H.R. McMaster: Did Trump make a good choice for national security adviser?

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster is a widely respected military strategist who served in both the Persian Gulf war and the second Iraq war.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster after making the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on February 20, 2017.

President Trump has selected Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, a respected military strategist who has been known to sharply criticize leadership and ineffective tactics, to serve as his national security adviser.

Gen. McMaster will replace Michael Flynn, who resigned from the position last week after it became clear that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the details of conversations he had with the Russian ambassador prior to Mr. Trump taking office.

Unlike Mr. Flynn, and many others selected to serve the administration, McMaster did not play a role in Trump’s presidential campaign. A veteran of the Persian Gulf war and the second Iraq war, he is largely respected as an independent, strategic thinker in the military, and will likely prove less ideological than Flynn.

“He’s a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience,” Trump told reporters Monday, making the announcement from his private club Mar-a-Lago in Florida as McMaster sat beside him. “I watched and read a lot over the last two days. He is highly respected by everyone in the military, and we’re very honored to have him.”

The choice received immediate praise from Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, who has become increasingly critical of Trump over the past week.

“I’m grateful to you for that opportunity,” McMaster said during the announcement. “And I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people.”

McMaster is the kind of Washington, D.C., outsider that Trump promised to bring along with him as he entered into politics for the first time. While his lack of experience in politics could leave him without the skills to rally a fractured national security team left in the wake of Flynn’s resignation, McMaster’s reputation as a bold, outspoken critic could prove vital to the administration.

He has been critical of both leadership during the Vietnam War and the strategy the George W. Bush administration employed while going to war with Iraq. At the same time, he has earned respect and recognition for using counterinsurgency tactics to defeat Iraqi militants, a move that shifted the war’s outcome back in favor of the United States.

“And from McMaster’s Iraq experience, we can make two positive observations,” Tom Rogan writes in National Review. “First, he is willing to speak truth to power. Second, he embraces introspection as a useful tool rather than viewing it as a threat to ego. These qualities are desperately short in President Trump’s White House.”

Many have welcomed the announcement, noting that McMaster will bring security expertise along with his humble personality to the position.

“You cannot be anything but moved by his extraordinary grasp of the security issues facing the United States," Alan Luxenberg, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, where McMaster spoke Friday, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "What really impresses you is his sense of humility and willingness to listen to other people."

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