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Should Realists Support Trump?

Trump speaks at Washington rally against the Iran deal back in September 2015. Credit: Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA/Newscom

Dan Drezner picks up on some recent reports of Trump’s supposed foreign policy realism and does not engage in any trolling whatsoever:

If realists really want to have some skin in the American foreign policy game, they will not find a better vessel than Trump.

I don’t consider myself a realist (though I’m often described that way), but I can think of many reasons why realists wouldn’t want to get behind Trump. Judging his candidacy solely on foreign policy grounds, it’s not hard to see why realists would be skeptical of or even horrified by a candidate who denounces the nuclear deal with Iran, lies about its provisions, declares Iran an “existential threat” to Israel, spouts nonsense about Near Eastern regional conflicts, doesn’t seem to know very much about most foreign policy issues, and routinely talks about seizing oil fields as if this were a practical or desirable thing to do. Should realists get on board with a candidate like that because he says some of the right things about the national interest or democracy promotion in the vaguest way possible? I’ll let you be the judge.

Drezner mentions some of the people that Trump has consulted, and a couple of those names should be alarming to lots of people and not just realists:

Rogin reports that Trump has talked to a few foreign policy people (Harvard historian Daniel Pipes, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Dayon [bold mine-DL], former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn).

Pipes was considered a neoconservative until not that long ago (and back in 2005 he said he “happily” accepted the label), and his record is full of horrible foreign policy arguments. Here he was shilling for the MEK, here he was arguing for attacking Iran in 2013, and here he is making an uncharacteristic case for aligning the U.S. with the Assad regime. In short, Pipes routinely offers bad and truly dangerous advice on a range of issues. He also regularly exaggerates the threat from jihadist groups.

Danny Danon is a vocally pro-settler member of Likud, and ran against Netanyahu for the party leadership in part because he thought that Netanyahu wasn’t “tough” enough on the Palestinians and others. He flatly rejects a two-state solution, opposes peace talks, and openly calls for annexing most of the West Bank.

Some of the only people that have been identified as advising Trump on foreign policy are dangerous and frequently wrong about major issues in the Near East. That is the sort of advice that the Trump campaign seems to value. Now why exactly would realists want to be part of that?

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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