Defense Secretary James Mattis, one of the few members of the original Trump foreign policy team who still has a job, would reportedly frequently clash with former national security adviser H.R. McMaster because he thought it was too dangerous to give President Donald Trump options for taking military action against North Korea.
The New Yorker reports that Mattis stalled on offering Trump a wide range of options for military strikes against Pyongyang because he feared such strikes would result in a humanitarian catastrophe that would lead to a massive counterattack on the South Korean capital of Seoul.
“To McMaster and his colleagues, Mattis’s apparent attempts to limit Trump’s options verged on insubordination,” the New Yorker explains. “One senior N.S.C. official told me that Mattis perceives his role as playing ‘babysitter’ to the President.”
Erin Simpson, a defense analyst who once worked with McMaster, tells the New Yorker that one problem for Trump’s national security team is that he always seems to favor taking the most belligerent and drastic action available to him — which may explain why Mattis sought to limit his range of available strategies. Simpson described this as a “Goldilocks problem,” in that if Trump is given a range of options that range from “too cold” to “just right” to “too hot,” he will always pass over the “just right” option in favor of the hottest one on the table.