April 12, 2017

H.R. McMaster and James Mattis are steering the Trump administration away from “America First.”

President Donald Trump swept into office with no government experience, few policy positions, and a team of iconoclastic outsiders who echoed his desire to put America first in all things. Since taking office, Trump’s team has been racked by scandal and intrigue, from the persistent concerns over Russia ties to infighting between his strategist Steve Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Amidst this chaos, it’s been difficult to discern any particular policy preferences or agenda. Foreign policy, in particular, has suffered from the absence of the president’s personal leadership.

Optimistic observers like Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib have found hope in the ascendance of National Security Adviser (and Army Lt. Gen.) H.R. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Others have taken comfort in the more mature structure and process established by McMaster at the National Security Council. These moves matter, and will likely help reduce the drama within the White House around national security matters. But the ascendance of the likes of McMaster and Mattis may also create a more hawkish administration, one driven by establishment aides who favor the use of force and for whom “America First” means something completely different than it does to Bannon or his minions.

Read the full article at Slate.

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