Tuesday, 22 March 2016

No Trump of Fresh Air

Donald Trump finally named some of his foreign policy advisers, and at least one of them is an extremely bad choice: 

For the first time, Trump also listed members of a team chaired by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that is counseling him on foreign affairs and helping to shape his policies: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares [bold mine-DL] and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Phares is a former Romney adviser, and selecting him as an adviser reflects just as poorly on Trump as it did on Romney.

Leon Hadar has described him in TAC as a neoconservative and “an academic who was involved with right-wing Christian militia groups during the Lebanese civil war,” but that doesn’t do full justice to Phares’ record of bad judgment and alarmist rhetoric about foreign threats.

As McKay Coppins reported shortly after Romney named Phares as an adviser, “Throughout his career as a pundit, he has warned that some Muslims are plotting a secret takeover of American institutions with the end goal of imposing Sharia.” 

Like Cruz adviser Frank Gaffney, Phares has been convinced for years that U.S, foreign policy has been dictated by Islamists. 

Adam Serwer summed up one of the arguments from a Phares book a few years ago:

Also in Phares’ book Future Jihad, which Loyola describes as an “indispensable contribution,” Phares argues that prior to 9/11, American foreign policy was essentially under the control of Islamic fundamentalists. 

“[T]he Wahabi influence was so profound and subtle that it made its arms within the State Department, CIA, and information agencies think that they, not the Wahabis, were in control of policy.” 

It’s hard to find a foreign policy decision Phares disapproves of that isn’t the result of covert Islamist infiltration, from US policy during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Balkans to support for ending Lebanon’s civil war along terms favorable to Syria.

Here’s Phares’ creative historical interpretation of the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo: “[A]n all-out campaign by al-Qaeda destroyed the Serbian Army in Kosovo and led to regime change in Serbia.”

The selection of Phares as a foreign policy adviser is every bit as absurd and disqualifying for Trump as Cruz’s selection of Gaffney is for the senator.

Both advisers have many of the same flaws: conspiracy theorizing, unfounded accusations of Islamist subversion of the government, and an obsessive anti-Muslim view of the world.

It isn’t surprising that Trump made such a bad choice, but it gives us another reason to question Trump’s judgment and it should alarm Trump supporters that want to believe his foreign policy will be an improvement over the usual Republican agenda.


  1. Trump went along to AIPAC and kissed their feet, he is no different, just another GOP bomber to order.

    1. Except that he has promised to nuke Mexico if it does not pay for his wall.

  2. He certainly hasn't impressed your buddies, the TAC boys. You'd know better than I, but don't be surprised at all if the American Conservative, already calling both Trump and Cruz "disqualified" on foreign policy grounds, advocates a vote for Bernie if he's on the ballot and nobody if he's not.

    1. TAC and its tendency would seem to have few, if any, other remaining options. They have always known that they had no future in the party that now defined itself by its Crazy foreign policies. Those policies have been the very point and purpose of the Republican Party throughout the present century.

    2. Paleocons are a very highly cultured lot who could never bear to vote for Trump or Cruz even if they were not foreign policy Crazies, no wonder your friend who edits the American Conservative has already voted for Sanders. You have been saying for years they would all become Dems and get on with it. It's happening.

    3. Virginia has open primaries, so we cannot yet say that The American Conservative is edited by a registered Democrat. Give it time, though.

      Your point about culture is well made. Trump's speeches show a middle school reading age, and Cruz is scarcely better-read or more articulate. They and the Paleo Boys would have nothing to talk about. Not just a lot to disagree on. Nothing to talk about.