The New York Times reports: President Trump picked Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a widely respected military strategist, as his new national security adviser on Monday, calling him “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”
Mr. Trump made the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago getaway in Palm Beach, Fla., where he has been interviewing candidates to replace Michael T. Flynn, who was forced out after withholding information from Vice President Mike Pence about a call with Russia’s ambassador.
The choice continued Mr. Trump’s reliance on high-ranking military officers to advise him on national security. Mr. Flynn was a retired three-star general and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is a retired four-star general. His first choice to replace Mr. Flynn, who turned the job down, and two other finalists were current or former senior officers as well. [Continue reading…]
CNN reports: McMaster, currently serving as the director of the Army’s Capabilities Integration Center, is the first active-duty military officer to take the post since Gen. Colin Powell served in the role during the final years of the Reagan administration. As an active-duty service member, McMaster would likely have had difficulty turning down a job the commander in chief had asked him to fill. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: McMaster, 54, is a West Point graduate known as “H.R.,” with a PhD in U.S. history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014, partly because of his willingness to buck the system.
A combat veteran, he gained renown in the first Gulf War – and was awarded a Silver Star – after he commanded a small troop of the U.S. 2nd Army Cavalry Regiment that destroyed a much larger Iraqi Republican Guard force in 1991 in a place called 73 Easting, for its map coordinates, in what many consider the biggest tank battle since World War Two.
As one fellow officer put it, referring to Trump’s inner circle of aides and speaking on condition of anonymity, the Trump White House “has its own Republican Guard, which may be harder for him to deal with than the Iraqis were.” The Iraqi Republican Guard was the elite military force of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
McMaster’s fame grew after his 1997 book “Dereliction of Duty” criticized the country’s military and political leadership for poor leadership during the Vietnam War. [Continue reading…]
Andrew Exum writes: One thing that stands out in the book is the way in which McMaster criticized the poorly disciplined national security decision-making process in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and especially the way in which the Kennedy administration made national-security decisions by a small group of confidants without a robust process to serve the president.
Like Ben Bernanke, a student of the Great Depression brought in to lead the Federal Reserve immediately prior to the Great Recession, McMaster comes to his job having carefully studied and criticized the national-security decision-making process for which he will now be responsible.
I have known McMaster for over a decade and cannot imagine a more decent man in his position today. This job is going to drive him crazy, because he does not suffer fools gladly. Unless he has been given some assurances about both staffing and process, he will struggle in a competition to influence the president—to be the last man in the room when the president makes a key decision.
But as Nick Schmidle observed in his very smart profile of Mike Flynn in The New Yorker this week, Flynn went into his job wanting to reduce the influence of the national-security staff but soon discovered that the staff and its processes gave him enormous leverage within the U.S. government. McMaster already understands that, and he will use it to his advantage.
The biggest challenge for any advisor to this president, however, is not other advisors but the president himself. [Continue reading…]
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) February 20, 2017