James Mattis Resignation Letter as Secretary of Defense

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 our nation’s economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is shy we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views of 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 solidatrity 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 Clear and Present Danger of Trump

His weekend Twitter outburst calls into question his ability to discharge his powers.

President Trump’s out-of-control weekend Twitter storm has raised these concerns to new heights. Our European allies no longer know what to believe. “Is it deeds? Is it words? Is it tweets?” asked Germany’s foreign minister at the annual Munich Security Conference. While senior administration officials offered reaffirmations of traditional American positions, our allies did not know whether they were speaking for the president and if so, for how long.

We know what is required of every American citizen. It is enshrined in the oath that every naturalized citizen must take—to “defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Surely no less is required of the president. But when his own national security adviser stated that “the evidence is now incontrovertible” that Russia worked to undermine our most basic constitutional processes during the past election, Mr. Trump slapped him down with a tendentious tweet.

He has repeatedly chosen to take the word of Vladimir Putin, the autocratic ruler of Russia and a former KGB agent, over the judgment of the entire U.S. intelligence community.

Mr. Putin’s Russia, which is waging war in Eastern Europe and propping up Bashar Assad in Syria, has become an enemy of the U.S. Can any fair-minded person say that the president is doing what he should to defend our Constitution and laws against this threat?

.. President Trump regards any affirmation of Russian electoral influence as an attack on the legitimacy of his 2016 victory. He cannot distinguish between the national interest and his own insecurities, making it impossible for him to acknowledge the nature of the Russian threat.

.. It is time for the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, and the national security adviser to confront Mr. Trump, collectively and directly, to inform him that unless he publicly affirms the reality of the Russian threat and authorizes the strongest possible response to it, they will have no honorable alternative to resignation. They swore an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, not to Mr. Trump.

.. With Mr. Trump, we face the incapacitation of character—an inability to master his passions sufficiently to distinguish between the country’s well-being and his fathomless self-regard.

.. The Americans who supported Mr. Trump in 2016 had genuine grievances that both parties had neglected for far too long.

But he is a deeply, dangerously flawed instrument of their purposes. In choosing him, they made a mistake that threatens America and the world.

Talent still in the mix for defense secretary

This weekend saw a flurry of speculation that retired Marine Gen. James Mattis has emerged as President-elect Donald Trump’s leading pick for secretary of defense. But inside the Trump transition, there’s still a big push for former senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.).

Talent, who met with Trump last week, is favored by those inside the Trump camp who believe a civilian should lead the Pentagon, not a former military officer. Talent’s supporters include incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who also has supported consideration of former national security adviser Stephen Hadley

.. Talent may also find support from an unlikely source: incoming national security adviser Mike Flynn, a retired three star general who last headed the Defense Intelligence Agency. Sources said Flynn, who is heavily involved in the national security personnel transition discussions, doesn’t want any military officer who outranked him to be part of the Trump Cabinet.

.. “You don’t want a military attitude in the civilian position,” Rogers told CNN.

.. If Trump does choose Talent, it would be a signal to the foreign policy community that he intends to build bridges with a part of the GOP establishment that remains very wary of his plans for the United States’ role abroad.

..The question is whether Trump is interested in a senior foreign policy civilian or a general with warfighting experience atop the Pentagon.

I Love Mattis, But I Don’t Love him as SecDef

He is a warrior and a leader of men in the application of violence. He is not, however, a man for all seasons. Many in defense circles have been so overjoyed at the prospect of a qualified secretary, that they seemed to have forgotten to stop and ask if Mattis would, in fact, be right for the job. He is not a politician, or a wonk, or a bureaucrat.

.. He is a well-regarded leader who inspires fierce loyalty. But I fear Mattis may be wasted atop the vast expanse of the Pentagon.

1. Mattis a recently retired general and is therefore statutorily prohibited from serving as secretary of defense. And while a legislative solution is possible, this law exists for good reasons and overriding it bodes poorly for long-term civil-military relations.

2. Warfighters rarely make good bureaucrats. The Pentagon is one of the world’s largest bureaucracies, and Mattis has shown little patience for management and administration.

.. 3. His boss won’t listen.

.. Given President-elect Donald Trump’s comments regarding general officers during the campaign, some turbulence in civil-military relations is to be expected in the coming administration. And while the president is the commander-in-chief, the chain of command passes through the secretary of defense. Civilian control of the military remains one of the hallmarks of the American political system

.. The president-elect’s newfound love of general officers — without knowing much about the culture and traditionsthat animate them — should raise concerns.

.. (His apparent courting of officers fired or driven out by President Obama is also troubling.)

.. And while his tours at Central Command and the now-defunct Joint Forces Command are to his credit, they also reveal the limits of his skills at bureaucratic infighting, given he was driven out from the former post after a falling out with the Obama administration on its Iran policy.

.. The point is not that Mattis is unqualified. Rather, the point is that he hates this shit. Budgets, white papers, and service rivalries, not to mention the interagency meetings and White House meddling — these tasks are not what you go to Jim Mattis for. Not only does the role of secretary of defense not play to Mattis’ strengths, but success in that role would compromise much that we admire most in him: his bluntness, clarity, and single-minded focus on warfighting. The secretary’s job is by necessity much more political than all that. You can’t run the Pentagon like the First Marine Division.

.. “the best thing about him, and what would be desperately needed in Trump admin, is that he isn’t a yes man.” I don’t disagree, but would Trump even listen?

.. I’m not convinced the president-elect will be able to manage a coterie of competing advisors, much less listen to them. Indeed, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Flynn, soon be national security advisor, has apparently indicated he doesn’t want anyone who outranked him serving in the administration.

.. Would you or Mattis be able to shape policy and effectively advise the president? Or would you be complicit in the debasing of our alliances and institutions? How would you decide when enough was enough? And if you were Mattis, would your resignation trigger its own civil-military crisis?

.. There is no doubt this administration, like all administrations, needs good people in office. But to serve this president will be a frustrating and degrading affair.