William McCants writes: When America’s most influential Islamophobes are upset, you know the president made a good choice. “Score one from the swamp,” whined Robert Spencer upon hearing the news that Donald Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his new national security adviser. Spencer makes a living scaring Americans about the dangers of Muslim soccer moms. “John Bolton lost out to this guy?” sputtered his frequent partner in whine, Pamela Geller, who scoffed at the general for saying, “Every time you disrespect an Iraqi, you’re working for the enemy.”
The Islamophobes are not wrong to sense that McMaster will be hostile to their worldview, according to those who know him best. McMaster spent much of his career fighting and winning wars in the Middle East, which required him to know the local cultures and treat Muslims like humans rather than scripturally programmed robots. “He absolutely does not view Islam as the enemy,” said Pete Mansoor, who served with McMaster in Iraq. “He understands that the world is not one dimensional, that the Muslim world is not one dimensional,” said John Nagl, who also served with McMaster. In other words, the complicated causes of terrorism require complicated solutions.
McMaster’s nuanced views will likely be at odds with those of the president’s chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, and the other members of Bannon’s so-called Strategic Initiatives Group, a policymaking body he co-leads with the president’s son-in-law and chief of staff. Bannon believes the teachings of Islam and a supine West are primarily to blame for jihadist terrorism, as does his counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka. Both scoff at the idea that jihadism arises from a confluence of factors, most of which are not religious. “This is the famous approach that says it is all so nuanced and complicated,” Gorka told the Washington Post. “This is what I completely jettison.”
McMaster’s disgraced predecessor, Michael Flynn, agreed with the Bannonites and was disdainful of the intelligence community’s analysis, which he believed ignored the religious motives of jihadists in order to please President Obama. I served in the State Department when Flynn was still in government and, having seen some of the same analysis Flynn saw, I can say that the intelligence community did not ignore religion; it just didn’t inflate it as the primary driver of jihadist terrorism. The intelligence community was also careful to disaggregate jihadist groups according to their competing interests and to distinguish those groups from non-violent Islamists. With McMaster’s appointment, such analysis is now likely to find a sympathetic ear in the White House. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, President Trump’s new national security adviser, is considering a reorganization of the White House foreign policy team that would give him control of Homeland Security and guarantee full access to the military and intelligence agencies.
Just days after arriving at the White House, Mr. McMaster is weighing changes to an organization chart that generated consternation when it was issued last month.
One proposal under discussion would restore the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to full membership in a cabinet-level committee, according to two officials who discussed internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity.
Another likely change would reincorporate the Homeland Security Council under the National Security Council, the way it was during the administration of President Barack Obama, the officials said. The decision to separate the Homeland Security staff, they said, was primarily a way to diminish the power of Mr. McMaster’s predecessor, Michael T. Flynn, who resigned last week. Now that Mr. Flynn is out and Mr. McMaster is in, both councils may report to him.
Left uncertain is what, if anything, will happen regarding Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, who has played a major role in shaping foreign policy. [Continue reading…]