Defense Secretary James Mattis submitted his resignation Thursday after a falling out with President Trump over the President’s decision to withdraw from Syria, setting a departure date of February 28, 2019. In his resignation letter, Mattis stated that the President needed to find someone more compatible with his worldview.
“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,” Mattis wrote.
The letter was full of thinly-veiled swipes at the President’s policies. Mattis did not offer a single word of praise for the man he has been serving for nearly two years.
The outgoing defense secretary called out Russia by name in his resignation letter. It was an interesting choice considering that the President has been under intense criticism for his ties to and defense of Russia. In a statement echoing many of Trump’s critics who have pointed out that he appears too willing to adopt the Kremlin’s political positions, Mattis wrote:
“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.”
Even fellow Republicans criticized President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria. Florida Senator Marco Rubio pounced on Mattis’ resignation. He took to Twitter, writing in part, “We are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries.” Senator Ben Sasse tweeted in part “This is a sad day. General Mattis was giving advice POTUS needs to hear. Mattis rightly believes that Russia & China are adversaries, and that we are at war with jihadists across the globe who plot to kill Americans.”
While it is nice to see politicians stand up for what they believe in, it is disheartening that one of the only things Republicans in the Senate will stand up for is perpetual war in the Middle East. The US military is currently deployed in 150 countries around the world, with approximately 170,000 of its active-duty personnel serving outside the United States and its territories. What the DC establishment is panicking about is only about 2,000 troops deployed in one tiny country.
Not all reaction to the President’s announcement was negative, however. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the decision, saying “Whether do we need the presence of the American military, I guess we do not need that presence. The presence of your troops is illegitimate so if you’ve made this decision it is the right decision.”