The Corner

National Security & Defense

In Defense of ‘the Generals’

Recently there have been a number of quite different critiques from all political sides of Trump’s generals (Kelly/McMaster/Mattis), and also from a variety of angles (too narrow experience, an unhealthy overdose of military thinking, a “sellout” for working for the likes of Trump, etc.). While it is hard to know who exactly is to be praised or faulted for Trump’s foreign policy (e.g., Secretary of State Tillerson and, of course, Trump himself), the record is so far pretty clear — and pretty good.

Prune away the rumors of cabinet shake-ups, “adult in the room” melodramas, tweets, fake-news accounts, and inter-cabinet spats, and we are left with a once-ascendant ISIS now shattered and in full retreat; a new honesty about NATO and its funding; an unsustainable Iran deal now on hold and sent to the Senate where as a treaty it belonged; honesty in describing the threat of both radical Islamic terrorism and Iranian hegemony; greater security on the southern border; a restored relationship with Israel and the Gulf States, and an improving one with Jordan and Egypt as well; a workable and constitutional immigration scrutiny of would-be entrants from war-torn Middle East countries; a growing deterrent stance toward Russia and China rather than the rhetoric of “reset” and the “Asian pivot”; an active and growing allied response to the North Korean threat; the beginnings of an all-out effort on missile defense (rather than the prior open-mic presidential promises of a “flexible” post-reelection efforts to curb it in Eastern Europe); a determination to rebuild the military (slowly, given the still far too large annual deficits); some recent incremental progress in Afghanistan due to new rules of engagement; the real red line that Assad cannot use WMD against civilians; a far more adult stance toward U.N. hypocrisies; improved autonomy abroad through increasing energy independence and trading in natural gas; an out from a Paris climate accord whose goals the U.S. meets anyway through free-market solutions — and the emerging outlines of a comprehensive doctrine of “principled realism” that restores deterrence.

Of course, the world is in crisis and scary, current U.S. assets and means do not match our strategic obligations, responsibilities, and would-be agendas, and rhetorically the administration often seems at cross-purposes, but nevertheless American foreign policy is already in an undeniable trajectory of restoration, and much credit is due to the advice and conduct of Trump’s three generals.

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.

Most Popular


Bruce Rauner Deserves to Lose

I don’t know whether Jeanne Ives will pull off the upset, although there is buzz about it: Multiple GOP sources believe Gov. Rauner could lose #ILGov primary tomorrow night, or at least closer than expected for a challenge to a multi-millionaire incumbent governor. — Nathan Gonzales (@nathanlgonzales) ... Read More
National Review

NRI Coming to California

We continue to commemorate the Buckley Legacy, bringing the gang of exceptional writers to the Golden State to discuss WFB’s profound consequence, and critical issues such as immigration and free speech. It’s all part of NRI’s coast-to-coast Celebration of the Life and Legacy of the Founder of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

‘We Will Reduce Abortion’

Conor Lamb’s success has revived interest in “I’m personally opposed, but.” It’s a rhetorical convention — a cliché, really — that many Catholic Democrats have resorted to ever since Mario Cuomo popularized it with his speech at Notre Dame in 1984, as Alexandra DeSanctis explained a few days ... Read More

The Pope Francis Challenge

An unforced error from a Vatican communications office the other day drove me a little something like crazy. The nature of the unforced error is that it is wholly unnecessary and typically distracting. And so it was. Days before, as the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s election as pope was approaching, a ... Read More