MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Defense Secretary James Mattis Resigning

Read his resignation letter.

Defense Secretary James Mattis will step down from his post at the end of February, President Donald Trump said in a pair of tweets tonight.

Mattis' retirement announcement comes one day after Trump announced he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria. Trump is reportedly thinking about a draw-down from Afghanistan as well.

In his resignation letter, which ABC News reporter Elizabeth McLaughlin obtained, Mattis writes that America "cannot protect our interests...without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to" our allies. He also emphasized his support for NATO and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS:

"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," 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."

This post has been updated.

Photo Credit: Leah Millis/REUTERS/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    As Harvard's Professor Tribe has observed, Russia's control of our government is so comprehensive that these high-level personnel decisions are dictated by Putin himself. Mattis would apparently not execute the Kremlin's strategy, so Drumpf is going to replace him with someone who will. This is precisely what happened when Tillerson quit the State Department.

    #TrumpRussia

  • Two Buck Chuck||

    Have another hit

  • grb||

    You have to feel sorry for General Mattis. Almost fifty years of service, and he ends his career as a lifeguard minding an open sewer.

  • Fancylad||

    Pulling American troops out of a quagmire is the equivalent of an open sewer? Petulantly resigning because the President isn't a globalist warhawk, doesn't make me feel sorry for him at all.

  • Longtobefree||

    That is not a petulant resignation.
    It acknowledges the electoral realities of US politics, and of the constitution.
    What is petulant is the refusal of many other government employees to follow the will of the people as expressed by the last presidential election, and support Trump policies or resign.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    You are correct. This underscores my contention that we are beyond elections as a remedy against progressive socialists. These people ignore elections, and the law to stop the will of the electorate and get force their agenda on us instead.
    This is why I proposed some form of ant Marxist constitutional amendment in the Venezuela article the other day. More effort was spent excoriating me as a 'slaver' for daring to suggest any action against our oppressors than actually openly discussing the subject.

  • MoreFreedom||

    I agree. Hard to see how someone who got the "Mad Dog" moniker is the adult in the room. He puts alliances (like with Afghanistan where we allow Afgan police to rape kids on US military bases in Afghanistan) first, while George Washington advised us to trade with all and ally with none which is a far more libertarian policy. A policy where enemies of our "allies" (which include a lot of oppressive dictators who kill, torture, imprison, heavily tax and oppress their citizens) don't become our enemies.

    Further, I don't see how helping Assad stay in power by fighting his enemies helps us either. We've been acting like Assad is our ally starting with Obama. And it's good the US isn't wasting any further money there.

  • Sevo||

    "You have to feel sorry for General Mattis."

    Almost as sorry as I feel for idiots like you:
    Not a bit.

  • Juice||

    At least he did the honorable thing.

  • SIV||

    Hari-kari?

    Now that would be news!

  • Don't look at me!||

    Good. I hope everyone in DC retires.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +1000

  • KWlib||

    It won't be long before there isn't a single honorable person in the cabinet.

  • Sevo||

    "It won't be long before there isn't a single honorable person in the cabinet."

    Is that what war-mongers are called now? I do so try to keep up.

  • DesigNate||

    Isn't it awesome how these morons have completely ripped their masks off, exposing themselves to be no better than Bill Kristol?

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Being honorable and being right are not necessarily the same thing.

  • Hank Phillips||

    YES! Another pusher of entangling alliances pours gasoline all over his National Socialist uniform and flicks a match! Is this a great country or what?

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I don't think you have the slightest understanding of wha a 'national socialist ' is.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    This is not a retirement. It is a resignation precipitated by disagreement or principle. The omission of a 'thank you, Mr. President' in that letter suggests Pres. Trump may turn on Gen. Mattis long before March.

  • Sevo||

    "This is not a retirement. It is a resignation precipitated by disagreement or principle. The omission of a 'thank you, Mr. President' in that letter suggests Pres. Trump may turn on Gen. Mattis long before March."

    Tell us about the Russki collusiion again, asshole. Or how you and the rest of your pathetic lot are going to pack the court.
    It's very amusing that you are nearly always very certain of your obvious stupidity.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The Trump campaign's association with the Russians -- and the repeated lies about those associations -- have tormented Trump and are going to emasculate the Trump presidency.

    Court enlargement is legitimate. Check the history at the United States Supreme Court, or recent conduct of Arizona Republicans.

