Secretary of Defense General James Mattis is a great America. I do not say that lightly. Mattis served this nation honorably as a Marine officer and as the nation’s Secretary of Defense. The United States of America and world are worst off because he will no longer be in public service.
Late Thursday, Secretary Mattis announced to President Trump – and all Americans – that he would resign his office. In his letter to the President, Mattis was firm, respectful, but also issued a clear warning. He clearly stated one of the key core beliefs that has kept the world safe under the leadership of America and our allies.
“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.”
This is important. Clearly, the President does not believe this. That is a huge problem. When the President attacks our allies, who have had soldiers give their last full measure of devotion for the greater good of free nations, it is not only embarrassing, but dangerous. For over 3/4 of a century, America and our allies have helped billions have safer more stable lives. There is strength in numbers. NATO linked America and Europe gave the world not just a mutual defense pledge but in advancing democratic governance. Weakening this alliance makes our world worst for the rule of law, drives down human rights, and makes less opportunity to develop stable nations economically.
When America leaves our allies behind, a gap is created. That leads to Mattis’s second point; if America does not join our allies and lead, China and Russia are waiting to fill the vacuum.
“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.”
Presidents Reagan and Bush ended the Cold War with the motto peace through strength. We, unfortunately, are now heading in the opposite direction. America becomes weaker when we retreat and isolate ourselves. This is why pulling out of Syria this week was such a poor decision. Under President Trump’s current vision, America is leaving and bad actors are walking in. As Senator Rubio tweeted today, “ISIS has members who spend all day plotting & inspiring attacks against Americans. The more territory they control the easier it is for them to do that. In Syria, 2,000 U.S. special forces were helping Kurds wipe them out. Without our help Kurds will have to go home to prepare to fight Turks. With no one on the ground hitting ISIS they will regroup & expand plots to attack Americans. We weren’t in Syria for to help anyone else. We were in Syria to wipe out terrorists who want to kill Americans.”
This leads to Secretary Mattis’s last point.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”
Under the chain-of-command, Secretary Mattis clearly believed he could no longer faithfully serve a President that did not align with these beliefs. The President is Commander-in-chief and he does deserve a Secretary of Defense that gives advice but also carries out his leading vision. Secretary Mattis knew this which is why he made the honorable decision to resign.
Jim Mattis was always calculated, well read, and well prepared. He thought about the end results and where outcomes could lead not just now but also over the next 40 years. He was not a Secretary that made light of combat or wanted endless wars. Along with his guidance for the Department of Defense, he deeply cares for the troops.
“I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.
I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.”
Losing Secretary Mattis is a big blow. Not only will his thoughtful knowledge be missed, but so will the restraint he brought to an unpredictable President. There is wisdom in a multitude of counsel. No advisor or cabinet member knew more about his subject area than Secretary Mattis. All we seem to have right now is President Trump’s hunches and Twitter feed.
With Secretary Mattis resigning, troops pulling out of Syria, and likely more leaving Afghanistan next, make no mistake, the world became more dangerous over the last 48 hours.