Trump’s Foreign Policy Inconsistencies Reveal Something Deeper
When it comes to foreign policy issues, even Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know what Donald Trump believes. He has continued to make a number of inconsistent foreign policy statements which make it difficult to pin down what exactly he would do with respect to the civil war in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State.
At the September 7th NBC national security forum, Trump claimed that he opposed the initial invasion of Iraq, unlike Hillary Clinton. The fact-checking website Politifact found a 2002 interview on the Howard Stern show where Stern asked Trump if he supported the invasion of Iraq. Trump replied “I guess so.”
At the same event, Trump praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin for being an exemplary leader. Putin’s foreign policy has been marked by the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and increased military involvement in Syria.
Trump has also claimed to have a detailed plan for defeating ISIS which is so great that it must be kept secret. Trump has stated that “ISIS will be gone if I’m elected president. And they’ll be gone quickly.”
Here we have Trump engaging in a series of inconsistent statements. He claims to have been opposed to the invasion of Iraq in contrast to Clinton, thus painting himself as someone with the foresight to avoid disastrous and unpopular wars.
He then praises Putin, whose recent foreign policy has been premised on military aggression. If Trump wants to position Clinton as a warmonger who drags American troops into blunders like Iraq and Libya, his praise of Putin makes little sense.
Then there are Trump’s plans for ISIS. He claims he will get rid of them quickly, presumably through direct and forceful military intervention. Perhaps he is planning some sort of decisive “shock and awe” bombing campaign to quickly eliminate them, resulting in a military intervention in Syria and Iraq that would be measured in weeks? Of course, this is exactly how George W. Bush foresaw the invasion of Iraq playing out in 2003.
While Trump’s inconsistencies make him more electable to uninformed voters who can simply choose the side of Trump they agree with and ignore the other, Trump’s real problem goes beyond inconsistency. The real reason Trump lacks consistency in his foreign policy statements is that Trump lacks a clear set of foreign policy goals. He claims he would be a strong leader quick to use force like Putin, but then criticizes Clinton for the same thing he likes about Putin. He opposes getting bogged down in foreign wars and occupations, but then argues that this is how the US should respond to ISIS.
If Trump can’t figure out what Trump believes, then the media narrative will begin to change from stories about Trump’s inconsistencies to Trump’s lack of understanding of foreign policy issues, which is much worse for his campaign. Voters expect politicians to lie, but tend to draw the line at being blatantly uninformed.