Gen. James Mattis announced that he is retiring as Secretary of Defense in February. This will mark a serious loss to the Administration, as he has been one of the best Defense Secretaries in history. I hope President Trump can find a replacement who has the same level of military experience, candor, character and mutual respect with the troops, but that will be a very tall order.
In Mattis’ gracious resignation letter, he urged the President to be "resolute and unambiguous" in approaching countries with strategic differences, citing China and Russia, and said he has “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.”
It’s too early to read too much into his letter in trying to explain Mattis’ motivations for resigning now (staff changeovers are common after two grueling years), but that isn’t stopping the media from doing so. For instance, much is being made of the timing of the resignation coming one day after the announcement of all 2,000 US troops being withdrawn from Syria, but for all we know, that might be coincidental. It’s been reported that Mattis was strongly opposed to the pullout as well as the breaking news of many troops being removed from Afghanistan. But I’d rather wait until we hear from Mattis himself, although being the embodiment of a good soldier, he might not tell us.
As for that withdrawal of troops from Syria, the response from other Republicans is mixed. Senators Lindsay Graham and Marco Rubio called it a major blunder and warned that Trump will regret it because America will have to go back in again when things deteriorate once more. On the other hand, Sen. Rand Paul, who has long opposed endless foreign troop commitments, praised Trump for keeping one of his major campaign promises. Meanwhile, Trump tweeted that America can’t be the policeman of the world, and that with ISIS defeated in Syria, it’s up to Syria, Iran, Russia and other local opponents to keep them from coming back.
Personally, nobody would like to see our troops come home more than I would. But pulling them out of Syria abruptly is a betrayal of the Kurds, who have sacrificed and shed blood bravely fighting ISIS with us. It leaves them and Syrian Christians as sitting ducks for both Syria and Turkey. I strongly urge President Trump to reconsider this decision.