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Trump’s Remarkable Foreign Policy Ignorance

Doug Bandow reviews [1] Trump’s many reversals:

When he was asked about the issue on CNN, he admitted, he deemed the organization obsolete “not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO.” He argued that his ignorance was understandable “because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right?”

Right, but then, you don’t build a building in Manhattan if you don’t know anything about building a building. You learn about the process before you start. For the same reason, if you run for president, you expect to be asked about NATO, so you learn something about NATO. That’s what campaign advisers are for. That’s why candidates invite experts in for briefings. Except, apparently, candidate Trump.

Trump has a habit of showing off his ignorance of an issue and then later using that same ignorance to evade responsibility for previous statements that he made about it. When Trump claimed that NATO was obselete, many would-be supporters interpreted this to mean that he viewed the alliance as the outdated Cold War relic as they did, but that wasn’t his point at all. All he meant by that was that he thought the alliance should be involved in fighting terrorism, and he wrongly assumed that the alliance didn’t already do that. (He later claimed credit for “fixing” this.) Now that he is president and backtracks on the same claim, he admits what most observers already understood–that he is painfully ignorant of basic facts–and confirms that his ostensible anti-NATO posturing was just so much hot air.

Trump’s displays of ignorance may be remarkable, but especially on foreign policy this is what is bound to happen with a candidate who has no relevant experience or training in anything remotely related to these issues. Trump exacerbates his lack of preparation with his disdain for expertise and his tendency to reward flatterers, so that he remains poorly informed or thoroughly misinformed about major issues. That makes him almost uniquely susceptible to being taken in whatever direction his top advisers and officials want him to go, and Trump will be the last to know if they have been giving him smart advice or not.

All this should remind us that candidates with little or no foreign policy experience are the least likely to be successful in changing foreign policy to be less aggressive and more restrained. An ignorant candidate is the most easily misinformed and the least reliable. If that wasn’t obvious to everyone before, it ought to be now.

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27 Comments To "Trump’s Remarkable Foreign Policy Ignorance"

#1 Comment By victory over eurasia On May 1, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

and as all should know, his ignorance is unbounded, encompassing all areas of human knowledge, technical, scientific, cultural, historical (the civil war, why has no-one asked why that happened…?), political, financial, economic. He is the da Vinci of the modern age, a renaissance man in the field of ill-informed stupidity.

(sigh…. How many more months….?)

#2 Comment By SF Bay On May 1, 2017 @ 1:12 pm

Just in, Trump would be “honored” to meet with North Korea leader “under right circumstances”. I want to laugh; actually I am laughing but I expect I may be crying soon. Our president is a remarkably ignorant man.

#3 Comment By Joe F On May 1, 2017 @ 1:14 pm

One would think that oversized ego would take insult from acting as such a fool, but this only suggests that he creates and lives in his own reality where everything he says is true, therefore nothing to be embarrassed by. Da Vinci of Ill informed stupidity is among the best I’ve heard. May use it again, but will properly source

#4 Comment By shecky On May 1, 2017 @ 1:24 pm

It’s one thing to go into the job not knowing much about a particular area expertise.

It’s another to belligerently run your mouth off about that particular area expertise in spite of it.

Consider, this is a characteristic of Trump that too many of his supporters feel is admirable.

#5 Comment By rayray On May 1, 2017 @ 1:28 pm

@Victory over Eurasia
Like @Joe F I will be stealing the “Renaissance Man of ignorance” from you.

Thing is…President Trump’s ignorance is of a piece with much of a certain part of the electorate. Even on this posting board their have been writers who have said that there is “genuine confusion” amongst scientists over climate change. Which there is not.

I heard an interview with Bannon this last weekend that was remarkable for this…he was well-spoken, articulate, and completely false in his assertions. He simply made up more than half of what he was saying.

But because what he was saying fit with his pre-conceived notions about the topic, it was easy for him to creatively extrapolate, state his creative extrapolations with admirable clarity and confidence; thus those who share his pre-conceived notions will believe it, and thus we have President Trump – sealed off from the truth in a universe of “facts” designed to confirm everything he already believed.

#6 Comment By One Man On May 1, 2017 @ 1:35 pm

All true, alas, but Trump’s supporters didn’t elect him because of his foreign policy expertise, and their demands now consist of, “Bomb them suckers!” And, to be fair, the life of a Trump supporter will not get worse just because he screws up foreign policy.

