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"We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with..."
Donald Trump, 06 December 2016

"... a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing."
Neville Chamberlain, September 27, 1938

Trump Doctrine - The Cabinet

On 18 November 2016 President-elect Donald Trump picked Republican Senator Jeff Sessions as his attorney general. Alabama senator Jeff Sessions was one of the first politicians to endorse Trump when many other leading Republicans were against his candidacy. Trump hailed him in his election acceptance speech as the first "major politician" to support him. "Let me tell you, he is highly respected in Washington because he is as smart as you get." Sessions has been in the senate since 1997 and sits on the Armed Services Committee and Budget Committee among others. He served in the Army Reserve and was mentioned as a possible candidate for secretary of defense.

On 18 November 2016 Trump nominated Congressman Mike Pompeo to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). House Benghazi Committee member Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a three-term congressman from the midwestern state of Kansas, is said to have accepted Trump's offer. After graduating first in his class at West Point in 1986, the 52-year-old congressman served as a U.S. Army Calvary officer. Pompeo is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and founded Thayer Aerospace, which makes components for commercial and military aircraft. Pompeo, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, is popular with the national security hawks in Washington as he supports restoring the intelligence community’s ability to collect bulk metadata. He is also a firm opponent of the Iran Deal and served on the House special committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks.

Trump named retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who joined Drone Aviation Holding Corp as vice chairman of its board of directors. Flynn had been advising Republican front-runner Donald Trump informally on foreign policy. Flynn held a similar role as Trump’s go-to national security adviser during the campaign, and Flynn will likely play a big role in Trump’s foreign policy decisions moving forward, since Trump has no practical military experience. The 57-year-old Democrat is a decorated combat veteran who retired as a three star general, one of the highest ranks possible. Flynn began his military career in 1981 after graduating from the University of Rhode Island as a distinguished member of the school’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. After several years of successive promotions within Army intelligence operations, Flynn was nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to be director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He held the position for two years before retiring in 2014 after reportedly being forced out for his poor management style. Flynn would not require U.S. Senate confirmation.

Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis was a leading contender to be defense secretary. Trump said he talked with Mattis, describing him as "very impressive... a true General's General!" Mattis, who was portrayed in the HBO Iraq War drama "Generation Kill," has a reputation for blunt speaking. "Demonstrate to the world there is 'No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy' than a U.S. Marine." Mattis succeeded David Petraeus as commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees all military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has field commander experience in Afghanistan and both US wars in Iraq, and retired in 2013.

Trump is said to have a strong interest in having a former general run the Pentagon. The president-elect also considered retired Army Gen. David Petraeus to serve as defense secretary. The interest in Mattis came after retired Army General Jack Keane, citing personal reasons, withdrew his name from consideration. If nominated and approved, Mattis would be the highest-ranking officer to become defense secretary in more than half a century. Although there is a law prohibiting those who served in active duty within the past seven years service as Defense Secretary, there are waivers around the law [which makes the law kinda pointless].

The transition team of President-elect Donald Trump picked South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to serve as his UN ambassador on 23 November 2016. Haley is not well known in international circles and does not have foreign policy experience. Haley, a frequent critic of Trump early in his bid for the presidency, rose to the national spotlight when she led efforts in 2015 to remove the confederate flag from South Carolina state buildings after the massacre of black worshipers at an historic Charleston church. Nikki Haley is Indian American and is the first non-white woman or person of color to be named to the president-elect’s cabinet. She tried to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees in her state based on security concerns over the vetting process.

Rival groups within the president-elect's transition team were divided between 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. There was a "deluge" of concern from people who questioned the loyalty of Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who assailed Trump as a "phony" during the presidential campaign. Those opposed to Giuliani as secretary of state contend his extensive business relationships with foreign interests would most likely lead to a messy Senate confirmation fight. Others who have been said to be in the running for the position included former CIA Director David Petraeus and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Other reports said retired Marine Corps General John Kelly is under consideration.

On 24 November 2016, Trump appointed Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland to serve as deputy national security adviser. McFarland had served in national security posts with several previous Republican administrations. McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com "DefCon 3." She served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She was an aide to Henry Kissinger at the White House.

On 06 December 2016, Trump formally announced his choice of retired Marine General James Mattis as his nominee for secretary of defense. "Under his leadership, such an important position, we will rebuild our military and alliances, destroy terrorists, face our enemies head on and make America safe again," Trump said.

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior defense expert at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, called Mattis "one of the best read, best informed and most experienced generals of his generation." Mattis has served as the head of U.S. Central Command, which carries out U.S. operations in the Middle East, and the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces.

The retired general would need a congressional waiver in order to be confirmed as secretary of defense. Mattis otherwise would be ineligible to serve because of a law that requires a seven-year wait for former members of the military to serve in the post. He has been retired for less than four years.

President-elect Donald Trump named retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Earlier in 2016, Kelly oversaw US military operations in South and Central America as part of his responsibilities as head of the US Southern Command. Prior to that post, Kelly commanded US forces in Iraq and served as aide to defense secretaries Leon Panetta and Robert Gates. Kelly, who retired after more than 40 years in service, was a vigorous critic of US President Barack Obama’s plans to close the Guantanamo prison.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was also on Trump's short list before he withdrew his name from consideration, citing plans to return to the private sector. Giuliani withdrew his name from consideration as Trump has broadened his search for the nation's top diplomat. Giuliani recieved strong support from political outsiders who are close to Trump. But his senate confirmation would have been questionable due to conflict of interest concerns related to work his consulting business did on behalf of foreign governments.

