Hayward has not yet accepted the offer. However if he does it would continue the pattern of Trump picking former military officers as opposed to civilians for his national security team. Strikingly the two other people Trump has considered for the post – General David Petraeus and the current acting National Security Adviser General Keith Kellogg – are also both former military officers.
It seems that Trump and his key advisers – Preibus and Bannon – have more confidence in the uniformed military than they do in the sort of civilian foreign policy specialists and ‘intellectuals’ who have previously traditionally filled this post.
Hayward is an interesting choice. A former US Navy SEAL he appears to be a protege of the new Defense Secretary General Mattis under whom he has previously served.
General Mattis is becoming a dominant figure within this administration. As a much decorated former combat officer who is also considered to be a genuine intellectual, Mattis appears to have quickly asserted his authority over the Joint Chiefs of Staff with whom civilian Defense Secretaries have previously often had uneasy relationships. If Hayward does become National Security Adviser then Mattis’s influence will expand to include the National Security Council, the President’s key advisory and policy making body on foreign and defence policy. Moreover since the National Security Adviser is the President’s principal adviser on foreign and defence policy, through Hayward Mattis will have daily influence in shaping the President’s policy.
The National Security Adviser through the National Security Council also has a certain role in supervising the intelligence agencies. If Hayward is appointed it is not impossible that Mattis may eventually acquire through Hayward some influence over them as well. Given the President’s trust in Mattis and the uniformed military, and his ever growing distrust of the intelligence agencies – which are actively working against him – that might even be the main reason for Hayward’s proposed appointment.
All in all General Mattis appears to be gathering more and more of the threads of power into his hands. If this trend continues, and if he uses his position skilfully, Mattis could end up becoming one of the most powerful Defense Secretaries the US has had since the Second World War. Whether such a concentration of power in the hands of a soldier is a good thing is another matter.
Hayward is however not just General Mattis’s cypher. By all accounts he has many of the qualities of personal discretion and careful management that General Flynn conspicuously lacked. He is most unlikely to indulge himself in the sort of melodramatic displays – such as the portentous reading out of statements in the White House Press Room as if he was the President – that General Flynn liked to indulge in, and which were almost certainly the true reason why he lost his job.
Possibly the most interesting fact about Hayward is that he spent his teenage years in Iran, went to school there, and speaks fluent Farsi.
Whilst this was before the 1979 Islamic Revolution it does mean that Hayward – unlike Trump and Flynn – actually has genuine knowledge of Iran. Whether that means that he is free of the pathological hostility to Iran so obvious in General Flynn will only become clear if Hayward accepts the President’s offer and agrees to serve as his National Security Adviser.