H.R. Mcmaster was an eyewitness to the Oval Office tempest that forms President Trump’s foreign policy. McMaster was national security adviser for 13 months beginning in 2017 and he brought a world of experience to the job. He graduated from West Point, led troops in combat, served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, on the way to becoming an Army three-star general, he earned a Ph.D. in history. McMaster has written a new book called “Battlegrounds.” The title refers to threats faced by the U.S. today and to skirmishes at the White House. The now-retired general is a disciple of neither political party. He told us the last few presidents, not just President Trump, have left the United States vulnerable in the eyes of those who would do us harm.
Scott Pelley: How do our competitors view the United States today?
H.R. McMaster: I think our competitors view us as weak and divided. I think they see an opportunity. I think China thinks it’s winning. You know, China sees an America that is divided against each other. They see an America that is reeling from a triple crisis of COVID-19, of the recession associated with COVID-19, and the civil unrest and racial division in the wake of the horrible murder of George Floyd, and over issues of inequality of opportunity. And so, China is acting, I think, now much more aggressively because they think it’s time to do it. They have a window of opportunity to exploit our weaknesses and to come after us. I think Russia feels the same way. I think other adversaries could feel the same way.
Scott Pelley: The very first line in your book is, “This is not the book that most people wanted me to write.”
H.R. McMaster: Right. People wanted me to write another tell-all about my time in the Trump administration. People wanted me to write another book about palace intrigue. I think what Americans need today is we need– we need a discussion. A meaningful– a respectful discussion about these very serious challenges to our security, our prosperity, and our influence in the world.
President Trump called in McMaster when his first national security adviser quit after 24 days. Michael Flynn had lied about negotiating with Russia before Mr. Trump was inaugurated. The president offered McMaster the job the first time they met.
Scott Pelley: What did your friends and family advise you?
H.R. McMaster: Well, I got a wide range of viewpoints. Many called and urged me to do it, and said, “Here is an unconventional president who needs your help.” Others urged me not to do it. And I think a lot of it was because of the, you know, the unconventional, disruptive, and as some would say, offensive nature of President Trump.
Scott Pelley: It was an easy decision?
H.R. McMaster: It was a very easy decision for me.
His uniform changed but not his soldier’s view, confront our adversaries and support Iraq