McMasters on “Radical Islam”
President Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser has told his staff that Muslims who commit terrorist acts are perverting their religion, rejecting a key ideological view of other senior Trump advisers and signaling a potentially more moderate approach to the Islamic world.
The adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, told the staff of the National Security Council on Thursday, in his first “all hands” staff meeting, that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic,” according to people who were in the meeting.
That is a repudiation of the language regularly used by both the president and General McMaster’s predecessor, Michael T. Flynn, who resigned last week after admitting that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about a phone call with a Russian diplomat.
It is also a sign that General McMaster, a veteran of the Iraq war known for his sense of history and independent streak, might move the council away from the ideologically charged views of Mr. Flynn, who was also a three-star Army general before retiring.
Glimmers of hope of adults in the room. I hope that the President listens.
In his language, General McMaster is closer to the positions of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Both took pains to separate acts of terrorism from Islamic teaching, in part because they argued that the United States needed the help of Muslim allies to hunt down terrorists.
“This is very much a repudiation of his new boss’s lexicon and worldview,” said William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The ISIS Apocalypse.”
“McMaster, like Obama, is someone who was in positions of leadership and thought the United States should not play into the jihadist propaganda that this is a religious war,” Mr. McCants said.
It will be interesting, and somewhat stressful, to see how this plays out in terms of the administration’s foreign policy.