In a meandering, 100-minute-long telephone interview with The New York Times last week, Donald Trump elaborated on some of the bold and belligerent foreign-policy prescriptions he’s hinted at in the past.
He touched on nuclear weapons, spying, and the fight against ISIS, bringing his tried-and-true “we’re losing” doom and gloom to each topic. His proclamations of decline seem to be designed to support what he said outright on Twitter last week, after a bombing in Pakistan killed dozens and injured hundreds: “I alone can solve.”
When confronted with a question about cyberwarfare, Trump leaned on the same tactics, while displaying a profound unfamiliarity with the issue.
David Sanger, one of the two Times journalists interviewing Trump, asked the candidate if the U.S. should use cyberweapons as an alternative to conventional weapons or nukes, and if so, how often.
Trump said he didn’t think cyberweapons are an alternative to nuclear weapons “in terms of ultimate power.” He tacked back to discussing nukes—“I will tell you, I would very much not want to be the first one to use them, that I can say”—until Sanger asked him again how he would use the U.S. cyber-arsenal as president.
And that’s when the Trump kicked into full woe-is-us mode. Here’s his answer, in full:
First off, we’re so obsolete in cyber. We’re the ones that sort of were very much involved with the creation, but we’re so obsolete, we just seem to be toyed with by so many different countries, already. And we don’t know who’s doing what. We don’t know who’s got the power, who’s got that capability, some people say it’s China, some people say it’s Russia. But certainly cyber has to be a, you know, certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process. Inconceivable that, inconceivable the power of cyber. But as you say, you can take out, you can take out, you can make countries nonfunctioning with a strong use of cyber. I don’t think we’re there. I don’t think we’re as advanced as other countries are, and I think you probably would agree with that. I don’t think we’re advanced, I think we’re going backwards in so many different ways. I think we’re going backwards with our military. I certainly don’t think we are, we move forward with cyber, but other countries are moving forward at a much more rapid pace. We are frankly not being led very well in terms of the protection of this country.
Trump appears to be making three points here: first, that the U.S. is “obsolete in cyber”; second, that the U.S. can’t even tell where attacks are coming from; and third, that “the power of cyber” is “inconceivable” and should figure “very strongly in our thought process.”