The mainstream media has thus played up McMaster's academic qualifications in his seminal book "Dereliction of Duty", in which he harshly criticized military brass for not standing up more to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and allowing politicized civilian leadership to pervert and ultimately lose Vietnam. This is a thinly-veiled stab at Trump, who has been long lampooned as ignorant and amateurish.
As someone who takes a keen interest in the Vietnam War as a defining period in American history, and having read “Dereliction of Duty” several years ago, I see “Dereliction of Duty” not as brilliant analysis, but a work that is:
- Old News: It appeals to career military personnel as a classic complaint against civilian leadership meddling and ultimately undermining military objections and victory;
- Self-Serving: It is a position statement by McMaster to show himself as promotion-worthy by like-minded superiors;
- Loses the Forest for the Trees: Dismissive of both domestic and foreign politics, yet without offering any practical alternatives, it focuses narrowly on the failures of American generals to:
(a) Prevent the civilian leadership from lying to the American public about the escalation and ultimate commitment of American troops in Vietnam;
(b) Once committed, push the military's recommendations of overwhelming force to achieve victory ("Another important aspect of McMaster's approach is what might be called an 'absolutist' perspective on the use of force which posits a clear distinction between peace and war. This too has a long and deep tradition in the American ethos. For an absolutist, the objective in war is to use overwhelming force to impose your will on the enemy.")
“War is simply the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means.” - Carl von Clausewitz