It can be difficult to know what kind of president a candidate might be if elected. It’s why it’s generally a good idea to consider who the candidate listens to and brings on as advisers, since these are folks who’ll likely have the future president’s ear after the election.

When it comes to the law and the judiciary, for example, Mitt Romney has brought on extremist Robert Bork as a top adviser. When it comes to foreign policy, “several” of Romney’s advisers were “among the most forceful proponents” of launching the war in Iraq.

Adam Serwer, meanwhile, reports today on an even more controversial figure who also has the Republican frontrunner’s ear.

Walid Phares, the recently announced co-chair of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Middle East advisory group, has a long resume. College professor. Author. Political pundit. Counterterrorism expert. But there’s one chapter of his life that you won’t find on his CV: He was a high ranking political official in a sectarian religious militia responsible for massacres during Lebanon’s brutal, 15-year civil war.

During the 1980s, Phares, a Maronite Christian, trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon’s Muslim and Druze factions, according to former colleagues. Phares, they say, advocated the hard-line view that Lebanon’s Christians should work toward creating a separate, independent Christian enclave. A photo obtained by Mother Jones shows him conducting a press conference in 1986 for the Lebanese Forces, an umbrella group of Christian militias that has been accused of committing atrocities. He was also a close adviser to Samir Geagea, a Lebanese warlord who rose from leading hit squads to running the Lebanese Forces.

And now he’s part of the Romney campaign.

It’s worth noting that Phares has, in recent years, become a prominent voice in far-right circles, having been been a columnist for David Horowitz’s arch-conservative Frontpage magazine and writing two anti-Muslim books endorsed by congressional Republicans. One former U.S. counterterrorism official told Adam he was shocked to learn that Phares was advising Romney. “He’s part of the same movement as Pamela Geller,” the official said.

Paul Pillar, a 20-year veteran of the CIA and a professor at Georgetown’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, said the advisory role “should raise eyebrows.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.