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Trump and Walid Phares

Donald Trump finally named [1] 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 [2], and selecting him as an adviser reflects just as poorly on Trump as it did on Romney. Leon Hadar has described [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] one of the arguments of 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.

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27 Comments To "Trump and Walid Phares"

#1 Comment By Just Dropping By On March 21, 2016 @ 5:42 pm

Well, I almost certainly wasn’t voting for Trump, but this killed any remaining chance. Phares is undoubtedly one of the most intellectually bankrupt of the neocons. On the eve of the 2003 Iraq war, he wrote an op-ed piece comparing people opposing the war to people in Constantinople in 1453 debating the threat posed to the city by the Ottomans, which I think has to win some sort of prize for most insanely unconnected to reality pro-Iraq war argument.

#2 Comment By Nam De Ploom On March 21, 2016 @ 5:46 pm

Great.

WHY? WHY? WHY?

Trump is turning out to be the same kind of helpless idiot on foreign policy that G. W. Bush was. Why do we keep getting the same crap, over and over again? The same old crew of incompetent interventionists, sinister neocons, and raving loonies? When are the adults coming back? Are they all dead? In hiding somewhere?

Note to Trump: Sessions is a good guy and very sound on immigration and the work visa scam. But that’s about it. Keep him and this gang of nutcases away from foreign policy.

Walid Phares … Good Christ.

#3 Comment By Noah172 On March 21, 2016 @ 5:48 pm

Agree that Phares is troubling, but is that it? No comment on the others? No comment on Trump’s bombshell — and welcome — remarks today on foreign affairs? (Dump NATO, make allies pay their own way, etc.)

#4 Comment By Chris Chuba On March 21, 2016 @ 5:58 pm

Walid Phares might be extreme but I do not think that it is far fetched to believe that the Saudis have been pulling our strings in quite a few areas.

This is certainly true in our policy in Syria and Yemen as well as our incredibly hostile posture towards Iran despite the fact that almost all terrorism is Wahabbist Sunni in origin.

#5 Comment By Jonathan Lester On March 21, 2016 @ 6:03 pm

So it’s only by Washington Post standards that the Trump team is shaping a “non-interventionist” policy, and now we have to wonder if Trump’s words on this matter are any more binding than his promise to pay legal fees for violent supporters. We should remember also that Sen. Sessions has called veteran care an “entitlement.”

#6 Comment By Fortitudo On March 21, 2016 @ 6:05 pm

Trump better do a quick 180 on this. As he did after that dumb remark about H-1B visas.

Foreign policy is uncharted waters for him, so we know he’s going to do a lot of learning on the job. But if he wants to persuade people like me that he can do that, he needs to start by getting people on board who can command respect – the Baker and Scowcroft types – not this pathetic menagerie of proven incompetents, cranks, and bottom-feeders. Sessions knows better than this and ought to be ashamed of himself.

#7 Comment By KD On March 21, 2016 @ 6:07 pm

I think you need to walk a mile in the other man’s shoes, you are slated to speak at AIPAC and you are worried someone will throw tomatoes at you, the usual suspects have mostly declared themselves for Hillary, what do you do?

#8 Comment By Irony Abounds On March 21, 2016 @ 6:07 pm

Schmitz – Former Blackwater guy (hey, let’s privatize the American military). Page and Papodopolous – energy guys (nothing say non-interventionist in the Middle East like an energy guy). Kellog, former COO of the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority under Bremer – clearly a top notch fellow). Schmitz – ethical problems while in Bush Administration.

Meanwhile, in one breath he promises diminish the US involvement in NATO while at the same time promising to make the US military so strong that nobody will mess with it. Kind of ignoring the fact that pulling back from NATO will likely cost the US bases from which to exercise it’s enormous power. I honestly don’t know if he really believes he is so wonderful a person that all these fairy tale promises he makes will come true, or he is just blowing smoke up the rear ends of gullible dupes who are just angry about everything and are stupid enough to believe Trump’s snake oil.

