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Why General McMaster is just who Trump needs

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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After former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was removed from his post last week and President Trump’s next choice turned down the job, many began to wonder whether or not he would find someone both willing and able to fill the position well. By all accounts, he did just that when his administration chose Army Lt. General H. R. McMaster to take up the post. As the Wall Street Journal‘s Carol E. Lee and Paul Sonne write, “The choice of Gen. McMaster drew praise in Washington, where he is well known. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, called him ‘tremendously respected and admired as someone who is willing to look at things afresh and make changes where needed.'” Senator John McCain echoed those sentiments: “I could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now.”

One of the primary reasons that McMaster has drawn praise from those who know him best is his willingness to value what needs to be done over what is best for him personally. He’s had extensive military success, winning the silver star for his role in the first Gulf War and revolutionizing the way that the army approached the war in Iraq after his strategy proved successful in retaking Tal Afar from insurgents, but it took the general longer than expected to reach his current rank. He wasn’t afraid to question those above him and speak his mind, which led him to be passed over twice for promotion before eventually receiving the bump in rank after General Petraeus, with whom McMaster worked in Iraq, led the effort.

McMaster is equally known in military circles for his literary contributions as for his military accomplishments. In 1997 he published Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. In it, he described how the Joint Chiefs often pandered to what the president wanted to hear regarding the war rather than telling him the full truth. As a result, they backed strategies that they knew had little chance of proving effective. As Peter Bergen writes for CNN, the book’s “lessons will surely be weighing on McMaster’s mind now, as Pentagon brass prepare to present to Trump and his national security team within a few days a menu of options for how to fight the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”

McMaster knows the importance of preparing for a battle before entering the fray. He’s studied what happens when one approaches war without a sound strategy or with priorities above winning. And, lastly, he understands that the battle doesn’t end when the bullets stop firing. As Bergen describes, “McMaster knows that there surely will be a ‘son of ISIS’ and a ‘grandson of ISIS’ if there is not some kind of political solution to the wars in Syria and Iraq that produced ISIS in the first place.”

While it remains to be seen if the general can get the rest of the administration to agree on a sound strategy for dealing with ISIS and the other threats to our national safety, McMaster seems well equipped to do the job. Can the same be said of us?

Most of us are not be privy to national security threats or in a position to do much to address them. However, it’s vital that we approach doing God’s will with the same emphasis on preparation and strategy that McMaster has modeled across his career. Adapting our strategy to best suit the task at hand (1 Corinthians 9:22) and remaining committed to accomplishing the larger goal rather than becoming content with individual victories (2 Timothy 4:7) are both biblical and vital parts of fulfilling God’s calling for each of our lives. However, if we neglect either then we are doomed to fall short of accomplishing all that we could for the kingdom. Let’s not make that mistake today.