The petty assault on H.R. McMaster’s character
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The National Security Advisor for the White House, United States Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, has faced mounting criticism from conservative circles as of late. Sadly, there is now a campaign underway to fire McMaster, one of our most influential and decorated military officers alive today. This counterproductive and shocking assault on such a fine man’s character needs to end for the good of our country.

Recently, McMaster took some heat for not being supportive enough of Israel. It was widely rumored that McMaster convinced President Donald J. Trump not to go to the western wall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The backlash has been so bad that even President Trump came out defending him calling McMaster a "good man” and "very pro-Israel."

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One of the larger points of contention is a leaked letter sent from McMaster to former National Security Advisor Susan Rice authorizing her continued to access to classified information. Currently, Rice is facing severe scrutiny for unmasking Trump affiliates in raw intelligence reports.

This issue is all smoke and no fire, and something McMaster — thankfully — dismissed. Rice’s actions were legal especially considering the Russian interference in our election. It should also be noted that Rice has every right to have unadulterated access to what she worked on as a National Security Advisor. McMaster’s actions, in this case, were routine, procedural, and keeping within policy and law.

Some have speculated chief White House strategist Steve Bannon might be behind this drive to oust McMaster. The relationship between Bannon and McMaster became so toxic that U.S. Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE eventually had to step in to mediate. Furthermore, McMaster fired the National Security Council’s senior director of intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a close associate of Bannon. McMaster is also responsible for removing Bannon from the National Security Council’s principal’s committee.

While individuals in the Trump administration keep criticism relatively private, the public criticism arises from far-right activists on the periphery of the Trump establishment. For example, conservative Republican and Congressional candidate Paul Nehlen has help trend the hashtag #FireMcMaster. Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has posted a video railing against McMaster, saying McMaster wants to overthrow the Republic.

Both individuals hold sway over zealot-like conservative circles, yet neither served their country in the military. What they are doing to a decorated, smart military leader is completely reprehensible especially at a time our country needs McMaster more than ever.  

This all comes after the preceding National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, resigned in disgrace. Flynn parted ways with the White House after it was revealed he had undisclosed contacts with high-level Russian government officials and misled White House officials about the issue.

As a result, Trump had to choose another NSA and fast. Thankfully, per the recommendation of U.S. Senator John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.), Trump picked McMaster. Many establishment leaders are not publicly calling for McMaster’s resignation because they realize McMaster is an efficient operator and masterful tactician. He is the best possible choice President Trump could have made.

McMaster is one of the finest leaders the U.S. government has to offer. He is a welcomed reprieve from the other members of the Trump administration, like White House advisors Kellyanne Conway and Bannon, appointed for their loyalty to the president.

McMaster is a natural leader, a decorated military hero with a brilliant mind. His magnificent book, “Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam,” which criticizes U.S. leadership during Vietnam War, is a must-read for every military member.

Right now, Trump needs McMaster more than McMaster needs Trump. The president’s constant firing and shuffling of members of his administration are a serious concern. Instead of having a White House that is managing critical issues, we have perennial drama unfolding almost every week. The loss of McMaster would only create a further distraction that the White House simply doesn’t need at a time when it is managing some very serious issues.

The supporters of McMaster’s resignation are putting politics above country. These petty distractions now jeopardize our national security. Instead of focusing on serious threats like North Korea or Iran, the Trump administration must now spend energy appeasing its zealous supporters instead of managing current and future challenges.  

This isn’t a reality television show. There are critical issues at stake, and when our president seems to go through administration officials like regular people change socks, it should be no surprise that our all-encompassing strategy may suffer. That is why we must end this unnecessary criticism against McMaster.

If the best leader our military has to offer isn’t good enough for the Trump administration or his supporters, it is in far direr straits than I ever thought.

Matthew J. Fecteau is an M.P.A. candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a former Democratic congressional candidate and an Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @matthewfecteau.


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