We should have known something was wrong when President Trump received widespread, bipartisan praise for choosing H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser. Perhaps we let our guard down since he was similarly praised for his other military hires, including Jim Mattis and John Kelly, both of whom we still believe were superb choices. We’re keeping an open mind about McMaster as well, but his beliefs about Islamic terrorism are a potential problem.
In recent days, several outlets have reported that McMaster has a history of using Obama-esque language when talking about the Islamic State. In a 2014 speech at National Defense University, McMaster reportedly said, “The Islamic State is not Islamic.” In a 2016 speech at the Virginia Military Institute, he expounded on that premise:
“We are engaged today, as General George C. Marshall’s generation was engaged, against enemies who pose a great threat to all civilized peoples,” McMaster said. “As our World War II generation defeated Nazi fascism and Japanese imperialism, and as later generations defeated Communist totalitarianism, we will defeat today’s enemies, including terrorist organizations like Daesh, who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and justify horrific cruelty against innocents.”
We could minimize the problematic nature of these old speeches if it weren’t for reports that claim McMaster expressed similar sentiments in a staff meeting with the National Security Council on Thursday. According to The New York Times, he said it was not helpful to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” because groups like ISIS are “un-Islamic.”
Former State Department official William McCants, who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institute, penned an op-ed this week celebrating McMaster’s appointment. In it, McCants said it was comforting to see “Islamophobes” like Pamela Geller take exception to the general’s views. “The Islamophobes are not wrong to sense that McMaster will be hostile to their worldview,” he wrote. Later in the piece, he says, “I served in the State Department when [Michael] Flynn was still in government and, having seen some of the same analysis Flynn saw, I can say that the intelligence community did not ignore religion; it just didn’t inflate it as the primary driver of jihadist terrorism.”
Fair enough, but that’s not the same as saying, flat-out, that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam, which was the woefully ignorant slop served up by the Obama administration. Denying the obvious reality of ISLAMIC terrorism is part of what led to the Democrats’ defeat in November. Americans are tired of politicians who are more concerned about offending Muslims than protecting the country.
It’s not a bad thing to have advisers who disagree with you, but hopefully McMaster isn’t as infatuated with this “Islam is perfect and peaceful” nonsense as these reports make him sound. If he is, his stint as national security adviser may be as short-lived as Flynn’s.