Yesterday, the world became a little less safe. U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, announced his resignation effective 28 February 2019. It is understandable, and nobody could possibly blame him, for his has been a thankless job since the day he took office, January 20th 2017. Mattis has disagreed with Trump on many things during his nearly two-year tenure, from climate change to Russia to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw the remaining 2,200 U.S. troops from Syria. I don’t blame General Mattis for finally saying, “I’ve had enough of this mess” … don’t blame him at all. But with his departure, the world … not just the U.S., but the entire world … became less safe.
Here are some of the more pertinent parts from the General’s letter of resignation:
- 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.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.
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 use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America.
The threat of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and also Afghanistan is a disaster on so many levels, not the least of which being that it is a proverbial slap-in-the-face to our allies in Europe. As the UK’s Middle East minister, Alistair Burt said …
“There are no vacuums in foreign policy, certainly not in the Middle East. In a fragile region every action is a catalyst for another. If allies cannot be relied upon, others are sought to take their place. Jim Mattis understood – vital any successor agrees.”
And UK’s Defense Minister, Tobias Ellwood …
“The most impressive military mind I’ve had the honour to know. Jim my friend – our world will be less safe without you.”
The co-chair of the European council on foreign relations Carl Bildt had strong words …
“A morning of alarm in Europe. Sec Def Mattis is the remaining strong bond across the Atlantic in the Trump administration. All the others are fragile at best or broken at worst.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group in the European parliament, said…
“A victory for Russia, Iran, Turkey, Turkish proxies & the Syrian regime. Unsurprisingly, it leaves Europeans more vulnerable – and shows how wrong it is that we do not have a defence force able to help stabilise our immediate neighbourhood.”
Neither the Syrian withdrawal nor the prospect of cutting troop numbers in Afghanistan were preceded by any serious consultation with his European allies, many of whom either have ground troops or air forces operating in both countries.
Trump’s selection of Mattis for Defense Secretary was, presumably, because he believed Mattis had the knowledge and experience to be a key advisor on foreign policy and matters of defense. So why does he consistently ignore the advice of this very knowledgeable man? Ego, pure and simple. And that very ego is likely, if left unchecked, to have a number of very serious consequences for the world. The Middle East is a tinderbox that could well turn into an inferno in short order. Our allies may well determine they are finished with this alliance and to hell with the U.S. Who could blame them?
It is said that Trump made the decision to pull out of Syria after a phone conversation with Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan, who is planning an attack on Kurdish troops in Syria at some point in the near future. According to Senator Lindsey Graham …
“What Turkey is going to do is unleash holy hell on the Kurds. In the eyes of Turkey, they’re more of a threat than ISIS. So this decision is a disaster.”
Vladimir Putin was also pleased, saying he agreed with the decision. But, of course.
Even most conservatives are horrified at the thought of Mattis’ resignation, considering it to be the loss of the last adult in the house. Neo-conservative editor and political analyst Bill Kristol said it best …
“Never been more alarmed for the nation since coming to DC over three decades ago.”
Republican Senator Ben Sasse expressed deep concern …
“This is a sad day. General Mattis was giving advice [Trump] needs to hear. Mattis rightly believes that Russia & China are adversaries. Isolationism is a weak strategy that will harm Americans.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan weighed in …
“Okay, Republicans. How much longer are you going to let this farcical ‘presidency’ continue? At a time of such political, economic, and geo-strategic turbulence – both nationally and globally – are you waiting for a catastrophe to happen before acting? Disaster looms!”
Remember when then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to Trump as a “f**king moron”? He was right.
General Mattis’ departure did not come as a surprise, for the rumour mill has predicted it for a while now but make no mistake … it is a devastating blow, not only for the United States, but for the world. Nobody can predict where we go from here, for there is a thoroughly unpredictable madman at the helm of this ship. In light of Trump’s comment this morning that he is willing to keep the government shut down “for a very long time”, and his reckless decisions regarding Syria and Afghanistan, today I can no longer consider myself a citizen of what was once a respectable nation. I believe it is time for serious calls for Trump’s removal from office, else next year at this time the world may look much different than it does today – and not in any good way.
Au Revoir, General Mattis … you will be missed.