News & Politics

You Can't Conduct Foreign Policy 140 Characters at a Time

Dec. 21, 2016, photo, President-elect Donald Trump (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

The president unleashed a Twitter storm today, commenting idiotically about the dispute between Qatar and her Gulf neighbors over their support for terrorism — among other issues.

Unfortunately, another part of his government — or, supposedly “his” government — was stating exactly the opposite.

The Hill:

The Pentagon on Tuesday said it could not square President Trump’s tweets about Qatar and terrorism with its own statement about the country’s enduring commitment to regional security.

“I can’t help you with that,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in response to a question about reconciling the president’s social media remarks and Department of Defense comments about the U.S. ally.

“I will only tell you that we have, with regard to our bases there, continued presence in our operations.”

Trump shocked much of Washington on Tuesday when he took credit for the decision of Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations to break off diplomatic relations with Qatar.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Trump wrote Tuesday morning. “Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off.  They said they would take a hard line on funding …. extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” Trump continued over two additional tweets.

“The beginning of the end” of terrorism? If he really means that, he’s a bigger boob than many off us give him credit for.

And bragging about helping to initiate a dangerous split between Arab nations is a dubious claim to fame, at best, and ignorant posturing at worst.

The president’s comments were strikingly different in tone and substance from the message sent a day earlier by Defense Secretary James Mattis and other U.S. officials.

They appeared to double down on Saudi concerns that Qatar was supporting extremist groups such as Hamas and al Qaeda. This despite the fact that Qatar hosts a U.S. military base that includes about 10,000 troops.

The comments also appeared out of line with remarks Trump made during his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, when he described Qatar as a “crucial partner” in the region.

The Pentagon on Tuesday commended Qatar for hosting U.S. forces and its “enduring commitment to regional security.”

For Trump to charge into this crisis and treat it like a U.S. campaign win is beyond belief. The Pentagon is striking a balanced but firm tone without seeming to intervene in the crisis. This is as it should be. Does Trump even know our forward headquarters for CENTCOM  is located in Doha? Does it matter to him?

If there is any endeavor in the civilized world that demands prudence and nuance it is conducting foreign policy. A reasonably intelligent 14-year-old knows this. But Trump is not “reasonable” anything and his towering ignorance threatens our interests and relations with other countries.

This isn’t the first time that Trump has contradicted his own government on Twitter. His tweets on the travel ban not only disrespected and contradicted his own Justice Department, but may have cost him a win at the Supreme Court.

If he acts this way in a mini-crisis like Qatar, what kind of tweets can we expect when the crap really hits the fan somewhere like Ukraine, or eastern Europe, or someplace where a real confrontation could take place?