    Carry on, you bigoted, irrelevant rube. Are you enjoying the unraveling of disaffected right-wingers' last gasp?

  • Sevo||

    Oh, goody, the annoying asshole hoped he got a chance to drop one and not get a response. Let's start with this: Stuff it up your ass, you pathetic piece of shit!
    Now:

    Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland|12.20.18 @ 10:25PM|#
    "The Trump campaign's association with the Russians -- and the repeated lies about those associations -- have tormented Trump and are going to emasculate the Trump presidency."
    Your bullshit claims, absent one scintilla of evidence, leave you to be a fucking lying piece of shit. Is that clear, lying piece of shit?

    "Court enlargement is legitimate. Check the history at the United States Supreme Court, or recent conduct of Arizona Republicans."
    Your bullshit claims, absent one scintilla of evidence, leave you to be a fucking lying piece of shit. Is that clear, lying piece of shit?

    "Carry on, you bigoted, irrelevant rube. Are you enjoying the unraveling of disaffected right-wingers' last gasp?"
    Carry one, you lying piece of shit.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Disaffected, bitter, irrelevant, and bigoted is no way to go through life, Sevo.

    But in your case the "irrelevant" part makes the rest of it tolerable for your betters.

  • Furzeydown||

    Then why do you persist on going through life that way Artie?

  • Rockabilly||

    Good riddance...

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Mattis writes that America "cannot protect our interests...without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to" our allies. He also emphasized his support for NATO and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS:

    Yeah those entangling alliances have really paid off. Seems to me we've spent enough blood and treasure enabling assholes like Macron and Merkel. If Trump pulls off Syria and Afghanistan it won't be because he's got his finger in the wind. It'll be because buried somewhere under that literally Hitler facade lives a guy who actually thinks that these wars and alliances cost a lot more than they're worth. It could be a sea change in foreign affairs that lasts for decades.
    Meanwhile they're gonna have to get an adult diaper dispenser over at National Review. The pants shitting will be epic.

  • Conchfritters||

    Meanwhile they're gonna have to get an adult diaper dispenser over at National Review. The pants shitting will be epic.

    Sounds like a medical condition - someone call them a wahmbulence.

  • Qsl||

    There was an interview with Mattis at the Hoover Institution that beyond his focus on the destructive potential of ISIS, he was acutely aware of the military's subordinate role to the will of the electorate. After 17 years, there is no longer the will to escalate the level of bloodshed to eradicate radical Islamist from the face of the Earth, nor is there the resources to maintain outposts in the hopes the Islamic world will eventually turn the corner.

    The nature of war always makes the structure of peace as the foundations of the next war. It is unfortunate Mattis couldn't accommodate himself to making the best peace possible. Yes, it doesn't here, but this chapter is definitely finished.

  • John||

    You cannot fight a war the public neither understands nor supports.

  • JoeBlow123||

    I am a big fan of Mattis, but not a big fan of his love of war in the Middle East. It has been a waste my entire life and continues to be a waste. The sooner we extricate ourselves from there the better. I am sorry he decided to fall on his sword over this issue but it is what it is.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    And the only reason NATO is there to begin with was to support our fight against the Taliban. Anyone other than neocons actually believe they won't be happy to not deploy their folks after 17 years?

  • SimonP||

    It could be a sea change in foreign affairs that lasts for decades.

    Well, you're right about that much. We're making way for Chinese hegemony, autocratic nationalism, and good, ol'-fashioned world wars.

  • Sevo||

    Maybe because there's be no more overseas bases? Please?

  • The Knuckle||

    "We want an exit strategy!"
    "Wait! Not like that!"
    I'm enjoying seeing the criticism no matter what happens. I'm no Trump fan, but bringing troops home is good in my book.

  • SimonP||

    No less remarkable, really, is the way that Trump supporters are obliged to bless every single move that Trump makes, somehow, some way.

    Yay to the end of foreign entanglements! Trump's total geopolitical ignorance has emboldened him to do what no one else could!

    I would personally love to see what people have to say about what happens in Syria or Afghanistan, next. Or the next time we have a crisis in Ukraine or Russia's near-abroad, or China in the South China Sea, or any other of a number of tense standoffs currently on the burner. "Not our issue." No, maybe not directly, but the question is how all of this will blow back to the US.

