Ben Carson’s Foreign Policy Incoherence Continues

Dr. Ben Carson Speaks At Launch Of New Media Online Network In Scottsdale, Arizona

Like many of the Republican candidates for President, Ben Carson’s appearance on Fox News Sunday this morning was dominated by questions about the attacks in Paris and what they mean for American foreign policy going forward. As with many of Carson’s previous comments in this highly complex policy area, what we got was another incoherent mess of a word salad that makes one wonder why he is doing so well in the race for the Republican nomination for President:

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson struggled Sunday to attach specifics to his plan to defeat the Islamic State militant group, again illustrating the former neurosurgeon’s difficulty discussing foreign-policy matters.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Carson could not name a specific country or leader he would call to assemble an international coalition to counter the Islamic State, despite being asked three times by host Chris Wallace.

“My point being that if we get out there and we really lead and it appears that we’re making progress, that all of the Arab states and even the non-Arab states who are, I think, beginning to recognize that the jihad movement is global” will join, Carson said.

He suggested that he would shoot down a Russian plane if it violated a U.S.-led no-fly zone over Syria, even when told that the decision could prompt Russia to shoot down a U.S. plane in response.

“If they violate it, we will, in fact, enforce it. We’ll see what happens. For us to always be backing down because we’re afraid of a conflict, that’s not how we became a great nation, Chris,” he said.

“If we establish a no-fly zone and we make clear the rules, and they violate it — that’s why you have a no-fly zone. That’s the very definition of a no-fly zone. You can’t fly there.”

And he continued to argue that China is directly involved in the Syrian conflict, alleging that the Chinese have sent arms to Syria and that these weapons are “very sophisticated and are obviously going to require support in order to operate.”


At one point, the interview entered odd territory as Carson suddenly brought up neurological principles in response to a question about whether the United States should allow Syrian refugees to enter the country.

“To bring them over here is … a suspension of intellect,” Carson said. “The reason the human brain has these big frontal lobes as opposed to other animals is because we can engage in rational thought-processing … Animals, on the other hand, have big brain stems and rudimentary thinking because they react. We don’t have to just react, we can think.”

That last part, my friends, is what someone who has no idea what they’re talking about in the area where they’ve been asked a question does, they bring in lots of smart-sounding words that may be applicable in the field they are trained in but which makes absolutely no sense in response to the question they were actually asked. If nothing else, I think this would establish that the incoherence that Carson demonstrated last Tuesday during the debate was not a fluke. This man really doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to foreign policy, an area that seems destined to only become a more important part of the race for the White House in the wake of the Paris attacks. The fact that he is currently sitting solidly at second place in national polls, in Iowa, and in New Hampshire truly makes one wonder what Republicans are thinking. Assuming they are thinking, that is.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James R says:

    Carson’s comments in conte were highly reasoned and appropriate. Asking who is the first person you call is an utterly stupid question. Answering it would be even more stupid.

    Carson continues to speak intelligently and thoughtfully on foreign policy issues. Contrast with Sanders who swiftly segued to income inequality (what?) and Clinton, who was responsible in significant part, for the problem.

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    Doc Carson gets stoned on medium grade vaporized marijuana before interviews. Just a observation..

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    makes one wonder what Republicans are truly thinking. Assuming they are thinking, that is.

    The Republican base speaks incoherence so they understand everything he is saying.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Clinton, who was responsible in significant part, for the problem.

    Umm…how’s that? I didn’t realize that she ran foreign policy after 9/11 and through the disastrous Iraq Debacle…

  5. jimmy kraktov says:

    The people who think that Carson has any knowledge of foreign policy are people who watch debates and, other than doing that, just don’t pay attention to anything on a day to day basis. Carson is OK with starting a war with Russia? That’s definitely not someone who should be in charge of the most powerful military on the Planet. I get the real feeling that the people supporting this man see these debates as just another of the endless supply of ‘reality television’ they mindlessly consume every day.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @An Interested Party: as Secretary of State during the first Obama term, she definitely had a hand in shaping our policies in the Mideast during that time.

    I would love for her to give an interview with a real journalist on the subject of the Mideast, her role as Secretary of State, and what mistakes she thinks we made during her tenure, and what opportunities we missed. Is this the best we could do, given the situation at the time? Maybe, but almost certainly not — no one hits every target perfectly.

    Obama inherited a terrible situation, but that doesn’t absolve him or his administration of everything that happened after.

    This Mideast was a mess when Obama took office, and it’s a mess with a massive refugee problem now, and currently exporting more terrorism.

    For all her flaws though, I think she is way, way less worse than anyone the Republicans are considering nominating. I would love to have another serious option, but the Republicans have given up being serious sometime after Poppy Bush. Dole probably wouldn’t have completely sucked.

    And the Democrats really should have had a few more people running who had a plausible chance at the nomination. I wish Biden had jumped in, early enough to keep Clinton from being the prohibitive favorite, and given other candidates some breathing room.

  7. Gustopher says:

    Carson isn’t much worse than the rest of the Republican candidates. I don’t know why you’re picking on him.

  8. DrDaveT says:


    Carson isn’t much worse than the rest of the Republican candidates. I don’t know why you’re picking on him.

    I disagree. I think there’s a huge gap between “dangerously misguided” and “incoherently clueless”. People who are dangerously misguided are, at least in principle, corrigible.

    I keep thinking of Wolfgang Pauli’s comment on reading a draft paper from a physics student:

    This isn’t right. It’s not even wrong

  9. Grewgills says:


    I disagree. I think there’s a huge gap between “dangerously misguided” and “incoherently clueless”. People who are dangerously misguided are, at least in principle, corrigible.

    The incoherently clueless can, at least potentially, be hemmed in and handled. The dangerously misguided are much more difficult to hem in and handle. I’d be more scared of a Ted Cruz presidency than a Ben Carson presidency, though either one would make me despair and both would test our nations resilience.

  10. DrDaveT says:


    I’d be more scared of a Ted Cruz presidency than a Ben Carson presidency

    We don’t disagree there. If you had said “Carson isn’t much more dangerous than the rest of the GOP candidates”, I wouldn’t have posted. I was interpreting ‘worse’ to mean with regard to ‘incoherence’ in particular. Cruz is coherent — he’s just wrong about his facts, and/or evil in his motivations. Carson is incoherent, and wrong, and more sociopathic than evil.

  11. Bill Lefrak says:

    There’s a real difference between a neurosurgery practice and being CEO of the entire country. Carson is a U.S. House-level candidate ostensibly running for the highest office in the land (actually he’s on a grandiose book tour).