#7 Comment By Seth Owen On May 1, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

Well, unless he starts a major war, One Man. Even Trump supporters may not escape the consequences of that.

#8 Comment By listen, read On May 1, 2017 @ 2:18 pm

“I heard an interview with Bannon this last weekend that was remarkable for this…he was well-spoken, articulate, and completely false in his assertions. He simply made up more than half of what he was saying. “

If you don’t mind saying, what interview was this? And what were some of the false assertions?

#9 Comment By rayray On May 1, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

@listen, read
Good question, heard it on a PRI radio show this weekend…am checking on it now. Most of his points were about the cartel economy of the border.

#10 Comment By SteveJ On May 1, 2017 @ 3:43 pm

Well I don’t know.

You’re previous article is about John Kasich — someone supposedly more “experienced.”

And your previous article on Kasich is correct by the way. In addition, for all of Trump’s bluster, he hasn’t done something as stupid as invading Iraq yet — an invasion supported by the candidate he ran against.

#11 Comment By Russ B On May 1, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

Always love reading the intelligent comments on this site. How anyone could think this bombastic bastion of buffoonery has the slightest clue about foreign policy is beyond ridiculous.

#12 Comment By One Man On May 1, 2017 @ 4:23 pm

“Well, unless he starts a major war”
You are right, Seth Owens, but I don’t expect him to do that. Considering how he changes his mind based on the last person he talks to, I expect him to bluff a lot, then back down. Thank goodness.

#13 Comment By CharleyCarp On May 1, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

How soon will the President say “no one knew achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians was so complicated”?

I agree that the people who provided the margin of his victory don’t really care about this. What are they going to say, though, when he has to admit that he has no plan at all for bringing high wage manufacturing jobs back to the Upper Midwest? I mean, no one knew it was so complicated, but, well, the folks who voted for him thought that his business experience was the exact training that was needed . . .

#14 Comment By REMant On May 1, 2017 @ 6:26 pm

Doesn’t know much about the Pentagon either.

#15 Comment By here and there On May 1, 2017 @ 8:04 pm

Doesn’t know much about – (insert anything, really, anything).

It’s easy to speak your mind when it’s full of nonsense. Strong opinions are favored over wise ones. The smart are burdened with proof, the stupid with being heard; thus the loudmouth always wins in the end.

#16 Comment By SF Bay On May 1, 2017 @ 8:27 pm

What this country needs, at least according to “here and there” is a smart loudmouth, unburdened by proving his/her assertions. Someone with lots of confidence who simply knows they are right (and there are facts that will back them up) and dares opponents to prove them wrong. Who runs as the protector of the little man, the left behind man, the family struggling for any number of reasons.

#17 Comment By Straw Dog Rising On May 1, 2017 @ 8:29 pm

“What are they going to say, though, when he has to admit that he has no plan at all for bringing high wage manufacturing jobs back to the Upper Midwest? I mean, no one knew it was so complicated, but, well, the folks who voted for him thought that his business experience was the exact training that was needed . . .”

And what is he going to say to the people who supported him because of immigration and work visas, when he signs a budget that has billions for Israel and billions more for Egypt but no money for the wall? When he lets (at minimum) a half a million foreigners continue to sit on American jobs?

#18 Comment By shecky On May 1, 2017 @ 8:59 pm

@listen, read

I caught a couple minutes of This American Life last Saturday, with the topic being Bannon and immigration. Perhaps this was the show?

#19 Comment By Jeff K On May 1, 2017 @ 10:23 pm

“You learn about the process before you start. For the same reason, if you run for president, you expect to be asked about NATO, so you learn something about NATO. That’s what campaign advisers are for. That’s why candidates invite experts in for briefings. Except, apparently, candidate Trump.”

Of the many reasons I disdain Trump, this is probably the most visceral. This guy, a billionaire,could have hired the best and world wise advisors money could buy. He had 18 months where he could have taken a couple of hours a day to learn about the world in general, and in specific where needed. Did he? NO. He just blabbered his BS while his ignorant followers lapped it up.

I never believed he really wanted the presidency, nor did he think he would win it. So he just continued with his ignorant act. He probably wanted to lose the election by enough to claim ‘I should have been president except for all those illegals that voted against me’. And then gone back to his moronic television show.

But here we are. Stuck with an ignorant, narcissistic, bloviating, psychopath.

