Who is H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security adviser?

President Trump named Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser. The 54-year-old is currently a three-star general in the U.S. Army, who lead American forces in Iraq in 2005 and brought stability to a city that had been rife with ethnic conflict. Judy Woodruff learns more from Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The president has a new national security adviser tonight. He named Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster today, a week after retired General Michael Flynn was forced out and after the first choice for a replacement turned it down.

    Retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg will serve as the Security Council's chief of staff.

    Mr. Trump made the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    He's a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience. I watched and read a lot over last two days. He is highly respected by everybody in the military and we're very honored to have him.

  • H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. National Security Adviser:

    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 I can to advance and protect the interest of the American people.

    Thank you very much.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    You're going to do a great job.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For some background on H.R. McMaster: He's 54 years old and currently a three-star general in the U.S. Army. He graduated from West Point in 1984, and later earned a Ph.D. in military history. His doctoral thesis, about the failures of military and political leadership during the Vietnam War, later became a well-regarded book titled "Dereliction of Duty."

    During the first Gulf War with Iraq in 1991, he lead a tank unit that prevailed against Iraq's powerful Republican Guard. He also lead American forces in Iraq in 2005, and successfully brought stability to a city that had been rife with ethnic conflict.

    For more on all of this, we turn to Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe. He has known McMaster for years.

    Greg Jaffe, welcome back to the program.

    You were just telling me you have known him, what, for 14 years?

  • GREG JAFFE, The Washington Post:

    Yes, I think 2002.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    2002.

    What should we know about him?

  • GREG JAFFE:

    He's fiercely opinionated. He's very, very smart. He's passionate. He's funny.

    He understands the media, I think, and talks to reporters, interestingly. I don't think he views them as the enemy. And, you know, I think the one knock against him is, when he believes he's right, he passionately argues that point and he doesn't stop. And I think, after a while, that can be too much for folks.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Tell me about his military career. We were just reporting he had a very successful career during the first Iraq — the Gulf War. What made him so successful?

  • GREG JAFFE:

    Well, during the first Gulf War, he was involved in the Battle of 73 Easting there. And so he was a tank company commander. And his tank company prevailed against a much larger unit of the Iraqi Republican Guard.

    His real fame, though, came later in Iraq in 2006.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And what made him so successful?

  • GREG JAFFE:

    You know, he was his group, I think "The New Yorker" described them as — his unit in Iraq as rebels against an incoherent strategy was a great line from "The New Yorker."

    And at that time, the strategy in the U.S. was, we will stand — the U.S. strategy in Iraq was, we will stand down as the Iraqis stand up. It was training the Iraqi forces. He went against that and said, look, we can't train the Iraqi forms until we stabilize the situation. So he pushed his troops into the city of Tal Afar, established 29 outposts in the city, and really stopped the killing and the violence, and then focused on rebuilding.

    So, it became a strategy known as clear, hold and build.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Clear, hold and build.

    How is he viewed, Greg Jaffe, by the rest of the Army, by the military?

  • GREG JAFFE:

    I think, in many cases, with great admiration, because he's so frank, he's so smart.

    It's interesting, though. When he was promoted from colonel to one-star, he was passed for promotion to one-star general twice. And I think in some cases, that was a reflection on how frank he can be. He doesn't hold back his opinions and sometimes that rubs folks the wrong way.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Is there a political philosophy there, or are you talking about a philosophy of war, of fighting?

  • GREG JAFFE:

    A philosophy of war and fighting. He's not a political guy in any way, shape or form. And I think that is interesting, too.

    I don't think he will bring — he won't bring very sharp political instincts on the downside. On the upside, he's not a political ideologue. He has very strong opinions about war, though.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You were telling me — we were talking about how he's a — you said he's a prolific writer. He's written a lot for — we were looking at the Web site for the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.

    A lot of it is about military strategy, and leadership, he writes about.

  • GREG JAFFE:

    And for The New York Times. I was just reading an op-ed he wrote for The New York Times which begins by quoting Saul Bellow, which is not something you normally hear from a U.S. Army officer.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Do but think — based on what know about him — you were saying, Greg Jaffe, that he hasn't spent a lot of time in Washington.

    How do you see him fitting into this city? And he's going smack to the middle of power at the White House?

  • GREG JAFFE:

    Yes, I think that will be interesting.

    He has dealt a lot in Tal Afar and then in Iraq he ran — or — I'm sorry — in Afghanistan, he ran an anti-corruption task force for General Petraeus in 2010. And so that meant he had to deal with a lot of arms of government.

    He had to deal with the State Department. He had to deal with the intelligence agencies, all those things that you have to deal with as a national security adviser.

    He hasn't spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about politics in Washington. And I think that's going to be a challenge and a stretch for him, because the national security adviser job isn't fundamentally a political job, but he certainly has to take D.C. politics into account.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Just quickly, he's going to have a military man as his chief of staff, Keith Kellogg. He's going to be dealing, of course, with a retired general at the Pentagon.

    We're seeing a lot of military people in this administration.

  • GREG JAFFE:

    Yes, that's right.

    And it will be interesting. That's an interesting dynamic, isn't it?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, it's not a position that requires confirmation by the Senate. So, this is the president's choice. And it sounds like he's somebody very different from Michael Flynn.

  • GREG JAFFE:

    Yes, I think he is. He is widely — and I think Flynn was widely respected in the Army, but I think he's seen as a much more sort of steadying figure than Flynn would be, much less of an erratic figure.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Greg Jaffe with The Washington Post, thank you so much.

  • GREG JAFFE:

    Sure. Thanks for having me.

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