Monday, June 5, 2017

After Trump's NATO Speech Why Do Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson Continue to Serve?

I posted last week about how President Trump's refusal to give an express affirmation of the U.S. commitment to defend its NATO allies under Article 5 increases the likelihood of a Russian miscalculation and war.  It now turns out that Trump deleted a section of the speech that would have made this affirmation at the last minute, and his national security advisers were not even informed of the change:
[T]he president also disappointed—and surprised—his own top national security officials by failing to include the language reaffirming the so-called Article 5 provision in his speech. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told The New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.

It was not until the next day, Thursday, May 25, when Trump started talking at an opening ceremony for NATO’s new Brussels headquarters, that the president’s national security team realized their boss had made a decision with major consequences—without consulting or even informing them in advance of the change.

“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting. “As late as that same morning, it was the right one.”

Added a senior White House official, “There was a fully coordinated other speech everybody else had worked on”—and it wasn’t the one Trump gave. “They didn’t know it had been removed,” said a third source of the Trump national security officials on hand for the ceremony. “It was only upon delivery.”
 Read it all here.  The conventional wisdom was that the "grown-ups" (Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson, and National Security Adviser McMaster) would moderate President Trump more extrme challenges to American national security policy.  After failing to prevail on the NATO speech, the Paris Treaty and President Trump's disgraceful tweet storm about the London terrorist attack, it is abundantly clear that the conventional wisdom was dangerously wrong.

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