Politics & Policy

If You Think America’s Enemies Will Be Afraid of Donald Trump, You’ve Lost Your Mind

(Scott Olson/Getty)

One can only imagine the intelligence briefing to Vladimir Putin. “President Putin, you might be amused to know that a number of Americans believe that you’ll be intimidated by Donald Trump.” The very notion that a former lieutenant colonel in the KGB, a leader who has launched two ruthless, successful invasions of neighboring states and is even now violating the Syrian cease-fire with impunity, is going to be cowed into submission by Donald Trump is absurd. Trump isn’t a Putin rival, he’s a Putin fanboy — as we saw when he praised Putin for being very popular in Russia and “highly respected” globally, and when he gushed that it was a “great honor” to receive a compliment from Putin.

Of all the misconceptions of Trump’s prowess, perhaps the most idiotic is the notion that he’ll command the respect or perhaps even fear of our nation’s enemies and geopolitical competitors. Yet ignorance does not command respect, and his simple-minded predictability will mean that he can be manipulated and exploited. Trump is far more dangerous to our nation and to our friends than he is to America’s enemies.

Don’t be confused by his tough talk. Here is perhaps the world’s dumbest plan for defeating ISIS:

ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because of the oil that they took away, they have some in Syria, they have some in Iraq, I would bomb the shit out of them.

I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.

And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months, you ever see these guys? How good they are, the great oil companies, they’ll rebuild it brand new. . . . And I’ll take the oil.

Where to begin? First, anyone who believes that even a dramatically stepped-up air campaign can clean ISIS out of its strongholds simply doesn’t understand military reality. Air forces can’t take and hold territory. Second, unless Exxon has a few mechanized infantry brigades, he’s going to need boots on the ground. Third, the “two months” timetable for reestablishing a functional oil industry (free from a jihadist insurgency) is delusional. And fourth, you won’t beat ISIS simply by taking its oil. It holds entire cities. It has stolen vast sums of money from Iraqi and Syrian banks. How will bombing oil fields send ISIS fleeing from Mosul?

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But I’m applying reason and logic to a person who probably hadn’t given even an hour’s thought to an anti-ISIS strategy before ad-libbing an answer on live television. But while Trump obviously improvises military strategy, he’s painfully consistent on one thing: He admires strongmen, even when those strongmen behave brutally and directly against American interests. In addition to his well-known Putin-love, he has complimented Kim Jung Un, saying he deserves “credit” for taking out his rivals. He has praised the Chinese crackdown in Tiananmen Square as showing “power and strength,” and he wrongly gave Saddam Hussein credit for killing terrorists, when Hussein was himself a terrorist.

#share#In short, Trump admires open displays of aggressive strength, and he thrives on praise. This love for power would be pathetically easy for Putin or any other dictator to exploit. Recall that Trump’s effusive words for Putin came one day after Putin called Trump “bright and talented.” Every world leader looking for a diplomatic coup would start by stroking Trump’s enormous ego.

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In the meantime, Putin would feel free to ruthlessly advance his nation’s interests — exploiting his weakened neighbors — and Trump would be more likely to despise, say, Ukrainian or Latvian weakness, than understand the strategic and economic consequences of an expanding sphere of Russian domination. Putin is strong, and Trump likes strong.

Moreover, Trump’s complete ignorance of military strategy would leave America far more vulnerable. His own generals would be forced to fight constant rear-guard actions against such depraved notions as using America’s military might to intentionally kill terrorists’ families, as Trump, in a Fox & Friends interview, said he would do. Such an order would break the military every bit as thoroughly as he’s breaking the GOP.

#related#America’s enemies don’t fear ignorance, and they certainly don’t fear Trump’s admiration. In a Trump administration, America’s enemies would enjoy a completely free hand to brutally crush even the most pro-American internal dissent, they would be free to consolidate and solidify gains made against the weak and feckless Obama administration, and they might even feel free to move aggressively against weaker and more vulnerable American allies.

Admiring dictators won’t make America great. Strategic ignorance won’t make America great. And a national-security policy built around war crimes simply paves the road to hell. The only nation that should fear a Trump presidency is the United States of America.

— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.

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