Over at the Washington Post, fellow academic Dan Drezner has for months now been making something of a cottage industry of flagging the fourth tier lack of qualifications and/or horrifying background of Donald Trump’s circle of foreign policy advisors and surrogates.
- Authorize torture against terrorism suspects.
- Order the US military to commit war crimes.
- Abandon longstanding alliances, like NATO.
- Abandon longstanding allies to the tender mercies of predatory neighbors.
- Walk away from defense commitments to South Korea and Japan even if that means they develop nuclear weapons of their own.
- Wage trade wars against China and other countries he deems guilty of engaging in unfair trade practices.
- Close America’s border with Mexico and confiscate remittances from Mexican workers in the US in order to fund the building of Trump’s border wall.
- Bar Muslim immigrants and refugees from US soil.
- Introduce an ideological litmus test for immigrants and their American-born children.
- Try American citizens accused of terrorism before military tribunals.
Until now, though, I haven’t weighed in on Trump’s advisory team, leaving that scathing commentary in the capable hands of Drezner and others. But then I saw this tweet float across my feed:
Great meeting with @realDonaldTrump discussing national security issues today. Good group of experienced national security experts.
— Pete Hoekstra (@petehoekstra) August 17, 2016
Turns out the ex-congressman from west Michigan, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was part of a group of national security and foreign policy “experts” flown to Trump Tower yesterday to meet with the candidate and his campaign chiefs to discuss strategies to combat Islamic terrorism.
Hoekstra told the Detroit News the Trump team put on a “flawless” meeting. At least that’s one thing the fumbling campaign can apparently pull off.
But back to the main point. If Hoekstra, who had endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the primaries, has now signed on to Trump’s foreign policy team, we owe it to ourselves to take a look at his qualifications and see if his presence can elevate the overall quality of the crew he’s joining.
A look at his record as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and his post-political career, shows that he really is a great fit for Team Trump:
- In 2006 Hoekstra claimed that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, claims that were trumpeted by Fox News but disputed by the Pentagon and intelligence community and debunked by other media organizations.
- In 2006, against the advice and with the opposition of the director of national intelligence, Hoekstra spearheaded the creation of a public online archive of intelligence data collected in Iraq called the “Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal” which according to the New York Times included “documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.” The website was subsequently shut down.
- In 2006 a report released by Hoekstra’s committee on Iran’s nuclear weapons program was blasted by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as “incorrect and misleading” and described the report’s claims as “outrageous and dishonest.”
- In 2007 Hoekstra signed on to a letter critical of the Islamic Society of North America, the country’s largest Muslim organization, describing ISNA as “an organization with extremist origins, leadership and a radical agenda.”
- In 2009 Hoekstra used an alleged connection between failed underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Yemen to block the repatriation of 80 Yemeni prisoners that were being held at Guantanamo.
- In 2010, he stepped down from Congress to run unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan, then in 2012 ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate. The most notable moment in that lackluster campaign was a controversial Hoekstra television ad aired during the 2012 Super Bowl which was roundly criticized as disturbingly racist in its virulent anti-Chinese imagery and stereotyping.
- In 2015 Hoekstra published his first book, “Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya,” in which he argued that the United States should not have supported the toppling of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi since the dictator had been a friend and ally of the U.S. whose overthrow destabilized the region and transformed it into a terrorist sanctuary.
So yeah, on reflection, Hoekstra fits right in with the rest of Trump’s crack foreign policy team.