The Resignation of James Mattis Is the Scariest Moment of Trump’s Presidency
This is bad. Really, really bad. Defense Secretary James Mattis was arguably the best and most important cabinet decision that President Trump made. Indisputably qualified and brimming with experience, he personified what the Trump administration presumably wanted to be: tough, smart, thoroughly reassuring, and sometimes intimidating. As a man who had seen war up close many times, Mattis sought to avoid it. If it couldn’t be avoided, Mattis was ready to fight it and win it. Foreign-allied leaders who were freaked out by Trump came away comforted and encouraged by Mattis. Military leaders often have to work with their foreign counterparts on joint exercises, coalition operations, on foreign bases, or as military attachés, and our uniformed officers often end up becoming adept diplomats, used to working out differences, figuring out common ground, soothing egos and making reassuring gestures of respect. No matter what Trump said or did, Mattis and the other experienced folks around him reassured the world that the president’s furious passions could be channeled into constructive directions: bombing ISIS into oblivion. Sending retaliatory airstrikes at Bashar al-Assad when he used chemical weapons. Taking a tough line on Iran. Standing with the Japanese against Chinese expansion and South Korea against North Korean threats, and protecting the sea lanes. Mattis was also clearly not a sycophant or yes-man. He could be counted on to tell it exactly as he saw it, whether the president wanted to hear it or not. Whether or not any president likes hearing these sorts of assessments, every president needs to hear them.