At a rally in Florida this month, President Trump sparked an international uproar when he seemingly cited a terrorist attack in Sweden that never actually happened. Trump later clarified that he was alluding to a segment he’d seen on Fox News regarding Sweden’s immigration policies, which isn’t much of a defense, but the damage was already done. His comment became a punch line on late-night television and social media. Even the Swedish embassy in Washington piled on, tweeting that it looked forward to “informing” the president.
Yet the widespread mockery of Trump’s flub, while entertaining, somewhat overshadowed the particularly relevant context in which it occurred. Trump was attempting to defend his deplorable Muslim travel ban by invoking the need to “keep our country safe.” And he was doing it by calling attention to a country, Sweden, whose unconventional approach to foreign policy and security issues underscores the senselessness of the agenda that Trump and his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, are advancing.
When it comes to national security, Trump’s ostensible strategy is rooted in jingoism and outward displays of strength. Aside from Bannon, whose unusual role on the National Security Council is a matter of grave concern, Trump has surrounded himself largely with generals (including, until his resignation, Michael Flynn) who enable him to project an image of military might. His policies and statements often seem to be driven by an archaic and self-defeating notion of “toughness”: immigration raids, the border wall, support for torture, even his all-caps tweets. “If we don’t get tough and we don’t get smart—and fast—we’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said in a campaign speech on terrorism. “There will be nothing left.”
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.