#9 Comment By ek ErliaR On March 21, 2016 @ 6:18 pm

So, Phares is a Phalangist and sympathetic to Ba’athists and Israel.

To my eye, the US has been overly indulgent of Saudi Arabia and militant Islamists for far too long. I don’t see conspiracy theories in the paragraph you offered, particularly when US’s dealings with SA are themselves cloaked in so much secrecy.

#10 Comment By Kurt Gayle On March 21, 2016 @ 6:23 pm

You’re right, Daniel. Walid Phares is a bad choice to become one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisors.

#11 Comment By pitchfork On March 21, 2016 @ 6:27 pm

On the face of it, these names are troubling, but I think we all know that Trump put these folks together like last week or something. If Cruz picks someone like Gaffney, it’s because he wants to endorse that brand of crazy.

I’m speculating, but I’m guessing Trump is just putting together some names because Mika Brzezinski keeps asking for names. Also, Trump is probably extremely limited in the number of people, at this point, willing to be identified publicly as an advisor. That will change if the Republicans fail to steal the nomination later this year.

#12 Comment By William Dalton On March 21, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Trump continues to get favorable commentary in the pages of The American Conservative from founder Pat Buchanan, and now he has the enthusiastic endorsement of David Stockman.

[6]

Both these men are veterans in the long war against the warmongers of Washington, and would show no such enthusiasm for anyone they believed would continue the business as usual of American intervention in foreign wars and military ventures to destroy “terrorists” overseas who pose no comparable threat to the security of the United States.

And now Donald Trump begins to echo Pat’s call for U.S. withdrawal from NATO and the continued defense of Europe from a non-existent Russian threat (which alliance since the end of the Cold War has been used solely to project American power into Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other places in Africa and Muslim Asia). I have no more idea than the next guy what Donald Trump is really up to. He is guilty of saying one thing one day and another the next. But NO other U.S. politician is talking about being an “honest broker” between Israel and Palestine, is talking about U.S. withdrawal from NATO, on ANY day of the week.

So why is Trump associating himself with Walid Phares? Is it because he wants to follow Phares’ counsel to pursue an energetic war against radical Sunni Islam throughout the world in manifestations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS? Or is it because he is impressed with Phares’ disdain for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and their domination over U.S. policy in Syria, towards Iran, and his native Lebanon? Or is he simply filling out a list of people who are willing to put their names with his and show his appreciation for doing so?

Who is more likely to end the “neocon” stranglehold upon U.S. foreign policy in the coming election? Ted Cruz? Hillary Clinton? John Kasich? Bernie Sanders? Or is it Donald Trump?

If you see someone else, more likely to do so, who can be slipped into the White House in this chaotic election year of 2016, please let us know.

#13 Comment By Kurt Gayle On March 21, 2016 @ 8:16 pm

“My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” Trump said early on in his AIPAC speech.

Later Trump said, “At the very least, we must hold Iran accountable by restructuring the terms of the previous deal.”

Trump may also have departed from his prepared remarks and said about the Iran deal that “he would enforce it in a tough way.” (Gloria Borger thought Trump said that. I thought he did, too, but the rushed Time Magazine transcript doesn’t include those words.)

From beginning to end the speech was a fawning disaster. Trump said almost nothing that was even remotely accurate. His long digression about Iran was frightening.

I’m desperately searching for something positive to say about Trump’s AIPAC speech. Can anyone help me, or was it really that slavish and beginning-to-end awful?

#14 Comment By Dan On March 21, 2016 @ 8:17 pm

I’m in agreement…

NATO remarks good
List of names bad

#15 Comment By Josh On March 21, 2016 @ 9:53 pm

Trump won’t listen to silly ol Wallid. He has to make picks like that to come across as acceptable to the establishment after he gets to 1237. Listen to Trump himself on comments about Iraq being a mistake, other nations needing to pay their own way on defense, getting along with Russia and being less involved in NATO. Calm down there fellas.

#16 Comment By IceyFrance On March 22, 2016 @ 1:36 am

Trump at AIPAC was awful.

