As Day 32 of Trump’s administration draws to a close, the American people find the position of national security adviser filled by Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. After the fiasco earlier last week that led to the resignation of Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, President Trump was quick to fill the role with another high-ranking military official. He even gave his impressive Twitter following a play-by-play of his day, tweeting: “Meeting with Generals at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Very interesting!”
Although both are generals in the United States military, the two men could not differ more in their approaches to certain key issues of U.S. national security, in particular their attitudes on engagement with Russia. Flynn created suspicion when he failed to inform Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had secretly held with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., which led to his very public dismissal. McMaster, on the other hand, is known for his skeptical stance towards engaging Russia, developed during his time as director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center.
“He is a man of tremendous talent and experience,” President Trump said, announcing McMaster’s appointment earlier today. McMaster, who has been referred to in the media as a “warrior-scholar,”, is an experienced pick in terms of national security. Judging from his earlier experience in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as his fierce public criticism of the government’s handling of Vietnam in his book, Dereliction of Duty (1997), it seems McMaster may finally be able to bring order to a National Security Council that has reportedly been “rattled and demoralized” by recent events, according to The New York Times.
McMaster was not the only one interviewed for the position. Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, acting National Security Adviser between Flynn’s resignation and McMaster’s appointment, will stay on as Chief of Staff of the N.S.C.. Trump had also mentioned that the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, was a candidate as well, admitting that, while Bolton was not his pick for the position, he has plans to continue working with him in a manner and to an extent that, as of now, remains unknown.
Despite a lack of experience in both the Pentagon and Washington, McMaster’s beliefs are widely respected and, I believe, his attitudes on Russia and terrorism, in particular, are laudable. He seems exceedingly capable. There should be no doubt in the public’s mind that McMaster will readily rise to the challenge. That McMaster has no previous ties to President Trump and is considered by The New York Times to be “one of the military’s most independent-minded officers” should also bring the public peace of mind, as McMaster may prove to be a more levelheaded counterbalance to President Trump’s strong rhetoric and ideology.
Also, Trump’s pick of McMaster is, arguably, a promising show of his ability to learn from past mistakes. His decision also offers a voice to political critics, McMaster will represent other Republican’s more cautious views on U.S.-Russia relations. This is likely to prove a point of conflict down the line. Another is the distinction McMaster makes between terrorist groups and Muslims, which Trump and his allies tend to conflate, promising to “defeat today’s enemies, including terrorist organizations… who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and justify horrific cruelty against innocents.”