21 December 2018   Leave a comment

US Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, submitted his letter of resignation to President Trump yesterday. The resignation does not come as a surprise as it has been obvious that Mr. Trump and General Mattis did not agree on much. The resignation letter, however, was a very sharp rebuke to President Trump’s foreign policy of “America First” and Mattis’s disdain for the President is obvious, starting with the salutation which does not refer to President Trump, but rather to the President. Nor is there a complimentary close such as “Sincerely”.

“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 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. 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 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 DoD 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.

Jim N. Mattis

The Washington Post has an excellent article which outlines the points of disagreement between Mr. Trump and General Mattis. The almost universal reaction is shock and fear,

There are also reports that President Trump is thinking about cutting the force levels in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 7,000 soldiers. It is hard to say to what extent this move may compromise US objectives in Afghanistan. The Taliban control much of the territory of Afghanistan but have not gained control of the major cities in the country. But one of the objectives of the Taliban has been the removal of all US troops and Mr. Trump’s decision is a step in that direction. According to NBC News:

“‘The 17-year-long struggle and sacrifices of thousands of our people finally yielded fruit,’ said a senior Taliban commander from Afghanistan’s Helmand province. ‘We proved it to the entire world that we defeated the self-proclaimed world’s lone super power.’

“’We are close to our destination,’ added the commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the group’s leadership had prohibited members from talking to the media about current events. He added that all field commanders had also been told to intensify training efforts to capture four strategic provinces in the run up to the next round of talks, which are expected in January.

“A Taliban leader in eastern Kunar province, Maulvi Sher Mohammad, said news of withdrawals should serve as a lesson to Americans.

“‘The U.S. people and particularly its rulers should think about what they achieved by invading Afghanistan and by causing so many losses to the citizens of Afghanistan and wasting their own resources on this long war,’ he said.”

The quotations are, no doubt, bravado. But they are also words that will give the soldiers supporting the Taliban greater will to continue their struggle. That outcome is hardly in the US interest, or in the interest of the current Afghani government.

Posted December 21, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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