McMaster the Enabler

December 16, 2017–Evidence is mounting that Harold Raymond McMaster, the Army lieutenant general who currently functions as national security adviser for President Donald J. Trump, is doing the nation no favors sticking around. Previously I had written that McMaster is guilty of the same “dereliction of duty” as that charge he hurled, in a book by that name, at the Vietnam-era military brass facing President Lyndon Johnson. Now McMaster parrots the senseless foreign policy antics of Mr. Trump and even tries to represent them as coherent and clever strategy.

I’ve not got much time today but I wanted to underline press reporting that has given us a fresh example of the dangers of an unchecked Harold McMaster. Yesterday’s Washington Post carried a remarkable piece of reporting from Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Philip Rucker (“How Trump’s Pursuit of Putin Has Left the U.S. Vulnerable to the Russian Threat,” December 15, 2017). In their story the journalists report an incident involving the National Security Council staff director for Russia and how Mr. Trump dissed her in a key White House encounter. At a meeting held preparatory to a Trump telephone call to Vladimir Putin the president treated the staff director, Fiona Hill, as a secretary, throwing a marked up memorandum at her and telling her to rewrite it. When Hill did not immediately rush away to do that, President Trump apparently yelled at her. When Hill did leave, General McMaster followed her out of the room and added to the hurt with an extra dollop of criticism.

How ’bout that? Harold McMaster curries favor with the president, his boss, by dumping on his own staff. Rather than defending Fiona Hill as a professional expert and reminding Mr. Trump of the boundaries of proper behavior, The Derelict imitates his master and digs the hole deeper. Is it any wonder the national security policy of this administration has descended into incoherence? In my book The Ghosts of Langley  I argue that, at the CIA, characters who furnish bad examples, or demonstrate behaviors to avoid, become “ghosts” to their successors. It’s looking very much like Harold McMaster is entering that spirit world. So far, in deference to his status as an Army general officer, observers have been reluctant to call a spade a spade. Watch out!

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