Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster Named National Security Adviser

Time Magazine Called McMaster the 'Architect of the Future US Army

With Michael Flynn resigning the post after a few weeks, and Vice Admiral Robert Harward turning the position down, the Trump Administration has settled on Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as their latest National Security Adviser, something of a surprise as he was not widely reported as among the front-runners.

The most prominent front-runner in recent days was ultra-hawk John Bolton, who the Trump Administration ultimately decided against, but who Trump insists will still be given some position of import in the future.

McMaster’s primary claim to fame is the 1997 book Dereliction of Duty, in which he details the failures of the Vietnam War, and argues that the military leadership had failed to communicate to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that his strategy was failing. He goes on to argue that military actions intended to show American “resolve” tend to fail if they lack concrete military objectives.

McMaster has more recently served as a strategist, working on the potential of a US ground war in Eastern Europe against Russia. The question of whether the US can fight and win a land war against an enemy of comparable size and capabilities is a serious debate, with retired Col. Douglas Macgregor arguing that major reforms are needed to fight Russia.

McMaster, who is in charge of those reforms, and has been described as the “architect of the future US Army,” disagreed with Macgregor, saying that the US ability to defeat Russia militarily is just one aspect of the problem, and that the real question is whether the Army has the capabilities to manage the post-conflict environment.

In this regard, Macgregor is an advocate of smaller, better forces, reflecting his previous advocacy of a smaller US invasion of Iraq in 2003, with an eye toward a very quick, decisive win. McMaster, however, notes that the Army is never asked to just fight and win, but also expected to “maintain the peace,” sometimes for years on end.

Instead of focusing just on combat, McMaster has argued the military’s big problems are a need to focus more heavily on their capacity to nation-build, saying that the leadership and the American people need to both realize the Army is expected to “shape political outcomes,” and that the resources they are given need to be up to that job.

In that regard, McMaster presented the Korean War as a model, arguing the US military had done a lot more in the 60 years there than just fighting North Korea. That South Korea has gone through six official “Republics” in that time, along with periods of martial law and coups d’etat makes it an odd choice for a model for long wars.

In fact that might put him at odds with President Trump, who has argued against nation-building as a general rule. It isn’t clear exactly what about McMaster has put him in Trump’s good graces to the point of getting this position, but his argument that military leaders need to be frank with criticism of the civilian leadership might make this a rocky relationship.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

  • wars r u.s.

    So Bolton is still lurking.

    • MvGuy

      But, NOT as Trump’s National Security advisor….. Maybe as twisted sicco who took hiz wife to Platos Retreat….

    • Bianca

      May be, but not to lord over 7th floor of State Department. The whole floor — the kingdom of the Deputy, is gone. No more. Gone is the filter through which the undesirable president’s policies, or those of his Secretary of State, are “modified’, and transmitted down to country desks. Tillerson will have full control, once the layer is restructured.

  • RickR35

    Anyone but that moron Bolton.

  • rosemerry

    Still Russia remains the enemy, with no reflection or reasoning.
    Destroy Russia then worry about the “post-conflict environment” of utter devastation sounds likely.

  • Bianca

    At this point Trump is just looking for a way to get an appointment without a major fight on his hands. He needs to focus on doing something constructive, something majority of people will find beneficial. To me, this has a tax cut written all over it. Good luck democrats trying to fight it. Or for that matter Republicans.
    As for the theory that Army needs to be capable of shaping political outcome, i.e. nation building. the argument must be taken for what it is. It is a question of “what does it mean to win”. Establish military objective, get it done. But in a world where the imperial appetite has been increased, and “winning” means also being able to hold the territory, using whatever means to get the country under full political control. Then, if this is the definition of a win, and it seems that it is, he is correct in stating that this is no longer your father’s Army. It is an imperial army, tasked with holding the territory. Army does not like being blamed for political expectations, especially as politicians are always acting shocked at the notion that we take other people’s lands. Thus, Army does what politicians are kind of saying, but are not prepared to do what they are REALLY saying. But without spelling it, one cannot use a defensive Army for Imperial conquest and subsequent territory control under pliable governments.
    Trump just needs to find a way to insure that his principle of sovereign states being the only subject of international relations translates into this every military move. In Iraq, it is Iraq that needs to coordinate with US — with both parties having skin in the outcome, it is expected that both want some degree of freedom in decision-making and are working with full understanding of coordination. The objective is to finish ISIS, not to placate Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
    In Syria, Syrian Government must decide if US is to get involved on its territory, and Syria will do it in consultation with Russia. That needs to be understood, as Syrian Army already liberated a good part of its own territory. There is still a pocket of Al-Nusra, and ISIS held Raqqa region. There should be no problem whatsoever with Syria granting US the right to operate on its territory against ISIS, provided that they are consulted, and operations coordinated. ISIS will try to escape by putting pressure on Syria down stream, and thus, US can immediately alleviate this, by cutting off ISIS ability to access Deir Azzor region. So, plenty of opportunity for cooperation. Same with Turkey on the border, where ISIS has infiltrated smaller towns and villages.
    But if it all goes using typical neocon method, occupy first, and stay for ever — Trump will get himself into a problem he cannot exit. And democrats who are pushing him into it — would then relish all the problems he encounters. That is what neocons call win-win.

  • Donna Volatile

    Will the ‘real’ Donald Trump please stand up? And are any of his base supporters paying attention to the fact that Trump says one thing and his chosen picks say another? Or do people really believe this sh-t???