+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Will the Trump administration treat Middle Easterners as inferior?

What foreign leaders would possibly be willing to engage in tough negotiations with the Trump administration if its top officials approach them as defective?

By Derek Davison

Kathleen Troia McFarland talks with the deputy commander of ISAF Lt Gen J.B Dutton (UK) before an interview, May 10, 2009, ISAF HQ in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kathleen Troia McFarland talks with the deputy commander of ISAF Lt Gen J.B Dutton (UK) before an interview, May 10, 2009, ISAF HQ in Kabul, Afghanistan.

On Friday, Donald Trump’s transition team announced that Fox News national security analyst Kathleen Troia McFarland will serve as his Deputy National Security Advisor, working under National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn. McFarland previously served on Gerald Ford’s National Security Council and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs in the Reagan administration, from 1982 to 1985.

NBC News predicted that McFarland’s appointment “will likely be far less controversial” than that of her new boss, Flynn, which is a fair assessment. It’s not every administration, after all, that appoints a National Security Advisor who says that Islam is “like a cancer,” who argues that “fear of Muslims is rational,” and who has taken money from foreign governments in the very recent past. Neither should McFarland’s appointment raise as many eyebrows as notorious Islamophobe Clare Lopez’s would have. Lopez had been considered a front-runner for the position McFarland has now taken.

But McFarland’s appointment does seem to confirm that the Trump administration’s foreign policy will be shaped by people who fundamentally believe that there is something inferior about the people of the Middle East, and that the United States must pursue confrontation as its primary response to Middle Eastern nations. McFarland may not be as incendiary in her views as Flynn, but consider the “one essential truth of the Middle East” that she claimed to offer readers of her blog back in 2014:

Why? Because we failed to realize one essential truth of the Middle East — that the nations in that part of the world aren’t just like us.

We in the West think of peace as society’s default position. War is a temporary state of affairs that happens when peace fails. For us, war is something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When it is over, win or lose, the warring factions lay down their arms, and resume their normal lives.

In the modern Middle East, war and peace are seen through a different lens. War is the default position, the normal state of affairs. Peace is what happens between wars; it is the temporary pause where defeated factions fade into the woodwork to lie low, regroup, and plan their next assault.

If it’s true that “war is the default position” in the Middle East, then it is only because 36 years of American foreign policy have made it so. From supporting Saddam Hussein’s aggressive war against Iran, to going to war to retaliate against Saddam Hussein’s aggressive invasion of Kuwait, to imposing a decade’s worth of destructive sanctions and airstrikes on Iraq throughout the 1990s, to finally invading Iraq and deposing Hussein under the flimsiest of pretenses during the Bush administration, the United States has done just about everything it could to destabilize, militarize, and cannibalize the Middle East. To say that these past four decades of more or less nonstop conflict have been caused by some violent tendency that is innate to the people of the region is no less wrong, and no less offensive, than saying that it’s rational to fear Muslims.

Saddam Hussein pictured in the trenches during the Iran-Iraq War. (AFP/Getty-images)

Saddam Hussein pictured in the trenches during the Iran-Iraq War. (AFP/Getty-images)

McFarland’s views on the Middle East and its people are further elucidated in this 2015 Fox News essay on the Iran nuclear deal, in which she describes the nation of Iran and the Iranian people as though they were America’s delinquent kindergarten-aged children who need to be strictly parented:

After watching the twists and turns of negotiations with Iran over the last year, I’m convinced that a savvy mom could negotiate a better deal than our experienced diplomats. Why? Because our diplomats seem lacking in good, old-fashioned common sense, which parents need in abundance to survive.

I’ve studied nuclear weapons at MIT, philosophy at Oxford and politics at George Washington University, but some of the most important lessons I ever learned were as a mother enrolled in the school of life. Because learning about weapons’ throw-weights, epistemology or Chinese characters is nothing compared to learning some good old-fashioned common sense. So while the diplomats in Vienna debate enrichment cycles and sanctions relief, they might spend some time sussing out the people they’re dealing with – on both sides of the table. No diplomat can be a good negotiator without the basic skill set most parents learn while navigating the kids through childhood and puberty. In the end, countries are just an aggregate of their leaders and people. They’re motivated by some of the same incentives and disincentives as your typical 6-year-old.

What are these lessons McFarland wants to apply to complex international diplomacy from her experiences as a mother?

1. Don’t let your kids eat dessert before dinner. That’s what Secretary Kerry is doing. Iran’s supreme leader insists we lift all sanctions upon signing, including unfreezing over $100 billion in assets, and Iran will get around to inspections and changes to their nuclear program over time. If they get everything they want up front, what is the incentive for them to carry out their end of the bargain down the road?

