Folks seem generally pleased with the choice of H.R. McMaster as NSA, and it’s hard for me to disagree; McMaster is almost universally well-respected in the national security community, both among soldiers and civilians. He brings a fine analytical mind, a wealth of experience, and a scholarly understanding of national security problems to the NSA position. Here’s his account of the Battle of 73 Easting; here’s a summary of one of his talks on the Revolution in Military Affairs.
The biggest questions going forward will be:
- How much control does he have over his own staff?
- How much authority will he have relative to more political actors such as Steve Bannon?
- Will Trump actually listen to him?
The main job of the NSA is to coordinate all of the departments and agencies that manage US national security. McMaster’s reputation as a strong thinker should help, at least initially. On the other hand, some have suggested that his reluctance to suffer fools gladly has, at times, slowed his professional progress. I’m sure that problem will never come up in the Trump White House. Others have suggested that McMaster’s active duty status will make it more difficult for him to say “No” to the President. Fortunately, he literally wrote the book on the responsibilities of the uniformed military for giving good advice to civilians.
And on a personal note; H.R. McMaster was kind enough to speak by Skype with my counter-insurgency class back in the spring of 2011. Longtime readers will recall that I was denounced as a Communist for teaching this class, way back when Donalde was the only Donald in town. Good times.