in-chief” forum, which was broadcast from aboard the USS Intrepid in New York, only confirmed that the Republican hasn’t bothered to learn anything since he began his presidential candidacy fifteen months ago.
But it’s still disconcerting to hear a major-party candidate for the most powerful elected office in the world speak in such simplistic terms about the complexities of international relations.
When asked what he would do about the self-styled Islamic State, a fanatical Sunni militant group that controls areas of Iraq and Syria, Trump reiterated his (ridiculous) belief that he knows better than the military leadership how to defeat the organization.
The former reality TV star said America’s generals had been “reduced to rubble” to the point that it’s “embarrassing for our country.”
He blamed a “weak” Barack Obama for defanging the army and vowed to build up the armed forces in order to counter unprecedented threats from China, North Korea and radical Islamists.
This is the language of a dilettante. Only somebody who doesn’t grasp, nor cares to understand, the nuances of international affairs — to say nothing of history — could think America is more threatened today than it ever was. The Soviets had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at America’s cities during the Cold War, but one madman in Pyongyang and a ragtag band of jihadists in the desert of Mesopotamia are more dangerous?
Similarly, only somebody who has no experience in either politics or the military (Trump infamously dodged the Vietnam draft — five times) would confuse the authoritarian tendencies of a Vladimir Putin for strength and the incrementalist, no-drama governing style of Obama for weakness.
Trump on Wednesday reiterated his admiration for Putin, saying, “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”
Can he really be so easily baited?
Asked to clarify, Trump said: “Certainly in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been.”
Which is an odd way to rate leadership. As Michael Koplow, a Middle East specialist, joked on Twitter, “Say what you will about Pol Pot, but he has great control over his country. I don’t like killing fields per se, but what strength.”
The same candidate who once disparaged the intelligence community, saying they had made “catastrophic” decisions, now criticized President Obama for supposedly not following their advice — something Trump claimed to have inferred from the “body language” of his intelligence briefers. (Who are unlikely to have been the same people who make policy recommendations.)
What a joke.
“What is Aleppo?”
If you’re a center-right American and think maybe now is the time to consider voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, think again.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, the former governor of New Mexico, when asked about the Syrian city that is at the center of that country’s civil war, responded, “What is Aleppo?”
Johnson, once it was explained to him Aleppo is a major city in Syria, then argued the United States must “join hands” with Russia to bring the conflict to an end.
So America’s presidential election has a Putin apologist on the right and a Putin admirer on the far right.
No wonder the race is polling 48-42 percent in Hillary Clinton’s favor.
The only question is, what are those 42 percent thinking?