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Trump and Walid Phares

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 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.

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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