1. Opinion

Editorial: Trump's sad performance on national security

Published Sep. 9, 2016

Reality TV star Donald Trump continued to make up his own reality last week during an NBC special aimed at focusing voters on his qualifications as commander in chief. The Republican nominee's ad-lib performance for the most powerful office in the world bordered on insulting, and he continues to show no knowledge or appreciation for what it takes to send Americans into harm's way or deal with a complicated world. It was an embarrassing display of bravado and empty thinking that reinforced he is unfit for the presidency. Here are some of the lowlights, in his own words:

• "(Obama) took everybody out (of Iraq). And really, ISIS (the Islamic State militant group) was formed. This was a terrible decision." Obama actually inherited a withdrawal plan executed by President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The status of forces agreement called for U.S. troops to withdraw by the end of 2011. Though the two sides negotiated to extend the U.S. presence, Iraq balked and Obama kept to the timetable.

• "If we're going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn't have ISIS." It's hard to imagine that Iraq, having refused to extend the American military mission, would have allowed the U.S. to seize and appropriate its chief source of income as American forces withdrew. Such a move would have given credence to claims in the Muslim world that the United States wanted to maintain a presence not to promote peace but to promote its own financial interests. ISIS was created by Iraq's sectarian wars; its revenue base came later.

• "Russia wants to defeat ISIS as badly as we do." Russia pretends to be America's ally in Syria in fighting ISIS, but most of its airstrikes target rebel groups seeking to overthrow Moscow's longtime partner in the region, the Syrian government. Russia's duplicity has been an open secret for months as the Syrian regime has bombed civilian areas and turned the country's civil war into one of the world's largest humanitarian crises.

• "Well, (Putin) does have an 82 percent approval rating." It's no surprise that the longtime leader of one of the world's most autocratic governments would be looked upon favorably by Russians in a poll, especially given Russia's crackdown on civil rights leaders, the harassment and murder of opposition figures and journalists and the absence of any real judicial system. There was no other safe answer.

• "We have a depleted military. … It is very sadly depleted." The United States spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, accounting for one-third of the world total. Even with the drawdown of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the budget caps Congress imposed in a bipartisan budget deal, the United States far outspends China and Russia. And the United States and pro-American democracies account for more than two-thirds of global defense spending.