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Trump's new national security adviser, in his own words

September 18, 2019 at 8:30 pm

Robert O’Brien speaks to families of Americans held captive abroad on 2 April 2019, at the Department of State. [State Department Photo by Michael Gross / Public Domain]

US President Donald Trump named Robert O’Brien on Wednesday as his latest White House national security adviser, picking a lawyer who has worked to secure the release of hostages to replace John Bolton, with whom Trump parted acrimoniously, Reuters reports.

O’Brien – a fierce critic of former President Barack Obama – published a collection of his national security essays in 2016 called “While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis.”

Here are passages from his book that shed light on some of his views:


Trump has questioned NATO’s value to Washington, and has pushed allies to hike defense spending. He wants to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally. O’Brien has a similar view.

“NATO is the most successful military alliance in history. Under American leadership, our NATO allies must be encouraged to invest in their own defense.”

“It is also time to consider a global freedom alliance for those tried and true countries that ascribe to the rule of law and are willing to fight to defend freedom… In addition to current NATO members, candidates for such an alliance include, among others, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Colombia, Singapore, Israel, the Philippines and, potentially, India as it sheds its non-aligned ideology and moves away from its weapons purchasing relationship with Russia.”

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When Bolton was US ambassador to the UN, O’Brien worked with him, and shares his disdain for the institution – which holds its annual general assembly meeting next week in New York.

“My thirteen-year-old son, who is far more interested in sports than politics, walked into the family room yesterday and said: ‘Dad, I saw on the news that the thing is starting when all the dictators come to America and give speeches about how bad we are.’ His statement is one of the better descriptions of the United Nations General Assembly that I have ever heard.”


Like Trump, O’Brien sees Islamic extremist groups and migration as a threat, and decried “a lack of political will to commit sufficient armed forces to defeat the Islamic State, or to confront and deter Iran” in his book.

“Peak political correctness in the West prevents governments from even identifying, much less fighting, an ideological war against the jihadists.”

“Meanwhile, millions of migrants, primarily military-aged young men from North Africa and the Middle East, stream into Europe – a circumstance that will change the security environment, culture, and demography of the continent forever.”

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O’Brien was a critic of the Iran nuclear deal, and sees Iran’s nuclear program as a major threat.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world and is building an archipelago across the Middle East using proxies and Revolutionary Guard forces from Yemen to Syria to Lebanon.”


Trump wants to reduce U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan. O’Brien, who has worked to train Afghan women as judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers, has emphasized the need to focus on corruption and rule of law.

“We engage in justice sector reform efforts because it is the right thing to do – but also because it is in our national interest. The spread of freedom and the rule of law are our best defense against tyranny and war.”


Trump’s Africa strategy – launched by Bolton last year – seeks to bolster business and security ties with the continent to counter China. O’Brien, who spent a year as an undergrad at South Africa’s University of the Free State and says he is proficient in Afrikaans, shares this view.

“To stem the Chinese tide and to give Africans the opportunity to have a better future, the United States must strongly advocate for human rights, democracy, and freedom on the continent.”

“Further, the Africom (headquarters) needs to move from Frankfurt to Africa. The HQ would immediately provide the host country with an economic boost.”