Washington’s well-funded web of interventionist elites is quietly populating the president’s national security circle, again.

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
January 16, 2018
The American Conservative


U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster during September briefing on North Korea. (White House)

Over the last year critics have warned of the returning neoconservative influence on the executive branch’s national security apparatus, each day a little less confident that President Donald Trump will keep to the seeming anti-interventionist impulses he demonstrated during the 2016 campaign.

News flash: We’re already there.

Of course the most garish of the pro-war set—Sebastian Gorka, K.T. McFarland, John Bolton—are easy to identify in or on the periphery of Trump’s orbit (in Gorka’s case, he was cast out of the White House, only to flak away in any media outlet that will pay attention). Meanwhile, elite neoconservative voices like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have become darlings of the “Never Trump” cadre, finding new life as conservative tokens on “Resistance” media like MSNBC.

What has been less obvious, but has become much clearer in these last few months, is that other neoconservatives are quietly filling the vacuum left by Obama’s cadre of liberal interventionists. Many of them had taken a pass on “Never Trumping” publicly, and are now popping up at the elbows of top cabinet officials.

Take Nadia Schadlow, for instance. Never heard of her? Unless you’ve been navigating the rice paddies of Washington’s post-9/11 national security enterprise for the last several years, there’s no reason you would have. But she has been at the National Security Council since last winter, and is set to replace Dina Powell as deputy national security advisor, at the right hand of NSC chief H.R. McMaster. She was also the lead on the White House National Security Strategy, released last month.

This was Schadlow’s first position in government. Her résumé includes doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) under the tutelage of vocal Never Trumper and Iraq war promoter Eliot Cohen, who runs the largely neoconservative Strategic Studies program there, and whose last book, The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power, argued that the U.S., backed by a more robust military, must be the “guardian of a stable world order.” In that vein, Schadlow published a book last year, War and the Art of Governance, that extols the virtues of long-term military intervention for “achieving sustainable political outcomes,” requiring “the consolidation of combat gains through the establishment of stable environments.” Schadlow has repeated this for years as a mantra for reordering military strategy in the wake of the disastrous wars she and her contemporaries helped sustain, in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere. Call it nation-building by another name.

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