Trump Appoints Art Historian Victoria Coates to National Security Council

Historians in the News
tags: National Security Council, Trump, Victoria Coates



An art historian now holds one of the most important national security jobs in the country. Dr. Victoria Coates, who received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998, was tapped in late January to serve as President Trump’s senior director for strategic assessments on the National Security Council. The news was first reported by the Washington Post.  

Coates began her professional pivot from the arts to defense in the mid-2000s while blogging about national security for the conservative website RedState. At the time, she was also teaching art history at the University of Pennsylvania. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Business Insider he saw “smart analysis and sharp writing” in her blog posts, and reached out for help researching his book after he left office. After assisting Rumsfeld, who oversaw invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan during his tenure as Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, Coates continued to burnish her national security credentials while pursuing her career in art history.

She later assisted former Texas governor Rick Perry during his short-lived campaign for president in 2012. That time overlapped with her tenure as a consulting curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), a position she held from 2010 to 2013. Coates, whose specialty is Italian Renaissance art, curated the CMA’s exhibition “The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection.”

More recently, she worked as a national security advisor to Texas senator Ted Cruz, helping him craft his defense policy during his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination last year. Cruz advocated for escalating violence against ISIS in the Middle East. During a December speech, he said the U.S. under his leadership would “utterly destroy ISIS. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”

The political viewpoint Coates will bring to the National Security Council represent a break with the prior administration. She has voiced strong opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, a key policy initiative of former U.S. President Barack Obama. She also has been fiercely critical of the Obama administration’s position on Israel, forcefully arguing against a two-state solution based on the country’s 1967 borders. During her tenure with the Cruz campaign, Coates reportedly made interns read Ronald Reagan advisor Jeane Kirkpatrick’s “Dictatorships And Double Standards,” a 1979 essay in which Kirkpatrick argues dealing with anti-communist authoritarian regimes is actually good for human rights on the whole, since it prevents the rise of communism. ...





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