How could a speech pre-written and presumably pre-rehearsed contain so many internal contradictions, so much confusion, and so few specifics?
Ask Donald Trump. Or his foreign policy advisers.
Or whoever wrote the speech Trump delivered at the Mayflower hotel Wednesday afternoon.
Trump delivered a foreign policy address to prove that he can be a more professional-type of candidate. But the teleprompters and the more measured speaking tone did little to hide the fact that the man delivering the speech knew nothing beyond the words that crawled across its glass screen.
“Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance” following the Cold War, Trump told the audience, assembled by the Center for the National Interest, an organization once known as the Nixon Center. “We are getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.”
But there wasn’t much logic in Trump’s address, and “foolishness and arrogance” was replaced with ignorance and inconsistencies.
Trump’s foreign policy analysis started by ticking off America’s main weaknesses: Trump insisted that America’s allies must be prepared to pay for the cost of U.S. security assistance, or otherwise be prepared to defend themselves without American help.
But moments later, Trump complained that America’s allies don’t think they can trust the United States—even as he advocates for reneging on American security guarantees to allies, many of which go back to the aftermath of World War II.
Forget that these weaknesses don’t make sense when paired together. They were on the screen, in that order, so Trump read them.
It drove experts dizzy with confusion:
In fact, the biggest problem with Trump’s speech is the unintelligibility of arguing both for a radical dismantling of the existing system of American alliances, while simultaneously promising regional stability. Suggesting a withdrawal from NATO and threatening longtime allies with a removal of security assistance does not align with stability, as pointed out by military historian and foreign policy analyst Max Boot.
A second (or third? It’s hard to keep track) contradiction was when Trump said that his administration would be “working very closely with our allies in the Muslim world, all of which are at risk from radical Islamic violence.” A hypothetical President Trump would, presumably, have to hold any summits with Muslim allies overseas, given his insistence that Muslims not be allowed to enter the United States.
Trump’s bluster frequently doesn’t match with facts. Trump eschewed nation-building but said that he will not use military force unless he has a plan that includes “victory with a capital ‘V.’”
History is apparently not a huge guide for Trump, who ignores America’s biggest ever “victory with a capital ‘V’”—the emergence of the post-World War II world order following America’s nation-building in Europe.
And even while slamming nation-building, Trump went on to say, “strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions,” and that “America will continually play the role of peacemaker.”
It wouldn’t be a Trump speech without fundamental errors in fact, which the billionaire has been allowed to deliver with impunity at nearly every address. In this case Trump’s ignorance revolves around his swagger toward ISIS: or, should we say, his secret plan to fight ISIS.
“I have a simple message for them. Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable. But they’re going to be gone. And soon,” he told the audience.
But he mischaracterized the current campaign against ISIS, saying that “We don’t blockade, we don’t bomb, we don’t do anything about it.”
No word if the wall on the Mexican border was part of that secret—since that popular talking point turned call-response at his rallies was absent from this address.
There have been 16 casualties as a result of Operation Inherent Resolve, the ongoing war against ISIS. There have been near-daily bombing on ISIS targets. On Tuesday alone, coalition forces conducted 23 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria—part of the nearly 12,000 strikes conducted since the campaign began in June 2014:
The rest of the speech was characterized by errors in pronunciation—he said “Tanzania” and “San Bernardino” incorrectly—and a lack of specifics, bolstered by platitudes.
“If America fights, it must fight to win,” Trump said at one point. At another, he added, “we must make America great again.”
If Trump’s foreign policy speech Wednesday was designed to show that he is ready to be a more serious candidate, then it failed utterly. He and his advisers need to spend more time thinking about how to make their strategies more coherent and more detailed—not to mention not to make glaring, easily-checkable factual errors.
‘Tear Down This Wall’ this wasn’t.