When Donald Trump says something stupid, such as when he botched his comments on Obamacare today, or when he claimed that he is the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton, that is a “dog bites man” story. We have come to expect this from Donald Trump, who is running the most inept campaign for president that I have ever seen. The more interesting “man bites dog” story, one of the rare times when Trump gets it right, was with Trump warning of the risk of Hillary Clinton getting us involved in World War III.
Donald Trump had this to say in an interview with Reuter’s:
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Democrat Hillary Clinton’s plan for Syria would “lead to World War Three,” because of the potential for conflict with military forces from nuclear-armed Russia.
In an interview focused largely on foreign policy, Trump said defeating Islamic State is a higher priority than persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, playing down a long-held goal of U.S. policy…
On Syria’s civil war, Trump said Clinton could drag the United States into a world war with a more aggressive posture toward resolving the conflict.
Clinton has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone and “safe zones” on the ground to protect non-combatants. Some analysts fear that protecting those zones could bring the United States into direct conflict with Russian warplanes.
“What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria,” said Trump as he dined on fried eggs and sausage links at his Trump National Doral golf resort. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” he said.
“You’re not fighting Syria any more, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right? Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk,” he said…
On Russia, Trump again knocked Clinton’s handling of U.S.-Russian relations while secretary of state and said her harsh criticism of Putin raised questions about “how she is going to go back and negotiate with this man who she has made to be so evil,” if she wins the presidency.
While I have also expressed concerns about Trump’s general incoherence on foreign policy, I have previously noted the same dangers as Trump discussed in Clinton’s history of belligerence towards Russia. As I discussed after Clinton repeated her support for a no-fly zone in Syria during the last debate, this is a very dangerous policy. Last month Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress that imposing a no-fly zone “would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia.” Clinton admitted that “you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians” in one of her leaked Goldman-Sachs speeches.
Spencer Ackerman also wrote in The Guardian Why Hillary Clinton’s plans for no-fly zones in Syria could provoke US-Russia conflict.
The proposal of no-fly zones has been fiercely debated in Washington for the past five years, but has never attracted significant enthusiasm from the military because of the risk to pilots from Syrian air defenses and the presence of Russian warplanes.
Many in US national security circles consider the risk of an aerial confrontation with the Russians to be severe.
“I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an American aircraft,” said James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, on Tuesday in response to a question from the Guardian at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Those who have patrolled no-fly zones over the relatively freer skies of Bosnia and Saddam-era Iraq fear that a President Clinton would oblige the US to what one retired US air force three-star general described as an indefinite “air occupation”. Such a move would risk the lives of US pilots – and dare confrontation with a Russian military which is more aggressive than it has been in years.
Critics of the plan also question how using US military power to establish and police a safe space for beleaguered Syrian civilians would contribute to the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad – the explicit goal of US policy in Syria.
“If she is not politically posturing, it’s going to be a disaster. I hope it’s political posturing,” said John Kuehn, a retired navy officer who flew no-fly zone missions over Bosnia and Iraq. Kuehn who called denying an adversary its airspace “the cocktail party military application of power of choice”.
David Deptula, a retired air force lieutenant general who commanded the no-fly zone operations over northern Iraq in 1998 and 1999, said the Russians were a “complicating factor” but considered the problems with a no-fly zone to be more fundamental…
The challenges for a no-fly zone over Syria outstrip those the US has faced over Libya, Bosnia and Iraq. Assad’s surface-to-air missiles, protecting the Mediterranean coast and southern regions the regime still controls, were formidable before the recent Russian addition of what Clapper, a former air force general, called “very advanced” S-300 and S-400 systems that can blanket the majority of Syrian airspace with missiles.
Staging a no-fly zone requires either the assent of regional allies – Turkey is the nearest potential partner to Syria, but it has concentrated in recent months on improving ties with Moscow after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet in November 2015 – or an expensive, open-ended and risky deployment of aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean.
But the most distinguishing feature of a Syria no-fly zone in 2017 would be the aerial presence of another great-power air force with an objective which is diametrically opposed to Washington’s.
Even without the involvement of Russia, a no-fly zone is a major military undertaking, likely to drag us into a larger war in Syria. The added problem of Russia’s involvement very well could lead to World War III. There are many reasons not to vote for Donald Trump, but that does not mean that voting for Hillary Clinton is a wise choice either, as a vote for Hillary Clinton is essentially a vote for war.