I’ve never served in the military. I grew up in a strict household under my Dad and went to private Catholic schools were there was always some authority figure bearing down. Therefore, the last place I wanted to be was in the military. As time has gone by though, I have gotten to know some folks who served, and I do respect and admire them for what they have done. I figure they had the mental and physical toughness and discipline to get through something I couldn’t. It doesn’t mean that I think though that all military servicemen and women walk on water either. They are human beings, and they have flaws. And we are seeing that dichotomy of military personnel as heroes or flawed human beings like the rest of us play out with retired General James N. Mattis. He served as Defense Secretary for Trump, and Mattis has to have seen, heard, or read some compromising things about Trump. But so far, Mattis is remaining silent while Trump burns down our democracy.
It’s past time for Mattis to testify before congress or speak out about what he knows.
Mattis resigned as Defense Secretary in 2018, and here is what was reported at the time from the NYT:
Mr. Mattis’s letter did not single out any decision. Instead, it condemned Mr. Trump’s approach to the world as destructive to American influence and power.
He said the core of American national interests lay in “providing effective leadership to our alliances,” and specifically described the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a defense alliance Mr. Trump has often derided. Mr. Mattis also praised the “Defeat ISIS” coalition that Mr. Trump just abandoned in Syria.
But Mr. Mattis’s core complaint was that Mr. Trump had lost sight of the importance of the competition for global power with Russia and China, who want “a world consistent with their authoritarian model.”
Well, Mr. Mattis, Trump has given the green light to the genocide of one of our allies. And at the same time, Trump empowered several authoritarians in the process: Putin, Assad, and Erdogan. Got any comment on those developments?
Some who are big Mattis fans defend Mattis’s silence on the basis of military tradition that officers should not get drawn into politics. Effectively, this means no criticism of a president’s decisions, at least not publicly. I call bullshit on this defense because Mattis has thrown Obama under the bus when it comes to foreign policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Mattis’s tenure at Central Command lasted from 2010 to 2013. It was during this time that the Obama administration took steps that diminished American influence in the greater Middle East and empowered Iran. The spillover effect includes the migrant crisis that contributed to the rise of national populism in Europe. Mattis dissented from Obama policy. “In 2010,” he writes, “I argued strongly against pulling all our troops out of Iraq.”
When the Arab Spring came to Egypt in 2011, “I thought we should use quiet diplomacy to urge inclusive government.” Obama instead called for Hosni Mubarak to resign. Mattis writes:
President Obama came out vocally against Mubarak, insisting that in Egypt, “we were on the right side of history.” Having read a bit of history and found that events, good and bad, had been “written” by both good and evil characters, I put little stock in the idea that history books yet to be written would somehow give yearning Arabs what they fervently desired today.
Through it all, Mattis was dealing with Iran’s malign behavior across the region. “Each step along the way, I argued for political clarity and offered options that gave the Commander in Chief a rheostat he could dial up or down to protect our nation.” The commander in chief wasn’t interested. He turned the rheostat off.
Mattis also went on to criticize the military objectives in Afghanistan set by Obama. Mattis considered it a grave mistake to signal an eventual troop pullout. And all of the above has been gleefully embraced by right wing Republicans.
But as for Trump. Nary a word. No mention of his name in public.
Seems Mattis is selective when it comes to criticism of presidents. If you are a Democrat, it’s OK to bash them. If there is an unfit Republican in the White House, crickets.
This is why I am not enamored of Mattis.
Last time I checked, Obama wasn’t actively undercutting our alliances and threatening our democracy. Meanwhile, Trump is doing everything he can to become a dictator and weaken American standing in the world. By staying silent Mr. Mattis, you are enabling this to happen. You are a party to this tragedy not a hero.
It’s past time for you to tell us what you know about Trump.