Dr. Ben Carson On Foreign Policy and National Security

Dr. Carson joined Hugh Hewitt for a wide-ranging interview on the world and what problems it faces. Here’s a sneak preview.

On the tap root of al Qaeda and ISIS:

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HH: I begin today, this segment and next, with Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

BC: Thank you, always good to be with you.

HH: Well, the last time I saw you, I wasn’t actually talking to you, because I was on the set of Meet the Press when Chuck Todd was quizzing you. Then I received an email from your PAC saying you’re collecting money, and today I see you in the New York Times. They’ve got a big story, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ben Carson. So I guess it’s rollout time for Ben Carson’s presidential campaign.

BC: Well, you know, we certainly are keeping our ear to the ground and carefully watching, and you know, I’ve been very gratified by the response of grassroots people making donations. And we’ll see where that goes.

HH: Now Dr. Carson, I don’t do ambush interviews, but I do believe that the most important job of the president is national security and Defense related. Are you prepared to talk about some of those issues with me today?

BC: Absolutely.

HH: First question I always ask every candidate, have you had a chance to read the Lawrence Wright book called The Looming Tower, which is sort of the history of al Qaeda and where it comes from?

BC: I’ve not read that particular one, but I have had a chance to look at a lot of material on not only al Qaeda, but the radical Islamic movement in general, the kinds of things that motivate and drive them.

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. I gather that. Let me ask you, though, in the current manifestation of the Islamic State, what is driving them to act as they are acting? Is it a particular variant of the Koran? What is it that you think animates their barbarianism?

BC: Well, I believe first of all that they believe that they are the possessors of right. And because of that, anything that is in disagreement with them is wrong and needs to be destroyed. And whatever mechanism they use to destroy it is okay. And that includes some of the things that appear to be very barbaric acts – chopping off people’s heads, burning them. It doesn’t matter, because they are infidels.

On what the Baltic states need to do to combat a rising threat in Russia with Vladimir Putin:

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HH: Yesterday, Vladimir Putin gave an interview in which he indicated he was willing to activate his nuclear alert status over Crimea. What do you assess Putin as, in terms of rational actor or a megalomaniac or what?

BC: Well, I think he’s a very rational actor, because he is sensing weakness. He’s sensing weakness in us and our allies in Europe, and he’s a bully. And I think he has bold ambitions, wants to reconstitute and empire. You know, when he invaded Georgia in 2008, you know, it was thought that you know, this was going to accomplish a limited, military action, and then he would withdraw. He never withdrew. And then he’s taken Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. And I think the only thing that really is stopping him is finances right now. And we should understand that, and we should do everything we can to create more economic problems for him. But then in the meantime, we should recognize what his goals are. And we should be establishing relationships with all the former components of the Soviet Union. We should be strengthening NATO. We should be getting them aligned with NATO. I mean, we need to be proactive. Why should we just wait until he does stuff and then say oh, he’s a horrible person and talk about sanctions again. That doesn’t make any sense.

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. So that’s, we’ll come back after the break and continue that conversation. And Poland’s in NATO, and we’ll talk about what that means with Dr. Ben Carson doing foreign affairs on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

The full interview can be heard and read here.