EgyptAir crash exposes a reckless and impulsive Donald Trump
For Trump, tragedies like EgyptAir MS804 are seen as opportunities to slam Muslims and throw punches at political opponents
It is one thing when Donald Trump's loose talk and theatrics are targeted at his former rivals "little Marco" and "lying Ted", and completely another when the case at hand is an international crisis involving a human tragedy, begging for leadership, intelligence sharing and defense cooperation.
To echo Mark Twain on "why let facts get in a way of a good story", Trump wanted to be the first to politicize the EgyptAir 804 tragedy, jumping the gun few hours after the crash and calling out the "great hate and sickness" that led to the "terrorist attack". Trump tweeted on Thursday at 6:27 am without having any evidence that it was an act of terrorism: “Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!”
To be clear, the EgyptAir tragedy might very well be an act of terror but so far we have not seen any conclusive evidence to validate those claims, while data of smoke alerts and distress calls has raised other possibilities. Trump’s speculation and knee-jerk reaction reveals a dangerous and impulsive approach in international politics, and one that could bring dire consequences if practiced from the Oval Office.
Trump’s crystal ball?
In the case of EgyptAir’s MS804, there has been no data or evidence yet that suggests it was a terrorist attack, unless of course Trump has a crystal ball or direct access to the Airbus windows and lavatory in question. Otherwise, and since the crash, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility, and nothing about the 66 passengers and crew points to an extremist connection. But for Trump, possibly the mere fact that the plane is Egyptian and had Muslim passengers on it, was enough to label it as terrorism. He told MSNBC on Friday that he could "practically guarantee" who "blew up" the plane.
For Trump, tragedies like EgyptAir MS804 are seen as opportunities to slam Muslims and throw punches at political opponentsJoyce Karam
Waiting for the investigation teams and submarines diving thousands of feet into the Mediterranean to find the black boxes would not be as politically beneficial for the Republican presumptive nominee. Trump is seeking to boost his national security credentials after series of wild statements on meeting the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and criticizing the British Prime Minister David Cameron. A Washington-ABC Poll shows that potential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton leads “The Donald” by 8 points on the issue counterterrorism.
Trump’s hawkish and fear-mongering rhetoric resonates well with the GOP’s ideological base. The website "The right scoop" went a step further than Trump in smearing the pilot Mohamed Said Shakeer because of conversations he had with his friends about death and an old photo with a cleric on one of his 6275 hours of flying. This is the same pilot who made the call to traffic control to report the smoke on the flight and attempted emergency landing.
Trump's foolhardy talk and shooting from the hip on issues related to foreign policy and national security is reckless and plays into the hands of extremist organizations in the region.
His labels of "Islamic terrorism", "Muslim ban" and "great hate" are not to be seen as manifestation of strength and are by no means equivalent to a strategy to defeat ISIS. He has none. Big statements during the George W. Bush era such as "war on terror" or "Islamofascism" did not defeat Osama Bin Laden nor did they democratize Iraq. Instead they fueled anti-Americanism in the region, and re-enforced the "them vs. us" narrative.
Diplomatically, rushing to Twitter to draw premature conclusions about a tragedy that involves two allies, France and Egypt, provides a good example on how not to be Presidential. In an increasingly vulnerable Middle East, embassies and U.S. interests could end up paying the price of wild campaign talk in Washington.
For Trump, tragedies like EgyptAir MS804 are seen as opportunities to slam Muslims and throw punches at political opponents. That might be a smart approach to rally the base and generate traffic on social media, but it’s an irresponsible and reckless precedent when you’re two steps away from the Presidency of the United States.
Joyce Karam is the Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam