Trump’s nuclear howler

Tonight, Donald Trump delivered the biggest howler of the presidential campaign (at least on the GOP side). But don’t worry, the topic was a trivial one — nuclear weapons.

Hugh Hewitt asked Trump which part of our aging triad would be his priority as president. Trump answered, the nuclear side.

But the triad, as Marco Rubio explained, is entirely nuclear. It consists of ships that can deliver nukes, planes that can deliver nukes, and silos from which nukes can be launched. In effect, then, Trump answered a question about which part of our nuclear triad is most important by saying the nuclear part.

Tom Elliott provides the text of this exchange at NRO’s Corner. Jonah Goldberg reminds us that Hugh asked Trump about the nuclear triad at great length in August, and he couldn’t answer it then, either. In the August exchange, Hugh told Trump that the “triad” is a nuclear triad. I guess Trump forgot.

The “triad” wasn’t Trump’s only bad moment. He defended his plan to kill the families of terrorists on the grounds that family members know about attacks in advance and that, though terrorists may not care about their own lives, they care about the lives of family members.

Put aside how outrageous Trump’s retaliatory murder idea is; it also displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the kinds of people we’re dealing with. These are folks who send their wives out as suicide bombers.

Trump also showed a misunderstanding of the situation in Syria (not for the first time). Wolf Blitzer (I think it was) asked Trump (in essence) how, if he’s really all about winning, he’s willing to let Iran win in Syria via Assad’s continuation in power. Trump replied that we have to do one thing at a time and we should get rid of ISIS first.

However, Chris Christie quickly pointed out (as others had mentioned) that ISIS’s success is fueled in significant part by the rise of Iran and by hatred of Assad. Thus, it will be difficult to rally Sunnis against ISIS as long as Assad remains in power.

Christie asserted that “if you miss Iran, you won’t get ISIS.” I’m not sure this is true. But Trump inspires little confidence when he seemingly fails to grasp that Assad’s rule plays into ISIS’s hands.

The Middle East is too complex to take a “one problem at a time” approach. It may work when you’re “building a great company” but it seldom works in international relations.