A few hours after winning the Florida primary — and in the process, ending the presidential campaign of the state's senator Marco Rubio, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took to broadcast media presumably to share his joy. And so, he did an interview over the phone for the MSNBC show Morning Joe.
Following the usual chest-thumping and proclamations of his own majesty, Trump was thrown a googly of sorts — a curve-ball, if you prefer.
MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski asked the real estate mogul whom he consulted on foreign policy, and this is what followed:
Somehow everything else from his rambling endorsement of his own foreign policy nous just seems to pale in comparison to this gem: "I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things".
Yes, Donald, you've said a lot of things. But that's not always a good thing. Remember this guy?
He also said a lot of things, when he wasn't busy dancing, that is.
But back to Trump, who backs up his foreign policy credentials by telling his interviewers that he had mentioned Osama Bin Laden in his 2000 book (The America We Deserve) which was a whole year before the 11 September attack on the World Trade Centre. He adds that people regarded this act of name-dropping as 'amazing'. Osama, for the record, had in August 1996, issued a fatwa against the US and Americans and in June 1999, was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Exactly why it was 'amazing' that Trump had mentioned Osama before 9/11 is unclear.
Perhaps those people thought it was 'amazing' that he had heard of someone on an FBI list?
Brzezinski then asked him how he would define his foreign policy that had been described as "neoisolationist" by a commentator. To this, the former reality TV star replied, "I wouldn’t say that at all". Whether he wouldn't say that at all because he doesn't know the meaning of the word or because he genuinely doesn't believe his policy can be categorised as such is open to debate.
Nevertheless, Trump goes on to say he "would love to get some of the other nations of this world involved and let them do something for a change" when speaking about the Islamic State, and winds up by saying that while he does talk to people, "My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff".
In other words, "Advisors? Pah, who needs 'em?"
And what has this neoisolationist (in personal outlook if not foreign policy) approach achieved for Trump?
For starters, it made him the subject of an open letter from his own party's national security community. The letter made public the community's work to prevent Trump from being elected because of, among other things, his dishonesty, plans to charge allies like Japan protection fees (Hafta Vasooli v2.016?), support for the use of torture, aggressive war-mongering and his sudden shifts "from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence".
Possibly the most scathing indictment of Trump in the letter came in the form of the following statement: "His equation of business acumen with foreign policy experience is false. Not all lethal conflicts can be resolved as a real estate deal might, and there is no recourse to bankruptcy court in international affairs."
Yes, but the 119 signatories of that letter are just jealous of him, you may well say. And you may well be correct, but let's look at a few notable foreign policy ideas expounded by the man himself.
The Mexican Wall
Let's start with one of his strangest policy ideas yet: The proposal to build a boundary wall separating the US and Mexico. But the most ingenious or disturbing (depending on your point-of-view) part of this plan was this part:
"Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards – of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico (Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options). We will not be taken advantage of anymore."
Bomb the hell out of (insert name here)
"When in doubt, bomb!" seems to be a popular instrument of foreign policy for Trump, who in November last year, separately articulated his twin desires to 'bomb the hell out of' and 'bomb the sh*t out of' Iraq's oil-fields to stop the Islamic State. Flashback to 2000 and his book, in which he wrote, "What would I do in North Korea? Fair question... Am I ready to bomb this reactor? You're damned right!"
For someone who wants other nations of the world to 'do something for a change', he certainly plans on making life as difficult as humanly possible for them with this policy. Will that come back to bite the US in the proverbial in the years to come? You're damned right!
Can't someone else do it?
That brings us to the Ukraine crisis, which it can, and has been successfully argued, was supported and to an extent, engineered by the US and its Nato allies. From Senator John McCain joining demonstrators in Kiev to assure them of US support, to US and EU leaders denouncing the democratically-elected Ukrainian government, past the infamous "F*ck the EU" phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, and all the way to the replacement of elected president Viktor Yanukovych's goverment with an administration handpicked by the US, Washington's fingerprints are all over the Ukraine crisis. By bringing Ukraine closer to Nato, the US and its allies stood to gain close proximity to Russia.
Which makes it quite strange and rather galling that Trump would tell an interviewer that he "would not care that much (if Ukraine joined Nato) to be honest with you. Whether it goes in or doesn't go in, I wouldn't care". Washing the US' hands off a traumatic chapter in the East European country's history, he added that what was happening in Ukraine was 'a problem that affects Europe a lot more' and insisted that countries like Germany should take the lead on fixing it.
Channeling Sarah Palin
Ahead of the 2008 US Presidential Election, McCain's running mate Sarah Palin gave Katie Couric an interview that has become famous for all the wrong reasons. When asked what newspapers she read, she replied that she read 'all of them', and conveyed 'great appreciation for the press, for the media'.
Trump went one step further (or one step backwards, depending on how you see it) in an interview in August last year when he was asked from whom he sought military advice. "Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show, and all of the other shows...," he waffled without naming a single one. For the sake of American citizens and citizens of the world at large, we sincerely hope he wasn't getting his advice from Breaking Bad or worse yet, House of Cards .
Perhaps, it might be worth actually appointing someone with experience and knowledge as a foreign policy advisor if Trump truly wants to 'Make America Great Again'.
Until then, Trump would do well to keep his feet fimply planted on the floor, not get carried away with the wave of support he is enjoying and pay heed to this little observation from an old friend:
First Published On : Mar 17, 2016 13:38 IST