2. You do want to see what’s in that backpack, especially if your kid has been caught smoking pot in the past. You want to have surprise inspections of his room. Of course your kid will argue with you, with all the standard techniques, like “Heh, Mom, don’t you trust me?” And then, as a negotiating tactic, he will concede a small thing, but not the big thing, like, “OK, Mom, give me an hour and then you can inspect my room. But my backpack is off limits.” No way a savvy Mom falls for that!

Yet, according to press reports, that is exactly what Secretary Kerry is considering! Iran’s supreme leader has rejected the idea of anytime/anyplace inspections and flatly rejects the idea of inspectors coming onto military installations. Iran’s Parliament voted to ban inspectors from military sites, documents and scientists while some legislators chanted “Death to America.”

Really? What is the most logical place for Iran to conduct nuclear weapons research? On their military bases, of course! Any agreement that doesn’t allow for anytime/anyplace inspections isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but Verify.”

Leaving aside McFarland’s fear-mongering about how the nuclear deal treats military sites, a point that actual arms control experts have repeatedly debunked, the broader issue is this: in conducting international negotiations, the United States can’t treat other countries as though they were its wayward children. The reason for this is pretty simple: they aren’t America’s wayward children. Washington doesn’t get to send Ayatollah Khamenei to bed without dessert; it doesn’t get to take away his iPad and ground him for the weekend; and the only way it will get to check his “backpack” is by negotiating access to it in a way that no parent ever would (unless they’re prepared to muster a force of several hundred thousand soldiers to invade their child’s bedroom). If you want to strike a deal that curtails any Iranian ambitions for a nuclear weapon and gets the U.S. and Iran off of the road to a military confrontation, then that deal can’t be made entirely on America’s terms. Iran has to get something, too.

Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei. (CC BY AslanMedia)

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei. (CC BY AslanMedia)

The kind of thinking that treats Iranians, or America’s other potential geopolitical foes, as children is insipid and belittling on its face, but it’s also incredibly dangerous when given a high-ranking voice within a U.S. presidential administration. What foreign leaders would possibly be willing to engage in tough negotiations with the Trump administration if its top officials approach them as defective inferiors? More ominously, if the Trump foreign policy team views Middle Easterners as juvenile delinquents whose brains are somehow broken, according to enlightened Western standards, how concerned can we expect Trump will be about minimizing civilian casualties when he inevitably orders some kind of strike against a Middle Eastern target? Trump’s approach to foreign policy, as nebulous as it still is, looks more frightening by the day.

Derek Davison is a Washington-based researcher and writer on international affairs and American politics. This article is reprinted, with permission, from Lobelog.com.

Newsletter banner

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. During the election it was 100% known that Hillary wins, but finally Trump Conquer the USA, now what is going on the trumps mind known to the trump. He is a real estate business professional and he knows what to do and how to do.

      Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      The one who looks at Middle Easterners as “defective inferiors” was Obama and his cohorts.
      when Iranians protested against their totalitarian Islamic regime, he turned his back on them. While he wanted pro-American Mubarak ousted “yesterday”, he supported and supports to this day the Iranian regime, and illegally gives them huge amounts of money. He doesn’t believe the Iranian people are deserving of democracy.
      How about Obama in Syria? The regime uses poison gas against its own civilians and Obama draws a “red line” and then backs out of doing anything about it. Obama gives Assad, the Russians and their Iranian Shi’ite allies carte blanche to massacre Syrian civilians, simply saying he doesn’t want to get involved. Obama’s attitude is “let them kill each other, it ain’t my problem”. It is Obama and his friends who treat Middle Easterners as inferiors not worthy of democracy or even life.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The willingness to twist absolutely anything to bad mouth U.S. President Obama–because he did not just lie down and say “amen” to creeping annexation, and is too smart to be manipulated, yet has been more supportive of Israel’s true defense needs than any POTUS in history–is stupefying. (And this from the state that is incomparable in treating Palestinians with contempt.) The sheer irrational, cooked up hatred of this president is a yardstick of how deluded the Israeli masses are. And how casually racist they are. There is nothing this intelligent, good man could do that would not be twisted in a negative fashion by people who care not a whit about American interests except as they serve the settlement “enterprise” and Israeli regional hegemony. Davison’s words, “insipid and belittling,” describe exactly the attitude of the Israeli right wing in regards to just about everybody but themselves.

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          Stop fuming Benny. It isn’t good for your health. Especially since you are so misguided and bigotted yourself. Bigotted because you are relying on misconceived notions to whip up your own emotions to the point of hatred against Israeli Jews (only) as you would say. But we both know it’s more than that don’t we Ben? You have let your mask slip more than once since posting on this site on other threads.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            What a cartoon character you are.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Still in denial (no, nothing to do with the river nile – don’t even try to pull that corny stunt ?) are you Benny?

            Oh well, I have known for a long time that you think of yourself as ‘Mr Teflon’ (nothing sticks to you). But believe me you are wrong. You have let your mask slip a few times too often and people are not blind to the likes of you.

            Reply to Comment