The internal battle taking place in the Trump administration, pitting the “adults” – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, General John Kelly, and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster – against the “America First” nationalists, led by Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, has now spread to the media. At the center of the controversy is McMaster, whose foreign policy views are in many ways the exact opposite of Trump’s, and who – rumor has it – may be on the way out. There are indications that, despite recent expressions of support for McMaster, the President has clashed with him repeatedly: Eli Lake reports that Trump “screamed” at his National Security Advisor for calling his South Korean counterpart after Trump said Seoul would have to pay for the THAAD antimissile defense system.
The Never Trump progressive-neocon alliance is taking up the cudgels on McMaster’s behalf, while the Trump loyalists are calling for his ouster. So what are the policy differences between the two factions?
The current issue is what to do about the war in Afghanistan – the fifteen year-plus futile crusade that is now the longest war in our history. Bannon wants out, the “adults” want to escalate the war with more troops. Trump himself leans toward the Bannon view: he reportedly rejected a plan prepared by the “adult” faction and sent them back to the drawing board.
However, from a noninterventionist perspective, the battle lines are not all that that clear. In an interview with an administration insider, the Daily Caller reports:
“Everything the president wants to do, McMaster opposes. Trump 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.”
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