Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Mattis Resignation

Former General Mattis has resigned as SecDef, citing policy differences with the commander in chief, aka President Trump. This is entirely appropriate, in every sense of the word.

A political appointee who finds him or herself in serious disagreement with some policy of the appointing figure, be it a governor or president, has only one honorable choice: resign and announce that policy difference as the reason. We have said this forever but it is surprisingly rare for someone to actually do it properly, as Mattis has.

Mattis is entitled to his opinion of our overseas commitments, as is the President. Whoever is SecDef is responsible for carrying out the president’s orders. If for whatever reason he or she cannot in good conscience do so, then resignation is mandated. As Mattis noted in his resignation letter, the President is entitled to have a SecDef who wholeheartedly supports the President’s policies.


The temptation to stay the course in hopes of redeeming the lives and treasure lost in foreign ‘adventures’ is well-nigh irresistable, especially for generals who ordered troops there and watched body bags come home. Gens. Mattis and McMaster persuaded Trump to stay involved in Afghanistan, against his instincts.

The subsequent distinct lack of promised progress has convinced Trump he was right and they were wrong. McMaster is long gone, now Mattis leaves. It makes a good argument for a civilian-background SecDef who will understand foreign involvement as an instrument of U.S. policy and interests while not viewing it solely as a test of our military’s testosterone level.