We’d all like a simple “good guys and bad guys” narrative in the war on terror: the Islamic extremists who want to kill people are the bad guys, but the good ones can be hard to identify. It’s that kind of complexity, however, that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump glossed over in his foreign policy speech Monday.
Trump compared fighting terrorism to the Cold War, but times have changed. In his vision, anyone who opposes the Islamic State is an ally. In reality, Iran and Syria and many terrorist groups hate ISIS as much as the United States. This is not Russia and the United States facing off across the Berlin Wall. The enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend.
Trump’s speech was largely intended to remind supporters why they hate Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and it likely worked on that level. The Middle East has been a mess on their watch, and terrorism seems to be metastasizing across the world.
But saying we should have stayed in Iraq and kept its oil for ourselves, a to-the-victor-goes-the-spoils mentality, is not a philosophical tenet of U.S. foreign policy. Claiming Clinton lacks the “stamina” for this fight is just another insult that does nothing to raise Trump’s stature. And while he seems to be retreating from his Muslim ban, one of his plans resembles the bureaucracy he rails against, a presidential commission that would include moderate Muslims to identify the warnings signs of radicalization and which would then develop protocols for law enforcement. It’s not clear how “extreme vetting” of visa applicants from suspect regions is different from what is being done now.
Trump is right when he says we need a better plan to stop terrorism. Unfortunately, we still do. — The editorial board