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Thursday, July 19, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Monday named Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster as his new national security adviser, choosing a military officer known for speaking his mind and challenging his superiors.

McMaster is a highly regarded military tactician and strategic thinker, but his selection surprised some observers who wondered how the officer, whose Army career stalled at times for his questioning of authority, would deal with a White House that has not welcomed criticism.

“He is highly respected by everybody in the military and we’re very honored to have him,” Trump told reporters in West Palm Beach where he spent the weekend. “He’s a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”

One subject on which Trump and McMaster could soon differ is Russia. McMaster shares the consensus view among the U.S. national security establishment that Russia is a threat and an antagonist to the United States, while the man whom McMaster is replacing, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, appeared to view it more as a potential geopolitical partner.

Trump in the past has expressed a willingness to engage with Russia more than his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Flynn was fired as national security adviser on Feb. 13 after reports emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about speaking to Russia’s ambassador to the United States about U.S. sanctions before Trump’s inauguration.

The ouster, coming so early in Trump’s administration, was another upset for a White House that has been hit by miscues, including the controversial rollout of a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, since the Republican president took office on Jan. 20.

The national security adviser is an independent aide to the president and does not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. He has broad influence over foreign policy and attends National Security Council meetings along with the heads of the State Department, the Department of Defense and key security agencies.

Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a frequent Trump critic, praised McMaster as an “outstanding” choice.

“I give President Trump great credit for this decision,” McCain said in a statement.

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama, Michael McFaul, a Democrat, praised McMaster on Twitter as “terrific” and said McMaster “will not be afraid to question his boss.”

McMaster, who flew back to the Washington area from Florida with Trump on Air Force One, will remain on active military duty, the White House said.

Trump also said Keith Kellogg, a retired U.S. Army general who has been serving as the acting national security adviser, as chief of staff to the National Security Council. John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, would be asked to serve the administration in another capacity, Trump said.

“He has a good number of ideas that I must tell you I agree very much with,” Trump said of Bolton, who served in Republican President George W. Bush’s administration.

Kellogg and Bolton were among those in contention as Trump spent the long Presidents Day weekend considering his options for replacing Flynn. His first choice, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the job last week.

McMaster, 54, is a West Point graduate known as “H.R.,” with a Ph.D. 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 Armored 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.

Trump relies on a tight, insular group of advisers, who at times appear to have competing political agendas. Senior adviser Steve Bannon has asserted his influence by taking a seat on the National Security Council.

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.

Trump’s pick was praised by one of the president’s strongest backers in the U.S. Congress, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who called McMaster “one of the finest combat leaders of our generation and also a great strategic mind.”

In a July 14, 2014, interview with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia, where Fort Benning is located, McMaster, then the base commander, said: “Some people have a misunderstanding about the Army.

“Some people think, hey, you’re in the military and everything is super-hierarchical and you’re in an environment that is intolerable of criticism and people don’t want frank assessments.

“I think the opposite is the case. … And the commanders that I’ve worked for, they want frank assessments, they want criticism and feedback.”

That attitude was not always shared by his superiors, and it led to his being passed over for promotion to brigadier general twice, in 2006 and 2007.

On McMaster’s third and last try, General David Petraeus – who at one point was also on Trump’s candidate list for national security adviser – returned from Iraq to head the promotion board that finally gave McMaster his first general’s star.

Then a colonel, McMaster was commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment that in the spring of 2005 captured, held and began to stabilize Tal Afar on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The city was held by Sunni extremists, a crossing point between Syria and Iraq for jihadists who started as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and morphed into Islamic State after he was killed.

McMaster’s preparation of the regiment is legendary: He trained his soldiers in Iraqi culture, the differences among Sunnis, Shi’ites and Turkomen, and had them read books on the history of the region and counterinsurgency strategy.

It was a sharp change from the “kill and capture” tactics the United States had used in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003, and to which the Obama administration returned in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The strategy was largely a success, although McMaster’s use of it and especially his willingness to acknowledge that Iraqis had some legitimate grievances against one another and the occupying coalition forces, did not endear him to his superiors and helped delay his promotion to brigadier general.

The strategy did not survive the departure of McMaster’s troops, with Tal Afar falling into the hands of Sunni militants. Along with the west part of Mosul, it is now a key objective in the battle to rid Iraq of Islamic State.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott and Sarah Lynch in Washington; Writing by Frances Kerry and James Oliphant; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Newly named National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

 

20 Responses to Outspoken General McMaster Named As Trump’s Security Adviser

  1. While I also celebrate his military capabilities, you have to wonder about a Commissioned Officer who, in writing, condoned insubordination to the Commander-in-Chief, and how he will survive in an Administration where said CiC can brook no insubordination.

    • McMasters is a “winner”. That’s the one thing he’s got going for him in the TA. Trump firing him just makes Trump look more foolish and loser-ish.

      I am troubled by McMaster’s book where he seems to suggest that ever more bombing was the solution to Viet-Nam. The Johnson White House would ask for options. The Pentagon would suggest bombing.

      But this is the TWH. I don’t know that we could get better.

