What is missing?

What is missing from the list of Trump’s foreign and national security policy team is an established foreign policy expert or established foreign policy professional. There is no one like a Kissinger or Brzezinski. Of the seven people nominated (the list is below) two are businessmen with no prior government or foreign policy experience, three are retired generals, one has no real experience, and there is only one who has spent a significant part her career in foreign policy (McFarland). McFarland is not a major name, although she was on the board of Jamestown Foundation, effectively headed by Brzezinski. She does not report directly to the president.

Their degrees are interesting:
Haley = BS in Accounting,
Tillerson = BS in Civil Engineering,
Ross = MBA.


The three generals are better educated:
Mattis = BA in History. Graduate of National War College…does he have an MA or MS or only a BA?
Flynn = An MBA Telecommunications, MA in National Security and Strategic Studies.
Kelly = MS from National Defense University.


McFarland has a MA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and studied for a PhD but never completed her dissertation.

The real senior foreign policy experts appear to be the retired generals. Keep in mind, that many retired generals are not foreign policy experts. They often spend the first 15-20 years in service with their branch, then as a general in various commands. Depending on how this adds up, some may have considerable foreign policy experience, but many do not.

Flynn during his career deployed in Grenada and Haiti, and starting around 2001 has been involved in intelligence commands, often deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Certainly no broad foreign policy experience but around two decades of very real experience in our last two wars.

Mattis’s international career also appears to have started around 2003 with the invasion of Iraq as the 1st Marine Division commander. He then went to the Combat Development Command and in 2006 to the Joint Forces Command and then U.S. Central Command. So, more than a decade of foreign policy experience.

Kelly is similar as he with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq. Again, maybe a decade.

On the other hand, McFarland is an old hand, having first worked on the National Security Council in the 1970s (when Kissinger was there).

Anyhow, degrees and experience does not produce a successful foreign policy and a lack of degrees and lack of experience does not mean they will not produce a successful foreign policy. But, with three defense experts, three business people (including Haley) and only one foreign policy expert (who does not directly report to the president), the foreign policy expertise is a little thin. The real concern is that among the six people that report directly to the president, there really is not an expert on foreign policy. Added to that, the president-elect is not considered a foreign policy expert either (BS in Economics).

It does raise the issue as to who is doing the bigger picture long-term strategic thinking for our foreign and national security policy or is this going to one of these administrations that jump from issue to issue with no real plan or overall strategy (like most administrations have…to be honest).

List of nominees:
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson (head of Exxon)
Secretary of Defense: James Mattis (retired Marine Corps general)
National Security Advisor: Michael T. Flynn (retired Army Lt. General)
    Deputy National Security Advisor: K.T. McFarland (Fox News commentator)
Ambassador to the United Nations: Nikki Haley (Governor of South Carolina).
    This is apparently a cabinet-level position.
Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross (businessman)
Homeland Security: John F. Kelly (retired Marine Corps General)


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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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