Friday, March 23, 2018

National Security Advisor shuffle - McMaster out, Bolton in

The reporting on this latest cabinet-level shift shows that Trump replaced one hard-liner with another. What it comes down to, your Scriber thinks, is that this is less a fundamental shift in national security policy and more likely Trump finally got fed up with getting advice he did not like. Trump continues to pack the cabinet with yes-men (and women).

The NY Times broke the story in McMaster to Resign as National Security Adviser, and Will Be Replaced by John Bolton.

WASHINGTON — Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John R. Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations, White House officials said Thursday.

General McMaster will retire from the military, the officials said. He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.

The officials also said that Mr. Trump wanted to fill out his national security team before his meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. He replaced Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson with the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, last week.

Mr. Bolton, who will take office April 9, has met regularly with Mr. Trump to discuss foreign policy, and was on a list of candidates for national security adviser. …

General McMaster’s serious, somber style and preference for order made him an uncomfortable fit with a president whose style is looser, and who has little patience for the detail and nuance of complex national security issues. They had differed on policy, with General McMaster cautioning against ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran without a strategy for what would come next, and tangling with Mr. Trump over the strategy for American forces in Afghanistan.

Their tensions seeped into public view in February, when General McMaster said at a security conference in Munich that the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was beyond dispute. The statement drew a swift rebuke from the president, who vented his anger on Twitter.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Mr. Trump wrote, using his campaign nickname for Hillary Clinton. “Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”

General McMaster carried out a slow-rolling purge of hard-liners at the National Security Council who had been installed by Mr. Flynn and were allied ideologically with Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, earning the ire of conservatives who complained that his moves represented the foreign policy establishment reasserting itself over a president who had promised a different approach.

General McMaster’s position at the White House had been seen as precarious for months, and he had become the target of a concerted campaign by hard-line activists outside the administration who accused him of undermining the president’s agenda and pushed for his ouster, even creating a social media effort branded with a #FireMcMaster hashtag.

The case against John Bolton, in one Trump tweet, was made at vox.com.

People who’ve been intently watching the comings and goings of people from the White House might have expected the change. But it would have come as a shock to 2013-era Donald Trump.

Bolton stood out for his hawkishness even in the hawkish Bush administration. He was a leading cheerleader for the war in Iraq. And he spent his post-White House career arguing for more military intervention, specifically in Iran (over its nuclear weapons program) and to calm the civil war in Syria.

Trump, on the other hand, used to be a pretty staunch opponent of military adventurism in general and the war in Iraq in particular. (He claimed on the campaign trail that he had opposed the war before it started; that doesn’t appear to be the case, but he was certainly criticizing it as early as 2004.)

He tweeted, over and over again, that “we should never have gone into Iraq” (though, he often added, after going in America should have at least “taken the oil”). And on at least one occasion, in 2013, he declared that “all former Bush administration officials should have zero standing” on the foreign policy question of the time:

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
All former Bush administration officials should have zero standing on Syria. Iraq was a waste of blood & treasure.
12:41 PM - Sep 5, 2013

Now, a former Bush administration official will be the president’s top policymaker on national security. He will have all sorts of standing on Syria, as well as Iran, North Korea, and any other place you care to name.

According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Bolton “promised Trump ‘he wouldn’t start any wars’” on the job. But as Trump himself knows very well, just because you say — or tweet — something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stand by it.

But this opens the question: Did Trump promise Bolton not to start any wars?

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