The Donald’s Foreign Policy Team: Campaign tactics must not be allowed to ‘trump’ strategy

The incoming Trump administration in January 2017 should arrive in office with well-defined plans for resuming arms control talks and negotiating a new security architecture for Europe…

The Donald’s Foreign Policy Team: Campaign tactics must not be allowed to ‘trump’ strategy
by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.

I imagine that many of our anti-war colleagues will choke over Donald Trump’s selection of the junior Senator from the State of Alabama Jeff Sessions to head his Foreign Policy Team. (See )

Sessions’ past strong support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the prosecution of the war that followed features prominently in his Wikipedia entry. Surely, it is not heart-warming to read about Sessions’ rally in 2005 to protest an anti-Iraq War rally the day before. There he described the other side as being ‘blame America first’. Then there are the other, non-foreign relations policy positions of Sessions that will be galling to all progressives. His positions on civil rights, race relations and immigration are crystal clear. He is against abortion. The list of his domestic policy red flags goes on and on.

In any case, security and foreign policy is not the strong suit of Senator Sessions. By itself, this is a seemingly sad commentary on his selection for his new position. And yet it clearly had its logic within the political calculations of getting oneself elected to the presidency. It came not long after the Senator issued his endorsement for the Trump candidacy, one of the first solid figures in the Republican firmament to do so. With his solid standing among the more conservative wings of the party, Sessions is a valuable asset to protect Trump against charges that he is not a real Republican.

Whether Donald really intends to take counsel from this new chief advisor on foreign policy is another matter, a question of strategy and not electoral tactics.

In this sense, Donald may have been too clever by half. As he draws together a foreign policy and security team, Sessions may miss great opportunities to invite in the many military and civilian experts who have been left on the curb these past 20 years as the American foreign policy establishment purged its ranks of heterogeneous opinions to become the monolithic and wrongheaded assembly of war mongers it is today.

One of my regular correspondents has summarized the challenges facing Donald Trump in formulating foreign policy as follows:

“The key is fleshing out for Trump what his elliptical statements, not only about Putin and Russia, mean, and translating his deal-making into a new non-militarist diplomacy — making big diplomatic deals that will end the cold war and open other prospects, e.g., on nukes, etc. I sense he is ready for this, but the military people Sessions will recruit have contrary instincts and no regional knowledge. Trump does best tapping into the real conservatives who are closer to Rand Paul and worship the Reagan of 1985-88. Even the retired Gen. Dempsy, based on what Hersh wrote, might advise Trump.”

The first task for Senator Sessions and his boss is to take us back from the brink of nuclear war. In the context of needless confrontations with Russia that have produced a feverish atmosphere of mutual distrust, preemptive nuclear strikes have become all too thinkable. The incoming Trump administration in January 2017 should arrive in office with well-defined plans for resuming arms control talks that address directly American concerns over Russian tactical nuclear weapons and Russian concerns over the global missile defense system. They should also be ready to discuss and finally to act on the crying need for a new security architecture in Europe that brings Russia in from the cold.

Only after these debts in arrears are resolved can we proceed in positive territory to revising the rules of global governance and replacing rancor and discord over ‘coalitions of the willing’ by concerted actions of all the big global players. This is the foreign policy which the American public has backed in opinion poll after opinion poll over the past 30 years. It is the policy which our establishment elites have denied us for too long.

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2016

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G. Doctorow is the European Coordinator, American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? (August 2015) is available in paperback and e-book from and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to