Exxon Mobile president and CEO Rex Tillerson emerged as President-elect Donald Trump's top choice for secretary of state. Tillerson joined former Trump critic and 2012 Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as the apparent leading contenders for the nation's top diplomatic post. Tillerson, the chief executive of the world's largest publicly traded company, has extensive international business experience, including dealings with Russia. Tillerson's involvement with Russia, including his personal ties with President Vladimir Putin, would likely draw close scrutiny.

ExxonMobil reached an oil exploration and production agreement in 2011 with Rosneft, Russia's largest state-owned oil company. Since 2011, the two companies have formed 10 joint operations in Russia. After Tillerson's oil agreements with Russia, the Kremlin in 2013 awarded him the Order of Friendship, Russia' highest honor reserved for foreigners. Arizona Senator John McCain said the choice of Tillerson was "a matter of concern to me. McCain said of the election "You want to give the president of the United States the benefit of the doubt because the people have spoken. But Vladimir Putin is a thug, a bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying.”

Gordon Adams, professor emeritus at American University's School of International Service, distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, said 06 January 2017 with reference to Generals Flynn, Mattis and Kelly, "... in the Cabinet as a whole, this is not normal. We're not dealing with a normal situation anywhere. If you appointed Cabinet officers that are basically highly wealthy, relatively inexperienced in government, very rich, largely white males, that doesn't look like 21st century America. And many of them simply oppose the agenda of the agencies they're in charge of. The particular abnormality that we're talking about here is the appointment of three generals to senior [positions]... this is not a coup. But it's not normal.... If this happened in a Latin American country over the past 20 years or so, we'd simply say to the government of that country, "You know, ... generals should be in the barracks. They shouldn't be running civilian departments.... "

In January 2017 Trump described the NATO alliance as an "obsolete" organization. "I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago," he said. He insisted that NATO remained "very important to me," but that some NATO allies weren't paying enough. "We're supposed to protect countries. But a lot of these countries aren't paying what they're supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States."

Henning Riecke, the head of the Transatlantic Relations program at the independent think tank German Council on Foreign Relations, said "I can imagine if Trump keeps saying that NATO isn't that important to him that the Russians will test out whether he means this seriously. They might challenge NATO in the Balkans or in Turkey to see whether America plays along in the hopes of showing that the alliance has been fatally weakened because the biggest member is no longer on board."

President-elect Trump heavily criticized Chancellor Merkel's open-door policy on refugees in a joint interview published on 15 January 2017 with German tabloid newspaper "Bild" and British newspaper "The Times." "I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from,” he said. "And nobody even knows where they come from. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake.”

Trump warned that other countries in the 28-member EU would follow suit after Brexit because of immigration. "I think it's very tough,” he said. "People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity.... If refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe ... I think it's going to be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it."

If Trump was skeptical about NATO, he was positively dismissive about the European Union, praising the Brexit, predicting that more member states would quit the bloc and hinting at least that the US could offer such states bilateral trade deals. He further said the European Union had become "a vehicle for Germany”. Trump made no secret of the fact that he would prefer to deal with individual nations - a tendency many in Germany find dangerous.

Donald Trump outlined his foreign policy priorities to European media suggesting he might abandon anti-Russia sanctions as part of a nuclear arms deal with Moscow. Is this a hint that the contentious issue of Crimea, which is the official pretext for sanctions, might be resolved to Russia's favor? In contrast, the new U.S. State Secretary, Rex Tillerson, was loud and clear when addressing the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said that Russia has no legal rights to Crimea, and added that this stance could be reversed as part of “broader agreements” that would be “acceptable to the Ukrainian people.”

Reflecting the friction between EU states and the new US administration, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump's comments on NATO and the lack of European investment in the alliance "caused astonishment."

Former US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has made a decision to step down as a result of a destabilization campaign by the media, intelligence community and the Democratic party, WikiLeaks said. Flynn announced his decision to resign 13 February 2017. Retired Lt. Gen. Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr. was named acting US national security adviser following Flynn's resignation. Counselor to the US President Kellyanne Conway said in an interview that Flynn's resignation was prompted mainly by him misleading the Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about the contents of his conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Donald Trump on 20 February 2017 named Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser. McMaster is a vocal critic of the U.S. military’s handling of the Vietnam War and has become known as a counterinsurgency expert as he progressed through the ranks. In 2014, McMaster was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People just prior to being chosen to lead the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center. In this role, McMaster was seen as the architect of the Army, leading it into the future.

McMaster wrote a doctoral dissertation about the Vietnam War that later became the book Dereliction of Duty in which he criticizes the Joint Chiefs of Staff for failing in their duty to provide President Lyndon Johnson with adequate military advice.

Trump, in an exclusive interview February 28, 2017 with “Fox & Friends,” suggested his lack of political appointees is less about a difficulty in finding eager candidates and more about a desire for a leaner government operation. “When I see a story about ‘Donald Trump didn’t fill hundreds and hundreds of jobs,’ it’s because, in many cases, we don’t want to fill those jobs,” Trump said. “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump said. “You know, we have so many people in government, even me. I look at some of the jobs and it’s people over people over people. I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.”

Nearly 2,000 appointed positions in the administration remained vacant, leaving many agencies with large staffing gaps. The Department of State had 197 vacancies, while the Department of Defense had 63 Vacancies, including direct presidential appointments as well as what are known as "Schedule C" appointments. Trump had about 400 vacant posts requiring Senate confirmation, another 400 direct presidential appointments vacancies [that don't require confirmation], and another 1,200 Schedule C vacancies that do not require Senate approval.

Trump may be having difficulty filling slots because some Republicans are reluctant to serve, and others are being passed over because they were critical of Trump during the campaign. “Many of those jobs I don’t want to fill,” Trump said. “I say, isn’t that a good thing? That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. We’re running a very good, efficient government.”

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