By Ben Kamisar
Ben Carson trips up in foreign policy interview
GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson stumbled through a foreign policy interview with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, making incorrect statements on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the history of Islam.
When Hewitt asked whether NATO countries should be willing to go to war if Russia invades the Baltic states, Carson called for those countries to join NATO.
“I think part of the problem throughout the world right now is that our allies cannot be 100 percent certain that we’re behind them,” Carson said Wednesday on Hewitt's radio show. “We need to convince them to get involved in NATO and strengthen NATO.”
Hewitt countered that the Baltics are already a part of NATO, while Carson said he mistakenly thought Hewitt had meant all of the former Soviet Union countries.
The two also sparred on the origins of Islam. Carson contended that Islam “emanated from Esau,” a biblical figure who lived thousands of years ago, while Hewitt said the religion stemmed from the Prophet Muhammad, who founded the religion in the year 600 A.D.
Carson also raised the idea of an alliance between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims, which flies in the face of most of Islamic history.
“Right now, they’re fighting each other in Iraq, admittedly,” he said. “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 we have to be extraordinarily careful about any alliances with them.”
Carson’s foreign policy difficulties bring up the most common knock against him. Despite an accomplished career as a neurosurgeon and his explosion onto the political stage since his 2013 National Prayer Breakfast speech, Carson is one of the only potential 2016 Republican candidates who has not served in public office.
The potential field, made up largely of current and former governors and senators, often spar over whether the executive experience of a governor or foreign policy experience of a senator is a stronger asset for a White House bid.
Carson lacks both, a fact that led Hewitt to compare his foreign policy knowledge to that of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was famously criticized during the 2008 presidential election for her foreign policy interview with Katie Couric.
“You’ve been being a great neurosurgeon all these years, you haven’t been deep into geopolitics, and that the same kind of questions that tripped up Sarah Palin early in her campaign are going to trip you up,” Hewitt told Carson.
“Is it fair for people to worry that you just haven’t been in the world strategy long enough to be competent, to imagine you in the Oval Office deciding these things?”
Hewitt compared the time needed to become a foreign policy expert to the time Carson spent becoming an accomplished neurosurgeon. Carson countered by saying he would surround himself with a strong foreign policy team if elected president.