Kurt Gayle — only thing one can say to help you in your desperate situation is that Trump was not as slavish and awful as Biden.

Dump Trump.

Write in Rand Paul.
Vote for Sanders?
Jill Stein is still a candidate.

The way the puzzle pieces are coming together, it looks like Israel is allying with Saudi Arabia and Ashton Carter is drawing Turkey into an alliance to wage war on Iran.

War against Iran has been the plan for over a decade, and the Israelis will not be denied.

#17 Comment By Clint On March 22, 2016 @ 5:58 am

Trump,
“I do think it’s a different world today, and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore. I think it’s proven not to work, and we have a different country than we did then. We have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting, probably, on a bubble. And it’s a bubble that if it breaks, it’s going to be very nasty. I just think we have to rebuild our country.”

Doesn’t sound like Phares Neoconservatism.

#18 Comment By Daniel (not Larison ) On March 22, 2016 @ 8:16 am

It seems to me that if Trump says something Neocon, or lists Neocon people as advisors, than he’s just pandering to the establishment…but if he’s talking about building a wall and calling Iraq a mistake, he’s not pandering to ma and pa Kettle–oh no, he wouldn’t do that at all, he can be trusted…he said so himself!

Seriously, when will Trumpsters realize that they are voting for an amoral carnival barker who is willing to say anything outlandish to get attention and (God forbid) become President? Just because the establishment regularly lies (and yes, it does), does that make Trump, another proven liar, automatically a knight in shining armor?

#19 Comment By Choker On March 22, 2016 @ 9:34 am

“Trump at AIPAC was awful.”

Gutless. This AIPAC appearance was a priceless opportunity. He choked.

#20 Comment By Jeremy On March 22, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

You’d think he would wait until AFTER he got the nomination to flip-flop in this way.

@Just Dropping By — Ann Coulter backs Trump and she still believes Iraq war opponents are traitors (except for Trump, of course).

#21 Comment By SteveM On March 22, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

Re: William Dalton, “…now he has the enthusiastic endorsement of David Stockman.”

William, yeah I saw that article several days ago. Stockman is projecting out an illusory Trump that he wants, not the Trump who actually is.

I thought he was smarter than that.

I may be contemptuous of the others, but I’m no chump for Trump.

P.S. too bad Trump didn’t recruit anybody from Ron Paul’s shop for balance. Or even Dr. Paul himself as an advisor.

#22 Comment By Jeremy On March 22, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

@Daniel (not Larison ) — Some of the Trumpsters are starting to get it, but others sound a lot like a kid whose dad “went out for a pack of cigarettes.”

#23 Comment By KevinS On March 22, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

@ William Dalton — in foreign policy Trump is complete jump into the dark with someone who is an unknowledgeable buffoon. I am not taking that gamble.

#24 Comment By D1ll On March 22, 2016 @ 6:49 pm

I can’t believe anyone could actually be impressed with Trump’s ramblings on foreign policy, or believe that he would be a meaningful improvement over any recent administration (or other current candidate) with respect to foreign policy matters. People who apparently believe otherwise completely baffle me.

However, that doesn’t matter; I see no credible evidence that Trump derives any meaningful portion of his current support for his foreign policy positions (such as they are). His support is rooted in the economy and immigration.

#25 Comment By Ken Hoop On March 22, 2016 @ 6:57 pm

Trump is doing most of his shtick off the cuff
and can only be relied on to be a well meaning goat jamming the machinery, that of the Elite’s attempts to continue unipolar world hegemony with Israel as junior partner.
I believe he has convinced himself that the Elite is so ineffectually corrupt, he can do a better job working off the cuff as, at worst, a less ineffectual, uncorrupt statesman.

#26 Comment By Timothy Howard On March 23, 2016 @ 1:51 pm

The list of advisors shows a willingness to hear from differing view points. Nothing wrong with that.

#27 Comment By Terry On November 15, 2016 @ 9:29 am

I agree with you Timothy