Donald Trump has a new favorite foreign policy proposal in his latest stump speeches: America should shoot at anyone who provokes us. The impetus for Trump's new shoot-em-up policy appears to be an incident that took place over a week ago when several Iranian boats harassed a U.S. Navy vessel in the Persian Gulf by maneuvering close to it and breaking off.
Trump first responded to the incident last week at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, saying, "With Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water."
Trump's hot-headed overreaction to a relatively minor international incident is incongruous with his stated policy of non-intervention. Exchanging fire with a major power in the Middle East would undoubtedly have major consequences for the United States and its allies in the region.
Trump has since continued to suggest that the U.S. should respond to such provocations by starting an international crisis between the U.S. and Iran. At a rally in Canton, Ohio on Thursday Trump told the crowd, "They have their little boats circling our beautiful, big destroyers — and our great men are sitting their watching, saying ‘Oh, would I like to give it to them.' I know those captains and I know those people on those boats, and boy, would they like to give it to them."
Iranian boats have recently made a habit of harassing U.S. ships in the region, but the U.S. military has made it a goal not to allow these incidents to escalate into conflict. After a similar encounter in August, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters, “These are incidents that carry a risk of escalation, and we don’t desire any kind of escalation. Our ships have been operating in that part of the world for years.”
While warning shots have been fired, U.S. ships have thus far avoided engaging with their provocateurs. Unfortunately, as Twitter users have known for years, Donald Trump believes in responding to any slight, no matter how small.
Iranian fast boats are not the only nuisance over which Trump seems prepared to start an international crisis. At that same speech in Florida, Trump referenced another recent incident where a Russian fighter jet flew too close to a U.S. surveillance plane over the Black Sea.
"Putin laughs, believe me, he laughs at our leaders and takes us to the cleaners again and again," Trump said. "Yesterday, we had a plane, he had jets circling the plane. They were as close as 10 feet away — taunting us, toying with us — just like Iran."
Despite his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump appears ready to pick a fight with a global superpower over the slightest taunt.