The Fight Within the Trump WH: Will President Trump Stand with the Bannonites, or the Generals?

When I watched Hugh Hewitt’s August 5 interview with National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster, I was impressed with his ability to articulate the foreign policy goals he said he shares with President Trump -- although some on the far right are disputing that they are indeed the policies Trump promised to pursue.

In speaking about various hotspots, McMaster emphasized the importance of being strategic, looking at our long-term goals and how to achieve them rather than focusing on short term tactics as the Obama administration did. Overall, McMaster’s penchant is to achieve our goals by working with regional partners and with other countries when our interests intersect -- without going to war or attempting nation-building.

For example, on Venezuela, he pointed out that by staging a coup and replacing the legitimately elected parliament with a phony “constituent assembly,” Maduro not only poses a threat to the Venezuelan people, but to the United States and its regional allies as well. This is because, as McMaster said, Maduro has been getting economic and military support from Cuba, China, and Russia -- just as Fidel Castro did in the '60s and '70s. There is even a possibility that Iran’s Quds forces could be working in the country. The U.S., he said, should work with its regional partners to help the Venezuelan people free themselves “from this dictatorship.” McMaster believes it would be a mistake for the U.S. to intervene directly and allow Maduro to blame the crisis on “the Yankees.” That way the responsibility for this catastrophe would rest solely on “Maduro’s shoulders.”

Next, addressing the Iranian nuclear deal, McMaster supported Trump’s view that “it was the worst deal ever” because it “rewarded the regime, gave them so much up front.” He acknowledged that Iran immediately violated the agreement’s "spirit" and supported Assad’s proxy forces in Syria, as well as Hamas and Hezbollah. The agreement’s goal was not only to stop Iran from going nuclear, he said, but was meant to “moderate their behavior” in the region, while in fact the mullahs did the opposite: “They actually intensified their destabilizing behavior across the region.”

To meet the challenge, McMaster said we “have crafted-a strategy along with a lot of our likeminded nations, allies, partners, to counter Iran’s’ destabilizing behavior while we still aim to prevent, by whatever means is necessary to do so, Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Congress is receiving reviews every 90 days, and Trump will be the judge on whether Iran is living up to the agreement. In McMaster’s opinion, the supreme leader of Iran should not be shocked if this review, sooner or later, results in a decision to withdraw from the agreement.

McMaster criticized the Obama administration’s policies in Afghanistan for focusing on tactics, and for “announcing to the enemy years in advance exactly the number of troops you’re gonna have, exactly what they’re gonna do and what they’re not gonna do.” Now, he said, we must step back and ask what is at stake for the U.S. in Afghanistan; what is the strategy “that secures an outcome consistent with the vital interests of the American people.” This entails putting together a regional strategy to achieve U.S. goals, which he is currently working on with others in the administration. Trump will weigh his options, he said, and make the final decision on going forward in Afghanistan.