The chaos that erupted with in the White House after Gen. Michael Flynn’s abrupt departure from the National Security Council painted a very worrisome picture of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Less than a month in and everything was already falling apart at the seams.
To regain some semblance of control, it was essential for the West Wing to select a national security adviser who, even if not entirely acceptable to the Democrats, would be a much less controversial choice than his anti-Muslim, warmongering predecessor.
After some apparent consideration, the president named Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster as his new top aide, calling him “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”
It was an impressive choice, considering McMaster is a decorated active-duty Army general who is well respected in both political and military circles, has a sterling reputation as a strategist, is considered a war hero, is known for standing by his believes and has a habit of speaking up, especially when it comes to challenging the status quo.
Perhaps the very same reasons that make him a good choice for the job also makes him appear a little unfit to be a part of the Trump administration. It’s no secret the president only trusts a small circle of aides and does not really tolerate people saying or doing things that defy his limited worldview.
Since the role of national security adviser is to have the commander-in-chief ear on the matters most crucial to the country, McMaster’s outspoken nature certainly makes one wonder if he would be permitted to do his job to full capacity or if Trump would try to undermine the military strongman for questioning his authority.
Here are a few things you need to know about H.R. McMaster.
In 1984, McMaster graduated from the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point, where he also had a spot on the rugby team.
A year later, he married Kathleen Trotter, with whom he has three daughters, Katharine, Colleen and Caragh.
McMaster later received a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina.
In 1991, he served in the Gulf War as a captain commanding Eagle Troop of the second Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of 73 Easting. He is also acknowledged for his role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“Dereliction of Duty”
In 1997, McMaster wrote “Dereliction of Duty” — a thoroughly researched thesis detailing the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
In his book, he criticized the military and government officials of poor leadership and failing to push back against former President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.
The book was widely praised and is currently present on the Marine Corps’ reading list.
Despite being one of “the most celebrated soldiers of the Iraq War,” McMaster was twice passed over for promotion to Brigadier General without any official reasoning.
It was widely believed – at least within the military community – that it was his outspoken attitude and tendency to challenge the status quo that cost him the position.
“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,” the then the base commander told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, in 2014. “I think the opposite is the case ... And the commanders that I’ve worked for, they want frank assessments, they want criticism and feedback.”
In 2010, McMaster banned the use of PowerPoint presentations.
“It can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control... Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable,” he explained.
Army’s Smartest Hero
McMaster grew to prominence in 2005 with his impressive performance in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, where his troops used classic counter-insurgency techniques centered on making life safer for the local population, which exceeded 200,000 at the time, instead of following the “kill and capture” strategy.
“Over time, American forces learned that an appreciation of the fears, interests and sense of honor among Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s citizens was critical to breaking cycles of violence,” the unit commander wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.
While his approach was appraised as “unconventional,” his performance was called “impressive.”
100 Most Influential People in the World
In 2014, Time magazine included the military strongman on its list of 100 most influential people in the world.
“Maj. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster might be the 21st century Army’s pre-eminent warrior-thinker,” wrote retired Lt. Gen. David Barno. “Recently tapped for his third star, H.R. is also the rarest of soldiers — one who has repeatedly bucked the system and survived to join its senior ranks.”
All we can now do is wait and see if McMaster will manage to stay in Trump’s good graces and turn out to be an ideal pick to head the National Security Council.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Kevin Lamarque