Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump escaped yet again without offering any details of his foreign policy and national security ideas, with his blustering, filibustering style, before an audience of American military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Billed as the Commander-in-Chief Forum, the town hall style interaction set on a decommissioned aircraft carrier in New York was meant to compare and contrast the qualities of the two candidates to be the leader of the world’s most powerful military. All through his primary campaign, Mr. Trump has sidestepped questions regarding his ideas and has contradicted himself on multiple occasions.
For instance, Mr. Trump said he has a plan to quickly defeat the Islamic State (IS), but when asked for details, he replied: “I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.”
While Mr. Trump’s plan remains a secret, his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton had a tough time, defending or apologising for everything that the U.S. has done militarily in the last quarter of a century. Her husband Bill Clinton was President from 1992 to 2000; she voted in favour of Republican President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq in 2003, and from 2008 to 2012, she was Secretary of State. America’s military interventions abroad have become unpopular domestically, and Mr. Trump has a high rating among soldiers.
Changing from his earlier position that he knew IS better than the generals, on Tuesday he had said he would ask the military leaders to come up with a plan in 30 days to defeat the terror group. “So is the plan you’ve been hiding this whole time asking someone else for their plan?,” the presidential candidate was asked. He replied: “No. But when I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps agrees with mine, or maybe doesn’t — I may love what the generals come back with. I will convene… If I like maybe a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan…”
Mr. Trump reiterated his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, he said, has an “82 per cent approval rating”. He said Mr. Putin is committed to defeat the IS and the U.S. and Russia must work together for the same.
For Ms. Clinton, too, destroying the IS will be the top national security priority. She pledged to wage a war against it “from the air, on the ground, and online”,
“We have got to take them on in the arena of ideas,” she said, adding that partnering with Muslims was essential for that.
The former Secretary of State apologised for her Senate vote in support of the war in Iraq and blamed it on doctored intelligence. But her plan rules out ground troops in IS-controlled areas.
“We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria. We’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops,” she said. America already has a small presence of Special Forces in Iraq, and Clinton advisers later explained that her position is that there cannot be any massive military deployment.