Worries about national security were a crucial factor in the 2016 presidential elections, with voters across the political spectrum voicing their anxieties about threats ranging from terrorism and the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea to the impact of (possibly Kremlin-directed) cyber-warfare.
As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to make security a priority, but he took office as president with only minimal experience dealing with global threats. Hence the importance of these two military figures, one from Trump’s leadership team, and one from Congress’s Republican establishment, who appear on this year’s version of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders list. (For the rest of the list, click here. )
H.R. McMaster, U.S. National Security Adviser
Leaders of both parties cheered President Trump’s selection of McMaster. A three-star general, -McMaster has been famous since 1991, when he led a tank troop to a stunning victory over Iraqi forces in Operation Desert Storm. Iconoclastic thinking has distinguished his career: His 1997 book, Dereliction of Duty, which lambasted U.S. leadership in Vietnam, is regarded in military circles as a classic. At issue now is what will happen if and when his adamantly independent thinking conflicts with his duty of loyalty to the President.
John McCain, U.S. Senator, Arizona
It has been nearly three decades since the U.S. last elected a President who saw combat in the military. That helps explain the enduring bipartisan appeal of McCain, the former Navy pilot and prisoner of war who just earned his sixth Senate term. McCain has become one of the nation’s most trusted voices on defense by being both a backer of a strong military and a cautionary voice against ill-advised conflicts. As chair of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, he’s uniquely positioned to help a new administration define what safety means.
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