H.R. McMaster – half a hawk, half a dove

Mamdouh AlMuhaini
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Skills, competence and political stances are not the only thing that determines US presidents’ relations with members of their administration. This was clearly seen in the relation between the departing Tillerson and President Trump. There was zero chemistry between the two men. Relations took a turn for the worse when Tillerson publicly insulted Trump and they fell apart due to Tillerson’s stubborn approach against Trump and opposition of his public stances. Tillerson reportedly told his counterparts in closed meetings to ignore Trump’s tweets and statements as they mean nothing. Tillerson crossed the line and eventually Trump fired him via a Twitter post while still lying in bed.

In his farewell speech to the Department of State employees, Tillerson warned them of Washington which he described as a “very mean-spirited town” and advised them to maintain their values no matter what the circumstances are. It’s clear whom he meant with these statements. Tillerson appeared like a destroyed and pathetic man with tearful eyes although his fortune is well-over $320 million.

Trump’s story with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is less tragic than his story with Tillerson but it’s similar. The absence of personal acceptance and the different stances quickly brought Trump’s relation with McMaster to an end. McMaster’s appointment was compulsory as he replaced Michael Flynn whom Trump personally liked and admired for his fiery temperament. During the electoral campaign, for instance, Flynn echoed Trump’s famous statement against Hillary Clinton, “lock her up,” for deleting 30,000 e-mails from her personal e-mail.

McMaster was different than Flynn in his temperament and appearance as he resembled – as one journalist described him –a boastful bodyguard in a bar in Philadelphia which he hails form. Trump, however, did not like McMaster’s academic approach and school-like style during presentations and proposal of solutions and perceptions. Trump who quickly gets uninterested was bored of his daily meetings with McMaster which resembled lectures.

Trump does not like long meetings. When US Secretary of Defense James Mattis wanted to convince Trump that torture was ineffective to extract confessions from terror convicts, he did not lecture him but simply said that he can do better with “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers” than he does with torture.

There was no psychological glue to bind Trump with McMaster. Trump actually seemed resentful of McMaster whom he once described as boorish and arrogant. Once while McMaster was preoccupied with a presentation, Trump interrupted him and told the participants: “Look at him, he looks so serious,” – meaning he is arrogant and he admires his tone while he echoes big words.

Appointing Bolton, and Pompeo as secretary of state, confirms that Trump is heading towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal on May 12 or towards imposing strict sanctions and restraints that will suffocate the Iranian regime

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

‘Smart power’

Disputes between McMaster, the lecturer and the writer, were regarding several major issues. McMaster was tough against North Korea and moderate towards Iran. He was a hybrid bird, half a hawk and half a dove. It’s clear that this is the main reason he was quickly fired especially that Trump, who has been president for more than a year now, has become more confident and more aware of his vision and he does not want any opposing voices.

McMaster opposes the president’s stance on the nuclear deal with Iran and obstructs categorizing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror group as he long argued against this view. He wanted to act based on “smart power” as an alternative to soft power and hard power. Trump does not want any of this academic sophistication so he released all the doves. He only wants flying hawks like Pompeo and Bolton in the White House. Just like Tillerson, McMaster exited his post as a broken man and decided to retire instead of resuming military work.

Bolton’s role

It’s now John Bolton’s turn to be the new national security adviser. Appointing him felt like announcing doomsday for the Iranians and the leftists who detest him for well-known reasons. Trump thus appointed Bolton whom he personally likes. The president also admires Bolton’s comments to Fox News as he agrees with most of them except for those on Russia which Trump seems peaceful towards while Bolton seems rather offensive against.

Unlike McMaster’s lengthy explanations and presentations, Bolton briefly outlines his major stances using clear and memorable short terms. He once mocked the United Nations’ 38-story Secretariat building in New York and said: “If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.”

Despite all the ongoing fierce campaigns against him, Bolton believes that diplomacy is useless and a waste of time if not backed with power. This is pretty much what Trump, who threatened North Korea’s leader with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” thinks. This statement provoked Trump’s opponents who warned he will trigger a new world war; however, this rhetoric is what brought Kim Jong-un to the negotiations table for the first time.

Bolton’s remarks on the nuclear deal with Iran were right. He said it was full of major gaps which Tehran will use to produce its ballistic missiles. This is literally what happened.

Appointing Bolton, and Pompeo as secretary of state, confirms that Trump is heading towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal on May 12 or towards imposing strict sanctions and restraints that will suffocate the Iranian regime, which, for the first time ever, all of the US administration's top officials agree is the source of an epidemic and grave threats that must be quickly addressed.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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