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Who Is Trump's New National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster?

The selection Monday of the Army lieutenant general is earning Trump rare praise from both sides of the political aisle.
Image: President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster on Monday.Susan Walsh / AP

President Donald Trump's new national security adviser hasn't just advocated speaking truth to power — he wrote the book on it.

The selection Monday of Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is earning Trump rare praise from both sides of the political aisle for promoting a "brilliant strategist" who showed fortitude on the battlefield during both Iraq wars.

It was McMaster's 1997 book "Dereliction of Duty," a searing indictment of top military brass, that became a must-read for young officers. In it, he rebukes senior leadership during the Vietnam War for having cowered to the White House's political agenda.

"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses," he wrote. "It was lost in Washington, D.C."

McMaster, 54, intends to remain on active duty while he serves on Trump's senior team. He told reporters in brief remarks Monday that he "looks forward to joining the national security team and doing everything I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people."

Having fought on the ground in Iraq in 1991, McMaster will now be tasked with helping to end the fighting in that country, which remains ravaged by ISIS.

Related: Trump Names McMaster as New National Security Adviser

McMaster joins two retired generals — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — already in Trump's inner circle, adding to the impression that the president prefers military men in top roles.

He is replacing Mike Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser last week after it was revealed he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his communications with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

Trump is counting on a fresh start with McMaster — and he has chosen someone who appears much more wary of Russia.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster on Monday.Susan Walsh / AP

In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in May 2016, McMaster said Russia managed to annex Crimea and intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine "at zero cost" from the international community.

McMaster said Moscow's broader goal is to "collapse the post-Cold War security, economic and political order in Europe and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests."

In his role as a three-star general and military leader, McMaster has studied the way Russia developed and executed its campaigns in Crimea and Ukraine, where it used what some call "hybrid warfare" — part political, part disinformation, part military.

Related: Veteran CIA Analyst Quits Agency Over Trump’s Intel Moves, Criticism

James Stavridis, a retired U.S. Navy Admiral, said he expects McMaster will continue to question White House leadership and believes the president will be open to his criticism.

"What I'm concerned about is what happens when Lt. Gen. McMaster is on a track that is in disagreement with other figures in the White House, notably [policy adviser] Steve Bannon?" Stavridis asked on MSNBC Tuesday.

"The essence of this brilliant scholar-warrior is that he will speak truth to power," he added.

McMaster, a West Point graduate with a Ph.D. in military history, burnishes a sterling reputation: He commanded troops in both American wars in Iraq and later served as a special adviser to the top U.S. commander in the country.

In 2004, he led a 3,500-soldier brigade that secured the northwestern city of Tal Afar and was credited with using innovative approaches to countering the insurgency.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an Army veteran, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he was disappointed when McMaster was passed over for a promotion from colonel to a one-star general in 2006 and 2007.

His outspoken critiques of leadership over the years may have derailed such commendations, observers said. He was finally recognized after working as a close adviser to Gen. David Petraeus during the 2007 "surge" of troops in Iraq.

"He's an unorthodox thinker," Cotton added. "He's never marched to the beat of the Army drum, so to speak."

Courtney Kube, Kristin Donnelly and The Associated Press contributed.