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In 2014, Mattis Said What Would Make Him Resign In Protest. In 2018, He Actually Did It
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has resigned in protest of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw all American troops from Syria, according to The New York Times.
His resignation letter, while critical of the president's views on foreign policy, did not mention Syria, but officials told The Times that Mattis traveled to the White House on Thursday "in a last attempt to convince Mr. Trump to keep American troops in Syria. He was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result."
Interestingly, Mattis once revealed what would lead him to resign in protest during an April 2014 talk in San Francisco, and he made it clear that he would only do so under the most dire of circumstances, since his subordinates would not be able to do the same.
"The lance corporals can't retire. They're going. That's all there is to it," he said.
First, some context:
In 2003, Mattis was the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. He was ordered into Iraq in March and led his division to victory over Baghdad. But privately, he knew going to war against Saddam Hussein probably wasn't the best call.
"I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn't think it was a very wise idea," he said in 2015, before being named Defense Secretary. "But we give a cheery 'Aye aye, Sir.' Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private."
Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it's up to the civilian leadership to make the decision.
Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed "the generals' revolt." Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.
Later, during his April 2014 talk in San Francisco, he was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, "you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can't retire. They're going. That's all there is to it."
He added: "You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation."
In Dec. 2018, it looks like he finally did.
“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,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.
“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.”
The command chief of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, was removed from his position last month after his chain of command received evidence he disrespected his subordinates.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
The "suck it up and drive on" mentality permeated our years in the U.S. military and often led us to delay getting both physical and mental health care. As veterans, we now understand that engaging in effective care enables us not just to survive but to thrive. Crucially, the path to mental wellness, like any serious journey, isn't accomplished in a day — and just because you need additional or recurring mental health care doesn't mean your initial treatment failed.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called on the security alliance's allies to maintain and strengthen their "unity," saying the organization is "the only guarantor of European and transatlantic security."
Stoltenberg told reporters on November 19 that NATO "has only grown stronger over the last 70 years" despite "differences" among the allies on issues such as trade, climate, the Iran nuclear deal, and the situation in northeastern Syria.
He was speaking at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels on the eve of a NATO foreign ministers meeting aimed at finalizing preparations for next month's summit in London.
WASHINGTON — More than $35 million of the roughly $400 million in aid to Ukraine that President Donald Trump delayed, sparking the impeachment inquiry, has not been released to the country, according to a Pentagon spending document obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Instead, the defense funding for Ukraine remains in U.S. accounts, according to the document. It's not clear why the money hasn't been released, and members of Congress are demanding answers.