President Donald Trump has announced that Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will be the new national security advisor.
McMaster replaces Michael Flynn, who resigned one week following reports that he discussed sanctions on Russia with the country’s ambassador to the US.
Trump called McMaster “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience” as he made the announcement Monday afternoon at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
“I would just like to say what a privilege it is to be able to continue serving our nation. I’m grateful to you for that opportunity, and I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people,” McMaster said.
The New York Times reported that McMaster “is seen as one of the Army’s leading intellectuals, first making a name for himself with a searing critique of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their performance during the Vietnam War and later criticizing the way President George W. Bush’s administration went to war in Iraq.”
The Warrior Ethos at Risk: H.R. McMaster’s Remarkable Veterans Day Speech
Dr. Degioia, faculty, administrators, students, guests—and especially veterans.
Good afternoon. It is a great honor for me to participate in this celebration. My thanks to Georgetown University and the Student Veterans Association and the Hoya ROTC battalion. It is a particular privilege to celebrate Veterans Day at an elite university that has both educated and been shaped by our nation’s veterans. I would like to begin by thanking, on behalf of all veterans, the university leadership for making Georgetown the top-rated college for veterans.
Our military is a living historical community and those of us serving today are determined to preserve the legacy of courageous, selfless service that we have inherited from the veterans who have gone before us. We might remember that we are commemorating Veterans Day in the year marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of The Great War. We celebrate on this day because on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War I ended. Though much has changed in the character of armed conflict since the early twentieth century, there are also clear continuities in the nature of war and especially in the character, commitment, and ethos of those who have served in our Armed Forces. I thought that we might consider two ways of honoring our veterans for which those connected to Georgetown University are particularly qualified. First, to study war as the best means of preventing it; and second, to help the American military preserve our warrior ethos while remaining connected to those in whose name we fight.
There is a tendency in the United States to confuse the study of war and warfare with militarism. Thinking clearly about the problem of war and warfare, however, is both an unfortunate necessity and the best way to prevent it. As the English theologian, writer, and philosopher G.K. Chesterton observed, “War is not the best way of settling differences, but it is the only way of preventing them being settled for you.” As George Washington, who addressed Georgetown students in August 1797 observed, “To be prepared for war is the most effectual means to promote peace.” One of the patterns of American military history is to be unprepared for war either because of wishful thinking or a failure to consider continuities in the nature of war—especially war’s political and human dimensions.
In Europe, Jan Bloch, Norman Angell and others believed in 1914 that war had become so irrational a means of settling disputes that sensible people would never again fight one. Orville and Wilbur Wright believed that the invention of the aeroplane would bring an end to war. Even Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the machine gun when asked if his invention would increase the human cost of war, replied that the weapon will “make war impossible.”
The experience of World War I, a conflict that took the lives of over sixteen million people, highlighted the need to understand the political and historical basis for violent conflict as critical both to preserving peace and ending wars. It was no coincidence that Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service opened in February 1919 with Edmund A. Walsh, the Jesuit priest for whom it is now named, serving as regent. Its charter was to help create and sustain lasting peace among nations. As we know, however, the “war that was to end all wars” was instead the first of two world wars that marked the bloodiest century in world history.
Constantine McGuire’s vision for the Walsh School was to promote peace through commerce and diplomacy. This vision was consistent with Immanuel Kant’s idea of humanity reaching ‘moral maturity,’ as international institutions helped to prevent war.
World War II highlighted that institutions inconsistent with the cultural dispositions or historical experiences of its members are doomed to failure. After Pearl Harbor, our nation mobilized. Georgetown was the first elite university to be incorporated into the Army’s plan to establish training centers on campus. As they had during World War I, Georgetown students and faculty answered the call to service. World War II involved all of America. The U.S. Army grew from an army of 190,000 to an army of almost 8.5 million—a 44 fold increase. A total of 16 million Americans served in uniform in WWII; virtually every family had someone in harm’s way, every American had an emotional investment in our armed forces.
