A particularly dramatic Thursday which began with President Trump promising to hold his own government hostage until he gets the money he wants to build his border wall ended with a shockwave through Washington as he announced the retirement of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
….equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
The retirement was likely prompted by a clash between Trump and Mattis over his decision to withdraw America’s 2,000 soldiers from Syria.
Trump reportedly did not consult with the Joint Chiefs of Staff before making the announcement and Gen. Mattis fought hard to keep the President from giving such a strategic boon to our Syrian, Turkish, and Russian rivals.
In his retirement letter, Mattis did not offer a single word of praise for Trump, instead subtly criticizing him for his irrational decisionmaking and for Trump’s apparent determination to sabotage our overseas alliances in favor of coddling murderous dictators instead.
“Because you have the right to 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,” wrote Mattis in a letter which the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman called ” astonishing rebuke of Trumpism.”
“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.”
The Mattis resignation letter is wow pic.twitter.com/bDgqRKc6YY
— Evan Siegfried (@evansiegfried) December 20, 2018
Long seen as one of the few remaining sources of stability and restraint in the White House, Mattis’ departure is setting off alarm bells across Washington as speculation as to what kind of bloodthirsty ghoul he might replace him with swirls.
It's hard to overstate the magnitude of Mattis's resignation. The world viewed him as the rock. As crazy as things appeared to be in the Oval, allies took comfort in the fact that Mattis was in charge at the Pentagon. He will be gone Feb. 28.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) December 20, 2018
As the news that Trump admin officials are weighing a full withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan as well begins to make its way through the national discourse, it’s clear that a new era in the age of Trump is dawning — and the future’s uncertainty is troubling indeed.