Trump Makes Another Bad Choice for National Security Advisor
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.