    Trump is sowing the seeds of a much greater conflagration that will have to be dealt with by his successors. The same way that clumsy involvement in the Iraq-Iran war set up the Iraq war, and clumsy involvement there set up the second Iraq war, and clumsy involvement there set up the emergence of ISIS. Every single one of those, Republican mistakes that Democrats had to clean up. What's going to happen when the fate of Syria is left to ISIS, the Kurds, Turkey, Russia, and Iran to sort out? Or Afghanistan, stretched between ISIS, the Taliban, and Pakistan? How does American non-involvement better serve our geopolitical interests?

  • k2000k||

    You mean the status ante bellum? Syria will be governed by the Assad regime and Afghanistan returns to being a forgotten about fourth world shit hole.

  • SimonP||

    Syria will be governed by the Assad regime...

    No, it will be torn between an enclave on the coast controlled by Assad, an autonomous Kurdish territory under assault from Turkey, and remnants of ISIS engaged in insurgency warfare. Assad will double down on reprisal killings in the territory he controls and the Russians and Iranians will duke it out with Turkey to try to resolve the rest of the territorial claims.

    You also don't seem to grasp the Israeli angle on this. They could live with a stable Assad regime. They're less interested in Iranian proxies fighting just over the border. American presence helped re-assure Israel, but if we're not there now, who knows what actions Israel might take unilaterally.

    ...Afghanistan returns to being a forgotten about fourth world shit hole.

    That incubates and supports international terrorists targeting the US - yes, exactly.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "Every single one of those, Republican mistakes that Democrats had to clean up."

    Ohh do Vietnam next! I am waiting at the edge of my seat!!

  • perlchpr||

    Disappointing behavior from Mattis. You'd think he could handle being down one of several dozen playgrounds.

  • Fancylad||

    Now do NATO Mr. Trump.

  • Sevo||

    And Japan.
    They can both put on their big-boy pants and take care of themselves.
    Plus, once the Euros started paying for their own defense, maybe they'll shut up about how much money we should hand out as 'free shit'.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Disagree with Japan. Japan is probably our most important friend with a rising China emerging. Keep China checked abroad so they cannot mess with us at home.

  • Sevo||

    Paging Ms. Cindy Sheehan! Paging Ms. Cindy Sheehan!
    Ms Sheehan, please pick up the white courtesy telephone!

  • AlmightyJB||

    Went from hero to zero when Obama became the new Chief of the World Police.

  • Sevo||

    First, Obo (the Nobel Peace Prize Winner!!!!!!) starts all sorts of new wars, and now an R is bringing the boys home.
    I ask ya, what a scumbag hypocrite supposed to do?

  • Zeb||

    I think she kept protesting Obama too, didn't she? Seems like she might be consistent enough to give Trump credit here.

  • John||

    She did

  • Sevo||

    I take it back.

  • LikeATimeBomb||

    Right, it just stopped being deemed "newsworthy.'

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Sheehan never stopped protesting the war. The media and the progressives lost any interest in an anti war movement once a democrat was installed in the White House. So once Obama was in, Sheehan was thrown away like rotten garbage. She had outlived her usefulness.

    Progressives never gave a shit about the wars. Just using it to foster division so as to take control.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Bye Felicia

  • Sevo||

    The local news has it that Mattis leaving has 'put a big hole' in the Trump admin; not a word about how he's pissed that Trump is bringing the boys home.
    TDS is epidemic in the Bay Area.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The ostensible adults are leaving the Trump administration, leaving behind the fringe players, cronies, nepotism beneficiaries, and sycophants. Trump will get nothing done after January, which is a blessing for America.

  • DesigNate||

    I didn't peg you for a warmongering neocon.

  • Sevo||

    Why not?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Evidence indicates Gen. Mattis resigned not solely because of the departure from Syria -- for which a reasonable argument is readily constructed -- but instead consequent to the amateurish decision-making process and implementation constituting a last straw. He seems to have concluded that attempts to provide adult supervision in this administration would be pointless.

  • perlchpr||

    No, it's normally his mother that pegs him.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    No, I tie Arty the benefit of the doubt that it's his father who is fucking him. They probably invite Tony over for threesomes.

  • Two Buck Chuck||

    I joined up the submarines, siad by many to be the cream of the crop. My IQ fell 30 points before my first deployment was over. I'm leery of anyone who spends 30 years with those folks.

  • Two Buck Chuck||

    Yes. I know. Siad.

  • CLM1227||

    The lowered IQ is a bitch.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its called the Silent Service. You're not supposed to talk about it.

