Great level of controversy arose when President Trump announced he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria after years of occupation. He also plans on initiating a pull out of Afghanistan, a country we have occupied even longer.
Both Bush and Obama had campaigned ending foreign wars, but had both continued the long term offensive against terror across the ocean.
When the announcement was made, there was widespread criticism from both sides. Many Congressmen came out against the measure, including Lindsey Graham, a strong Trump ally in the Senate.
Many fear the pull out comes too soon and will result in the regrowth of the Islamic State, like the original Iraq withdrawal did. Other criticize Trump for abandoning our Kurdish allies in a region where they are surrounded by enemies.
The most surprising critic was Secretary of Defense James Mattis. As a former Marine General, Mattis was highly respected by both sides with a unanimous confirmation by the Senate in 2017.
The disconnect between the two was so great Secretary Mattis decided to resign from his post, effective February 28th. Unlike the response to most cabinet departures, President Trump had only nice things to say, claiming his retirement is “with distinction,” and highlighted improvements made to the Pentagon and military during his tenure.
He concludes the two part tweet by saying he “greatly thank[s] Jim for his service.” Even with the staunch policy disagreement, it appeared that Trump had a great relationship with Mattis, after all, he was universally praised.
That was until Mattis’ resignation letter surfaced.
The resignation letter began with him listing all the accomplishments he’s made during his time as Secretary of Defense. Nothing out of the ordinary. In the second paragraph, Mattis discusses his core values and principles. The first of which is that America’s strength is “inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.” Considering this was amid a recent pull out of Syria leaving Kurd allies behind, this seems to be a direct swipe at Trump’s action. Furthermore, “we cannot protect our interests… without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.” Again, more jabs at the Trump withdrawal.
He includes the importance of allies and brings up the 74-nation coalition to fight Al-Qaeda that formed immediately after 9/11.
Mattis takes another swipe at Trump’s relationship with Putin by pointing out that “China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model.” Frequent Trump critics attack his friendly rhetoric with dictatorships. Mattis believes our military tools should be used for the “common defense” of the West.
He concludes by saying “because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.” In short, Mattis holds the belief of “respecting our allies” and protecting order in the world. Mattis also claims Trump holds none of those beliefs.
Unlike the typical resignation letter, Mattis uses it to attack the core values Trump holds in respect to how he deals with our allies.
While Mattis was set to leave at the end of February, Trump decided to promote Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan to Mattis’ position 2 months early, effectively firing Mattis.
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