McMaster’s supporters push back

National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster came in or criticism after he fired three staff members, all of whom are strongly pro-Israel and forceful opponents of the Iran nuclear deal. I gave voice to some of that criticism here.

McMaster’s supporters are pushing back. Among them, at least for the time being, is President Trump.

Hugh Hewitt characterizes McMaster’s critics as “a tiny slice” of “the alt right” and a “legion of Russian bots” who have been saying “a number of screwball things about him.” This response, typical of much of the pro-McMaster push back, is name-calling, not argument.

As I suggested in my initial post, a good starting point in discussing McMaster is to ask how many Obama holdovers (a term McMaster has tried to ban) he has fired. Having sacked three Trump loyalists, he obviously is not averse to firing staff members. If, as I understand to be the case, he has sacked few or none of the Obama holdovers, this would suggest that he is comfortable with Obama-era foreign and national security policy.

One need not be a member of the “alt right” to believe that Obama-era foreign and national security policy were seriously misguided.

Let’s turn now to the two specific policy areas I discussed in my initial post: Iran and Israel. There is, of course, no plausible argument that McMaster is pro-Iran. However, in my post I quoted reports that he opposes scrapping the nuclear deal and that he has refused to publish the side deals Obama signed with the Iranians and then hid from the public. I have seen no refutation of the latter claim.

As for withdrawing from the deal, McMaster mostly danced around this question during his interview by Hugh Hewitt. McMaster’s line was that Iran has violated “the spirit of the agreement” and that, to the extent it has crossed the line on the agreement’s letter, the U.S. has gone to the IAEA and gotten the mullahs to take remedial measures. This was pretty much the same line McMaster presented last month when he explained why the U.S. would certify Iran’s compliance with the deal (and in the process also certify that the deal is in the vital security interests of the United States).

I have no personal knowledge of whether Iran is complying with the letter of the deal. However, I’m inclined to believe Senators Cotton, Cruz, Perdue, and Rubio on the subject. In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, they listed four publicly reported examples of Iran’s violation of the agreement. They also argued compellingly that the deal is not in America’s vital national security interest.

Thus, it seems to me that McMaster, though certainly not pro-Iran or delusional about it the way Obama was, has taken too soft a line on the mullah’s regime. Reasonable people can disagree about whether we should withdraw from the agreement. However, one need not be a member of the “alt right” to prefer a national security adviser who takes a tougher line on Iran than McMaster or to be concerned when staffers who do so get sacked.

Now let’s consider Israel. In my initial post, I quoted, but did not endorse, Caroline Glick’s view that McMaster “is deeply hostile to Israel.” Based on what I’ve since heard from people I trust, I strongly doubt that this is the case. I doubt, moreover, that President Trump would describe McMaster as “very pro-Israel” if, in reality, he is “deeply hostile” to the Jewish state.

But the fact remains that, as Glick said, McMaster appointed Kris Bauman as his Israel adviser. Bauman, in his 2009 Ph.D. dissertation, blamed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for “inciting Palestinian violence.” He placed Israeli “settlers” and Palestinian suicide terrorists on equal moral footing in discussing the lack of peace between the two sides. He blamed Israel for Hamas’ radicalism, writing that Israel “refused to engage with Hamas and instead turned Gaza into an open-air prison.” He also placed a fair amount of blame on the Bush administration.

Notwithstanding that Hamas stands by a charter that calls for the killing of Jews worldwide and the annihilation of Israel, Bauman claimed that this terrorist outfit “has signaled that it is prepared to operate with moderation.” He urged Israel and the Middle East Quartet to “find a way to positively respond” to the bloodthirsty terrorists of Hamas.

Either McMaster made a grossly negligent hire when he appointed Bauman or he is not as pro-Israel as his supporters make him out to be. Either way, one need not be a member of the “alt right” to prefer a national security adviser who selects as his Israel adviser someone with a far less naive view of Hamas than Bauman, or to be concerned when those with far less naive views get sacked.

Today’s Washington Post describes McMaster as “loved” by the Washington foreign policy establishment. It’s not difficult to see why.

What’s perplexing is how President Trump ended up with the darling of that establishment as his national security adviser.


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