Lord help us. Impeachment cannot come quick enough. We need to elect a democratic house in 2018 to get us out of our misery. Hopefully the Senate will have the guts to confirm the impeachment.

#20 Comment By Ben On May 2, 2017 @ 3:24 pm

A bit late to the party. Great article, possibly even better comments. Just wanted to add my plaudits for “da Vinci of ill-informed stupidity,” which may compete with “Dunning-Kruger effect made incarnate” for my favorite colorful description of our dear leader.

#21 Comment By center piece On May 2, 2017 @ 5:12 pm

” We need to elect a democratic house in 2018 to get us out of our misery. “

We really need the major parties to break up and be replaced by new ones. Changing parties every few years amounts to little more than swapping animal mascots and digging the hole a bit deeper.

The “center” party in America, the one that in the end generally wins every election, is destroying the rest of us almost as effectively as it enriches itself.

#22 Comment By Tusca On May 3, 2017 @ 5:52 am

Re: This: “In addition, for all of Trump’s bluster, he hasn’t done something as stupid as invading Iraq yet — an invasion supported by the candidate he ran against.”
Well, it was supported by Donald Trump at the same time, so that’s not exactly a contrast. If someone shared information with me about a decision they were making, and I agreed with that decision because of the info, but the info turned out to be wrong, it wouldn’t exactly be fair to blame *me* for that decision, would it?

#23 Comment By SteveJ On May 3, 2017 @ 11:41 am

“Well, I guess so.” on the Howard Stern show uttered by Donald Trump as “support” for the invasion of Iraq just doesn’t do for me Tusca.

And even if you had a point, you’re point is that Trump is as incompetent as the person he ran against.

Which I don’t dispute.

#24 Comment By rayray On May 3, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

For whatever reason, and there are plenty of theories, Trump had a tremendous amount of animus against Obama. All you have to point out is that Trump was an outspoken and inveterate birther to realize that this animus was both irrational and unprincipled in the extreme.

So when he ran for president he did his best to say the opposite of whatever Obama did or said or whatever, which was fun for him and for a substantial part of the electorate – those that also either hated Obama or were told to hate Obama.

But past that, he has no principles or experience or education or ideas to speak of. So once he wins the election and is forced to actually look at the world and think about it…he’s got nothing. Not only does he have nothing, he may begin to realize that things are more complicated than just hating Obama in this world…

#25 Comment By georgina davenport On May 3, 2017 @ 5:53 pm

Anything we talked about anyone of Trump’s failing as a president, we should ask, “Why are the Republicans in the House and Senate still supporting him? Particular House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnel? Where is their responsibility to the American people?”

#26 Comment By Jeff K On May 3, 2017 @ 7:51 pm

Previously I advocated for impeachment by a Democratic House of Representatives as the remedy for Trump. I believe this is the only remedy, short of him resigning, that has a reasonably high probability of success.

I also believe that if the House impeached him a Republican Senate would most likely confirm the impeachment, because they could at least say to the American people, ‘Trump’s election was a mistake made by the people, based upon Trump’s misrepresentations regarding his beliefs and abilities. The election of a Democratic house by the American people made this clear’.

They could spin this as doing what’s best for America and the American people. They would still have Pence, and at least a probable second nomination to the Supreme Court.

If the House went Democratic, and the Senate refused to confirm the impeachment, it would be clear that the Republicans were acting in their party’s interest, not the American peoples interest.

To Georgina D, I believe the Republicans are barely holding on. They desperately want another Supreme Court appointment. However, I believe they will soon reach the tipping point with this idiot. Some major catastrophic event will seal the deal. Hopefully the damage will not be too extreme, and recovery will be possible within a reasonable amount of time.

#27 Comment By LiberalGuy On May 3, 2017 @ 11:11 pm

“Trump exacerbates his lack of preparation with his disdain for expertise…” The conservative movement, or at least the Republican party, has cultivated disdain for expertise for a decade or more. Scientists, economists, foreign policy specialists were dismissed as liberally biased and elitists when their conclusions went against the party line. This is why Trump’s supporters continue to approve of him no matter how badly he blunders. The experts who point out his failures are just sore losers, libtards, ivory tower academics. Ultimately those supporters are responsible for their own fleecing. Too bad the rest of the world has to reap the whirlwind of disaster built on years of undermining experts.