The Corner

National Security & Defense

Leave McMaster Be

White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster speaks to reporters in the White House briefing room in Washington, May 16, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

About every two months, there are rumors that Gen. H. R. McMaster might be let go as Trump’s national-security adviser (along with many other stellar appointees).

The world, however, is a much more logical and predictable place than it was 14 months ago. We’ve restored ties to the Gulf monarchies; Israel is again treated with respect. There is no talk any more of an ascendant ISIS caliphate. Ukrainians have been armed; Putin has had tighter sanctions slapped on him. NATO-member defense expenditures are up 5 percent. The U.S. military is being rebooted. Controversial moves, such as leaving the Paris climate accords and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, are no longer controversial and are winning a consensus that such moves were overdue. The existential threat of a North Korean nuclear missile with the potential to hit the West Coast that was dropped on the nation last year is being dealt with through stepped up efforts to recalibrate missile defense, regional allied solidarity, historically tough U.N. sanctions, and a restored U.S. deterrence, rather than the old talk, talk, talk/give, give, give protocol of the “Agreed Framework,” “Six-Party Talks,” and “Strategic Patience” failures of the last 30 years.

The general doctrine of the National Security Council’s strategic blueprint — principled realism — is more or less a euphemism for the restoration of deterrence. Perhaps it is now less likely that Iran will send missiles in the direction of U.S. warships or take American sailors hostage or that U.S. diplomats in hostile countries will be subject to hearing loss. Much of that turnabout has been due, in various ways, public and private, to Trump’s national-security team of Mattis-Haley-Pompeo — and McMaster — who all have tried to define Trump’s Jacksonianism as an approach that is neither Obama recessional nor Bush-era preemptory nation-building. The appointment of Mike Pompeo at State solidifies that team.

On the principle that failure is punished and success rewarded, it makes no sense to lose someone integral to such progress, much less to chronically leak a wrongheaded move that would disrupt a successful team on the eve of dealing with both the North Korean threat and the various surreal side agreements and absurd protocols of the flawed Iran nuclear deal.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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