  • crufus||

    "He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart"
    - William Shakespeare, Henry V

  • yet another dave||

    Sadly, the allies which have been left unamed in his letter are the Kurds, who have been pretty solid and steadfast allies (albeit for their own survival) in the region, will be left to their own devices... and between Turkey and Syria and Iraq, those folks are gonna be fucked... stupid Kurds for trusting us.

  • Sevo||

    "Sadly, the allies which have been left unamed in his letter are the Kurds, who have been pretty solid and steadfast allies (albeit for their own survival) in the region, will be left to their own devices... and between Turkey and Syria and Iraq, those folks are gonna be fucked... stupid Kurds for trusting us."

    I applaud the Kurds as probably the most reasonable of the ethnic groups there, and will probably do some (voluntary) donation towards their efforts.
    I will not ask that others who are not so inclined be required at gun-point to support them.

  • Nardz||

    If Mattis truly gave a damn about the Kurds, he'd have pushed for alliance with Russia- because the only way the Kurds are getting their own country is if its backed by both the US and Russia.
    Absent that, they'll have to do what they've been doing for decades: kicking the asses of anyone who invades Iraqi Kurdistan

  • perlchpr||

    We're pulling the troops out. We don't have to ship all the gear home, too. Give it to the Kurds.

  • SimonP||

    I applaud the Kurds as probably the most reasonable of the ethnic groups there, and will probably do some (voluntary) donation towards their efforts.

    LOL, yeah, you do that. Give money to the Kurds. God, it's going to be so hilarious when you end up in prison.

  • Benitacanova||

    Obama draws red line, good. Obama ignores red line, good.

    Trump puts troops in Syria, bad. Trump pulls troops out, bad.

    Proglogic hurts my head.

  • wreckinball||

    If Trump does something its bad. That's about it.

  • vek||

    I firmly believe Trump should make a video of him talking about how he is going to troll the Dems and media by announcing XYZ position, which he is not in favor of, and then watch them denounce his position. THEN he will come out and show them the video that he is trolling them, and in fact do the exact opposite.

    To watch them get owned THAT hard would be incredibly amazing, and show just how fucking ridiculous and retarded they are.

    I can't for the life of me understand why Trump doesn't call them out 1,000 times harder on their bullshit, and that includes shit bag Republicans too. He should be holding all the Rs in congress' feet to the fire hard core for them NOT passing a bunch of stuff that they could have, etc. He needs to be no holds barred if he ever wants to get anything done.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    He is only one person, is the reason that I suspect. He trolls the Lefties and their propaganda outlets almost daily and has gotten more great stuff accomplished in 2 years that anyone expected.

    Most presidents gray quickly, so the position clearly wears on people. That and violating the Constitution to go after Americans is hard work. We fight back!

  • SimonP||

    You can't seem to grasp that the reason Trump doesn't do this is (i) he's a total moron and (ii) he has the adamant support of only a minority of Americans.

    He can't even competently pin it on the Democrats. The Republicans in Congress have tried to pin blame on the Democrats for the fact that their own caucus doesn't have the constituent support to pursue a 100% Trumpian agenda, but Trump keeps messing up the message, making it about him.

    This whole shutdown over the wall is exemplary. First Pelosi got him to own the shutdown and boxed him into either admitting defeat or acting like a spoiled brat. Congressional Republicans got him to step back, but then idiots like you pushed him back into acting like a brat. So House Republicans tried to serve up an amendment that would try to pin it on the Democrats. And STILL Trump fucks up the messaging, telling McConnell to use the "nuclear" option to push his stupid wall through, once again shifting blame over to the Republicans.

    This moron can't see past the news cycle! He's about to lose any leverage he has for his agenda, and he's telling the Senate Republicans to ditch the only thing that will allow them to have any influence if they ever lose the Senate majority, just so he can achieve a short-term win. That won't even work! He'll build his stupid wall and STILL have embarrassing immigration statistics. It's just layers of idiocy at work.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I'm always amazed that the morons Bush and Trump seemed and seem to easily walk all over their brilliant opposition.

  • vek||

    While you're a well known left leaning sort, and I can't remember if you even have any libertarian leanings at all... You're not 100% wrong.

    Trump is not infallible. He has miscalculated numerous times. Sometimes it drives me nuts!

    But the thing is, a lot of the things Orange Man Bad people seem to miss, is that his style of trolling/winning actually has worked out QUITE well thus far. Talking heads say he's an idiot for doing XYZ thing, but XYZ thing ended up getting him what he wanted. This has happened over and over again. They just don't like the style of his antics, versus sucking Obamas dick for doing just as many grand standing things as Trump ever has, just with a different style.

