The recent resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis reminds us that serving the nation at the strategic level is not an amoral activity, nor a place where realism pushes ethics off the stage or where Machiavelli is more useful than Aristotle. A lot has been written on the meaning of Secretary Mattis's resignation pointing out, correctly, that his was a principled resignation. But few say exactly what those principles are.

For me, a close reading of his resignation letter and understanding his reasoning can reveal how closely related are the strategic and the moral.

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My bottom line: The world will not end, but this election result certainly puts a lot of hard work, blood, and sacrifice — ours, our allies, and the Iraqis — at risk.

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