When H.R. McMaster took over as National Security Adviser from Michael Flynn, who resigned in disgrace amid accelerating allegations over his ties to Russia, people both heaved a sigh of relief and wondered how, precisely, McMaster would fit into an administration more concerned with loyalty than Washington procedure. Unsurprisingly, reports find that McMaster and Trump are butting heads.
Bloomberg reports that Trump is not getting along with McMaster, in part because McMaster, well, does his job as National Security Adviser, namely cleaning up after his boss:
Trump was livid, according to three White House officials, after reading in the Wall Street Journal that McMaster had called his South Korean counterpart to assure him that the president’s threat to make that country pay for a new missile defense system was not official policy. These officials say Trump screamed at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share.
McMaster is also allegedly not playing along with Trump demands like firing alleged leakers, and (unsurprisingly) doesn’t have a friend in Steve Bannon. McMaster is well known for his book, Dereliction of Duty, which started as a doctoral thesis and essentially lays the blame for the Vietnam War at the feet of the politicians who engineered it, arguing that Vietnam was, in the end, a political misuse of the military. McMaster’s book is seen as superb analysis and often applied to modern conflicts, and he strongly argues against using the military unless there’s no other option and the conflict has clear goals and strategy. Considering how Trump prosecutes every other aspect of the White House, it seemed that conflict at some level was inevitable.
As always with the Trump White House, though, a shaker of salt does need to be kept handy. It appears that the story in question may largely come from Bannon himself. And it wouldn’t be the first time that Bannon, whose loathing of the press seems only superceded by his desire to constantly speak to them, attempted to make himself look better. Still, considering McMaster’s thoughtful, principled approach to military strategy and diplomacy, disputes are only a matter of time.