THE MORNING AFTER: At last night’s presidential debate in at Hofstra University there was more we didn’t learn than we did on issues of national security. Neither candidate told us what they would do about the war in Syria that has killed as many as 400,000 civilians. Neither one fleshed out their strategy for defeating the Islamic State, and both recycled their favorite lines from the campaign trail. Donald Trump, the dealmaker, insisted America is giving a free ride to our allies, “we're losing — we lose on everything.” And Hillary Clinton argued Trump is too easily provoked. “A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.” So, let’s break down a few subjects.
Nuclear weapons: Trump named “nuclear armament, nuclear weapons” as “the single greatest problem in the world,” not global warming. But as he did in a GOP debate last year on the subject of the nuclear triad, Trump fumbled a question on whether the U.S. should change its policy on “no first use.” Trump’s rambling answer gave no indication that he understood the current policy. “I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike,” he said. And he said the U.S. was falling behind Russia in the modernization of nuclear weapons. “They have a much newer capability than we do. We are not keeping up with other countries,” Trump said, overlooking the Pentagon’s estimated $1 trillion program to rebuild all three legs of America’s nuclear triad over 30 years, with new bombers, submarines and missile.
Fighting ISIS: Clinton’s answer to the question of defeating the Islamic State was to call for more airstrikes, more targeting of senior leaders, and more cooperation with other countries. In other words, more of the same strategy employed by President Obama. Trump has no new details, and mocked Clinton for saying too much about what she would, and wouldn’t do, leading to this memorable exchange:
TRUMP: She's telling us how to fight ISIS. Just go to her website. She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don't think Gen. Douglas MacArthur would like that too much.
CLINTON: Well, at least I have a plan to fight ISIS.
TRUMP: No, no, you're telling the enemy everything you want to do.
CLINTON: No, we're not. No, we're not.
TRUMP: See, you're telling the enemy everything you want to do. No wonder you've been fighting -- no wonder you've been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.
NATO: Trump said NATO has gotten its priorities straight thanks to his common sense admonition to the 28-nation alliance to focus on terrorism. “I said, and very strongly, NATO could be obsolete, because .. they do not focus on terror. And I was very strong. And I said it numerous times.” Trump says four months ago he read in the Wall Street Journal that NATO was taking his advice. “I'm sure I'm not going to get credit for it, but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO.”
The Iran deal: Trump’s take: “This is one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history. The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems. All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don't have to do much.”
Clinton’s response: “When I became secretary of state, Iran was weeks away from having enough nuclear material to form a bomb. … And my successor, John Kerry, and President Obama got a deal that put a lid on Iran's nuclear program without firing a single shot. That's diplomacy.”
Support for the Iraq war: Trump refused to back down on his assertion that he was strongly opposed to the Iraq war, before the March 2003 invasion, under questioning of moderator Lester Holt. Trump called that “mainstream media nonsense put out by her [Clinton],” offered a new defense, namely that he discussed his deep reservations with Fox News host Sean Hannity in private conversations at the time. “If somebody would call up Sean Hannity, this was before the war started. He and I used to have arguments about the war. I said, it's a terrible and a stupid thing,” Trump said. After the debate Trump appeared with Hannity on Fox. A transcript shows that topic didn’t come up.
Russian hacking: Clinton accused Trump of inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to “hack into Americans,” saying she was “shocked” over his July statement. Trump responded: "I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. Maybe it was. It could be Russia, it could also be China, it could also be somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.”
Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Jacqueline Klimas (@jacqklimas) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll be sure to add you to our list.
Want to learn more about Daily on Defense? See our introductory video here.
TWO AMIGOS: Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed the Obama administration for its inaction in Syria following a weekend of increased violence and hundreds of civilian deaths. "How many hospitals, markets, schools and playgrounds do Russian and Syrian regime aircraft have to bomb before we realize that Putin and Assad are not interested in stopping the violence?" the two senators said in a statement. "Putin and Assad do not want to broker peace. They want to win a war. And American inaction is helping them to do it."