      • That was one of the reasons McMaster was passed over for the three start general position. Trump is hoping he will get McMaster to knuckle under and be a YES man like the rest of his lackies. I can’t actually see that happening with McMaster. He is all too outspoken and controversial for the mindset of the military.

        The reality of Trump is that he will take himself down faster than the CIA or FBI can. Right now, he is preparing for a trip to meet with Putin and from several major souces including the NY Times, Putin is studying “Trump’s pyschological stability.” This might just be a ruse of Putin’s to make it appear they have never been in contact before.

        • I thought McMasters had been passed over for his first star.

          Perhaps he’s been changed by his Iraq service, but in his book, he never gets beyond bombing. This does not bode well for USA relations with Iran or DPRK.

          • I stand corrected. You are correct. It wazs first star, not third. I also agree that he is far too militant and the ramifications of unscrupulous militancy in the face of the growing evidence of Trump Putin World Power Games has massive potential for grievous danger to all of us and our allies.

          • Agree Ms. E.

            But after reading “lucky one” above, it’s clear to me that we need a balance. Weakness will invite Russian adventurism. Aggressiveness will start wars.

            I know that “balance” is what Trump does with his mistresses. Let’s hope McMaster, Mattis, and Tillerson can strike the fair balance.

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  3. Getting rid of the lunatic Flynn has become a case of be careful of what you wish for. IMO Trump’s only “saving” grace was his departure from the typical view of Russia as the evil empire. BTW, his comment that we are no different than Russia or anyone else in using terror and murder to further our purposes was accurate.

    • Okay. I’ll take the other side.

      The USA invasion of Iraq was made in the honest, but mistaken, idea that Saddam possessed or intended to possess WMD.

      The Russian invasion of the Crimea was a blatant muscle.

      The USA supported democratic movements through the Arab World. Russia supports dictatorships like Assad.

      The USA defends the free peoples of Eastern Europe. Russia threatens them. Wanna argue? Ask a Latvian.

      • “The USA invasion of Iraq was made in the honest, but mistaken, idea that Saddam possessed or intended to possess WMD.” I disagree totally on that one. The whole case for invading Iraq was fabricated. The people in charge either knew or failed their due diligence and should have known that. Bush/Cheney was set on the invasion prior to 911 and used the emotion generated to make their move. Then they bungled it badly.

        “The Russian invasion of the Crimea was a blatant muscle.” A move to regain an area that historically under their influence. I don’t know all the details but I’ve seen a good case made that the US fomented the problems in the Ukraine. Nato was increasingly closing in on Russian hegemony.

        “The USA supported democratic movements through the Arab World. Russia supports dictatorships like Assad.” I’ll assume you are joking on the first sentence. The USA has usurped popularly elected governments and supported dictators on numerous occasions.

        “The USA defends the free peoples of Eastern Europe. Russia threatens them.” The people of Eastern Europe are pawns. The USA is not about “defending free people”. It’s all about resources and markets.

        ” Ask a Latvian.” or ask a Cuban, Iranian. Nicaraguan, Chilean, Guatemalan etc.

          • What would you know about liberals? You’re a Clinton worshipper. Neoliberal is a more accurate title for both of you.

            Most of us know who the only liberal in the race was but the DNC decided to run Hillary instead and it cost them the WH.

          • Yes, I get that you’re a conspiracy theorist who is too stupid to understand that they’re working for the far right. It’s because you’re a self-righteous idiot, as I said.

    • Yes, you have no problem with a murderous dictator, but Hillary Clinton is bad because of imaginary reasons that don’t even come close to having people tortured to death. No wonder you helped Trump take power – you’re literally garbage.

      • I’ve tried to take it easy on you helpy since it’s obvious you are a couple bricks short of a load but you’re such an A$$hole. Yup, I pulled the strings that got Trump into office. If I did in fact influence anyone to not vote for Clinton then I guess my case was just better than yours, own your culpability in her failure. The fact that the Dems were exposed in subverting Sanders’ campaign and ran a lying, corrupt war monger against him had nothing to do with it, right? If other Dems are no smarter than you they will never be in power again.

        • You literally spent the entire general election spreading right-wing lies about Clinton. YOU STILL DO IT. You helped Trump win, and you are not a liberal.

        • I mean, right in that post: the “subverting Sanders’ campaign” thing is 100% debunked nonsense that only an idiot would believe. And she’s a “corrupt war monger”, because of all the corruption that she did, such as (???) and all those wars she started, such as (???).

          You are an IDIOT, and a tool of the exact billionaires you profess to be against.

        • NOT TO MENTION the fact that you were REPEATEDLY linked to evidence that the falsehoods you were spreading originated with the Koch brothers, but you decided to keep doing it because thinking is hard and confirmation bias is comfortable. You are despicable.

          • “thinking is hard” somebody must have told you that because I’ve never seen any evidence of any thinking in your posts. You were repeatedly linked to evidence that yes Hillary is a war monger, a liar and a corporate tool but kept peddling the same tired DNC Clintonista talking points. The result was Trump in office. I don’t expect someone as thoroughly indoctrinated as you to ever get that so I’ll stop trying. Whenever I see the tomato head, an apt image for you, I’ll just glance at it for the chuckle and then delete.

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