'Anonymous' National Security officials implicate McMaster in plot to undermine Trump

© Reuters

It appears that Donald Trump is powerless to surround himself with those who might support his policies and manner of executing those policies.

New claims from two former National Security Council officials implicate the current US National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster as an individual attempting to sabotage Donald Trump's foreign policy.

According to the Daily Caller, one of the officials stated,

"Everything the president wants to do, McMaster opposes.

Tump wants to get us out of Afghanistan - McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to get us out of Syria - McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to deal with the China issue - McMaster doesn't. Trump wants to deal with the Islam issue - McMaster doesn't. You know, across the board, we want to get rid of the Iran deal - McMaster doesn't. It is incredible to watch it happening right in front of your face. Absolutely stunning".

The source continued,
"I know that the president isn't a big fan of what McMaster's doing. I don't understand why he's allowing a guy who is subverting his foreign policy at every turn to remain in place.

I just fear there is a real creeping of status quo thinking that is taking over the place. I was upset while I was there in seeing how empowered Obama holdovers under McMaster were to essentially perpetuate Obama-era policies".

There are several important points this story raises. First of all, the source is a so-called anonymous former official. As is the case with both pro-Trump and anti-Trump anonymous sources, some of what they say might be the full truth, some might be a half truth and some might be total fiction, either authored by the source or authored by a journalist pretending to be the source. I am not challenging the credibility of the journalist who wrote this particular piece, but merely pointing out a general and unavoidable trend in modern American political discourse and reportage.

However, once one accepts this cautionary prism through which any such story must be viewed, one can attempt to piece together bits of what are known facts in order to interpret the veracity of the initial claim.

It is widely known that McMaster favours a traditional 'deep state' approach to geo-politics. The idea that he is more of this 'Obama mindset' than that of Donald Trump or apparently the pragmatic Rex Tillerson seems beyond question.

At this point it helps to break things down on a case by case basis.

The anonymous source accuses McMaster of being opposed to withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria. Such views are consistent with the Obama line on foreign policy which remained firmly committed to an indefinite, however ineffective presence in Afghanistan as well as to regime change in Syria.

In respect of China and Iran, the statement from the anonymous sources appears to be more contrived. Practically, Donald Trump's view on China and Iran does not differ greatly from that of the Obama administration. In both cases, the US sought to provoke China in the South China Sea, voice opposition to the One Belt-One Road initiative and cause trouble along various points in China's belt and road, including Iran.

The main difference is one of rhetoric, as Obama's subtle insults to China have been replaced by overtly insulting statements to China under Donald Trump.

In respect of Iran, the Obama administration eventually signed the so-called Iran nuclear deal to save face. Even the perennial war party in Washington realises at some level that a traditional war with Iran would be a disaster for the US and one that the US does not need.

Therefore, the Iran deal ought to be seen as Barack Obama's moment to declare that he solved a crisis which was of America's making in the first place. Put another way, America was able to avoid a war that only America could have begun in the first place.

This seems to irk Donald Trump due to his low level of respect for Obama. Apart from this rhetorical difference, the broader pro-Israel and anti-Iran sentiments in Washington have not change to any great degree since the Obama years. The difference between Democratic and Republican on Iran are largely a difference of style rather than substance.

Thus, the statement about McMaster having different views from Donald Trump on Iran and China seems tailor made for a pro-Trump audience, which is that the Daily Caller's readers generally are.

That being said, many have hinted at the fact that McMaster represents a 'business as usual' attitude in Washington, one that was bound to clash with Donald Trump's outsider style in one way or another.

If this is indeed the case, the question that becomes important is as follows: Why does Donald Trump continue to surround himself with those who undermine his policies and challenge his credibility? This leads to an even more important question: Why is Donald Trump seemingly powerless to remove such people from his White House?

The most pessimistic answer to this question is that the deep state runs the show and that the President is merely an advisor to those who are supposed to be advising him. A slightly less pessimistic answer is that Trump is simply hamstrung by the environment in Washington which is manifestly opposed to his style of government and even to his policies.

There is sadly no optimistic answer, even if the report from the Daily Caller is fictional.

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