Donald Trump has set a pretty high bar for foreign-policy incoherence during his previous debates in both the primary and general elections, but he somehow achieved new heights Sunday night during the one section of the second presidential debate focused on Syria. Let’s run through some of his most baffling moments:
“She was there with the line in the sand.”
He means Barack Obama’s famous statement about a “red line,” which referred to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and no, as Clinton pointed out, she wasn’t in office in 2013 when Obama backed away from military action to enforce the red line.
“Russia is new in terms of nuclear and we are old and tired and exhausted in terms of nuclear. A very bad thing.”
Well, Russia’s nuclear program dates back to the Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb test in 1949, but let’s assume he meant that their weapons are newer. As I wrote after the last debate, it’s not accurate Russia’s nuclear program is more advanced or that the U.S. hasn’t invested in modernization.
“If you look at Russia, take a look at Russia and look at what they did this week and she wasn’t there, but possibly consulted. We sign a peace treaty and everyone is excited, but what Russia did with Assad and Iran with the dumbest deal I have seen in the history of deal making with $150 billion with the $1.7 billion in cash, enough to fill up this room, but look at that deal.”
This is just free association, but there wasn’t any peace treaty this week—there was a cease-fire a month ago. As for the Iran nuclear deal, which was a separate agreement, we are not giving Iran $150 billion.
“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS and they have lined up because of weak foreign policy.”
“Syria is no longer Syria. It’s Russia and Iran and Obama made into a powerful nation and a rich nation, very, very quickly.”
I think I know what he’s getting at: Syria is in such disarray that it’s no longer really much of a state, though there are a lot more actors involved than just Russia and Iran. But again, everything always comes back to the Iran deal with Trump. And again: If Iran is a dangerous actor here (thanks to Obama) what does that make Iran and Syria’s ally Russia? Trump is less clear on that.
Martha Raddatz: “What are do you think will happen if Aleppo falls?”
Trump: “Aleppo is a disaster.”
Raddatz: “What will happen if it falls?”
Trump: “It has fallen. It basically has fallen. You take a look at Mosul and the biggest problem I have with the stupidity of the foreign policy, they take a lot of them inmosul. We have announcements out of Washington and Iraq. We will be attacking. Why can’t they do it quietly and do the attack and make it a sneak attack and after the attack is made inform the American public that we have knocked out the leaders and have a tremendous success. People leave. Why do they have to say we are going to be attacking Mosul in four to six weeks. How stupid is our country?”
He never really answered the question about Aleppo, and that Mosul argument is totally misleading.