Good morning, it's Aug. 20, 2021, a Friday -- the day of the week when I reprise quotations intended to be uplifting or educational. Today's is a succinct one, and it comes from H.R. McMaster, former White House national security adviser and retired three-star U.S. Army general.
Millions of words have been written and uttered about the fall of Afghanistan in the past week. Many of them belong to H.R. McMaster, who hasn't been shy about sharing his views on the dreadful impact of the Taliban takeover. In one television interview, McMaster summed up many Americans' impression of this foreign policy disaster in a single sentence.
Herbert Raymond McMaster is not your ordinary ex-White House political appointee. Born 59 summers ago in Philadelphia, his father (and namesake) was a career military man; his mother was a schoolteacher. H.R. McMaster Jr. gravitated toward both professions. After attending the U.S. Military Academy, he earned master's and doctoral degrees in history, taught on the faculty at West Point, and wrote an acclaimed book critical of the Army brass during Vietnam.
He was that rare military officer who rose through the ranks while challenging authority. How does one do this? With success on the battlefield, that's how. As the captain of an armored regiment during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, McMaster's unit -- with him in the lead tank -- destroyed Iraqi tank forces three times as numerous in 23 minutes without sustaining any losses. McMaster was awarded a Silver Star and his unit's maneuvers are standard study in U.S. Army armored combat training. In 2004, he was assigned to combat again, this time leading the U.S. forces that liberated the strategically important Iraqi city of Tal Afar, nicknamed "al-Qaeda's town."
In 2017, President Trump named him as national security adviser. He lasted in that post for a little over a year, which was about par for the course in that administration. Last week, as Afghanistan fell under control of the Taliban, McMaster acknowledged a key point: Whatever catastrophic mistakes were made in exiting Afghanistan, President Biden had come to the same conclusion as President Trump and President Obama about remaining there. But that doesn't mean they were right.
"Three presidents in a row said it was not worth it," McMaster said, "and now we see that it was worth it."
And that's our quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.