The complete letter of resignation written by Secretary of Defense James N Mattis can be found following this commentary.
The reader is encouraged to read the letter of resignation, in full.
What follows is this author's rendering of James Mattis during his tenure as Secretary of Defense in the first two years of the ill-fated Trump Administration and presidency.
The commentary is situated below, after this brief introduction, and is entitled 'Southern and Ugly.'
Secretary of Defense, James N Mattis, resigned on Thursday the 20th of December 2018, one day after President Trump's sudden and unexpected announcement of a quick withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The geopolitical consequences of that decision are sobering, to say the least.
The announcement by Donald Trump casts a long shadow over the fate of the Kurds, who have been an ally of US forces in their fight against the Islamic State, ISIS, in both Iraq and Syria. Trump has literally abandoned an ally on an active battlefield.
Few are surprised that Trump's promise to defeat ISIS quickly would be accomplished in rhetoric only, while he turned tuck tail and ran from the fight. But Trump does not distinguish between the battles he wins and the ones that he declares won.
US abandoning the Kurds is exactly the outcome both Erdoğan of Turkey and Putin of Russia wished for. Neither the Turks nor the Saudis wanted what looked like an inevitable establishment of a Kurdish state, Kurdistan, or a Kurdish autonomous region in what is now northern Iraq, to come to fruition. Trump's sudden and unexpected action has pleased all three authoritarian leaders.
This is the reality of 'there is a new sheriff in town', boast by Senator Lindsey Graham after the US military cruise missile bombed a Syrian airfield. A bombing campaign that did not begin until after giving the Russians ample time to remove their assets from the site, well before the US bombing campaign began.
Mattis, during his brief tenure at the helm of the Defense Department, and as a member of Trump's cabinet, was often referred to as one of the adults in the room. That is, someone who, no longer being a child, had put away his childish ways, and accepted grownup, that is to say, mature responsibilities.
The former defense secretary's letter of resignation has been hailed as an act of bravery, and at the same time, a long overdue act of fortitude. Because someone in Trump's orbit, James Mattis in this case, had exhibited outwardly the intestinal fortitude, the mettle, to openly and publicly point out to Donald Trump the errors of his opinions, in regards to the US military and US alliances. Or so it would appear.
The latter, in the context of being able, at a minimum, to distinguish our allies from our adversaries.
Mattis has been lauded, for his forthright stance extensively and widely, both within the United States and beyond our borders and shores.
However, as discussed heretofor, it is this authors considered opinion that any praise directed towards James Mattis is misdirected.
The theme of what follows can best be stated, as stated in the following phrase, to wit:
... to know what is the right thing to do and not do it, is cowardice.
. . . southern and ugly
Those familiar with the rich and colorful traditions and histories surrounding military names of war, des noms de guerre des militaires, will immediately consider that 'mad dog Mattis, does not conform to any of them. It is simply a ugly phrase representative of the old xenophobic deep south. And as such, and in this context only, it is a fitting descriptor for outgoing Secretary of Defense James N Mattis.
Mattis states in his letter of resignation, that he was privileged to serve ... in defense of our citizens and our ideals. And, that he appreciated the opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.
On his watch, an African American soldier was killed in North Africa, after the commander in chief arbitrarily added the name of a country whose soldiers were providing assistance to American troops in the area, to one of his hastily drawn Muslim banned countries list. Confused as to the nature of continued American support they withdrew their soldiers and this left US troops vulnerable and exposed to an insurgent attack. During an ambush by insurgents, which occurred as our now on the banned list country was withdrawing its forces, one US soldier, an African American, was killed and others wounded.
I can find no record of Secretary Mattis speaking out about this catastrophe.
To add insult to injury, Trump's chief of staff engaged in a highly publicized argument with the fallen soldier's widow and a friend of the soldiers family, a sitting ethnic member of the House of Representatives. Mattis's silence was piercing.
Mattis states his privilege to serve in defense of our citizens and our ideals. And yet, when Trump was drawing moral equivalence between those who chanted 'and Jews will not replace us' and those protesting organized racial animus and the existence of statues to those who 'would make war rather than let the nation survive', as Lincoln so eloquently put it.
Mattis was again silent.
Encouraged, by the silence of those within this administration who are so eager to serve the nation, its citizens and our ideals, and by the incendiary ethnic animus spewing from the mouth of the president, an individual sent pipe bombs to the president's stated enemies and another entered a synagogue and killed indiscriminately. Both attacks buoyed on by the great public service of cabinet members like James Mattis. The laudatory remarks about his exit from this administration, being so very well deserved.
Mattis was, is, a card-carrying member of the 'never again' group within the upper echelons of US military and security services, and that is why Trump picked him. Precisely because Mattis will serve the idea of a white nationalist America, above the Constitution of the United States of America, as will so many others hand picked by Donald Trump.
Mad-dog Mattis, served when the F.E.A.R. group within the US military was actively carrying out racial attacks against other US soldiers. And either actively shielded the unlawful activities of this and other hate groups within the US military, or knew of their activities and stood silent, or both.
Mattis again slithered into silence while US troops lobed tear gas at women and children lawfully seeking to apply for asylum in the United States, while they were on the Mexican side of our southern border. And yet, Mattis writes in his letter of resignation '... we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.'
The evidence is crystal clear, Mattis is by definition, ... to know what is the right thing to do and not do it, a coward.
And important equally, Mattis has not lived up to his oath of office, in fact, very much the opposite is true.
James Mattis, is therefore, some kind of hero.
James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, Resignation letter
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 US 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 US 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. 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 be 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 for 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 732,079 civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at 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.