Trump Makes Another Bad Choice for National Security Advisor

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

Trump announced the selection of his fourth National Security Advisor:

President Trump announced Wednesday that Robert O’Brien, the special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, will be his next national security advisor.

O’Brien previously served in the Bush administration’s State Department. Hugh Hewitt, who wrote the foreword to O’Brien’s book, has described him as a “long time colleague of John Bolton.” Since the Bush years, O’Brien advised the Romney 2012 campaign, and he also advised the short-lived Scott Walker campaign in the 2016 cycle. He is a typical hawkish Republican. Curt Mills referred to him in his recent report on the race to replace Bolton this way:

Robert O’Brien, the Trump hostage negotiator whose stock has risen in the administration in recent months, is “Bolton lite,” according to a source who has known O’Brien for years.

Obviously, “Bolton lite” isn’t much of an improvement over Bolton, and it seems unlikely that there will be any significant improvement in administration foreign policy over the next fifteen months. The summary of O’Brien’s book confirms as much:

The world has become steadily more dangerous under President Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policy. The Obama Administration’s foreign policy has emboldened our adversaries and disheartened our allies. Indeed, Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is a 1938 moment. At the same time, the U.S. military has been cut and risks returning to the hollow force days of the 1970s. O’Brien lays out the challenges and provides the common sense “peace through strength” solutions that will allow the next president to make America great again.

There is nothing surprising in here, and a lot that is embarrassingly wrong, but it is consistent with the GOP’s bankrupt foreign policy worldview. A friendly review of the book describes that worldview in boilerplate terms:

Robert writes from a series of beliefs and assumptions that I also hold: a deep belief in American Exceptionalism, that peace comes through strength, that the United States is stronger when it partners with its allies and when America is a reliable friend to its allies, that the greatness of America comes from a people that respect tradition and the rule of law, and that (yes) we are the good guys and there are some bad guys out there.

I have had occasion to criticize O’Brien’s writings in the past. Back in 2014, he was praising Romney for his “Churchill-like warning of a resurgent Russia,” and I pointed out that Romney had said a lot of ignorant, knee-jerk things about Russia that were wrong. The fact that O’Brien thought and probably still thinks that “Romney was right” about anything related to foreign policy is more evidence that Trump made a very poor choice again.

O’Brien’s most recent high-profile assignment was to be sent to Sweden as part of the president’s embarrassing fixation on the case of the rapper ASAP Rocky, who had been detained in Sweden and was facing charges for assault. It would not surprise me if this silly episode and waste of government resources was quite important in winning the president’s favor. O’Brien probably wasn’t the worst choice Trump could have made, but Trump’s fourth choice for National Security Advisor is still a bad one.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

7 thoughts on “Trump Makes Another Bad Choice for National Security Advisor”

  1. “Trump’s fourth choice for National Security Advisor is still a bad one.”

    So, I guess the Trump boosters will be praising Trump’s brilliant 6D Chess moves such as this one? Oh yeah, that Trump is such a peacenik. WooHoo! MAGA!

  2. “Trump’s fourth choice for National Security Advisor is still a bad one.”

    So, I guess the Trump boosters will be praising Trump’s brilliant 6D Chess moves such as this one? Oh yeah, that Trump is such a peacenik. WooHoo! MAGA!

    1. No hot war with Iran at least. At least, not yet. O’Brien sounds like an inexperienced sycophant. If he’s an empty shell, that’s better than Bolton.

      1. It’s still a proxy war, unless we count the economic warfare, but it’s plenty hot. A direct confrontation will quickly destabilize the region much further, and more of the same continues the progress toward a realignment with China playing a role in a relationship that Iran would prefer to have with a less belligerent U.S. Either way, it’s a loss for the U.S.

    2. I can’t quite figure out why anyone would expect him to make a good choice ?! So far he’s done nothing but back load his perk package so he can cash in just like all his predecessors.

  3. Bread and circus. We’ve gotten to the point where this bozo is just entertaining himself at our expense.

    “a deep belief in American Exceptionalism”

    You have to swear fealty to the feudal lords and that’s the magic phrase…..

    Nothing says useful idiot and megalomaniac quite like being convinced your crap smells better than everyone elses.

    It’s abundantly clear now why aliens would never contact the human race, we’re suicidal and completely delusional in our beliefs that money, power, and prestige is more important than life itself.

    “O’Brien previously served in the Bush administration’s State Department. Hugh Hewitt, who wrote the foreword to O’Brien’s book, has described
    him as a “long time colleague of John Bolton.” Since the Bush years,
    O’Brien advised the Romney 2012 campaign, and he also advised the
    short-lived Scott Walker campaign in the 2016 cycle. He is a typical
    hawkish Republican.”

    That’s code for spineless useful idiot to the same elite assholes who have completely f*cked up society for their own convenience.

    The only saving grace is this idiot and his “boss” have virtually no actual power when it comes to foreign or domestic policy goals.

    The show must go on !

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