As the historian Rick Atkinson has observed, the wars of the twentieth century also teach us that victory in war is only possible through sacrifice. In World War II alone, the U.S. military sustained almost 300,000 battle deaths and about 100,000 deaths from other causes. The war lasted 2,174 days and claimed an average of 27,600 lives every day, or 1,150 an hour, or nineteen a minute, or one death every three seconds.
After World War II, the U.S. accepted that military power was necessary not only to the establishment, but also to the preservation of peace. However, many thought that strategic bombing capability and the atomic bomb was all that was needed to deter and, if necessary, prevail in war. The U.S. Army was unprepared to respond effectively to the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950, anther bloody war in that bloodiest of centuries.
Georgetown graduates continued to serve our nation in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and across the Cold War. Prominent among them is Joseph Mark Lauinger for whom the library is named and who made the supreme sacrifice and received the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action.
It was during the divisive Vietnam War that many universities confused the study of war with advocacy of it and tended to view military forces and weapons as propagators of violence rather than protectors of peace. Some saw war as the cause rather than the result of international tensions and competitions.
As the new world order associated with the end of the Cold War was thought to usher in an era of peace, the U.S. military and many Georgetown graduates were again in armed conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf and the Balkans. I had the great privilege of serving in the 1991 Persian Gulf War with Lieutenant Mike Petschek who served with great distinction and received the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action at the Battle of 73 Easting.
The American military experience of the twentieth century was consistent with President Barack Obama’s observation, “To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason…”
It was Aristotle who first said that it is only worth discussing what is in our power. So we might discuss how to prevent particular conflicts rather than eliminate all conflict, and when conflict is necessary, how to win. And in the pursuit of victory, how to preserve our values and make war less inhumane.
And we might discuss war to understand continuities its nature and changes in its character. It was a misinterpretation of the lopsided military victory in the 1991 Gulf war that gave rise to what would become the orthodoxy of the Revolution in Military Affairs, the belief that American military technological advantages would shift war fundamentally from the realm of uncertainty to the realm of certainty. The language was hubristic. The United States would use dominant battlespace knowledge to achieve full spectrum dominance over any opponent. The U.S. military would shock and awe opponents in the conduct of rapid decisive operations. War would be fast, cheap, and efficient. The thinking betrayed what Elting Morison warned against in 1967 when he wrote the following in Men, Machines, and Modern Times.
What I want to suggest here is the persistent human temptation to make life more explicable by making it more calculable; to put experience into some logical scheme that by its order and niceness will make what happens seem more understandable, analysis more bearable, decision simpler….
The orthodoxy of the Revolution in Military Affairs aimed to make war more explicable and calculable. This fundamentally flawed thinking about future war set us up for many of the difficulties we would encounter in the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So we should discuss war in places like this great university because we have much to learn and because the stakes are high.
The stakes are high because we are engaged today, as previous generations were engaged, against enemies that pose a great threat to all civilized peoples. As previous generations defeated Nazi facism, Japanese imperialism, and communist totalitarianism and oppression, we will defeat these enemies who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and violence.
The murder of more than 3,000 of our fellow Americans on September 11, 2001 is etched indelibly in all of our memories. Since those attacks, our nation has been at war with modern day barbarians. It is our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have volunteered for military service in time of war who will continue to stand between us and these terrorists who rape women, abuse children and commit mass murder of innocents.
The stakes are high because what see in the Greater Middle East is a humanitarian catastrophe of colossal scale. And battlegrounds overseas are inexorably connected to our own security. As the historian Margaret MacMillan has observed, “new technologies and social media platforms provide new rallying points for fanatics.” Enemy organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIL seek to perpetuate ignorance, foment hatred, and use that hatred as justification for the murder of innocents. They entice masses of undereducated, disaffected young men with a sophisticated campaign of propaganda, disinformation, and brainwashing.
As President Obama observed “a non violent movement could not have stopped Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.” America, he observed has used its military power, “Because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.” Ultimately, it will fall today, as it fell then, on the shoulders of American servicemen and women to stop mass murderers who threaten all of us, our children, and our grandchildren.
It is for this reason that American veterans are both warriors and humanitarians.