Over at the White House, Russia actions in Syria were described as "unfortunate." Spokesman Josh Earnest said Russia is pursuing a policy in Syria that is not leading to peace, and that the U.S. coalition leading the fight against the Islamic State will never let Russia stop its efforts to find a political solution. Propping up a "murderous regime" and targeting the country's water supply indicates that Russia failed to truly pursue peace, Earnest said on Monday. He said the question is, "When will they try something new?"
ARMING TERRORISTS? U.S. allies "could" arm terrorist groups in Syria if Russia continues to enable President Bashar Assad's attacks on the rebels, according to the State Department, a decision that would make the civil war in that country "much worse."
"That could happen, that's a possible scenario," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Monday. Joel Gehrke has the story.
GAS MASKS AT THE READY: The Pentagon fully expects that at some point, U.S. troops or their partner forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria could come under chemical attack from ISIS. That assessment comes as the U.S. military is still testing a munitions fragment that landed near U.S. troops in Iraq for mustard agent. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said that as Islamic State fighters in Mosul become more desperate, they are likely to resort to rudimentary chemical weapons. “I think we can fully expect as this road toward Mosul progresses, ISIL is likely to try to use it again," Davis told reporters yesterday. All U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria are trained and equipped to deal with chemical agents on the battlefield, but Davis said with the assault on the Islamic State's stronghold in Mosul looming, the U.S. has also provided 50,000 gas masks to Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.
REVISING THE NUCLEAR PLAYBOOK: Speaking to troops at Minot Air Force Base yesterday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. is “refreshing NATO's nuclear playbook” to “better deter Russia from thinking it can benefit from nuclear use in a conflict with NATO.” Carter is on an inspection tour of U.S. nuclear weapons bases and laboratories. “It's a sobering fact that the most likely use of nuclear weapons is not the massive nuclear exchange of the classic Cold War-type, but rather the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks.” He cited the hypothetical example of Russia or North Korea trying to coerce a conventionally superior opponent to back off or abandon an ally during a crisis. “We cannot allow that to happen,” Carter said.
KAEPERNICKING HITS THE FLEET: Two enlisted sailors are under disciplinary review for refusing to stand for the national anthem, Mariana Barillas writes. Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Janaye Ervin, who is attached to U.S. Pacific Fleet, would not stand for the national anthem while in uniform Sept. 19. A week earlier, a female sailor who has not been publicly identified filmed herself refusing to stand for the morning "Colors" ceremony among other sailors at Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Fla. They join a nationwide trend begun by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's Black Lives Matter protest.
Defense News: Carter: Afghanistan War Supplemental Request Coming in November
Air Force Times: Four grounded JSTARS back in action
Task and Purpose: Army Rejects Smith & Wesson In Competition To Replace M9
UPI: French troops getting new Heckler & Koch assault rifle
Defense News: NATO to Deploy E-3 AWACS to Middle East as Early as October
USNI News: MQ-4C Triton Approved To Enter Low-Rate Initial Production After Successful Review
USNI News: Opinion: Course Corrections in the Littoral Combat Ship Program
Navy Times: White House tells the Pentagon to quit talking about 'competition' with China
Military.com: Marines Look to Make Job-Specific Gear for Grunts
Breaking Defense: How To ‘Land’ A Drone On A Manned Airplane: DARPA’s ‘Gremlins’
Defense One: On the Cyber Frontier, Hacking Back is Ethical — and Even Desirable
Defense One: Rein in the National Security Council
Army Times: 1st Infantry Division commander relieved of command three days after being suspended
Fox News: Syria says truce still viable after week of airstrikes
CNN: Aleppo has become a 'ghost city'
New York Times: Unrelenting Assault on Aleppo Is Called Worst Yet in Syria’s Civil War
Wall Street Journal: Turkey’s Post-Coup Crackdown Hits Kurds