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“His Global Brainless Trust”: Donald Trump’s New Foreign Policy Advisers Are As Rotten As His Steaks

A Christian academic accused of inciting violence against Muslims. A former Pentagon official who blocked investigations into Bush administration bigwigs. And an assortment of self-professed experts probably few in established foreign policy circles have ever heard of. These are the minds advising Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on foreign policy and national security.

Trump, who has been pressed for months to name his council of advisers, revealed five in a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board on Tuesday: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares, and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Few of these names will register with most voters, or many experts in Washington. None of them are especially sought after for foreign policy views and national security expertise in the nation’s capital—which may be why they’re attractive to Trump.

Trump revealed little about what specific advice they’d given so far, or how any of them may have shaped Trump’s surprising new position that the U.S. should rethink whether it needs to remain in the seven-decades-old NATO alliance with Europe.

Sounding more like a CFO than a commander-in-chief, Trump said of the alliance, “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” adding, “NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

U.S. officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said that European allies have to shoulder a bigger burden of NATO’s cost. But calling for the possible U.S. withdrawal from the treaty is a radical departure for a presidential candidate—even a candidate who has been endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It also wasn’t clear how Trump’s arguably anti-interventionist position on the alliance squared with his choice of advisers. The most well-known among them is Phares, a politically conservative academic who has accused President Obama of “appeasement” toward radical Muslim terrorists and called for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

To his detractors, Phares is a rare combination of lightning rod and dog whistle. His various claims about a creeping, underappreciated jihadi “apocalypse” against the West will find quarter with Trump’s broad suspicion of Muslims and his call to ban foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.

In a 2008 essay in the conservative Human Events, Phares warned that in the following four years, “Jihadists may recruit one million suicide bombers” and that by 2016, they would have 10 million and “seize five regimes equipped with the final weapon,” referring to nuclear weapons.

This isn’t Phares’s first time as a presidential adviser. As The Daily Beast reported in 2011, Phares’s work co-chairing the Middle East policy team for then-GOP candidate Mitt Romney—who has recently vowed to fight against Trump’s nomination—prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations to call on the candidate to ditch Phares, whom it called “an associate to war crimes” and a “conspiracy theorist,” citing his ties to a violent anti-Muslim militia.

Mother Jones reported that in the 1980s Phares, a Christian who was then active in Lebanese political groups, trained militants in ideological beliefs to justify a war on Muslim and Druze factions, prompting a former CIA official to question why a man with ties to foreign political organizations was advising a U.S. presidential candidate.

Phares has his supporters, chiefly in neoconservative foreign policy circles and among conservative pundits and analysts. But those connections drew scrutiny in 2012 when the group Media Matters for America alleged that Phares’s connections to the Romney campaign weren’t properly identified when Phares was working as a consultant for Fox News.

Another Trump adviser, Schmitz, has served in government, as the Defense Department inspector general. Schmitz was brought in during the first term of President George W. Bush with a mandate to reform the watchdog office, but he eventually found himself the subject of scrutiny.

“Schmitz slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines,” according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times in 2005. Current and former colleagues described him as “an intelligent but easily distracted leader who seemed to obsess over details,” including the hiring of a speechwriter and designs for a bathroom.

Schmitz also raised eyebrows for what the paper’s sources described as his “unusual” fascination with Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, a Revolutionary War hero who’s regarded as the military’s first inspector general. Schmitz reportedly replaced the Defense Department IG’s seal in its office across the country with a new one bearing the Von Steuben family motto, Sub Tutela Altissimi Semper, “under the protection of the Almighty always.”

 

By: Shane Harris, The Daily Beast, March 21, 2016

March 22, 2016 - Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , ,

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