Trump’s Troubling Choice of Sessions

Donald Trump has named Alabama Sen. Sessions to lead his foreign policy team, disappointing some “realists” who hoped Trump would turn his back on the neocon-dominated establishment, explains Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

I imagine many anti-war colleagues will choke over Donald Trump’s selection of the junior senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions to head his foreign policy team. Sessions’s 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’s rally in 2005 to protest an anti-Iraq War rally the day before. There he described the other side as committing the sin first highlighted by President Ronald Reagan’s neoconservative United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1984 – “to blame America first.”

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions donning one of Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" caps.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions donning one of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” caps.

Then there are the other, non-foreign policy positions of Sessions that will be galling to all progressives. Ranked as one of the most conservative members of Congress, his positions on civil rights, gay marriage, race relations, immigration and abortion rights follow conservative orthodoxy. The list of his domestic policy red flags goes on and on.

In any case, Sessions is not widely regarded as a foreign policy expert. Despite his membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee, national security policy is not his strong suit. He is known more for his experience as a former state attorney general and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee,

By itself, the choice of Sessions is a seemingly sad commentary on Trump’s campaign. And yet it clearly fit within Trump’s political calculations of getting elected to the presidency. Picking Sessions came not long after Sessions issued his endorsement of Trump, one of the first major figures in the Republican establishment to do so. With his solid standing within the more conservative wing of the party, Sessions is a valuable asset to protect Trump against charges that he is not a real Republican, nor a real conservative.

Whether Trump really intends to take counsel from this new chief adviser on foreign policy is another matter, a question of strategy and not electoral tactics. In this sense, Trump may have been too clever by half.

As he draws together a foreign policy and security team, Trump’s choice of Sessions – a lockstep Republican on national security as illustrated by his staunch support of President George W. Bush’s Iraq War – may push aside “realist” and “anti-interventionist” 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 dominated by a monolithic assemblage of warmongers.

A person who regularly communicates with me summarized the challenges facing Trump in formulating foreign policy as follows:

“The key is fleshing out for Trump what his elliptical statements, not only about [Russian President Vladimir] 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. [Martin] Dempsey [former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], based on what [investigative reporter Seymour] Hersh wrote, might advise Trump.” (Hersh described Dempsey as resisting interventionist pressure to engage in “regime change” in Syria and instead worked behind the scenes with Russia to thwart gains by jihadist terror groups.)

The first task for a President Trump would be to take us back from the brink of nuclear war with Russia. In the context of needless confrontations with Moscow, which have produced a feverish atmosphere of mutual distrust, preemptive nuclear strikes have become all too thinkable.

A potential 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 America’s global missile defense system. Trump and his team should be ready to discuss and to act on a desperate 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 with concerted actions by 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 the establishment elites have denied us for too long.

Gilbert 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 [email protected]. © Gilbert Doctorow, 2016

19 comments for “Trump’s Troubling Choice of Sessions

  1. Peter Loeb
    March 19, 2016 at 06:59

    “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 with concerted actions by 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 the establishment elites have denied us for too long.” Gilbert Doctorow, above

    While the article above may be curiously incomplete in ways that are nearly impossible to measure
    at this writing, Doctorow makes a major contribution to most commentators to focus less on what
    Donald Trump said yesterday or last week or on how to stop him either in nomination or presidential
    campaign, and to address head on where a Trump Administration would go. How would it look
    in office? (Once again, concentrating on the realities of policy and not “the show”!)

    Of course, we are not there.

    And many think that Donald Trump would be the GOP’s weakest candidate in opposition to
    Hillary Clinton (e g Brooks of the NY Times).

    A similar refocusing of analysis to a probable Hillary Clinton presidency would be
    helpful as well as additions.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

  2. March 18, 2016 at 15:52

    Jeff Sessions with his first statement as head of Trump’s national security team explicitely endorsed foreign policy realism, in quite strong and direct words. Quote Jeff Sessions:

    “.. Mr. Trump and the American people know our country needs a clear-eyed foreign policy rooted in the national interest. We need to understand the limits of our ability to intervene successfully in other nations. It is time for a healthy dose of foreign policy realism. In the Middle East, this means forming partnerships based on shared interests, not merely overthrowing regimes in the dangerous attempt to plant democracies. … A national-interest foreign policy, combined with a military second to none, stands in contrast to interventionist ideas that could enmesh us further in the region’s chaos. …”

    • J'hon Doe II
      March 18, 2016 at 17:48

      “A national-interest foreign policy, combined with a military second to none, stands in contrast to interventionist ideas that could enmesh us further in the region’s chaos. …”

      Bravo. —

      Exactly that with no deviation.

      “A nation divided against itself cannon stand.”

  3. J'hon Doe II
    March 18, 2016 at 14:46

    US Senator Jefferson Sessions could be positioned as Trumps’ VP choice. In that vein, it’s a tactically brilliant move to help stave off GOP convention histrionics. It will definitely solidify the southern region vote.

    Looks like Mr. Trump is here to stay… .

  4. March 17, 2016 at 19:01

    I am a little over halfway through “Does Russia have a Future?” It is within reach as I write this. This book is definitely interesting. Reliving the last few years with Gilbert Doctorow’s helpful focus will be interesting to anyone concerned about peace on Earth.