And because the stakes today are high as they were then, we must preserve our warrior ethos while remaining connected to those in whose name we fight.
The warrior ethos is a covenant between the members of our profession comprised of values such as honor, duty, courage, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. But our warrior ethos also depends on our military’s connection to our society. That is because when we are valued by others we value ourselves. Ultimately, as Christopher Coker has observed, it is the warrior ethos that permits servicemen and women to see themselves as part of a community that sustains itself through “sacred trust” and a covenant that binds us to one another and to the society we serve. The warrior ethos is important because it is what makes military units effective. It is also important because it is what makes war “less inhumane.”
The warrior ethos is at risk because fewer and fewer Americans are connected to our professional military. Separation from our society is consequential because warriors depend on respect for what they do to maintain their self-respect.
The warrior ethos is at risk because fewer and fewer Americans understand what is at stake in the wars in which we are engaged. How many Americans could, for example, name the three main Taliban organizations we are fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
The warrior ethos is at risk because some argue that victory over an enemy or winning in war is an old idea that is no longer relevant in today’s complex world.
The warrior ethos is at risk because some continue to advocate simple, mainly technologically based solutions to the problem of future war, ignoring war’s very nature as a human and political activity that is fundamentally a contest of wills.
The warrior ethos is at risk because popular culture waters down and coarsens the warrior ethos. Warriors are most often portrayed as fragile traumatized human beings. Hollywood tells us little about the warrior’s calling or commitment to his or her fellow warriors or what compels him or her to act courageously, endure hardships, take risks, or make sacrifices.
So I suggest, in honor of our veterans, that we build on the work of Georgetown University and embark on a renewed effort to understand war and warriors. And we might ensure that we do not take for granted the important role that Georgetown and other universities play in keeping our military connected to those in whose name we fight.
Understanding war and warriors is necessary if societies and governments are to make sound judgments concerning military policy. It is our society’s expectations that allow our military to set expectations for ourselves and our fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. And in our democracy, if society is disconnected from an understanding of war or is unsympathetic to the warrior ethos, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain the fundamental requirements of military effectiveness and to recruit young men and women into military service.
I would like to end with a quotation from George Washington’s speech to Connecticut Troops before their enlistment ran out during the Siege of Boston in 1775. It is apt in connection with the service of our men and women today as well as the relationship between them and our society in time of war.
Your exertions in the cause of freedom, guided by wisdom and animated by zeal and courage, have gained you the love and confidence of your grateful countrymen; and they look to you, who are experienced veterans, and trust that you will still be the guardians of America. More human glory and happiness may depend upon your exertions than ever yet depended upon any sons of men. He that is a soldier in defense of such a cause, needs not title; his post is a post of honor, and although not an emperor, yet he shall wear a crown—of glory—and blessed will be his memory!
Veterans. Blessed will be your memory. Thank you.
By Chuck Williams
Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster is a combination of warrior, intellectual and leader. He was recently recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
McMaster earned a reputation for his 1997 book, “Dereliction of Duty,” which questioned political and military leadership during Vietnam.
Dave Barno, a retired lieutenant general, described McMaster this way: “I watched senior Army generals argue over ways to end his career. But he dodged those bullets and will soon take over command of the Army’s ‘futures’ center. After years as an outspoken critic, McMaster soon will be in the right place to help build the right Army for the nation.”
McMaster has spent two years as commander of Fort Benning. He has been selected for promotion to lieutenant general, and has been reassigned to Fort Monroe, Va., where he will serve as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, Training and Doctrine Command. He has been in charge of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning for two years. McMaster recently sat down on July 2014 with Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams.
Here are excerpts of the interview, with some of the questions edited for length and the order of some of the questions rearranged for clarity.
Q: Talk a little bit about your tenure at Fort Benning. You were the first general to get the Maneuver Center as a whole. How has that gone?
A: Well, I really was quite fortunate to inherit the tremendous work from those who had gone before me, so, my predecessors at the Maneuver Center had brought together Infantry and Armor. And at first, there were some skeptics about it.
