James Mattis’s departure as Donald Trump’s defence chief may ‘endanger our nation’ – Donald Trump’s America
General Mattis’s resignation has shaken Democrats and Republicans alike. (Reuters: Gleb Garanich, file photo)
“Mad Dog” is a moniker he’s been lumped with by the media. But Jim Mattis actually prefers his call sign, “Chaos”, given to him by subordinates early in his career for his unorthodox solutions on the battlefield.
“I’d like to say it was for a dignified reason,” he told the Air Force Association in a speech this past September.
“Chaos … was very much tongue in cheek, ladies and gentlemen. They didn’t consider all my solutions quite as outstanding as I enthusiastically promoted them.”
Now the general is resigning because his boss, President Donald Trump, doesn’t appear to be impressed by his solutions at all.
As General Mattis himself declared in his resignation letter to the Commander-in-Chief: “You have the right to have a Secretary of Defence whose views are better aligned with yours.”
Yesterday, the President undermined his defence chief for a final time with his decision to remove US troops from Syria.
It follows the President reportedly rejecting Mr Mattis’s advice on pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, on the relocation of the US embassy in Israel, and on sending soldiers to the US-Mexico border ahead of the mid-term elections.
‘One of the few symbols of strength’
Shaken by the election of the unpredictable Mr Trump, America’s allies around the world were relieved when they learned the new President was going to appoint the retired four-star Marine Corps general to the position of defence secretary.
After the resignation of another four-star Marine Corps general — Mr Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly — Mr Mattis was seen by many as the last “adult” in the Trump White House.
“There is chaos in this administration,” declared the most senior Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.
“Mattis was one of the few symbols of strength.”
Shortly after the resignation became public, he stood alongside the incoming Speaker of the House, fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
“We don’t want to be fearmongers,” she said.
“I am shaken by the resignation of General Mattis, what it means to this country and the message it sends to our troops.
“This great country can stand just about anything. It shouldn’t have to.”
US ‘headed towards grave policy errors’
One retired US general noted the circumstances around the departure of “a dedicated patriot like Jim Mattis … should give pause to every American”. (Reuters: Dave Martin)
It’s not just Democrats who are shaken.
Republican hawk Marco Rubio tweeted Mr Mattis’s resignation letter and declared that it “makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation”.
Retired US General Stanley McChrystal, who was commander of international forces in Afghanistan, told CNN: “The kind of leadership that causes a dedicated patriot like Jim Mattis to leave should give pause to every American.”
Former CIA director John Brennan — no fan of Mr Trump — went further in his tweet.
“OK, Republicans. How much longer are you going to let this farcical ‘presidency’ continue?” Mr Brennan asked.
“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!”
Australia’s alliance with the US has seen us send soldiers to many battlefields alongside American troops.
Today, there are multiple US media reports that Mr Trump intends to drawdown or withdraw troops from Afghanistan — another position Mr Mattis opposes.
Has Australia been consulted? Or is this another Trump decision made in haste without what Mr Mattis, in his resignation letter, called “treating allies with respect”?
“I have just returned from Afghanistan and can say — without hesitation — ISIS (in Afghanistan) remains a direct threat to our homeland and they would dramatically benefit from a reduced American troop presence,” Republican senator Lindsey Graham said.
The next defence secretary will have to work quickly to allay fears of allies and rebuild their trust that the US President has their best interests at heart as well.