In the wake of the Brussels terror attacks, Donald Trump fleshed out aspects of his national security strategy that include weighing whether NATO is obsolete, an emphasis on the virtues of unpredictability on the part of an American president, the potential use of nuclear weapons against Islamic State as a last resort and a single-minded focus of earning the respect of Muslims around the world.
“They have to respect us,” Trump said of Muslims in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin and John Heilemann set to air in its entirety on Wednesday’s episode of With All Due Respect. “They do not respect us at all and frankly they don't respect a lot of things that are happening—not only our country, but they don't respect other things.”
“The first thing you have to do is get them to respect the West and respect us. And if they're not going to respect us it's never going to work. This has been going on for a long time,” he said. “I don't think you can do anything and I don't think you're going to be successful unless they respect you. They have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country right now.”
Trump's vision for how he would earn Muslim respect included such controversial proposals as returning to outlawed harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding; monitoring mosques in the U.S.; and leaving open the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons against the Islamic State.
“I'm never going to rule anything out—I wouldn't want to say. Even if I wasn't, I wouldn't want to tell you that because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use them,” he said.
“We need unpredictability,” Trump continued. “We don't know who these people are. The fact is, we need unpredictability and when you ask a question like that, it's a very sad thing to have to answer it because the enemy is watching and I have a very good chance of winning and I frankly don't want the enemy to know how I'm thinking. But with that being said, I don't rule out anything.”
Yet Trump followed up his bellicose rhetoric with positions unfamiliar from those of past Republican standard-bearers, such as questioning America's involvement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “I think NATO may be obsolete. NATO was set up a long time ago, many, many years ago. Things are different now,” Trump said, adding, “We're paying too much. As to whether or not it's obsolete, I won't make that determination.”
Tuesday’s interview came after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack at a Brussels airport and metro station that left at least 30 dead and 230 injured. Trump, who has also called for a temporary halt to Muslim immigration to the U.S., argued that the U.S. must be more aggressive in its fight against the terrorist network. He criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for ending the New York Police Department's mosque surveillance program. “They ended it for no reason. We should bring it back,” Trump said.
“I'd expand our laws so that we could do certain things. We're not playing on the same field. They have no laws. They have absolutely no laws,” he said. “They kill people and they don't talk about it. They don't worry about the law. We do something that's a little bit harsh and that particular soldier or general or whoever it may be loses pension and loses his life. We're not playing by the same rules. They're playing dirty stuff. And we're not playing that way.”
Tuesday night, Trump was declared the winner of Arizona's Republican primary, netting him all 58 delegates in the winner-take-all state. Turning to face his most likely general election opponent, Trump was typically withering in his criticism of Hillary Clinton and said that despite her foreign policy experience as secretary of state, he would prevail in a face-off with her on national security issues.
“I think we’ll win it because I think people will see I’m much more competent than she is,” Trump said. “I think I’m much smarter than she is. I think I’m much more competent than she is, and I think she’s been very weak. I've said it before, I don’t think she has the strength or the stamina to be a good president.”
Trump also cited the fact that when national security crises have occurred during the campaign—such as the November terrorist attacks in Paris—his standing in the polls has improved.
“Whenever there’s a big problem—national security type problem—I go up [in the polls] because people view me as much stronger. And they actually think that I—I think they feel I’m much more competent,” Trump said.
“I think every time we have a problem in the world I do better,” he said.
When asked if his potential Democratic opponent did anything good for the country during her time as secretary of state, Trump struck a sarcastic tone.
“She did one thing: she did a lot of traveling,” Trump said. “I think she worked hard. She did a lot of traveling, she was always on planes going back and forth. But she also lied.”