  5. Christene
    March 17, 2016 at 17:36

    Jeff Sessions on Trump’s overall view on military conflict;
    “I think his emphasis on a more realistic, pragmatic foreign policy is good. I think an argument can be made there is no reason for the U.S. and Russia to be at this loggerheads. Somehow, someway we ought to be able to break that logjam. Strategically it’s not justified for either country. It may not work. Putin may not be able to be dealt with, but I don’t condemn his instincts that we ought to attempt to do that. You would have a firm policy, and when you identified an enemy he would move with strength and vigor and he would be more reluctant to see us enmeshed in conflicts around the globe for which there is no real end in sight.”

    Call me crazy, but it sounds reasonable to me.

    • Brad Owen
      March 18, 2016 at 07:46

      It suggests to me that Trump’s focus is INTERNAL, and doesn’t want any outside interference with what’s about to happen…bury the hatchet with any possible External Enemies. Hitler signed a Pact with Stalin, astounding communists around the World. Just saying there’s two different ways of looking at it.

      • Brad Owen
        March 18, 2016 at 08:27

        Like he’s got to get his internal “Ducks-in-a-row” and goose-stepping properly, before he comes out to “Meet the World” head-on…no doubt in alignment with the Round Table group and the Synarchist Movement for Empire/Pan Europa group. We are the repository, in the English-speaking “Empire” for vast numbers of Legions.

        • J'hon Doe II
          March 18, 2016 at 18:08

          Thanks for your pronouncement of the Round Table Group.

          Not many know of Anglo-American history presented by Carroll Quigley.

  6. Zachary Smith
    March 17, 2016 at 17:31

    Trump may have been too clever by half.

    Maybe not. A quick google search turned up evidence Trump has been hounded about his ‘foreign policy advisors’ for quite a while.

    So what is Trump’s foreign policy? The candidate has taken flack for his lack of advisors on international matters.

    I’m going to guess that Sessions is just a place-filler, or a big name ‘honorary’ person. If he’s expecting to do any actual foreign policy advising, I’d predict he’s going to be disappointed.

  7. BO terror victim
    March 17, 2016 at 17:09

    I presume the number one military R2P mission will be to
    secure NAZI Isreal NUKES or trigger them in their silos….
    while simultaneously annexing and capping all of Saudi Arabia’s
    petrol wells.

  8. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    March 17, 2016 at 15:17

    Calm down everyone, Richard HAASS said on National Public Radio that HE is advising ALL Candidates on BOTH SIDES…..Zionist Jewish Neocons have been ruling, are ruling, and will continue to rule America for YEARS to come…..Here it is …..

  9. Bill Bodden
    March 17, 2016 at 14:39

    Trump began his campaign with an excellent move calling out the bribery that masquerades as campaign finance, but for many people it has been downhill ever since for his image – racism, bigotry, promotion of violence at his rallies. Now Jeff Sessions is named as a foreign policy advisor. What is Sessions going to advise Trump on? Relations with Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi? Trump’s campaign is becoming more like Kurt Weill’s “Cabaret” and Clinton’s like a Greek tragedy.

    • Grekko
      March 18, 2016 at 07:28

      I believe that right now, Trump can use Sessions. The establishment is being cornered by Trump and a cornered animal is dangerous. Trump is trying to placate them by adding Sessions and the head of the CFR to his advisory team. Right now, it’s all politics. In time, they will either be sidelined or replaced. Trump is doing what he has to do for the time being.

  10. Brad Owen
    March 17, 2016 at 12:09

    Suzanne Klebe wrote a 1996 article on “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III” about him being “Bush’s knuckle-dragger”. This “Son of the South” campaigns for The Lost Cause (presumably not in partnership with David Duke). Check it out. Perhaps their concept of “National Security Team” has an INTERNAL focus such as Homeland Security? The Deep State gearing up for when the sheep start to bolt away from the pens and feedlots???( we already have private, for-profit prisons that can serve as slave-labor camps). Looks like they have found their clueless “Useful Idiots” to do the dirty work. Just remember what happened to the SA after they helped get Hitler into power…his SS took these thugs and barroom brawlers down, hard.

    • akech
      March 17, 2016 at 15:47

      David Duke and his group are American citizens with voting rights! And these group has been voting for some elected people in Congress; they also have their people serving in police force and armed forces, right? Are there laws banning them from participating in the US political system?

      • Bill Bodden
        March 17, 2016 at 17:32

        The problem with Duke and his ilk is not their right to participate in the political system but how they participate to the detriment of others who would like to enjoy their “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and to be part of “one nation, …, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

      • Brad Owen
        March 18, 2016 at 07:33

        No Socio-political Covenant is a Suicide Pact. The citizens will not participate by being passive and allowing those who would cut our throats to simply glide into power and commence cutting. Those who would do this are forgetting the Declaration of Independence and the Revolution, and the Civil War to finish the work of the Revolution (destroying those who enslave others) and the Society of the Cincinnati. It is THEY who better watch what they are doing. One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see what will happen.

  11. Roberto
    March 17, 2016 at 11:08

    We already know that Hillary Clinton has neocon support.

Comments are closed.