While at UNC, McMaster took classes with current UNC professor Wayne Lee, who was then a Duke University graduate student, in the cross-enrollment program.
Lee said McMaster was a friend, and he remembers him working diligently on a dissertation which was highly critical of the United States’ military in the mid-1960s for allowing themselves to be pushed into the war in Vietnam.
“He’s a very smart, energetic person,” Lee said. “He was working on his dissertation, and it was coming out very rapidly and very impressively.”
McMaster eventually adapted the paper into a book entitled “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam,” published in 1997.
“The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses,” McMaster said in his book. “It was lost in Washington, D.C.”
In his career, McMaster gained notoriety in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last May, McMaster spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington to discuss national security and said he was wary of the threat Russia poses to national security, especially through cyber hacking.
“We recognize that, you know, our enemies in many ways have become more and more elusive, and we’ve become almost transparent, to certain enemies with certain capabilities,” McMaster said. “...We’re approaching this with a high sense of urgency.”
Throughout his career, McMaster has spoken about the importance of military leaders challenging the government leaders they advise.
Lee said there is no one he would rather have advising the current president on highly consequential national security issues.
“He’s a very blunt speaker who gives his opinion frankly, no matter who it might offend,” Lee said. “One of the things we’re going to need in this administration is someone who is willing to say to the president, ‘That is a bad idea.’ I have some confidence that (Lt.) Gen. McMaster will be willing to say that.”