Some people thought the world might end when that happened on both sides. But what happened is the leaders who went before me built a tremendous team here — a team that built trust between each other, and then saw the possibilities of Infantry and Armor working together in a sustained manner, and to develop this combined arms perspective. You know, in the U.S. Army we don’t want a fair fight, and the way you make sure it’s not a fair fight is you combine capabilities — Infantry with Armor, mobile protective fire power, connecting effective reconnaissance operations, integrating fires and engineers and joint capabilities.
So, if you take on the U.S. Army, you’re going to have a lot of problems on your hands from the perspective of the enemy.
Q: Is the Army a better Army because of the merging of Armor and Infantry?
A: It is — and we’re not merging. Bringing together, co-locating … Some of the concerns had been that bringing together Infantry-Armor would in some way jeopardize branch culture, which is important and this culture exists for a reason in our branches…
But what has happened actually, I think, in many ways has strengthened those cultures… but also allowed us to develop this combined arms perspective.
Combined arms is basically a game of rock, paper, scissors. If you show up to combat with a rock, the enemy may have paper, but then you have scissors ready to go. And you combine these capabilities in a way that allows you to seize and retain the initiative over the enemy. The enemy is reacting to you — the enemy is not thinking about what they can accomplish. They’re thinking about saving themselves, because you are an effective, combined arms team.
Q: So, it’s made for a better Army. Has it made for a better Fort Benning?
A: It has made for a better Fort Benning. What we’ve done is we’ve built on the legacy of excellence that we’ve inherited from Fort Benning’s long history. So, when Fort Benning was founded, it was founded at a time when there was a lot of change. There had been a huge experience that Americans had never really anticipated in World War I — the deployment and bringing into the Army millions of soldiers and deploying millions of soldiers to France. We are in the 100th year anniversary now of World War I. And that war was horrible. The war was horrible because of the stalemated nature of the compound on the Western front and trench warfare. And in the period of World War I, tremendous invasions, technological breakthroughs happened — the airplane, the tank — and then soon after the war, the radio.
So, leaders who founded Fort Benning were grappling with all of this: What does this mean? What is America’s role in the world now that we’ve deployed and fought in a continental war on Europe? And what are the implications for an Army with these new technologies? So, these officers and noncommissioned officers established really, I think, Fort Benning as the heart of our Army, because it is here where they thought about future war, learned the lessons from the previous war and applied them to the future, and they built the next American Army, under a period of tremendous constraints obviously and during the Depression.
But you had officers like George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton, all who came here to really develop combined arms capabilities.
So, a lot of people saw Infantry and Armor coming together here as a big change. But of course it wasn’t unprecedented for Fort Benning to be the center of that kind of intellectual activity and building combined arms capabilities.
Q: Talk about Fort Benning in relationship with the city of Columbus. … From your perspective, what is the relationship between Fort Benning and Columbus?
A: The relationship between Fort Benning and Columbus and the whole Chattahoochee Valley area is the best I’ve ever seen anywhere in the Army.
I’m not saying that just because I’m here now, but I’m saying it because it is really true. Everybody told me before I came here, “You’re going to see the best relationship with a local community than anywhere in the Army.” And it became apparent to me that was the case right from the beginning.
I think that has a lot to do with obviously our friends in the community and how they’ve reached out to Fort Benning and our soldiers and families. You know our soldiers and families are citizens of the Chattahoochee River Valley. We’re completely integrated into the economy, in the communities all across the area, and I think the people in Columbus understand the importance of our Army to their security and the security of our nation.
One of the things that we have benefited tremendously from is the outpouring of support for our soldiers who have now been at war for 13 years. And what I think is really important for our Army — today, probably now more than ever when less than one-half of the market serve — it’s important for us to stay connected with people in whose name we fight. We can’t become separated from our society and democracy.
Q: Is that a role Columbus, Phenix City and the Valley play with this military and this post?
A: Yes. I think the community here — the leaders in the community, the citizens here — do a tremendous job of helping us stay connected to them. And I think if I could encourage them, come to Fort Benning. Some people still think you can’t get into the gate. Of course you can come into the gate at Fort Benning.
