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This ex-general wants to use the military to convert the world to Christianity. He's Ben Carson's foreign policy guru

A top GOP candidate lists a leading Islamophobe and the architect of a war crimes as his foreign policy gurus. Is this where America is heading next?

In 2003, a two-star Army major general, Robert Dees, retired after a decorated 41-year career as a soldier in which he became a top officer in the legendary 101st Airborne Division and served as commander of a combined U.S.-Israeli missile defense force.

In the 12 years since, Dees has committed himself to his new crusades  -- making the U.S. military and the fighting forces of its global allies into missionaries for his deeply held Christian faith, and speaking out against the threat to America posed by a rival religion, Islam.

Currently the director of the Institute for Military Resilience at the Christian fundamentalist Liberty University, founded by the late evangelist Jerry Falwell, Dees -- as reported by James Bamford in a recent expose in Foreign Policy -- argued in a 2005 newsletter that the U.S. military may be the best way of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the broader American public. He said "the military may well be the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure. Militaries exercise, generally speaking, the most intensive and purposeful indoctrination program of citizens."

Indeed, Dees also believes that U.S. forces, working with the militaries of our closest allies, should be used to spread Christianity around the globe. In a 2007 video, Bamford reported, Dees said: "We seek to transform the nations of the world through the militaries of the world. And we're in twenty different countries around the world, recognizing that if you could possibly impact the military, you can possibly impact that whole nation for Jesus Christ and for democracy and for proper morality and values-based institutions."

As a private citizen now, Dees is certainly entitled to his personal and religious views. But with virtually no fanfare or scrutiny, the retired general has also taken on a role with big implications for the public. Dees is currently the top foreign policy adviser to one of the two Republican frontrunners in the 2016 White House race, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. In an election that has already defied expectations again and again, Carson -- according to the polls -- would win the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses if they were held today.

Carson's surprising -- and so far, surprisingly persistent -- standing in those polls has finally led to increased scrutiny of his foreign policy ideas -- especially because of misstatements like his recently retracted charge that the Chinese have a military presence in war-torn Syria. Until the last few days, few reporters, let alone voters, were asking where Carson -- running 1-and-2 in most GOP polls with another bellicose neophyte Donald Trump -- got his ideas about the state of the world.

Maybe they should've asked sooner. In addition to Dees and his radical beliefs about Christian evangelicalism and Islamophobia, Carson's other chief foreign policy guru was the architect of an American war crime (according to the International Court of Justice in Hague). That adviser, the somewhat legendary ex-CIA spy Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, was later indicted on seven counts of perjury and giving false statements in the government probe of the notorious Iran-Contra affair, only to be pardoned by outgoing President George H.W. Bush (*coincidentally* a former head of the CIA) as his case was being tried.

So Carson -- who by his admission had little exposue to the nuances of international affairs before announcing his presidential run -- is getting his advice from fringe characters who support a Christian theocratic state that would (at least based on Clarridge's record) nonetheless pursue policies of covert intrigue. You can see the results of "the education of Ben Carson" in statements such as his much-criticized suggestion that Muslims be barred from seeking the presidency.

With last weekend's barbaric attacks in Paris by ISIS, Carson has doubled down on responses that would test America's self-professed exceptionalism as a beacon for religious tolerance and compassion. The candidate told Fox News Sunday that allowing Syrian refugees into the United States requires "a suspension of intellect" -- even though most experts on migration have used their intellect to point out that these refugees are not members of ISIS but more likely victims of its violence. He also joined Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz in suggesting that only Syrian Christians be allowed here -- a "religious test" that would seem to flunk the U.S. Constitution.

Does it matter? After all, most of the experts are convinced that there's no way Carson can win the Republican nomination, let alone reach the Oval Office. The smart money is probably right...but here's the thing. If Carson's campaign does implode -- especially as the focus turns to foreign affairs -- then his 20 or so percent of the GOP electorate has to go somewhere. And, contrary to the flawed conventional wisdom of yesteryear, it will probably go to Donald Trump.

Trump's foreign policy advisers are even scarier than Carson's -- because his chief adviser seems to be Donald Trump...and the retired generals he occasionally sees on Fox News or CNN. In spite of that, and in spite of the fact that The Donald's few policy ideas seem to be using his yooooge negotiating skills to cut the best deal with Bejing and to trick the Mexicans into paying for a yooooge border fence, the public believes -- AFTER THE PARIS ATTACKS -- that Trump is the best of the GOP candidates to tackle terrorism. In fact, support for Trump taking on terrorists skyrocketed after Friday night's bloodshed.

The clueless pundit class assumed that Americans would turn to foreign policy experience and smarts to take on ISIS. But the many people -- perhaps a majority -- seem done with nuance. There are millions who prefer dumb carpet bombing to any smart strategy, punctuated by simplistic "we will win" halftime speeches. And Donald Trump is their icon. And if -- heaven forbid -- terrorists strike in any major way in the fall of 2016, get ready for the short-fingered vulgarian of 5th Avenue to be putting his short fingers on the Bible on January 20, 2017.

Or...maybe Ben Carson won't collapse. Or maybe it doesn't matter, because the ideas of Carson and his advisers Robert Dees and Dewey Clarridge are already frothing to the top of our national discourse. Look at the flood of (mostly) Republican governors banning Syrian refugees, or today's alarming straight-outta-Nuremburg suggestion by a leading Tennessee politician that we start rounding up any Syrians that are already here. Do we really need, as Dees suggested, the military to "indoctrinate" the public into a Christian theocracy when vast regions of America are already there?

In the meantime, please familiarize yourself with the radical ideas of Robert Dees -- his deep-seated belief that the U.S. has already been widely "infiltrated" by radical Muslims, that gay rights is a plot to subvert the military because "troops don't want to be politically correct, they want to be God correct," or that the United States is on the brink of a Rome-style collapse and that "[q]uite a few things are upside down in our nation today and the men of Jesus Christ in this nation have got to stand up and turn them right-side up."

Then, by all means, read up on the shadowy past of Carson's other foreign-policy adviser "Dewey" Clarridge -- not just his plot to mine Nicaragua's main harbor (at a time we supposedly weren't at war with the Central American nation) and his key role in Iran-Contra, but also his current bizarre activities in running a private CIA-style operation from the poolside of his San Diego home with assets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he wanted to oust the Karzai regime.

And then, ask yourself this: Why are the New York Times and other media outlets so concerned that Carson is blowing off and not listening to this small cadre of advisers? Because isn't it a much bigger problem for America when he does listen to them?