• White House aide Matt Pottinger, Mike Pompeo, H.R. McMaster and the China challenge. These men developed the strategy and tactics for the new U.S. relationship with China. As national security adviser, Mr. McMaster never meshed with Mr. Trump, but his national strategy document redefined the U.S. security challenge in a world of great-power competition.
Messrs. Pottinger and Pompeo, among others, called out China for its aggression abroad (Hong Kong, South China Sea) and abuses at home (Xinjiang labor camps). They offered renewed U.S. support for Taiwan, formed an alliance against Huawei as a security threat, and invigorated the “quad” of Asia-Pacific nations—India, Australia, Japan and the U.S.—as a defense group resisting Chinese expansion.
They accomplished this despite Mr. Trump’s frequent resistance because he thought he could charm President Xi Jinping. We’d add John Bolton to this list for heading off many of Mr. Trump’s other bad ideas, such as meeting with the Taliban at Camp David and pulling U.S. troops from South Korea. Heather Wilson and Robert O’Brien pressed Air Force readiness and Navy modernization, respectively.