    Personally, I think he needs to just become the crazed zealot the press thinks he is, and hold the line on several of his important issues. Including shutting the government over some of them if need be. We'll see how it goes.

  • SimonP||

    But the thing is, a lot of the things Orange Man Bad people seem to miss, is that his style of trolling/winning actually has worked out QUITE well thus far.

    The question is, for whom?

    Is Trump "keeping promises"? Sure. Does his base love it? Apparently.

    Is it good for the country? No.

  • vek||

    Is it good for the country is HIGHLY debatable buddy.

    The truth is, it probably is. It has forced the propaganda news networks to go full tilt crazy, which has made even many centrists realize how full of shit they are. This is a positive development. It has made the communists in the Democratic party come out of hiding too. Also good.

    I can tolerate Jimmy Carter in the 70s levels of bleeding heart nonsense... I cannot tolerate full on communists. Yet they have been sneakily directing things for many years in the America left. Many that liked their more modest positions have kept them in power. But they're not down for communism either. The more they are forced into the open the better.

    Sometimes there is no kumbaya, everybody hug each other possible. Rs have not realized that the Ds have NO INTEREST in this, despite that being their game plan for decades. We need somebody who will sort the wheat from the chaff, and actually fight back. Trump ain't perfect, but he is doing that.

  • perlchpr||

    Trump puts troops in Syria, bad. Trump pulls troops out, bad.

    FWIW, it was Obama that put US troops in Syria.

  • Presskh||

    Don't forget Obama gives $1.7B to Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorists - good. Obama signs an executive order in his last few days as President giving all federal agencies access to sensitive information previously accessible only by Homeland Security - good. The list goes on and on.

  • jagjr||

    ISIL could never be 'won on the battlefield'. there were battles required, especially after they gained control of nation-state level economic and military power, but that never needed as many US boots as we put on the ground. they filled a multi-pronged power vacuum briefly. for a permanent solution, Daesh must be defeated by a better narrative than the hateful tripe they are selling, regional diplomatic coordination, & financial disruption.

    Secretary Mattis was an exceptional Marine. the warfighting skills of a Marine are not what is needed in this situation, but Secretary Mattis has continued to act like a hammer in search of a nail. part of it is our promises to the Kurds, but we do not need substantial boots on the ground to help them. arguably, we've made things worse by previously taking a side in their disputes without acting as an honest broker to move things forward without conflict.

    Mr. Trump's approach isn't much healthier, as he seems to vacillate between jingoist warmongering & vague desire to 'bring the troops home'. he talks about 'beating ISIS' as if battlefield action is the whole story, where it is just a sideshow (necessary in some cases, but limited) in what SHOULD be a whole of government approach to ensure that our allies in the region can handle the situation.

  • cja||

    Mattis said when the President of the United States calls, you answer because it's an honor to work for the people.

    Trump campaigned no stupid wars. And now, when asked to withdraw from Syria, and after 17 years to finally withdraw from Afghanistan, and let them fight their own wars, all of a sudden Mattis quits.
    Maybe he's the not the Mad Dog Marine we made him out to be.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    With Afghanistan, dems seem to be upset that Trump wants to pull troops from a war Obama said he ended. So they are cool with calling it over, just don't bring home all the troops.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    One of my very liberal friends who think republicans are mentally ill made a comment about how this was bad because there are 30,000 members of ISIS that will come over here.

    Fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here is so 2002.

  • Presskh||

    But I thought liberals didn't believe there were any "bad" ones in the hoards of Islamic people wanting to immigrate here.

  • Presskh||

    Mattis was a good general but is a warhawk and part of the globalist cabal wanting continual deployment of our troops around the world. Trump is the Commander in Chief and sets the policy direction - while he believes in keeping our military strong, he does not believe it is our responsibility to continue as the world's policeman - it's also something we can no longer afford. He needs a Secretary of Defense who shares that vision for our military.

  • Used Septic Truck||

    Congressional Republicans got him to step back, but then idiots like you pushed him back into acting like a brat.

  • XM||

    We have to keep people in Syria. Not because we want to win the war on terror or help beat back radicals in the region, but because doing so might improve Trump's image in the eyes of the public. Maybe his approval rating goes up by 1%.

    See we can't have that. So Trump puts country into turmoil by doing things that Obama would have been praised for!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online