If you are looking for something extraordinary to do on a Thursday and a Friday, go to the National Infantry Museum in the mornings and go to one of the graduations where you see these young American citizens transformed into soldiers, and their families are there to celebrate with them.
These are just extraordinary young soldiers who are coming into our Army. It’s a great show with our band. It’s a great parade, and then you get to see this awesome National Infantry Museum as well. That’s one of the many activities you can engage in at Fort Benning, but I would ask anyone in the local area, please come visit us.
Q: As the Army is changing — it’s clearly changing, and it’s becoming a smaller, different kind of army — as Columbus fights to protect its piece of Fort Benning, is that relationship an advantage as Columbus tries to keep or expand parts of Fort Benning?
A: I think so. I think that is a factor to consider and certainly the support of local communities are important to any Army post, and it’s so darn good here.
I think that Fort Benning, whatever size the Army is, will continue to play a central role within our Army because of the activities that are here that are really essential to our Army at whatever size. Those activities are in four key areas:
Leader development and education — we train all of our maneuver leaders here from corporal to captain, and of course, that’s our most important activity because soldiers will follow a good leader anywhere under any conditions in battle. Each year we train about 90,000 soldiers here. And we are training here in ways that are very innovative and critical to our Army’s current and future capabilities. We’ve adapted to the demands of 13 years of war — the way that we just train basic rifle marksmanship now with advanced rifle marksmanship, and the way we immerse soldiers into very complex environments where they are fighting enemies that are intermingled with civilian populations, the combined arms training we can do now. It’s really been sort of a revolution in how we train.
Our third key activity here is doctrine, describing how we’re going to fight in the future.
We have to adapt; we have to make sure we’re ready for the next conflict.
And then combat development… Combat development teams are the guys to make sure we don’t have a fair fight in the future. If we show up somewhere with U.S. Army on our chest, in large numbers, there’s not going to be a fair fight.
Q: That’s by design, right?
A: That’s by design. There are some people who say, “Why would you want to invest in this capability? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, easier to do this way?” But you know, in war the stakes are high because they involve life and death. So, one of the key things we work on here is we give our best advice on how to develop our future capabilities — taking logical capabilities, taking weapon capabilities, also how we train, how we think about future war and fight in future war — all of those aspects to prepare for the future. We want to do that with an eye toward being able to defeat our enemies soundly.
In 1991, you found yourself in Iraq as a young Cavalry commander and you weren’t in a fair fight at that point either. You were outnumbered and you had, what, eight or nine tanks?
We had nine tanks and 12 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 136 Cavalry troopers.
Q: What did the enemy have?
A: The enemy had a brigade-size enemy defensive position.
Q: What did you learn from that part of your military experience?
A: I learned a lot from it — confirmed a lot of what we thought about central elements of combat readiness, being ready for a fight.
So, we had been given this gift from a generation of officers who led through the 1950s into the 1960s through the Vietnam War — really, the destructive effect that the Vietnam War had on the Army — (then) transitioned our Army into a volunteer force … As we went to combat in 1991, we went to combat with the best peacetime Army I think in the history of the world.
It was because of a very sound doctrine — we understood how we were going to fight. We had very strong training. We trained under really tough realistic conditions that replicated combat very closely. I mean, the National Training Center, when you went there it was hard. So, as a result of that training —and the result of leader development and education —we were at such a high level of readiness, and that readiness built into us confidence. So, we were so confident in our individual abilities as leaders and soldiers, we were confident in our weapons systems, we had great equipment —our Abrams tanks and our Bradley Fighting Vehicles. But then we really were confident in our ability to fight together as a team, and we were a very cohesive, confident team. Stonewall Jackson — since I’m here in Georgia I should quote Jackson — Jackson said, “In war there’s a power greater than mere numbers.” And we were so powerful as a Cavalry troop, as a Cavalry squad and regiment and as an Army because of that confidence that we had and how we developed that cohesive well-trained team.
Q: You didn’t lose a single person off your team that day, right?
A: No, we did not, thank God.