Ben Carson: Put the Baltics in NATO! Beware the Sunni-Shia Alliance!

Three madcap foreign policy claims by the GOP's resident super-outsider


Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, one of the better interviewers in the business, had on GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson yesterday to talk about foreign policy. Carson made three particularly head-scratching assertions.

1) Modern radical Islam dates back to the Book of Genesis:

HH: What do you consider to be their tap root? What is the origin of their rage, in your view?

BC: Well, first of all, you have to recognize they go back thousands and thousands of years, really back to the battle between Jacob and Esau. But it has been a land issue for a very long period of time. Possession is very important to them. And one of the things that we're doing, I think, incorrectly right now is not recognizing that they are expanding their territory. Not only the land that they've taken in Iraq, but what they've taken in Syria, they're creating an Islamic state. And we can bomb it all we want. But unless we actually can take the land back, we're really not doing them any damage.

HH: Dr. Carson, but you know, Muhammad lives in 632AD, so it's a 1,300, 1,400 year old religion. How do you go back to Jacob and Esau, which are BC?

BC: I'm just saying that the conflict has been ongoing for thousands of years. This is not anything new, is what I'm saying.

HH: So it's not specific to the Islamic faith or the Salafist offshoot to the Islamic faith?

BC: Well, the Islamic faith emanated from Esau.

HH: Okay, I would date it to 632, but you've got a Biblical connection here that some people may share with you, but I think scholars might dispute.

2) Beware the future Sunni-Shia alliance:

HH: Now do you rate the threat that the Islamic State and their adherents[?…] Do you rate the threat posed by them equal to the threat posed by Iran or other nation-state actors like North Korea, Russia or the People's Republic of China?

BC: Well, I think right now, our biggest enemies are the group motivated by, that have sprung out of the Sunni radicals. That would be ISIS. And you know, there are a number of sponsored terrorist groups that emanate from the Shiia, which are based primarily in Iran. Right now, they're fighting each other in Iraq, admittedly. But in the long run, I think they would gladly unite against us in their attempt to destroy the United States, our way of life, and Israel.

And my personal favorite, 3) Get those Baltics into NATO, stat!

HH: The Baltic states are very nervous, and we have troops in the Baltic states. Ought NATO to be willing to go to war if Putin attempts in the Baltic states anything like he's attempted in Ukraine?

BC: I think they would be willing to go to war if they knew that they were backed up by us. I think part of the problem throughout the world right now is that our allies cannot be 100% certain that we're behind them.

HH: And so should we have that sort of commitment, that if Putin makes a move on the Baltic states, we'd go to war?

BC: Well, if we have them involved in NATO. We need to convince them to get involved in NATO and strengthen NATO.

HH: Well, the Baltics, they are in NATO. […]

[Later in the interview.] HH: But Dr. Carson, one of the things I know that's going to come up, and again, I don't do ambush interviews, but when it appeared you didn't know that the Baltic states were a part of NATO, or where you date the…

BC: Well, when you were saying Baltic state, I thought you were continuing our conversation about the former components of the Soviet Union. Obviously, there's only three Baltic states.

HH: Right, and they're all part of NATO.

BC: Right.

As I argued in my typology of GOP anti-establishmentarians, it's not clear that such botched exchanges with journalists will hurt Carson's standing too much among conservatives already sympathetic to him, since getting called out as a rube by the hated media is a key part of what "Petulants" do. Though it is significant here that the interrogator is well-respected on the right (disingenuous claims about not doing "ambush" interviews notwithstanding!).

I wrote more about Carson's curious ideas here.