Mattis quits at Pentagon over policy clashes with Trump

Source: Washington Examiner | December 20, 2018 | Diana Stancy Correll

Jim Mattis has resigned on principle as Pentagon chief after President Trump decided to slash U.S. troop presence in Syria and Afghanistan, citing in a letter the need for “a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned” with the president’s.

In his strikingly frank resignation letter, Mattis issued what amounted to a stark rebuke of Trump. He outlined his beliefs in alliances, opposition to Russia and China, being respectful to allies, and standing up to authoritarianism before concluding that Trump differed with him on key principles.

He said, “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.”

Trump announced Wednesday that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Syria. There were reports Thursday that he intended to pull out thousands of troops from Afghanistan. Mattis reportedly told the White House early Thursday he needed to speak with Trump. The two met in the Oval Office at 3 p.m., and Mattis tried — and failed — to persuade Trump to keep American forces in Syria. At that point, Mattis decided to quit.

Minutes before Mattis, 68, released his letter, Trump announced via Twitter that Mattis, a former four-star general in the U.S. Marine Corps, would be retiring “with distinction” at the end of February.

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  •  Consistent #26952


    SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
    1000 DEFENSE PENTAGON
    WASHINGTON, DC 20301-1000

    December 20, 2018

    Dear Mr. President:

    I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

    I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.

    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. While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9/11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

    Similarly, I believe we must he 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. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

    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.

    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 end date of my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.

    I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and the 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department of all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

    I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.

    James N. Mattis

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