Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has been an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, offering some credibility to the foreign policy newcomer.
But on a key priority of the GOP presidential nominee — banning travel to the United States from areas affected by terrorism — Flynn acknowledged some of Trump's ideas are "not workable."
In a Morning Edition interview, NPR's Steve Inskeep asked Flynn, "In the end do we have here a laudable effort to protect the United States from all harm that is just not workable at all?"
"Well, I think that's a great question to ask, and I would love to hear that question, Steve, asked in one of the upcoming debates," Flynn responded.
He said he believed that "our responsibility is for safety and protection of American citizens abroad and at home," but that will require having "to think differently and we have to use some imagination, and we have to still protect our American values and what we represent to the rest of the world."
Flynn appeared to agree that a travel ban on countries affected by terrorism — which could include European allies such as France or the United Kingdom — may not be the best approach.
"To put a blanket [ban] on any organization, any segment of the population, is not workable, but we do have to recognize what types of things must we be able to do to continue to protect our own country and our way of life, " Flynn said.
The comments by Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, came on Monday during an interview about his new book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.
Like Trump, Flynn believes more forceful measures must be taken to protect the U.S. from the threat of what Flynn calls "radical Islamism."
Trump's proposals have evolved since last December, when he first called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Facing a storm of criticism that he was violating principles of religious freedom, in June Trump proposed "suspend[ing] immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States."
"This is not about a permanent ban," Flynn said. "This is about understanding what is happening with this rapid rise of radical Islamism. And we know, Steve, that the Islamic State has, and they've stated it, they actually stated it in their various media outlets, that they are going to infiltrate into the refugee populations that are entering different countries around the world."
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Fifty Republican security experts released a letter yesterday saying Trump is unfit to be president, said he'd be the most reckless president in American history. Trump does have the support of a longtime Democrat, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Flynn is a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and he's a critic of President Obama's Syria policy. He spoke at the Republican Convention. He's also written a book called "The Field Of Fight," which portrays the United States facing a loose coalition of enemies, such as Iran and Russia. If Trump is friendly toward Russia, Flynn thinks that's OK. There must be some relationship. And like his candidate, Flynn also sees a problem with radical Islam.
MICHAEL FLYNN: Something is happening in this Islamic ideology. And the rise of radical Islamism is really dangerous for the world. And we cannot have this just sort of, well, we're always going to have to deal with this problem. I don't think that that's a good answer.
INSKEEP: Do you think that banning Muslims from entering the United States and sending that signal to all of them around the world is going to encourage Muslims to take a friendlier posture toward the West?
FLYNN: This is not about a permanent ban. This is about understanding what is happening with this rapid rise of radical Islamism. And we know, Steve, that the Islamic State has - and they've stated it - they actually stated it in their various media outlets - that they are going to infiltrate into the refugee populations that are entering different countries around the world. They've said that. So I think that what we have to do is we have to recognize, how do we screen, vet and properly, you know, document those individuals who are coming into our country...
INSKEEP: You raise a good point, General, when you talk about...
INSKEEP: ...Clarifying this. And I appreciate you saying that because Trump initially did say he wanted not a permanent, but a temporary ban of...
INSKEEP: ...All Muslims...
FLYNN: Right, right.
INSKEEP: Then he began making exceptions. Maybe there's some Muslims he would let in. Then he gave a national security speech at which he, instead of a religion, which was widely criticized, talked about banning people from particular countries where terrorists were active. Critics have since noted that you'd have to ban people from France. You'd have to ban people from the United States from coming to the United States because there's been terrorist acts all over the world. In the end, do we have here a laudable effort to protect the United States from all harm that is just not workable at all?
FLYNN: Well, I think that's a great question to ask. And I would love to hear that question, Steve, asked in one of the upcoming debates. I think that our responsibility is for safety and protection of American citizens abroad and at home. I think that's the principal duty, you know...
INSKEEP: But does that...
INSKEEP: I asked, is this just not workable to ban whole classes of people? You agree with that - that it's not working.
FLYNN: Well, I - yeah. I mean, you can't just say, you know, blanket. But what you have to do is recognize that we have a completely different threat environment that we are dealing with now. So we have to think differently, and we have to use some imagination. And we have to still protect our American values and what we represent to the rest of the world. So to put a blanket on any organization, any segment of the population, is not workable. But we do have to recognize what types of things must we be able to do to continue to protect our own country and our way of life.
INSKEEP: One other thing I want to ask about, General Flynn...
INSKEEP: ...Some people will know that you spent more than 30 years in the military. How much does experience matter when you're trying to make wise decisions about foreign policy?
FLYNN: Yeah, I think experience matters a lot. I think judgment matters a lot. I think that instincts come with experience. I do think that there is also something to be said about accountability and responsibility. I believe that we have a political class in our country that has - doesn't even know what accountability and responsibility even means anymore to the American public. And that includes one of the, you know, one of the candidates running for president United States, and that's Hillary Clinton. I just - I don't see that.
INSKEEP: I want to zero in on one thing that you said you said. You said experience was important for so many reasons, one of them being that it helps you develop the right instincts. You're supporting a candidate who has no experience in foreign policy and says that he relies on his instincts, rather than reading a lot of books, for example. What evidence, specifically, have you seen that he has mastered foreign policy questions?
FLYNN: Well, I would say, one, is he's got a good grasp for the kind of people that he does bring around him, and he's a great listener. I know that in some of the conversations - very strategic conversations about, you know, the way the world is and the way the world can be if America remains very strong, especially economically, you know, there's an awful lot of presidents that, prior to becoming the president, had very little experience, to include Barack Obama. I mean, Barack Obama had almost zero foreign policy experience, if any.
INSKEEP: Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Thanks very much, General.
FLYNN: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: General Flynn has advised Donald Trump and is the author of "The Field Of Fight: How We Can Win The Global War Against Radical Islam And Its Allies." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.